Even in the best of cases, the NFL Draft is still considered a crapshoot. You can have the best scouting department in the world that covers players from every angle imaginable, but still, ultimately, you can only be so sure of what that player will look like once he hits the field, and once he has the full weight of the responsibilities of adult life thrust upon him. Throw in the variable of becoming a millionaire overnight on top of that.
Still, the draft board is typically taken care of for every team well in advance of the draft. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least, they essentially have a hierarchy of which players they would draft in what positions, and the only thing that really fluctuates on draft day is depending upon what positions they have already drafted and how many players at a position within a certain cluster are remaining.
Nothing matches the chaos that is undrafted free agency, however. As each team finishes making their final draft picks, they begin phoning up the agents of the players who have not been drafted, trying to work out deals to get their clients to sign with their teams as college free agents.
That’s groups of several people from multiple teams all simultaneously working the phones with hundreds of players. Many teams may sign dozens of college free agents, while every team also bring in several more to work out for their rookie minicamps on a tryout basis.
That’s why some teams are more concerned about how that process is going to work under these unusual circumstances than the actual draft itself. With one pick going in at a time, it shouldn’t be too complicated unless there’s a glitch. But coordinating with your own team while throwing a limited amount of signing bonus money around is more complicated.
“The executives I spoke to around the league aren’t as concerned about the draft as they are the hour after the draft, because that’s when undrafted free agency hits, and it is a frenzy”, Jeremy Fowler reported recently. “You’re talking about hundreds of players. Some teams make up 40 percent of their roster with undrafted players and those guys become huge contributors. And so you’re throwing signing bonus money around, and it’s a big teamwork activity. One team executive told me, you can’t have the same teamwork when you’re in your house, you can only do your best. So some teams are expected to miss out on players that they would normally hit on”.
The Steelers have had a mixed bag of success with undrafted free agency over the past half decade, but have improved somewhat in recent years. in 2018, Ola Adeniyi and Matthew Thomas made the team. This past year, Tuzar Skipper and Fred Johnson made it. Adeniyi and Skipper remain with the team. Thomas was let go by their own decision, while Johnson was claimed off waivers.
A few nuggets on NFL’s virtual draft
*NFL sent players video kits with lights
*Prospects expected to have interactions with Roger Goodell on air (no bro hugs)
*One GM not worried: ‘Don’t overcomplicate – make the pick, call it in’
*Undrafted free agency could be challenging pic.twitter.com/FIdUSDRTAZ
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 13, 2020