The 2017 NFL Draft can't come soon enough. That's the current mindset for both general managers, who are tired of staring atdraft boards, and prospects, who have traveled virtually non-stop for the past month.
As a GM, I loved the actual draft.But I hated the excessive build-up.I'vealways said the NFL's pre-draft period is the biggest waste of time and money in the sport.
April is the worst, the time when thedraft process really becomes overkill. Prospects are over-analyzed via video study. They go through physical re-checks and in-person visits to meet with GMs, coaches and player personnel directors (who they just saw at the Combine and Pro Day).
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This year's top draft prospects probably have visited anywhere from three to 15 teams. It's no wonder so many players have to return to school to get their degrees after their NFL careers. There's no time now for them to be in classes.
Now that I work with an NFL agent group, I see the physical and mental grind on players as they work through the draftprocess with basically no time off. Within a couple days of the end of their college careers, they had to report to facilities around the country to work onthe drills associated with the Combine and Pro Days. They also were tutored on things such as proper technique and foot work for their positions, plusinterview/Wonderlicintelligence test prep withformer team execs (as I did with the players for our agent group).
Theprospects have no choice in the matter. If they don't put in the pre-draft work, they might test poorly, and questions about their work ethic will arise — a big no-no in the minds of GMs and coaches.
The pre-draft excessiveness starts in January with the Senior Bowl, where each team sends itsGM, scouting staff and coaching staff. Other January all-star games such as the East-West Shrine Game also attractscouts.
Then in February comes the Combine, where teams send 35 or so employees to Indianapolis for an expensive week of flights, hotels and meal costs, all for an over-hyped event.
In March, Pro Days take place on campuses all over the country. Then comes April, when each team can bring up to 30 players to its facility for visits.No on-field testing is allowed during the visits,so it's more interviews and, in some cases, physical re-checks. (Again,added expense for the teams.)
I understand the NFL wants to stay in the news cycle as much as possible in the offseason. But the fact that the 2017 NFL Draft will occur 81 days after the Patriots beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI is absurd.
The NBAhas a far better system. The Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 of The Finals on June 19, 2016, and the NBA Draft came just four days later. The NBA holds a couple pre-draft camps at which players scrimmage, and then prospects make a few visits to team facilities. Of course, there are only two rounds in the NBA Draft, so there are fewer players to evaluate. But the leaguehas itsprocess under much better control.
If I had my druthers, the NFL Draft would take place in the middle of March at the latest, following Pro Days. Best-case would be the Combine and Pro Days being moved to earlier in February so the draft could take place around March 1.
Given an earlier draft, rookies could begin the transition to their new cities and teamsearlier. It's not easy for them to adjust to new environments, get to know new coaches and teammates and begin learning new offensive and defensive systems. Since few of them are in school now, they should be able to start their NFL careers as soon as possible.
Also in my perfect NFL world order, the draft would come before free agency. The vast majority of team execs prefer to build through the draft and augment the team via free agency. If the draft came first, teams could fill holes in their rosters with free-agent vets with the knowledge of who they added in the draft.
The truth NFL team owners don't always realize: Draft boards are basically set going into the Combine in late February. Only minor adjustments are made after the Combine and Pro Day period.
My team owners in Minnesota and Tennessee would ask me if there was anything we could do to trim the budget for our player personnel area, in terms of salaries and travel expenditures of our football people and the costs associated with the pre-draft period. I would tell them it was a league-wide issue, and as long as system stayed as it was, there was nothing we could do. Cutting costs by not bringing players to our facility in April, for example, would have put us behind our competition.
The unnecessary waiting for the draft often causes GMs to drive themselves crazy, and they begin to second-guess where they have players ranked on their boards.
On and on it will go until April 27, when the 2017 NFL Draft mercifully arrives to rescue everyone involved.
Jeff Diamond is the former president of the Titans and the former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.