Your 2014 NFL Draftnik Primer: 14 Things You Should Know In Order To Follow The Draft For Four Months

Bruce Bennett

So you want to play Virtual GM, huh? Well, at least be competent! Here's how.

The annual NFL Draft offers plenty for the fans of teams, especially those that have been eliminated from the playoffs. It's become a sport of it's own over the years, as the internet has exploded and people have access to watching film of players from outside their local jurisdiction.

Just like with NFL Football, there are levels of interest for fans of this past time; and there's nothing wrong with existing on any of these levels. There are those that only pay attention on game day, without caring much for the nuances of the process. There are those that follow a little more closely, checking throughout the week if anything relevant has transpired for their team. Then there are those that follow a lot more closely, reading up everyday to make sure they are as up-to-date as possible on their team. And finally, there are those that follow so closely, they embark on exercises such as regular blogging, serial mock drafting and writing emails to the front office of their teams. I'm just kidding about the last part. Sort of. Not really.

For some, draft season is just as exciting as the regular season. It gives them a chance to learn about the players that could be stars down the line. Or to be the first to say, intelligently, that guy has bust written all over him. But there are rules... and if you're going to get into this game you should be well equipped. As such, here are 14 things you should know if you want to become a draftnik.

  1. The deadline for underclassmen to declare is January 15th. Remember, the rule of eligibility is that you must have completed three years AFTER graduating high school to be eligible, so the draft includes Seniors, Juniors but also a handful of redshirt Sophomores who still have two years of collegiate eligibility remaining. Obviously, the more players that declare, the more prospects there are and the better chance that guys you are targeting fall to your team. For a complete list of who has declared, go here.
  2. The Senior Bowl is a key element in moving people up and down the draft board for one clear reason: NFL coaching. The NFL assigns the coaching staffs of two teams to lead the North and South squads. This allows plenty of prospects to show what they can do with professional level coaching. Remember, it's not about the game itself, it's really about who's standing out during the week of practice. Mike Smith and the Falcons coaches will lead the North, Gus Bradley and the Jags staff will lead the South. For a list of all the accepted Senior Bowl invites, go here. JANUARY 20th - 25th.
  3. Another key All-Star game is the East-West Shrine Game. Jerry Glanville and Romeo Crennel will be the head coaches for the East and West squads, respectively. This game also includes Canadian players as well. JANUARY 13th - 18th.
  4. The Underwear Olympics sets off all kinds of alarms in my head about its cattle-like, auction nature- but the National Scouting Combine is a big part of the draft process. Unfortunately, the stuff that matters is the least televised. The position-specific drill preparation that players go through probably gives you the best indication of what skillset a guy brings to the table... but you'll be inundated with Rich Eisen's 40-yard draft time stuff. The measurables stuff is still good information. It puts everyone on equal ground so you can eliminate school biases and cheats. Hey, he's not really 6'3", he's 5'4"! Which wideouts have mammoth, berzerko hands, stuff like that. Looking for a running back? The all important Speed Score. For full coverage of the Combine, go here. FEBRUARY 22nd - 25th.
  5. Hand in hand with the combine are the regional combines and Pro Days.The regionals are basically the combine for guys that didn't make the main cut, lower-tiered guys get their chances to be poked and prodded too. There are 14 such events that stretch from February through April. In the month leading up to the draft, many players will also take part in Pro Days. They are workouts held on the college campus (95% on the campus where they played) where they can control more of the environment. QBs throw to WRs they are familiar with, corners run 40-yard dashes on familiar turf with coaches who have their best interests in mind... Pro Days are key for players with bad Combine experiences or that were hampered by injuries. Many times, top quarterbacks refuse to throw at the combine and will throw only at their Pro Days.
  6. The NFL Draft was moved back this year. It is now from May 8th - May 10th, and still in Radio City Music Hall in New York. That's right, you'll have to suffer through another two weeks of mock draft mania. It's a celebration! The good part is there is now less dead time between the draft and the start of practicing for the 2014 season.
