Thursday, 16 April 2009

The NFL Draft

On April 25th, the National Football League hosts it's annual college draft. Over two hundred of the finest college athletes from around America will be up for grabs as professional American Football teams search for the next generation of superstars.

The whole event is a carnival, a two day festival with all the melodrama and ceremony you expect from American sport.

The build-up is a key part of the draft experience, with teams visiting various college "Pro Days", where prospective draftees show their skills in a variety of drills. This, coupled with interviews and "private workouts", give each team ample opportunity to pick the right player.

The team who finished last season with the worst record - Detroit Lions - will get the first pick in the first round of the draft. After they make their pick, the team with the second worst record - this year it's St. Louis - will choose their player to sign, and so on until all 32 teams have had a chance to pick.

That concludes the first round out of seven. Now you begin to understand why it needs jazzing up. Essentially, it is the same thing we all used to do when picking teams for playground football or tag rugby, only on a much grander scale.

There is a whole industry that centres around the selection of draft picks. The system is a bit more complicated than just picking the best player who is left.

Most teams who have the first pick will go for a "playmaker", someone who is going to be a focal point for their team. Eight out of the last ten Number One picks have been Quarterbacks, but for many teams, the need is in the less glamorous positions along the offensive line.

With this in mind, Detroit will probably Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has long been predicted as the first pick. There are a couple of offensive linemen - Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe - who are good enough to be first overall pick, but the Lions are now likely to go with a Franchise Quarterback in Stafford.

There are some freakish athletes in this year’s crop. BJ Raji, a defensive tackle from Boston College, can run the 40-yard dash (a staple of the Pro Day) in a shade over seconds, despite weighing in at nearly 340 lbs. If you avoid him, you have Brian Orakpo, a pass rushing defensive end, who is built like a Greek god and tackles like a sledgehammer. These are not gentlemen who you would like on top of your prize quarterback!

The draft is, all told, an entertaining experience. Once it is out of the way, the NFL cools down for the summer training camps. But for now, interest in American Football is red hot.

Tom Snee's Mock Draft - How I believe the top 10 picks will pan out

1 Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford (QB)

2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith (OT)

3 Kansas City Chiefs - Brian Orakpo (DE)

4 Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe (OT)

5 Cleveland Browns - Aaron Curry (OLB/DE)

6 Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith (OT)

7 Oakland Raiders - Michael Crabtree (WR)

8 Jacksonville Jaguars - Jeremy Maclin (WR)

9 Green Bay Packers – Everette Brown (DE/OLB)

10 San Francisco 49rs – Mark Sanchez (QB)

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