A Look inside a typical Draft room

With the 2015 NFL Draft beginning tonight, many of you will be watching the draft on either ESPN or the NFL Network. Both Networks will have television cameras in various club draft rooms, and that can give you an idea of what goes on in these rooms during the draft. I have been on many draft rooms over the years, and I can tell you that each team runs the draft a little differently. That said, one thing is certain, there is only one person who has control of the draft room and that is the person who has final say on the 53 man roster. Regardless of title, he is “the Boss” when it comes to decision making. There can only be one person with that control, and it is usually the general manager or the head coach. In New England, Head Coach Bill Belichick has the final say. In Philly, it’s Chip Kelly. While in Indianapolis, it's GM Ryan Grigson and at the New York Jets complex, it’s new General Manager Mike Maccagnan. When picks are made, it’s usually not a last second decision. In the weeks leading up to the draft, clubs hold meetings and very thoroughly go over every player they have interest in throughout the draft. If there are questions or concerns about a player, they are answered long before the draft begins. Just like game day is a culmination of a week’s worth of practice, the draft is a culmination of months of hard work. During the pre-draft meetings a plan was drawn up as to what the team would like to do on draft day. Part of that plan has already played out in free agency. The draft is the finalization of that plan. During meetings, a board is set and the club has a general idea of who will be available for each of their early round picks. There can be last second changes in the plan when something comes up with a player, like we saw this week regarding Shane Ray and La’el Collins. Being that the news on those players came a few days before the draft, clubs had plenty of time to react. Trading up or down If there is thought given to trading up or down, that is also discussed prior to the draft. What happens in situations like that is the team would make a decision as to how far up or down they would be willing to trade. If the plan is to trade up, then the club would make calls in the days leading up to the draft to a few teams who are ahead of them in the drafting order. By basis of the trade chart, clubs already know what the approximate cost to move up. Obviously a club has to have the ammunition needed in order to move up. Sometimes it could be a combination of draft picks and/or players. The draft picks could even be a selection in the following year’s draft. By making calls before the draft, the teams in front already know that you may be interested in moving up and are expecting the call come draft day. When a club moves up, it is most likely for one particular player, so obviously the player still has to be available or the call isn’t made. Also it should be noted, that the call isn’t being made when the team in front is “on the clock”, its done maybe 20 to 30 minutes before that team will be up. If the team you’re calling is willing to trade and the terms of the trade are acceptable, then the trade is made. Trading down is a very similar process. A club doesn’t just trade down to get extra picks. The idea of the draft is to accumulate quality players so again a plan has to be in place. Part of the pre-draft planning is not only knowing the value you have of the players on your draft board but also knowing what the general value of those players is around the league. In each round, there are always cutoff points as to where you want to be to be able to draft a quality player. You never want to trade back below one of those cutoff points. The theory is to trade back only as far as the cutoff point in value. If you can still get a quality player and pick up an extra draft pick or two then you win. Just like with trading up, calls to potentially move down are made in the days leading up to the draft. A club would only call the teams in the area to which they want to move. That could be two or three calls or as many as six or seven depending on how far back you are willing to move. All that is said in the conversation is something like, “we have a player in mind when we pick at number 7. If he isn’t there we may be willing to move back. I just wanted to let you know in case you had any thoughts of moving up”. That’s it, just plant the seed. Come draft day, starting about an hour before you pick the phone will start ringing with teams looking to move up on the other end. If you’re lucky, you get put into a situation where you are auctioning off your original pick. In the 2006 draft, when I was with Chicago, we went into the draft looking to trade back because we wanted to be in position to draft both Danieal Manning and Devin Hester. We also did not have a third round pick, so if we could get a third rounder as part of a trade down, we would be happy. We started making calls to move back about 4 or 5 days before the draft. Come draft day, we had six different teams wanting our original pick. We then had to decide which trade offer would best allow us to accomplish our goal. In the end, we were successful as we drafted both players. Making the selection If a club isn’t interested in trading up or down, in almost all cases, they have a general idea of who they want to draft. You can never pinpoint just one player, as they could be selected before it’s your chance to pick. Like I said above, you have to have a group of players with each player prioritized. Starting about 30 minutes before you pick, you may briefly discuss each of the players on your priority list, but usually, the decision has already been made. In most of the draft rooms I have been in, the same holds true in each round. Going into the draft, it was predetermined which players you thought would be available in that round, and again, you prioritized each player before the draft began. If the draft goes as expected, it becomes easy to make the selection. Things change when a player who you figured would be selected earlier is still “on the board”. When that happens, you start to see him slide well before it’s your turn to pick. If it is a player you may have interest in, then you have plenty of time to discuss him in case he is still there when you are on the clock. If it is a player you have no interest in, because he isn’t a scheme fit or has injury or character flaws, then you just let him slide some more. Going into a draft, you have to be fully prepared. I have always felt that you have to prepare for the worst case scenarios, because they happen. If you can accept the worst case scenario, then you have done a good job with your preparation and you should have a good draft. Conversely, if you aren’t ready for the worst case scenarios, then you can panic when things don’t fall the way you expected. Panic leads to poor decisions. You can avoid that by being fully prepared for all potential scenarios and have a plan in place in case the worst is staring you in the face. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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