These days, the NFL draft is a behemoth: a three-day extravaganza with a prolonged hype period that extends months back. This year, the entire NFL world will gather in Philadelphia and look for the stars of tomorrow.
However, it didn’t used to be three days long. In fact, the draft used to be a lot similar.
For many decades, the draft was just two days during the week. Starting in 1988, it was moved to Sunday and Monday. Then in 1995, it was exclusively on the weekend. It would start bright and early on Saturday and finish up on Sunday, with the first round typically beginning at noon ET.
It was an all-day marathon, especially with the longer time limits (15 minutes for the first round compared to the current 10 minutes). The second and third rounds also took place on Saturday, while Sunday was reserved for the super late rounds.
So why did the NFL change to a three-day format? Well, for the same reason the NFL does anything these days — TV money.
Eager to get some of those sweet primetime ratings, compete with the NBA playoffs, and keep its name in the news during the offseason, the NFL decided in 2010 to move the first round to Thursday nights, turning the event into a massive gala of pomp and pageantry. The second and third rounds got moved to Friday night, with less hype than the previous night but still considered a big deal. Only the fourth through seventh rounds somewhat survived in the old format, starting on Saturday morning and going all day.
It was a pretty big gamble, but the results paid off.
The first round of the 2010 draft managed to beat the NBA playoffs in the ratings, and the draft has since cemented its spot as a fixture on the sports calendar. Now we have a red carpet show with fancy outfits just to drive home the point that this is more of a party than a sporting event.
So yeah, while older NFL fans are nostalgic for the two-day format, it’s hard not to get caught up in the glitzy way the draft presents itself nowadays. At least we can still count on New York Jets fans booing every pick their team makes, no matter if it’s actually a good choice.