Changing NFL Draft date about the money, not the product

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell - Al Bello

The NFL will apparently move the draft into May next year, and could do so permanently after that

I can't imagine anyone with the exception of the bean-counters at NFL headquarters who are ultimately making the decision who is happy about the idea of permanently moving the NFL Draft into May.

Don Banks of Sports Illustrated shredded the idea in a column early Wednesday morning, and the reactions of club executives he quoted were largely what I expected:

Even if you happen to believe in the Easter Bunny theory, or that the NFL had to move next year's draft to May solely because of a scheduling conflict with a Radio City Music Hall "Spring Spectacular'' show, there's more than a reasonable doubt within the league about the wisdom of adopting such a change on a long-term basis, as is being contemplated.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find any football-side person in the league in favor of it,'' said one AFC general manager, who requested anonymity. "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.''

And to the idea that the league is taking this step with the draft only because an Easter-season show booked the venue that the NFL has owned in late April for the past eight years, that rationale is being met with a healthy amount of skepticism, to say the least.

"The league coming out and saying this is because of the Easter Bunny and the show is almost embarrassing,'' one NFC club executive said. "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.''

I can't imagine any coach being happy about the idea of losing two or three weeks of time they currently have to get their newly-drafted players ready for the NFL. Offseason activities have already been cut back in the new CBA, and training camp two-a-days are long gone. Simply put, this will lead to fewer rookies getting on the field -- or at least having a clue what they are doing when they do get on the field.

I can't imagine any general manager being thrilled about having three more weeks to analyze tape, conduct interviews and research players for the umpteenth time. Reality is, scouts and GMs have largely made up their minds about players they are really interested in and what they hope to accomplish weeks before the draft takes place now. The extra time isn't going to help -- it's just going to drag out the process.

I can't even imagine fans -- with the exception of a few hard-core draftniks who might actually enjoy the pre-draft process more than the draft or the games themselves -- being happy about this, either. How many more mock drafts can we stand? How many more rumors and smokescreens can we tolerate.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also floated the possibility that the draft might move from Radio City Music Hall to other venues outside of New York City. I know that would upset New York area residents who like to attend the festivities, but to me that's a non-issue. If you want to move it around and let fans from different parts of the country experience it that's fine.

Moving the date, though? That bothers me because it's just another example of the league doing something for publicity that might end up hurting its product on the field. Ultimately, that's a bad idea.


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