  7. Understand that saying "we need to do this, this and this with our first three picks" is wonderful strategy for getting your mock draft rec'd. It is not, however, a good way for you to go judge our actual draft. Admit that your knowledge of draftable players is limited. Admit that you don't take into account future salary cap considerations. Admit that you really don't know more than the Cowboys brass. Targeting specific positions and marrying yourselves to them is the quickest recipe to sinking your team.
  8. Listen to your friends at BTB. We keep the content coming during the draft season, but sometimes that means that the major themes get lost in the shuffle. After the 2013 draft, someone actually tried to denounce our coverage on BTB. Here's the major themes that we hit on: 1) The Cowboys would go offense heavy, because they would allow a new defensive staff to learn the players on hand. 2) The Cowboys have made a recent trend of using their 1st round pick exclusively on someone that they consider the top prospect at his position. 3) The Cowboys would be focused on drafting players at positions such as WR, TE, CB to replace players with hefty contracts. 4) The Cowboys would draft heavily based on players that were brought in for one of the 30 visits or Dallas Day.>>> Oh, and then our community went ahead and cracked the Cowboys draft board for the 2nd time in four years. We dooz this, son.
  9. That doesn't just apply to the front page writers. We have several members that follow the collegiate game the way we do the pro game, sometimes to a greater degree. I can't tell you how many times I've had a prospect brought to my attention because he was mentioned by a commenter here, or a follower on Twitter. Information sharing is THE key, because let's be realistic... there aren't many people that can eyeball every prospect if they aren't getting paid a full-time wage for it.
  10. Know your team's schemes, know your team's positions. Here's what happens. Draft Resource X puts out a list of their big board. However, that resource is one of many that doesn't differentiate between positions that may share a name, but do not share a responsibility. They list DE. OK, well, as Cowboys fans (should) know, there's a big difference in the body type that you would ideally like to play a 5-tech DE in a 3-4, and let's say a 7 or a 9 tech in a 4-3 alignment. If you are including guys that play the Leo, or Elephant role, like Bruce Irvin in Seattle, you could be talking about as much as a 50 lb difference in your prototype. There are prototypes up and down the roster and some players are ranked or projected based on their best fit. They may have the ability to play somewhere else, but their ranking might change. A guy might be a first-round two-gap nose tackle, but he may have no quick twitch ability and would be considered a late 2nd round 1-tech in Dallas' scheme, and have no chance of playing 3-tech. Yet, all those prototypes might get listed under DT. Same goes for O-lineman. Can that guard flourish in a ZBS, a zone-blocking scheme, or is he better suited for a man-on-man, power blocking game? These things are of the utmost importance!
  11. Thinking that filling the holes that face the 2014 Cowboys should be the only concern when drafting is the second quickest recipe to sinking your team. Teams also have to predict their 2015 and 2016 holes. So while you think there are only 3 key holes, there may actually be 7, and as such, filling them should be considered nice picks where you thought it duplicitous.Go back up and read item number 5 again. The draft is pretty much the only mechanism to get quality players for cheap into your pipeline. If you simply chase players to fill your immediate needs, you are always chasing your tail.
  12. You need resources! You aren't in this alone, and you shouldn't be. There are going to be many resources that you should use to help you learn about the prospects. First and foremost, get a Twitter account. There are some things that Twitter feels like it was invented for, NFL Draftnik'ing is one of them. Once you get an account, follow @BloggingTheBoys and me @KDP10For10; I'll be retweeting plenty of relevant stuff and you can go from there.
  13. Stop watching Youtube highlight videos! Highlight videos will only show you the players good plays, of course he looks like a first round pick! You should bookmark DraftBreakdown.com immediately. That is where you can find full video mash-ups of your prospect's games. Yes, they are hosted on Youtube. :)
  14. Get a feel for other team's needs. There are a couple good ways to do this. One is to check out Draftek.com. They actually rate each team's needs from 1-9, with 1 being a high priority, and 9 being "no need". They are also the only place I can see that makes a clear delineation between scheme and position types. Great resource. Also, run your own mock. My favorite mock engine right now is First-Pick.com because it allows for trades. It's not a perfect tool, but it's hours on hours worth of fun and will give you a good indication of what other teams like your favorite prospects.

So there it is, I hope this is helpful for you in your endeavor to become a well-rounded Draftnik.

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