The NFL draft is an annual event that takes each franchise over eight months of numbers, interviews, stats, calculations, speaking with coaches, and a lot of frequent flyer miles in order to prepare for the event.
Each April, seven rounds comprise the draft in which players from various colleges from all levels are selected by clubs in the reverse order in which they finished in the standings from the season before. A lot is written about the draft, tons of mock drafts are offered and a new cottage industry has sprung up called “draft sites.”
So we offer a baker’s dozen of not-so-famous occurrences regarding the draft.
But first, what exactly is a baker’s dozen? A baker’s dozen is 13 of any product instead of an even 12. Okay, so why 13? Is the consumer getting one free or has to pay for the extra piece/product? How did it get that name? And what’s so special about it?
You ask a lot of questions. Geez.
During medieval times in England, there were some unscrupulous bakers who would cheat their customers by pinching each loaf of bread making it seem like it was a full standard-sized loaf but by weight it wasn’t. Bread was a staple and considered very filling, so every table served it with every meal. At the time a dozen was a common method of purchasing goods.
With freshly baked bread, often people would purchase a dozen loaves at a time. These baker cheaters still charged full price until customers began to notice - and complain. The practice was so rampant that King Henry III passed a very strict law. This new law severely punished anyone who sold bread below the standard weight and size. Since most bakers did not wish to be thrown into a nasty jail cell, they began to include an additional loaf of bread in their normal dozen, just to be safe.
Here are some tidbits you may, or may not, know about the draft with an extra bonus thrown in to be on the safe side because none of the writers here at DBN would do very well in prison.
1. Why it began
In the origins of the league, most teams were made up of locals and were matches between neighboring and regional communities. As the years went along, these member franchises began using college football players instead and paying them so much per game.
Teams were built in any fashion or manner they chose. A few teams made money every season, but most did not so expenses were kept to a minimum. Part of that minimal effort was player salaries. As the better college players graduated, the clubs with the extra cash had the funds to sign and pay these guys. The broke teams did not.
So every season, only five teams really competed for the league championship every year because their rosters were full of blue-chip college athletes. They essentially would outbid the lesser clubs for talent.
After being bottom-dwellers forever, Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell came up with a solution in 1935. Set up a system that teams could “select” these college players, beginning with the worst club from the season before with the NFL champion selecting last. Then have a fixed amount of rounds similar to boxing.
At first, the other owners, especially the ones who were always winning, balked. But after some discussion, it was decided that the league was only as strong as their weakest team. The last thing any owner wanted was for clubs to come and go annually because of poor attendance – which was the main money maker in those days.
So in 1936, all NFL teams had the first college player draft which lasted nine rounds. Oddly enough, Philadelphia was once again dead last and chose first.
2. Very first player selected
With the first overall pick in the inaugural 1936 draft, Bell of the Eagles selected halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago. Berwanger was the first Heisman Trophy winner (then called the “Downtown Athletic Club Trophy”) and was known as “the one-man football team.” He was a very gifted and versatile athlete and since Berwanger had just won a trophy for the best college football player in the nation, he certainly had to be the very first pick.
However, Berwanger went into the business world as did a lot of college athletes, and never played a down in the NFL. In fact, none of the Eagles’ nine draft picks signed or ever played in the league. Without any new blue-chip blood, Bell’s Eagles went 1-11-0.
3. Early and late locations of the draft
The first NFL draft took place on February 8, 1936, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. The next year it took place in New York City.
New York has the distinction of having held the most drafts with 56 which included every draft from 1965 to 2014. The upper balcony at Radio City Music Hall was famous for its local fans of both the Giants and Jets in full attendance.
The second most utilized was Philadelphia with 12 while the NFL offices were located there. Coming in third is Chicago with nine.
Other cities which hosted were Milwaukee, Washington, Los Angeles, with Pittsburgh hosting twice. Since 2015, the draft has become a traveling sideshow that now bounces among member cities with a lot of spectacle and a local financial boast. From 2015-on cities include Dallas/Arlington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville, Cleveland, and Las Vegas/Paradise.
In 2020, the draft was held virtually because of the pandemic.
4. It’s real name is not “The NFL Draft”
Everyone calls it the “National Football League Draft” or the “NFL Draft”, but that is not its official name.
When Bell proposed a system of choosing college players which would divvy up the talent pool, the word “draft” was never mentioned in his proposition.
Beginning in the early stages of World War II, the media began to refer to this league function as the “NFL draft” similar to young men being drafted into the armed forces. It is the most common moniker, but its official name is the “Player Selection Meeting.”
In the first hour of the draft on TV, notice that the head announcer will welcome the audience to the “Player Selection Meeting” and from that point on everyone will call it the NFL draft, or just draft.
5. Longest drafts
The second draft jumped to 12 rounds and then to 22 rounds in 1938. From 1943 to 1948 a whopping 32 rounds transpired each season mainly because of World War II and being able to hold rights to players as they trickled home from overseas.
Every year in the 1950s the draft settled on 30 rounds. From 1960-1966, it dropped again to 20 rounds. When the NFL and the American Football League agreed to a merger, they embarked on a 17-round common draft beginning after the 1966 season. Later, the rounds dropped again to 12, then eight, and finally to the present system of seven rounds.
6. Which clubs have had the most first overall picks?
Usually, when you are slotted as the first overall pick, that means your team was the worst club from the season before. And some teams end up the worst in the league more times than others.
The first overall pick is very valuable and has been traded throughout the history of the NFL draft numerous times. However, one team actually began there and won (or lost) the right to select any college football player they desired.
But who tops the charts?
The Colts relocated from Baltimore in 1984. But as a member of that community, they ended up the first overall pick three times in 1955, 1967, and 1983. That last one was part of the reason they split for new environs.
Since moving to the State of Indiana, they added four more: 1990, 1992, 1998, and 2012.
Those first overall picks include QB George Shaw, DE Bubba Smith, QB John Elway, QB Jeff George, DE Steve Emtman, QB Peyton Manning, and QB Andrew Luck.
Cleveland/Los Angeles/St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams: 7
Before moving out west, the Cleveland Rams had the first overall pick in 1938. Since then, they have ended up at the bottom in 1952, 1960, 1963, 1997, 2010, and 2016.
With those picks, they chose FB Corbett Davis, RB Billy Cannon, RB Terry Backer, OT Orlando Pace, QB Sam Bradford, and QB Jared Goff.