The NFL draft is a bit of an oddity-- its increasing popularity is proof positive that there is a genuine hunger for the NFL product. During its lengthy ‘offseason,’ the Draft, Free Agency, Training Camp, and Exhibition Games are all placed throughout the calendar year to keep the NFL’s grasp on fans’ attention and wallets. The release of the schedule, the predictable trickle of coach firings during and after the season, NFL Network covering Tim Tebow entering a convenience store— it’s all a part of what makes the NFL capable of monetizing their product even during its supposedly dormant days.
The NFL Draft in Philadelphia this year was a ratings success, and the NFL is keen to keep the draft interest strong in future years. Enter Final Round Draft, LLC—a company formed to propose a revolutionary new twist to the drafting format. In a nutshell, the NFL draft will remain the standard seven rounds, but they propose that an eighth round be added. With a moratorium on free-agent signings prior to Round 8, that final round would consist of fans voting for their favorite teams to sign one undrafted free agent each.
This is an opportunity to mix reality TV and football in a way that could actually benefit athletes, fans, teams, and owners. Final Round Draft imagines a rule change that would allow each team to expand their offseason rosters from 90 to 91 athletes. This, in essence, only adds more opportunities for potential players, and it does not “take away” an opportunity from the team’s selection committee. With this added roster spot, Final Round Draft colorfully adds the intrigue of having contestants lobby for fan votes during prime-time competitions.
In fact, this coveted fan-chosen spot might have additional benefits. Besides being automatically better known to fans than the vast majority of late-round picks, Final Round Draft is proposing that undrafted free agents who are chosen by fans would also earn a nice little benefit: an upgraded, sponsor-driven financial package of at least $75,000 per player, or a luxury such as a new car. Plus, there would be the prestige and attention of being one of the select 32 picks that also could follow up with a “Hard Knocks” type of show, following the players as they seek to make their teams and earn even more recognition.
But what about fan interference? What about—GASP—voting for your rivals to draft Rosie O'Donnell? Well, that can be avoided through the fact that the entire pool of prospects is vetted by the NFL itself. I also imagine that this could be used as a way to shine some light on some free agents that would like to get back into the game. Imagine the ratings if Tebow, Manziel, or, shoot.. even Brett Favre auditioned to be part of the possible selections. The NFL could be on the verge of an attraction, a veritable circus, that could last as long or as little as they would like. The entire scope and sequence of events can be dictated by the NFL, a perfect scenario for a room of billionaires that don’t like not having near-complete control.
So what’s the catch? Why isn’t this already a thing?
It all sounds too good to be true. It’s a sure-fire money maker for the NFL, the broadcasters, the fans, and the undrafted free agents. Heck, even the teams win, with one more potential roster spot; not even affecting their draft plans at all.
The problem is that the NFL has already rejected Final Round Draft’s proposal. However, FRD is counting on dorks like myself to keep the idea relevant. They are hoping that the fans can pressure the NFL into bringing this idea back to the table. I have a feeling that the NFL has already taken notice, and if I had to guess, I would say that the reason it rejected the idea already is because there happens to be a company that has patented the idea. If the NFL can find a way to weasel around their patent, they can keep that part of the money for themselves. In short, I predict that the NFL has noticed that this is a win-win scenario (albeit with some kinks yet to iron out), they just want to have complete control and all of the dollars to themselves.