Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL needs to move the draft from late April to May because of potential scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall, where the draft has been held every year since 2006.
According to Don Banks of SI.com, multiple team execs are opposed to the move.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find any football-side person in the league in favor of it,” an unnamed AFC G.M. told Banks. “Unless you consider having more time for draft preparation a benefit, more time for paralysis by analysis, there’s nothing to like. I’ve tried to think of one [positive], but I haven’t yet.”
One unnamed NFC executive doesn’t buy the excuse for the move.
“The league coming out and saying this is because of the Easter Bunny and the [Radio City Spring Spectacular] is almost embarrassing,” the unnamed executive told Banks. “This is the NFL. You think we couldn’t get those dates or make something work if we really wanted to? This is about moving the draft into May for [TV network] sweeps month. I’d rather somebody be honest and come out and just admit that it’s about ratings and TV issues. But I get it. I suppose we all should be thankful in that everybody in the league benefits financially when the league has success from a TV perspective.”
The root of the consternation comes from the stubborn resistance to change demonstrated by coaches and football executives.
“We’re all creatures of habit in this league, and we like things the way they are,” the unnamed NFC club executive told Banks. “Anything new is not going to be popular. We already have too much time to do draft analysis as is, and now maybe we’re going to have another three weeks of it? Next week we actually start working on next year’s draft, but if the draft isn’t held until mid-May, that work doesn’t even begin until June. And then it’s only late June or early July when things finally slow down.”
An unnamed NFL executive knows the fight is coming.
“The football ops people will raise hell,” the unnamed NFL exec said. “There are bunch of issues in play here, so don’t think that it’s done. Coaches and front office executives aren’t going to like not having their hands on their new players for another two or three weeks.
“They’ll say, ‘Hey, we need to get our hands on them and we need to coach them.’ So this could wind up having an effect on some integrity of the game issues, and we need to listen to that. There’s a lot of ground to cover on this and there’s a long way to go. This isn’t over at all.”
Still, it’s clear the NFL wants to nudge the draft into May. Next year, it will happen; the only question is whether the draft starts on May 8 or May 15. After the draft moves to May and the pro football world continues to spin, it’ll be easier for the league office to sell the teams on change moving forward.
Or, if need be, to force change upon them.