The 2013 NFL Draft begins at 1am Irish time Thursday night and is live on Sky Sports 1 with coverage starting at midnight. Hopefully Sky decide to give 'analyst' Cecil Martin the night off. The Draft takes place in Radio City Music Hall in New York.
What is the NFL draft?
Every year the NFL drafts the best 254 college football players in America over seven rounds with each of the 32 NFL teams having a pick in every round. Teams can choose to trade their draft picks for players or for other draft picks. High draft picks in the NFL are considered very valuable as a team can get an outstanding young player on a relatively cheap long term contract, which is all important in a league where there is a restrictive salary cap.
The NFL draft started in 1936 but only began being televised in 1980. As the the popularity of the NFL and indeed college football has exploded ,with football now overtaking baseball as America's pastime, the Draft has become a massive tv event. In 2010 the first round was moved to a prime time thursday evening tv slot and last year over 25 million people watched the first round.
How does the draft work?
In the first round a team has has a maximum of ten minutes to make its selection with the time used for the team's brains trust (copyright Gerry Thornley) to confer in a 'war room' inside Radio City Music Hall. This brains trust usually includes will the team's General Manager, the Head Coach, some key scouts and in some case, the owner of the team,unless you're the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Once a decision has been made to select a player or to trade the pick to a team willing to trade into your Draft slot. If the selection is made, it will announced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ,who will probably be booed lustily for a variety of reasons.
How are the team's positions determined?
A team's position in the draft is determined by their performance the previous year with positions done in reverse order relative to the team's record. Basically, the worst teams get the highest picks with the Kansas City Chiefs who finished with 2 wins and 14 losses have the first pick in every round of the draft and the Baltimore Ravens, the Superbowl champions, having the 32nd pick in every round. Its a system that gives hope to fans, miserable after a terrible season for their team and is illustrative of the league's desire that every team is never too far away from contention.
Who is going to be this year's number one pick?
Ideally, teams with high draft picks will want draft a quarterback, by far the most the valuable position in the sport and drafting a good one is the easiest way to turn around an ailing team's fortunes. However this year there is not an obvious unmissable prospect at quarterback like Andrew Luck (pictured above) and Robert Griffin III last year. This year the first pick in the draft is expected to be spent one of two offensive tackles with the Chiefs expected to pick either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher.