Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King posed an interesting idea in his weekly column, suggesting that the NFL should move their draft into March to decrease the time after the end of the season, and to allow the rookies to have more time to acclimate into NFL programs.
Time between end of 2016 sports seasons and the draft in major sports:
• National Football League: 81 days
• National Hockey League: 12 days
• National Basketball Association: 4 days
• Major League Baseball: 0 days*
* The baseball draft is held in June, in the middle of the baseball season.
If I’m ever commissioner of the NFL, one of the first things on my agenda would be moving the draft to the first week of March. I’d be giving NFL employees their lives back, and I’d be giving every team the chance to build the right way with plenty of time in the off-season to incorporate rookies and free agents into planning for the new season.
That’s right: free agency would start a week or so after the draft and the signing of undrafted college free agents. Teams would fill holes after the draft, not before.
I see the reasoning from King’s perspective, although there’s a zero percent change of this ever happening. As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will attest, rookies spend far too much time focusing on non-football skills prior to the draft and getting a jump start on their careers by a month or two would help them acclimate to the rigors of professional life.
And it would be great for staffers to receive extra time in the offseason, with the draft and free agency aligning so the general team building will be done before April.
But these are all the reasons why it would never happen.
The NFL would never actively reduce the length of the football year. At this current point, June and the first half of July are the only period where there isn’t a noteworthy NFL event taking place. Owners want the league to be in constant focus all year long.
And then the NFL Players Association would also disagree with the timing. Do you think the veterans would be okay with the rookies getting first crack at filling team needs? A huge aspect of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and the rookie wage scale was to move money from the rookies into the pockets of the veterans; rearranging the draft and free agency would serve to counter that motion.
That said, I do agree that rookies need more time in the system. A possible compromise would be to move the draft up into the early days of April, instead of straddling the start of May, and then having more rookie camps that are open to the media that can serve to stoke speculation.
But any change would require a completed reworked CBA- and I can guarantee that “moving the draft” would be towards the bottom of the list for both sides in the negotiations.
Instead, the NFL should focus on changing the timing of a different event to better align with the other sports leagues. I’ve touched on this before.
The NBA and MLB trade deadlines occur roughly two-thirds (66%) of the way into the season. The NHL trade deadline happens after three-fourths (75%) of the season is over.
The NFL trade deadline is after week 8, or when 47% of the season is over and no team is certain of their postseason potential.
If the NFL wants to dominate the news, then they should push back the trade deadline to week 12 or 13, when teams would have a better sense of whether or not they have a chance of making the playoffs. Teams on the fringe might be willing to trade more to get over the edge, while bad teams would receive more compensation for the upcoming season.
Just remember that the Houston Texans won the AFC South this past year, but they were 3-5 and at the bottom of the league after week 8. Teams have no reason to trade or throw in the towel in the first half of the season because anything can happen down the final stretch.
Just imagine what the Patriots might have done if the trade deadline was in late November, after the injuries to Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, and half of the offensive line?
Maybe they would’ve traded for a running back like the Lions’ Joique Bell for a 6th or a 7th round pick. Maybe the would’ve added an offensive lineman from a team like the 49ers or the Chargers.
Even if the Patriots didn’t do anything, wouldn’t the potential and speculation for moves be far greater and gather far more attention and interest later in the season? Teams without a hope could be excited for the future. Teams on the edge could double their support down the final stretch.
Moving the trade deadline should be the next objective to further implant football directly into our brains for a longer and more intense span of time.