NFL draft is in its prime

Hard to find fault with new three-day format

April 25, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta got an hour's sleep after the first night of the NFL draft. General manager Ozzie Newsome estimated that he slept for about two hours between the first round and the session Friday night during which the Ravens made their first three selections.

"I probably was doing more thinking than sleeping," Newsome said, "but my eyes were closed."

That was Ozzie's laugh line during Friday's evening news conference, but he wasn't the only guy tossing and turning after Round 1. The three-day format of the new NFL draft, which concluded with four rounds Saturday afternoon after two nights in prime time, obviously changed the draft landscape — and I think for the better.

Never mind all the sniping about the NFL being a slave to its national television contracts and the sport squeezing the last dollar out of its immense popularity. Everybody already knew that.

The bottom line for me was whether it was more entertaining than the old two-day format, and it certainly was.

The opening round clearly had a more dynamic feel to it, and not just because the NFL squeezed the time between picks from 15 minutes to 10. Teams in the first half of the round didn't milk the clock, so there was less talk and more action, which was probably not a coincidence considering how much the NFL wants this prime-time experiment to work and how little the league leaves to chance.

Of course, the first round Thursday night probably wasn't a big thrill for Ravens fans, considering they waited for most of the evening to find out all the action was going to take place Friday and Saturday. In fact, it wasn't a big thrill for the Ravens' brain trust, even though everyone agreed that trading for extra picks was the only thing to do once several must-pick players went ahead of the 25th slot.

Newsome compared it to the long wait to play a "Monday Night Football" game, which is tough because the normal routine is geared toward Sunday and 30 other teams have already played.

"I hated it [Thursday]," DeCosta said, "and I liked it [Friday] because we were getting ready to pick. The analogy of a Monday night game is perfect, because you just waste all this time, but once you get on the bus to go to the stadium, you're jacked up. That's how we felt."

It's hard to speculate on how much the full workday between the first and second rounds affected the Ravens' selections, but Newsome said he and his staff used the long break to put together a new list of players to target Friday night.

"And with the time we had all day [Friday], we had a chance to massage that list," Newsome said. "There was a lot of tape- watching because of all the time. Steve [Bisciotti] got involved, in that he was in town and a part of the whole process. … So, we came up with a list of players, and at the top of that list were five players, and we got three of the five we wanted."

The big advantage from a scouting standpoint was the ability to narrow the number of draft candidates and compare them more directly in the film room. That opportunity came after the second round under the previous format, so the change obviously had a magnified effect this year for the Ravens, who had almost half their picks on the second day.

It also had a magnified effect on a couple of the high-profile players who were passed over on the first night.

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who had been projected as the No. 8 pick by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., had to sweat out most of Friday before the Carolina Panthers took him with the 48th overall pick. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy had to wait even longer, going to the Cleveland Browns in the third round — 85th overall.

Even the NFL can't please all the people all the time. I'm sure there were a few "Grey's Anatomy" fans who had a tough decision to make Thursday night. But if the purpose of the new prime-time format was to bring one of the league's signature events to a bigger audience, make it more entertaining — and, yes, squeeze a little more revenue out of it — I've got two words for you.

Mission accomplished.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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