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The NFL Draft for Dummies

The Saints' first game is still months away, but for avid football fans, the starting point of the season is upon us. The NFL Draft represents hope for each NFL fan, no matter how bleak the previous season.

The draft is a new beginning, full of possibilities. Saints fans in particular can relate to this.

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For months, experts have been publishing mock drafts, analyzing top prospects and speculating about anything and everything draft related. Spoiler alert: This is not one of those articles. Instead, the aim is to provide a glossary of draft-related terms to allow the casual NFL fan to enjoy this year’s kickoff to football season. A sort of NFL Draft for Dummies. Here goes:

Thursday, May 8 – Saturday, May 10: The dates for this year’s draft. Round 1 will begin at 7 p.m. CST on Thursday, while the later rounds will be featured on Friday beginning at 6 p.m.  (rounds 2 and 3) and Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. (round 4 through 7).  TV coverage is available on NFL Network, ESPN and ESPN2. Also of note is the fact that this year the draft has been pushed back two weeks from its traditional end-of-April timeframe. The official reason for the date change was that Radio City Music Hall was booked during the typical late-April date; however, many speculate that the NFL is experimenting with a later date to increase the pre-draft hype.

For New Orleanians, the good news is that this year, for the first time, Draft Day didn't conflict with Jazz Fest.

Radio City Music Hall: The Rockettes are not the only ones who take over this famous NYC venue each year. The NFL draft has taken place at Radio City Music Hall since 2006; however, the draft could move to a different city as early as 2015.

The first overall pick: The team that finished in last place during the previous season gets the honor of the first overall pick in the following year’s draft. This year’s first pick will go to the Houston Texans, unless they make a deal to trade their pick to another team (if you don’t know what this means, do not fret, as there will be ample time between picks for the announcers to discuss the possibilities ad nauseum). This year Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end from South Carolina, is considered the top prospect (see this video of him crushing an opponent).

Draft Invitation: Each year the NFL invites marquee players to the draft. We’ve all come to know and love these images of our team’s newest face holding up an NFL jersey for the first time. There is one major problem, however. Sometimes these future NFLers have to wait around longer than expected. The trend started in 2005 when Aaron Rodgers, the presumed number one overall pick, slipped down to number 24. That means that Aaron Rodgers waited roughly 4 1/2 hours to be picked. Keep in mind that after every pick the cameras would show Rodgers waiting. As bad as that experience had to be for Rodgers, Geno Smith suffered far worse in the 2013 draft. Smith was thought to be a mid-first round pick, but instead waited and waited, until the first round was over. That’s right, Geno Smith had to go home and come back the next day. And then he was drafted by the Jets. Ouch.

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The Saints selected safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft

NFL Scouting Combine: Prior to each draft, the NFL invites top college football players to a weeklong set of physical and mental tests. Scouts and coaches from throughout the league attend the combine to aid in their assessments of draft prospects. Announcers will repeatedly refer to these tests throughout the draft.

Wonderlic Test: An intelligence test administered to prospective players. Test takers must answer 50 multiple choice questions in 12 minutes (therefore, 50 is the top score possible). The average score for a football player is 20, but the average varies by position (the average for a quarterback, for instance, is 24). Saints tight end Ben Watson scored an incredible 48. Wondering how you stack up? You can take a sample Wonderlic test here.

Time Limit: As soon as the draft begins on Thursday, each team will have an allotted amount of time to make each pick. What happens if a team doesn’t make their pick in time? Just ask the Minnesota Vikings in 2003. They failed to make their pick in time (7th overall) and saw Jacksonville jump in and take Byron Leftwich with what would have been their turn. Carolina was also on high alert and ready with their pick. Finally, Minnesota got a pick in at 9th overall. 

Time limits per round

Round 1: 10 minutes

Round 2: 7 minutes

Rounds 3 to 7: 5 minutes

Mr. Irrelevant: The title given to the last pick in the NFL Draft. The title is so well-known that it has spawned its own event, Irrelevant Week. Held each year in Newport Beach, California, the tongue-and-cheek affair honors each Mr. Irrelevant with a “Lowsman Trophy” (featuring a player fumbling a football) and activities of the honoree’s choosing – from dining on gourmet meals to hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. Saints fans know all too well that players picked in the very end of the draft can become star players. For example, Marques Colston almost earned the Mr. Irrelevant title when he was drafted fourth to last by the Saints in the 7th round of the 2006 draft. And we all know that he has turned out to be relevant indeed.

Crib notes: If you're still at sea over all this, go catch Kevin Costner in Draft Day before it leaves local theaters. The movie follows a fictional Cleveland Browns coach from dawn on Draft Day through his first-round pick. Trades and strategy and last-minute maneuvering abound. Who knew the NFL draft held such high drama?

Native New Orleanian Megan Peck writes occasionally about lie in New Orleans for NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]