Made-for-TV draft getting panned by NFL personnel community

With the first day limited to two rounds, with shortened time between selections and with a later kickoff that pushes the bulk of it closer to primetime viewing hours, the NFL Draft on Saturday figures to be more sleek. More compact. More compelling. More packaged. More high-energy.

More TV-friendly.

And while that pleases TV executives, several NFL personnel executives are not thrilled.

This new format makes their jobs even more taxing, they say.

It will make for longer hours for them on Saturday night to prepare for Sunday morning. It will make for a much earlier Sunday morning and, overall, a much longer Sunday night. And it will heighten the intensity on Sunday evening to adeptly switch gears and scour the nation to sign undrafted free agents.

"In a lot of ways," said one NFL personnel chief, requesting anonymity, "we are being treated like sheep. Just follow along. OK. There should have been a lot more football people involved in this (decision). We'll make it work. But the whole thing is a little too TV-driven for me instead of football-driven."

An NFL general manager added: "It stinks."

In previous years, the draft began at noon ET on Saturdays. Saturday produced three rounds; Sunday four rounds. There were 15 minutes between picks in Round 1, 10 minutes between picks in Round 2, and 5 minutes in Rounds 3 through 7.

This draft will begin at 3 p.m. ET. Only two rounds conducted on Saturday; the final five follow on Sunday. There will be 10 minutes between picks in Round 1, 7 minutes between picks in Rounds 2, and 5 minutes in Rounds 3 through 7.

Those concerned with the changes say the time reduced between picks is not an issue. What is the primary issue, they say, is the volume of work on Saturday night and Sunday morning to prepare for five rounds instead of four and how the changes to the Sunday schedule affect their efforts to sign undrafted free agents.

"You look at this from the perspective of the West Coast teams, your draft morning on Sunday is a real challenge," a scout for a West Coast team said. "It would have worked much better had we kept three rounds on the first day. We'll all have 32 fewer players selected on Saturday and the West Coast teams will have a late Saturday night and an extremely early turnaround on Sunday morning.

"We all have our boards. After Saturday there are 63 players gone. You knock them off your board. Then you decide where you go, what is your order. It has to be more re-arm, re-load and re-think as opposed to starting over. All of us have been preparing for this draft for months. And with the later day on Sunday due to the extra rounds, you'd better be prepared for the free agents. It's always a scramble. Sometimes a bidding war. You've had for a couple of weeks the numbers and agents of the players you are projecting to fall there. With the changes on Sunday now, that better be a strong plan of action."

NFL Draft changes for 2008

</center> » Only Rounds 1 and 2 will take place on Saturday. Previously, the first three rounds of the draft were conducted on Saturday. 

» The draft will start at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, three hours later than the previous start time.

» The time allocated for each pick in Round 1 will be 10 minutes. Previously, the first round time was 15 minutes.

» The time allocated for each pick in Round 2 will be seven minutes. Previously, it was 10 minutes.

» Round 3 will be moved to Sunday and remain at five minutes per selection. (Rounds 4-7 will also remain at five minutes per pick.)

» Sunday, the draft starts at 10 a.m. ET, rather than 11 a.m. ET.

Change is harder for some in the NFL than others. The bottom line here is that the NFL seized a grand opportunity to make its draft even more of a national centerpiece with a format more focused and tailored to TV. Not, alone, a bad idea.

But some of the current angst in its personnel community could have been avoided with more inclusion and feeback from them, across the board, from the start.

The draft has evolved in many ways since its inception in 1936.

At least personnel executives this year are not dealing with a monster, all-day draft day as teams did in 1983. That year, even though the draft then was 12 rounds, it was completed in one complete session that spilled over into the wee hours of the next morning. The league made the move in an effort to prevent the then start-up and now defunct United States Football League from claiming players who might not have been drafted as highly as they thought they should have been and, thus, might have left for the new league in between a two-day setup.

In this weekend's structure, Round 3, or the start on Sunday, should be as intriguing as any round. Teams will have assessed the players gone, the ones left, and their needs. They will have had time to consider moving up or down based on the field. The communication and dealing among them could be active and intense, especially on the first 10 to 15 picks in the third round.

"Everyone will make it work," one scout said. "And the excitement of it all will help make it work. But leading up to it, it seems a lot more difficult a total exercise than it had to be."

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