The NFL 2020 draft is just around the corner! This year, it will be a little bit different to what we’re used to due to the COVID-19 crisis, but the general premise will of course be the same.
If you’re new to the NFL and wondering what all this is about, or if you’re an avid fan who has never really got into this part of the season, we’re here for you.
Here at the Sports Despatch, we will be bringing you all the top content on the NFL 2020 Draft, including top prospects and a look back at some of the top picks of the past.
Here, we will explain how it works, where it will be and who the top prospects are this year.
So, what the hell is the NFL draft?
The draft is an annual event, held over the course of three days, wherein all 32 NFL teams have an opportunity to add some fresh, young talent to their rosters.
Over seven rounds of intense player selection, wheeling and dealing, the teams will pick from the best collegiate football players the nation has to offer.
Think of it as the world’s longest and arduous job application.
How the NFL draft works
- How many picks do each team get?
- How is the draft order decided?
- What does ‘on the clock’ mean?
- How long do they have to make their pick?
- How long does the draft last?
There are seven rounds of the draft. In it, to begin with at least, each team will have one pick in each round.
However, draft picks are prime stock in trade deals in the NFL and exchanged between teams along with existing pro players.
So teams will usually end up with either more or less than the standard seven picks, depending on what they’ve done in the trade market. For example, Miami Dolphins have 14 picks this year.
In each round, the teams will take turns to pick their desired player from the players available to them.
Obviously the later you go, the less chance you have of securing the best players – so picking early is key.
How is the order selected? Well, it goes off the standings from the season before. The Super Bowl winners will pick last whereas the team with the worst record will pick first. This year, Cincinnati Bengals will go first.
But, as with the number of picks, the order can also change dependent on what has happened on the trade market.
At the start of the draft, the NFL commissioner will take the stage to declare the draft open.
When he does that, he will announce the first team are “on the clock” – meaning they have a 10-minute countdown to submit their pick.
The recruitment staff, including the general manager, will be in their “war room” which this year will be virtual due to the coronavirus.
In the 10-minute period, they’ll either select somebody from the available players, or trade out of the position before the ten minutes are up.
If the clock expires, then the next team will be immediately on the clock – but the team still can make their pick.
The clock is more a measure of when the next team can make their pick rather than a period time wherein the current team HAVE to make a pick.
If your time runs out, you can still make your selection but risk your selection going to the next team up.
The clock timer is 10 minutes in the first round but, as we go through the rounds, the timer is shortened. In the second round it’s seven minutes, and from the third round onward it’s five minutes.
The draft will last for three days. On the first day, we will see round one – which is the heavily publicised and televised event you will have probably seen on the TV.
Day two will see rounds two and three then the third day of the draft will host rounds four to seven.
- Who can enter?
- Do they have to have attended college?
- Do they have to be American?
- Is there a max age?
The league says that every year they have to comb through around 3,000 names who are eligible for the NFL draft, but how exactly do you become eligible? Well, that’s not an easy question to answer.
For starters, you must have been out of high school for three years. The usual way sees collegiate-level players declare as eligible after three or four years.
If you’re three years out of school, you can declare as an underclassman (a freshman or sophomore – first or second year at university for our British readers).
Underclassman who declare are given a grade by the NFL which will tell them what round they are likely to go in.
From that point, they can decide whether they want to proceed with the draft or stay in school for another year or so.
If they’re given a first or second round grade, they’ll usually enter. If not, they’ll likely go back to school for a year.
It’s also worth noting that nowhere in the rules does it state you need to have attended college.
However, virtually all the players who declare for the draft will have played college ball in the USA, with the odd player from the Canadian college system.
Players from other football leagues such as the Canadian Football League (CFL) or the German Football League (GFL) will occasionally be selected.
The rules only state that you must be three years removed from high school, what the players do in that period is up to them.
As for a maximum age, there isn’t one as such – but there is a cut off point. If you went to college and graduated, be it in four or five years, then you’re only eligible for the draft in the year after you graduated.
If you didn’t go to college, your draft eligibility expires once four seasons have passed from the time you (or your classmates if you didn’t get a diploma) graduate highschool.
SB Nation did a brilliant article explaining eligibility prior to the 2017 draft, you can read that here. Or you can read the full rules from the NFL here.
How do the teams select which players they want?
Well, the obvious answer to that is from their time in college football. The college game is just as supported in the US as the professional game is.
As a result of that, the games are on TV all year – so we all normally have a rough idea of who’s good and who isn’t.
Each team will have scouts who watch hours and hours of film on each of the players they’re interested in.
As well as that, there are a number of events held in the lead up to the draft wherein the eligible draft prospects will be invited to strut their stuff in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams.
The most notable among them is the NFL Combine, usually held at LucasOil Stadium in Indiana a couple of months before the season starts.
The combine, which lasts six days, is an invite-only event that will put the top prospects in each position through a series of rigorous tests to show the club representatives a bit more of their ability.
As well as that, each college will hold a Pro Day, which NFL scouts are allowed to attend. If there’s more they want to see of a certain player before the draft, teams will send scouts to their college Pro Day to get some additional information.
Also, in the lead up to the draft, each team will host a face-to-face meeting with up to 30 of the players they are interested in drafting.
This allows the team to get a feel for the personality and attitude of the players, helping them to decide if they’re the right type of person to fit in at their organisation.
As for the decisions each team makes on the day, well that’s up to them. Some teams employ a strategy wherein they take who they think the best available player is regardless of position.
Most teams, however, will select the best player available in the position they need to fill the most.
Usually, as you would expect, the quarterbacks are the most popular and most sought after players in each draft.
This year, there are three QBs who could very well go in the top ten but if you already have a good starting QB, there’s little point in drafting another, so most teams just try to fill their positions of need.
The 2020 NFL Draft
Normally, the event of the draft would be held in an arena with thousands of fans in attendance.
This year, it was due to be held in Paradise, Nevada – but the circumstances with COVID-19 have obviously changed that.
Now, each team will make their selections virtually via phone calls and video calls to avoid any unnecessary contact.
It goes without saying that there will be no public attendance at the event this year.
As for the draft itself, the team with the first pick is the Cincinnati Bengals. They’re highly expected to take Joe Burrow, a QB from Lousiana State University who is coming off a national championship season.
Second up is the Washington Redskins, followed by the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, LA Chargers and the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns making up the top ten.
Obviously, that could all change yet. There’s plenty of speculation surrounding potential trades all the time.
The Top Prospects for 2020
The Sports Despatch team will be putting together more detailed analysis of each position in this year’s draft but as an overview, here’s who you should look out for.
The draft class this year is looking pretty good, but there’s very little speculation as to who will be the first person off the board. Unless something crazy happens, the first player to be drafted will be Joe Burrow to the Bengals.
As well as Burrow, there are at least two other QBs who could and very well might go in the top ten – Alabama’s Tua Tagavailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
As for receivers, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are expected to go mid-first round alongside Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
READ MORE: NFL 2020 Draft: Top wide receiver prospects
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State’s EDGE Chase Young is probably the number one talent in the draft.
He’ll likely go with the second pick to Washington. Another Ohio State star in cornerback Jeff Okudah will go high up, as will Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
Also keep an eye on O-line talent Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa, Jedrick Wills Jr out of Alabama, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas out of Georgia.
There’s a few O-Line needy teams in the top 10 to 15 picks, so there’s a good chance they’ll all go early.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we’ll have plenty more NFL Draft content for you so keep an eye on our NFL page which you can find here or be sure to follow us on Facebook for all the latest news and analysis.