Holler: Draft's delay gives critics more time

The two-week delay in this year's draft has given critics more time to espouse the negatives on some prospects, which likely wasn't the intent of the ever-present marketing arm of the NFL.

In the 12-figure world of the marketing of sports, the NFL has been the goose that spits out golden eggs. How the eggs got there is best left unsaid, but as long as they keep on coming, nobody complains.

Baseball seemingly can't avoid modern-day scandal for a game based more on its past than its present. The NBA markets individuals rather than teams and, considering it is global sport, the pie is cut thin. NHL games are not shown in their entirety on ESPN. Hog dog eating contests are shown live on the Mother Ship – effectively rendering the NHL as local and regional.

The NFL has had its prime location in the sporting spotlight for a long time and the pickings have been lush. The NFL is the silverback of sports. But even the king takes a tumble every now and then.

The decision to push the dates of the NFL draft back two weeks, on its face, seemed like an odd move. For the record, the reason given was that, after years of a mutual business agreement, the NFL's sweet spot to conduct business at Radio City Music Hall was preempted for two weeks.

It should come as no surprise that Hollywood came calling and tried to convince the NFL that maybe the draft should be relocated west. Chicago has made a similar offer – at least according to the official league website.

The Rockettes couldn't bump the NFL back when the Rockettes were relevant. In hopes of not invoking 50-year old Beatles backlash, Easter weekend could have had a problem coinciding with the NFL draft, likely coming out on the losing end. That's how big the NFL is.

However, in the 24/7 media age, the push-back may come back to bite the NFL.

For the last decade, the NFL has rarely made a misstep when it comes to marketing itself to the masses. But pushing the draft back two weeks might be a mistake the league will regret, because it broke the standard timetable fans were used to, as well as the media types that cover the game.

The typical momentum building into a season starts with the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. Names are made there and the ball starts rolling toward the coming season. Free agency comes in March and gets fans excited about the new additions their favorite team has made. When free agency dies down, the schedule is released and the excitement builds.
The draft is the ultimate NFL showcase, as the league highlights its new members and puts its best foot forward. When the draft was in late April, the focus of the NFL and the 24/7 media was to push the positives of the college draft crop. The mindset may have been that the two additional weeks would just keep the spotlight on the positives the players could bring.

Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened. The experts have had more time to break down players and it would seem that this year the focus has been more on the negative than the positive. With two additional weeks to discuss and dissect the strengths and weaknesses of the players in the draft, the focus has been more on the failings of players than their positives.

Johnny Manziel has been at the center of the discussion, with paid analysts on both the NFL Network and ESPN alternately praising or giving scathing reviews of their feelings about whether Manziel can be a success in the NFL or not. To listen to some of them, no quarterback is first-round worthy and Teddy Bridgewater's stock has dropped like a stone. It isn't just the quarterback position. Several other players have been humbled by the negative criticism that has been part of the draft analysis process.

What was intended to be a chance to give even more publicity to the NFL's marquee offseason event has had just the opposite result. The two extra weeks have brought out the negativism. For players who are going to be the foundation of the league's future, it would seem that the extra two weeks has had a completely different result than was intended. Instead of building positive momentum, it has allowed the critics to bring out their knives and carve up the prospects and break them down based more on the negative aspects of their games rather than the positive.

The draft will start Thursday and, when it does, the NFL will have the spotlight once again to promote, package and market the new additions to the fraternity. But the additional time between the point where free agency wound down to a crawl to when the first pick of the draft will be made has given skeptics too much of an opportunity to break down talent, with the emphasis on breaking it down.

The NFL likely won't admit that it made a mistake by pushing the draft into May, but the result has been obvious. The paralysis by over-analysis has had an unintended impact of bringing the negative to the rookie class that was never part of the plan. If the NFL wants to put its best foot forward, it may want to push the draft back into late April, because if the badmouthing that has been going on over the last couple of weeks is any indication, the move into May has been counterproductive for trying to promote the young talent coming into the league.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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