NFL Football Draft Origins

NFL draft story

The NFL Draft today has become a highly anticipated, scrutinized, and watched event. But, like the NFL itself, the NFL Draft stemmed from humble origins before developing into what it is today. The first draft took place in 1936, after Philadelphia Eagles co-owner and future NFL commissioner Bert Bell proposed the idea. Bell realized that in order to keep a competitive balance among the league and promote long-term parity for every team in the NFL, there needed to be a system in place allowing all teams to have a chance at college players.

The previous system in place encouraged the best players to choose the best teams, thus leaving the NFL’s worst at the bottom of the league. The concept of a draft, using an order based inversely on the past season’s standing, would make it so that failing teams could add top players from the college game. Other professional sports leagues have since followed the NFL’s model, as it became clear that the NFL Draft was a successful way of promoting equality among teams. The NFL Draft is part of what has made the NFL the most popular and intriguing professional sport in America.

NFL Draft Early Years

The first NFL Draft was held in 1936 and was a far more amateur production than what it is today. With a list of names on a blackboard in a Philadelphia Hotel, NFL teams gathered to select players they had heard of. The Philadelphia Eagles selected the University of Chicago’s Jay Berwanger, who won the Heisman Trophy in the previous season. Berwanger was then traded to the Bears and ultimately never signed an NFL contract, choosing instead to take a job at a rubber company. The selection process in the first years of the draft was incredibly elementary, with teams basing players off of statistics and what they had read in local newspapers. Once a few teams began to use scouting departments and actual methods of evaluation, the rest of the NFL caught on. The evaluation of college prospects developed into a much more thorough process over the years, though it is still highly inaccurate at times.

NFL Draft Location

The NFL Draft has moved around over the years and has been held at several different locations. The first draft took place at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Its early years included a number of hotels in cities including New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. Since it has become a more popular and watched event, the NFL Draft has taken place in Madison Square Gardens and the Jacob K Javits Convention Center. Most recently, the NFL Draft has settled on a New York home in Radio City Music Hall. Radio City Music Hall has hosted the draft since 2006 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Radio City Music Hall offers a large venue that lends itself well to a major television broadcast and allows fans to attend the draft in person.

NFL Draft Legendary Moments

NFL Draft system

Over the years, there have been many dramatic drafts that shaped the dynamics of the National Football League. The most exciting moment in NFL Draft history have occurred at the top of the draft, where teams have multi-million dollar decisions that can decide the fate of a franchise.

In 1983, Baltimore Colts General Manager Ernie Accorsi ignored protest by John Elway, and selected the Stanford quarterback. Elway had threatened to play baseball instead had the Colts selected him. Colts ownership went behind the back of Accorsi and traded Elway to the Denver Broncos. Elway would go on to build a Hall of Fame career and two Super Bowls with the Broncos, whereas the Baltimore Colts would relocate to Indianapolis after another poor season. That same first round also featured Eric Dickerson (2nd pick to the Los Angeles Rams) and Dan Marino (27th pick to the Miami Dolphins).

The 2004 had two highly regarded quarterback prospects in Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. The San Diego Chargers owned the first pick in the draft, but Eli and his father Archie publicly stated that Eli Manning wouldn’t play for the Chargers. On draft day, a disappointed Eli Manning heard his name called and he reluctantly held the San Diego jersey on the draft stage. The New York Giants then selected Philip Rivers with the fourth pick and traded Rivers and a bundle of draft picks to the Giants for the rights to Manning. Ben Roethlisberger was selected eleventh by the Pittsburgh Steelers. All three QBs have had NFL success, with Roethlisberger and Manning each winning two Super Bowls.

In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers passed on hometown talent Aaron Rodgers for Alex Smith with the number one pick in the draft. Rodgers then took one of the most famous falls in draft history, before the Green Bay Packers finally stopped the agony by selecting Rodgers with the 24th pick. Smith underwhelmed in San Francisco, while Rodgers would become the best player in the entire draft class.

NFL Draft Today

Today’s NFL Draft is a prime-time event that is spread over three days and gets high TV ratings for ESPN and NFL Network. The changes made to the process have increased the interest and often plays out like a dramatic soap opera for fans. The NFL Draft events also offers a number of opportunities for bettors, who can wager on different draft betting props including where players are drafted.