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Wednesday, April 25, 2012
A comprehensive guide to the NFL draft

By Melissa Jacobs

The dreams of NFL hopefuls will be made -- though for some, sadly ended -- beginning Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. To the naked eye, the NFL draft may seem like little more than a heavy dose of talking heads, ever-changing scrolls and green people who like to boo. But there's more to this event, which went to prime time in 2010 -- so much more. From the scene inside Radio City and out to the swing players of 2012, here is your comprehensive guide to the who, what, where, why and how of the NFL draft.

Inside Radio City

•  This will be the seventh straight year the draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall. It was previously held at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, which has approximately 400 fewer seats.

•  Round 1 is Thursday night, Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday night and Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday afternoon. The NFL allows 10 minutes between picks for the first round, seven minutes in Round 2 and five minutes for the final five rounds.

•  Fans can attend the draft for free. However, there is limited seating and it's first-come, first-serve. Fans can start lining up outside Radio City at 10 p.m. the night before. The makeshift campsite will not reach the pandemonium of an iPad launch, but there will be plenty of fans who wake up in a sleeping bag.

•  To maintain the element of suspense, the broadcast will not give viewers any clues about who will be picked in advance of commissioner Roger Goodell stepping to the podium. In the past, a camera would show players, particularly the top picks, receiving the life-changing call from their new team moments before the official announcement.

•  Speaking of Goodell, he will almost definitely receive a very different welcome from fans this year compared to the deafening boos he got last year. Remember, 365 days ago the lockout was in effect and Goodell was the face of the greedy owners. Expect more cheers than jeers this time around -- unless there's a huge turnout of Saints fans.

•  For the second straight year, alumni from all 32 teams will announce the picks for their former organizations during Round 2. This year's roster is stacked with household names including Barry Sanders (Lions), Marvin Harrison (Colts) and Eddie George (Titans).

•  More male fans flock to the draft, therefore providing a Radio City audience disproportionate to the general makeup of NFL fans, which is approximately 56 to 44 percent male to female.

•  Most teams have their key personnel back at home in the confines of their war room. The two people you see occupying a team's table near the stage are generally team employees in an honorary role. The Redskins send their physical therapist, for example.

•  Joining the team representatives at each table is a helmet filled with M&M's in the respective team's colors. That said, it's a good thing Jets coach Rex Ryan will be in the war room.

Class of 2012

•  A record 26 players are expected to attend this year's draft.

•  Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the No. 1 overall pick. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will be selected by the Washington Redskins with the No. 2 overall pick. Those conclusions are as foregone it gets.

•  The No. 3 slot is where it gets interesting. USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil was the predicted Minnesota Vikings pick for months. However, rumors are swirling that Kalil's stock has fallen, mainly because the Vikings need to bolster their secondary to combat the powerhouse offenses in the NFC North.

•  Speaking of Kalil, one anonymous scout says he has a "sense of entitlement." Another anonymous scout thinks Griffin is selfish.

And one scout thinks Iowa State lineman Kelechi Osemele might be too soft for the NFL because he was raised by women. This "anonymous scout" business is losing its luster fast, particularly after last year's consensus that Cam Newton would be the next JaMarcus Russell.

•  Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, considered by most to be the third-best quarterback in this year's draft, is the ultimate swing player. He could be taken by Cleveland with the No. 4 pick or by Miami at No. 8. He could even fall to Kansas City at No. 11. Where Tannehill goes or doesn't go could drastically affect the makeup of the top 10.

•  Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is the consensus second-best receiver in the draft and will be gone Thursday. But Floyd was almost derailed by his campus drunk-driving arrest and subsequent suspension. He also received two citations for underage drinking. Floyd is one of those guys to watch closely in regard to his character. Has he learned from past mistakes and matured, or will he be a bad apple in the NFL?

•  Division III players are rarely drafted, let alone make a splash in the NFL. Pierre Garcon, drafted by Indianapolis in the sixth round in 2008, was the last. Albion defensive back Chris Greenwood could be the next. The Michigan Intercollegiate Association defensive player of the year, Greenwood's stock has risen dramatically since his impressive performance at Michigan's pro day.

•  Another defensive back who is on an upward trajectory is South Florida cornerback Josh Robinson. After posting the fastest 40 time (4.33) at the combine, Robinson has moved from a fifth-rounder to a late first/early- to mid-second-rounder on many draft boards.

•  Speaking of mock drafts, most will be at least 75 percent wrong. Don't use them as a gambling guide.

•  Luck may be the man for now, but he will not be the one player in the draft worthy of his own parade. That honor will go to Mr. Irrelevant, the last player taken in the draft. The Irrelevant tradition was started in 1976 by Paul Salata. It includes an "Irrelevant Week" in Salata's hometown of Newport Beach, Calif., complete with the awarding of a "Lowsman Trophy" and other events fit for a draft pauper.

Around town

•  Griffin, the newest Subway spokesman, was the recipient of a life-size smokehouse barbecue sandwich sculpture yesterday. It featured the appetizing combination of hair made from chili peppers and teeth made out of garlic. Past rookies who have participated in this now-annual event include Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller and Ndamukong Suh. RG3's ancestors, RG1 (Rich Gannon) and RG2 (Rex Grossman) have yet to inspire sandwich likenesses.

•  The "Madden" cover winner will be revealed in Times Square on Wednesday. The finalists are Calvin Johnson and Cam Newton. If the ceremony goes anything like last year's crowning of Peyton Hillis, expect to see the winner parading around Times Square in full uniform (helmet included), both thrilling and scaring thousands.

•  Come for the draft. Stay for an indie flick. The Tribeca Film Festival is going on opposite the draft this weekend. Manhattan will be flooded with celebrities galore, and ironically, Brooklyn's finest hipsters.

•  Because of the parallel powers of Tribeca and the draft, good luck finding a hotel for less than $600 a night.

•  Jets and Giants players generally stay in town, attending parties and hosting sponsor-driven events. The best on paper is Wednesday's obstacle-course battle between Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and supermodel Kate Upton. Think pingpong and digital Pictionary.

•  Tim Tebow will be discussed ad nauseam.