The NFL Draft Explained for the Sports-Indifferent Philadelphian

An easily digestible guide to what exactly is happening on the Parkway this week.

Photo illustration by Joe Trinacria.

Photo illustration by Joe Trinacria.

Just what is this NFL Draft thing that’s been blocking traffic around the Art Museum? Are they really going to be playing football in that tiny tent set up on the Rocky Steps?

If you’ve been feeling lost among the incessant chatter surrounding Thursday night’s draft – whatever it is – fear not: We’re here to help you make sense of all the hubbub.

By reading this handy little explainer, you’ll go from uninterested party to Vince Lombardi before you can say Vai Sikahema. Plus we’ll be sure to give you some tips on how to sound somewhat informed at your neighbor’s draft rager that you will reluctantly attend.

Rendering of the draft stage in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rendering of the draft stage in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Give me the basics.
The purpose of the draft is to replenish team rosters with fresh talent to account for retirements, players leaving for other teams after their contracts end, and so on. Additionally, think of it as the NFL’s attempt to establish parity among its franchises.

It’s sort of like the military draft – except those selected aren’t risking their lives for their country, just their future mental health for millions of dollars.

How does it work?
Teams are slotted in each of the draft’s seven rounds based on their performance in the season that just ended a few months prior (worst team goes first, Super Bowl champs last). Front-office executives select players who have spent at least three years in college to immediately join their team – but beware of potential “busts.”

OK, but you still haven’t explained what all those people are going to see on the Parkway …
Right, almost forgot because it does seem so trivial now that you ask. Football fans are so fanatical that they’re actually lining up to witness a massive, three-day version of picking sides in gym class – and most don’t even know more than a handful of the kids! A selection is announced, the drafted player (if he is in attendance) shakes the commissioner’s hand, and the process repeats a couple of hundred more times. Can you believe that?

To fit in with the crowd and sound cool, I should:

    • Comment how it’s much easier to stick with a team after going undrafted than being designated as this year’s Mr. Irrelevant.
    • Freak out when a likely meaningless trade is announced (your hint: overzealous announcers losing their minds over this music).
    • Get my hair on point like Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s draft guru and resident vampire.

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