by Mario "Game" Granata
Usually, around this time, the NFL Draft would be over, and fans and players alike will be dissecting playbooks and researching the newest members of their teams, but with the 2014 NFL Draft pushed into May, there is more time for teams to dot their I's and cross their T's before selecting players that will help their franchise. What does this longer time mean for fans and players alike?
"Don't think, you'll only hurt the team." Any player who has said that they thought this, or thought that, has inevitably heard these words from a coach. But examining the 2014 NFL Draft, and the extended period of time that teams have been able to get all their ducks in a row, it seems that this draft will be a little different. The one luxury that teams don't really have, is the luxury of time. Time to make more calculated decisions about the future players that they would like to bring in, and how it will affect their franchise for years to come. At first, I wasn't a fan of the Draft being pushed back, but taking a look at some points, I can go along with it...for the time being.
Longer Free Agency: Although many of the 'Big Name' players were taken shortly after March 11th, when free agency opened, there were still some players that were inked to deals later in the period. This allowed teams to do their due diligence to the organizations that they represent, and try to put the best product on the field come September. Speaking as a fan, I can honestly say that is not a bad thing. Do your homework, so the team I cheer for will be playoff bound come January.
Underclassmen: The 2014 Draft is going to see a record number of underclassmen hopefully get drafted come May 8th. What does this mean for teams? Longer time to evaluate, and talk to talent that they will take a gamble on. With the number of underclassmen being the highest it has been in years, teams might not have as much film on them as they would like, so being able to see them at their Pro Days, or invite them to their facility to get a more in depth look at them isn't too bad an idea.
Hype Machine: In the world of social media, and news coming from all different angles, from a player's standpoint, it is good to get used to the chaos and mayhem that they will receive come May 8th, to make them more comfortable with their surroundings. They don't have to feel 'rushed' and make careless mistakes. It also gives players who had lingering injuries more time to heal up and be able to showcase what they have, to improve their draft stock. Aaron Murray is a fan of this.
If I could pinpoint one downfall, that would actually work out as a plus for the teams drafting is with an extended period of time, they can truly see what these players do when they are left to their own devices, and the teams will hopefully avoid drafting a player who is simply not ready. We've seen recently the exploits of Devone Bess, Titus Young, and Aaron Hernandez, so with more time afforded to teams, they can do their homework properly so that they don't get a player who either isn't ready, or needs to pursue other avenues before even coming to the NFL. With the recent developments mentioned by Troy Vincent, of a developmental project for the players, and the more and more players who are underclassmen coming out, the NFL can be the best product that it can be...and that benefits players and fans alike.