This year's NFL Draft featured a new "stream-lined" format that successfully made day one considerably shorter. Changes included only having rounds one and two on Saturday, and then shortening the amount of time between each pick in both of those rounds. I have to applaud the NFL for making those changes as it was much easier to follow, but I do have a few suggestions for the future.
One of the other major changes the NFL made this year was changing the start time of day one of the draft to 3:00 ET. Before this year, the start time was noon ET, and it was much better. The drama of the first four picks was really taken out entirely as the extra three hours allowed teams to decide on who they wanted to pick. Unsurprisingly, news of those selections leaked out, making the first forty minutes of the draft pretty boring.
There's nothing that can be done about Jake Long signing in the week leading up to the draft, but when we all found out that Chris Long was going to the Rams, Matt Ryan was going to be selected by the Falcons, and Darren McFadden was going to become a Raider, it took a lot of excitement out of the start of the draft. Those extra three hours really provided a lot of leaks, and I hope something is done in the future to prevent that.
Another reason I prefer the noon start time is that you don't have to sit around and wait all day for the draft to get started. On Saturday, I really didn't like having to wait around for 3:00 to finally arrive. I would much rather wake up and only a few hours later get the draft going. That way, leaks of which players have already been selected would be less likely, keeping the drama around at the start of the draft.
When these changes were first made, there was some talk about possibly moving the first-round of the draft to Friday night. I believe a move like that will happen eventually as the advertising revenue generated would be much greater in primetime. The one thing that held back a move to Friday night was the question of when the draft should start. The NFL can't have the draft start too late for people on the east coast, but at the same time it can't start too early for people out west. Based on this year's first-round that lasted around 3 hours, I think a start time of something like 8:30 would be feasible. That way people out west can tune in at a reasonable time, and people in the east will be able to stay up to the very end if they want.
The one other thing I wish would change is the TV coverage of the draft. Going back to the loss of excitement I brought up earlier in this post, ESPN and the NFL Network did their best to take the fun out of it as well. For ESPN, they would show a player talking on the phone either in New York City or somewhere else, signalling that they were the next pick. At least this year Chris Berman didn't give away any selections, but those live shots of the players did.
On a similar note, why did the NFL Network feel that Adam Schefter should blow the whistle on so many picks? I understand that they want to get information out quicker than their competitors, but there is no reason to put him by the podium with the sole purpose of taking the surprise out of everything. It's not a huge issue as we will find out who the pick is literally only minutes or seconds later, but part of the reason why the draft is so fun to watch is because of the drama.
As the NFL moves forward, I believe Roger Goodell will do his best to make the draft experience better for everyone. What I like about him is that he isn't afraid to make changes, whether they be small ones or drastic ones. That attitude will go a long way in making the draft as good as possible, and hopefully steps will be taken from now until next April to make 2009's version even better.