Why the NFL Draft is one of the Most Celebrated Sporting Events in the World
Op-Ed By Alexander Heath
Did you know for many consecutive years, the NFL Draft have surpass the number of viewers in one night than NBA has during their entire playoff? What if I told you at one time, the NBA and NHL playoffs combined still would not succeed that of the NFL draft? On message boards, forums, and websites you will find armchair GMs (someone who claims to know all the answers to a problem situation, or scenario but has little or no experience or real understanding of it) arguing about prospects and picks in the year previous to the NFL Draft.
The NFL Draft is a unique phenomenon. What's the big deal about the NFL Draft you may ask? It all probably started during the draft of 1983. We witnessed the big drama surrounding John Elway and the Colts where they eventually traded him to the Broncos. Also, at the time, only the top teams had managed to scout Dan Marino, who had a very successful career. Due to sacred resources and game tapes as compared to today, teams just didn't draft a player they don't know much about. As a Pittsburgh native, the Steelers wanted to draft him, even though there were cocaine usage rumors surrounding Dan Marino, coach Chuck Noll thought they should get Gabe Rivera, a.k.a. Senor Sack instead. Dan Marino was drafted by the Miami Dolphins.
What a big mistake! During one evening, one decision ultimately led Steelers to regret this pick for the next decade and longer. Rivera got in a car accident in mid-November and was paralyzed. On the other hand, Dan Marino, with the Dolphins, instantly became a playoff contender and were for a long time. The drama surrounding this one evening got everybody paying attention to the draft. When the internet was introduced, and the fans saw the opportunity to be an armchair GMs, they took the internet by storm. Teams often have their own professional scouts doing the homework and carefully creating a list of the prospects.
However, there are NFL owners who will pay attention to fans, especially when it comes to the potential of jerseys being sold. There are teams who would prepare to lose the whole season just for a prospect which was known as “Suck for Luck” campaign. In 2012, when Andrew Luck from Stanford was dubbed as a sure-fire all-pro quarterback, teams would not just lose out for him, but in the year previously, they will even skip drafting a quarterback so they can land a player like Luck.
We are seeing teams doing the same thing again for the next season as the crop of quarterbacks will be crisp and very talented. The NFL draft isn't just about drama, its about avoiding it as well. As so was the situation with Larmey Tunsil back in 2016 who was a surefire pro-bowler at the left tackle position. Everybody thought he would be the Ravens left tackle pick but as they announced who they would choose, Ronnie Staley from Notre Dame was chosen. There was silence as the sportscasters sat quietly and murmured, "What happened? Why wasn't Tunsil the pick?". Tunsil was easily a better prospect than Staley, but as it turns out, the Ravens saw a video of Tunsil wearing a gas mask and smoking the weed when he was a freshman. He eventually got drafted by the Dolphins. That video alone has cost him millions.
The draft for football can lead teams to create dynasties such as the 74’ Steelers, the Hershel Walker trade to the Cowboys landed them three Super Bowl championships, and the 96’ Ravens team led them to win their very first Super Bowl, just to name a few.
It's crazy to think the fans would go beyond just watching a game, but instead care about every move their team makes in the off-season. The NFL Draft is a great example of this. You can't just sign a free agent to improve your team rapidly. You need 11 men on one side, and another 11 on defense. For many, the NFL Draft is the best soap opera and nothing gets more authentic than seeing the reactions of fans punching televisions when their teams drafted a player they didn't want. That's the NFL Draft for you; the most celebrated sporting event in an entire world without actually playing a game!