The NFL moved the draft to May this year, ostensibly due to a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall. Despite fans strongly preferring a return to April and multiple teams and coaches and players and agents expressing concerning about the prolonged pre-draft process, the league could decide to keep the draft in May.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took some time on Wednesday to talk up the new (for now, possibly for good) month of the draft.
“The later time period is actually beneficial in some ways,” Goodell told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “It’s obviously an anxious time for the players, the teams and the fans. They want to get moving. But there have been some real pluses, and we’ll have to evaluate that. A number of our coaches have praised it, too, because it gave them a chance to spend time with their current players and make some determinations about what’s the right place to go in the draft. So there’s some real value to it.”
Only one coach has spoken publicly in favor of the move. New Bucs coach Lovie Smith has said he appreciates having the extra time to evaluate his roster and to make decisions about the team’s slew of picks. Beyond Smith, the overwhelming sentiment has been negative.
From the analysis leading to paralysis to players being exposed to excessive pre-draft workouts to rookies having less time to make the adjustment to life in the NFL to the chase for undrafted free agents conflicting with Mother’s Day (that may not be a major issue now, but it will be in three days), the May draft has been a disaster.
Undeterred, the NFL actually is considering moving the draft even deeper into May, giving rookies even less time to study playbooks and get reps in the offseason program.
It’s hard not to think that, when it comes to the timing of the draft, the NFL is more concerned about maximizing the event (and the money that comes from it) than strategic considerations. In the end, the NFL will make a decision after studying the ratings and the coverage of the May draft. If the ratings and the coverage outweigh the negatives — which included inducing an uncharacteristic lull between free agency and the draft — the league will ignore the criticism, focus on the praise, and keep the draft in May.
Here’s hoping the criticism will be so loud that it can’t be ignored. The draft belongs in April.