If I were a curmudgeon, I would tell you just how joyless I think the NFL Draft has become. I would tell you that Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and their ilk have ruined it by analyzing it within an inch of its life for over three months straight. I would tell you that the Internet’s wannabe Mels and Todds have destroyed the very essence of the word “prediction” by releasing so many mock drafts that every statistically possible permutation of selections has been covered, even the ones in which this guy is picked first overall. I would talk about how the draft was so much better on the weekend, when it only competed against “Huntin’ with Hank” and “Fishin’ with Floyd” over on ESPN2. Finally, I would regale you with stories of how the new NFL Draft represents the desecration of the league itself, which was so much better when the Chicago Bears were the Decatur Staleys, and players were named Biff and Clem and Sparky.
But I am not a curmudgeon at all! I am a perfectly congenial, forward-thinking individual who shares very few characteristics with your grandfather, unless your grandfather is one of those progressive-minded, old-timey Hollywood actors who raised money for charity by selling cookies that were like Oreos but not as good. Because of my sunny disposition, I won’t harp on the aspects of the draft that annoy me. Instead, I want to focus on ways to make it better. The proceedings haven’t undergone many significant changes in ages, and it seems that the era of war rooms and green rooms may have played itself out. It’s the season of change in the NFL to begin with. Extra points are on the move, goal posts dunks are gone, and the Jaguars are prepping for their relocation to the Arena Football League. It’s time to get creative with the draft.
Idea #1: Sorting Helmet
Draft strategy can be intriguing, but the idea of letting coaches and GMs make their own decisions seems a little Wild Wild West. Why not take advantage of our technological and supernatural capabilities? The Sorting Helmet knows more about where a player should suit up than any mere mortal could possibly dream of. Does he have a ruthless, win-at-all-costs mentality? Welcome to New England! Does he care more about pageantry and tradition than winning championships? He’s the man for Huffle- I mean, the Browns. Is his brain a bit warped from recreational drug use? He could play for… any team, really, but let’s say Cincinnati. The sorting helmet would keep team chemistry at all-time highs, and could probably get the whole thing over with in four hours, tops.
Idea #2: Fan Participation
Dick LeBeau coached the Boston Butter Churners when their season was disrupted by Shays’ Rebellion, but he doesn’t really know anything about football. He’s just been lucky for the past 225 years. The real expert is that guy sitting in Madison Square Garden, whose Kordell Stewart jersey still has a few traces of the number 10 on it. Each chili stain on his Terrible Towel represents long hours spent studying the game, unearthing heretofore undiscovered truths like “defense wins championships” and “can’t NOBODY stop Big Ben.” Sure, he might draft a quarterback, running back, or receiver in every round, but those guys can always change positions. If teams don’t feel like they can trust an individual fan, they can always turn their fortunes over to the crowd in a decibel-based drafting system, in which teams are stuck with whichever player the fans cheer for the loudest.
Idea #3: Musical Chairs
This would be the most interesting game of musical chairs you’ve ever seen (we’re aiming low here). Certain players would die for a seat, while others would actually want to be the last man standing. There might be multiple players still standing long after the end of the music (brought to you by NFL Films), desperate to be the “loser” and get drafted by the team on the clock. This would lead to nerve-jangling standoffs, in the most literal sense, during which players would be tempted to sit down by the league’s choice of increasingly powerful incentives, like hamburgers, cars, or partial ownership of local PetSmart franchises. It would be truly thrilling, though probably not very efficient in terms of time.
Idea #4: Mascot Drafting
We all know that the Dolphins have struggled to find a franchise quarterback in the post-Marino years, but who would an actual dolphin pick to lead the team? The Lions, Bears, Bengals, and Panthers would have some safety concerns to go along with this draft format, but animal trainers would be on hand to keep the mauling to a minimum. Teams represented by low-intelligence animals would struggle, and teams like the Packers, Vikings, and Raiders would benefit from having actual humans in control. But everyone would do better than the Texans.