This year’s NFL Draft is upon us, though there’s a little less buzz than usual for the event. The Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl-winning strategy may hold the key to understanding why.
The Rams were able to build a championship team by trading the uncertainty of first-round picks for established veterans, signing key free agents, and filling out their roster by drafting unheralded players in later rounds. The team hasn’t had a first-round pick since 2016, and isn’t slated to make another one until 2024. Last year they traded both Jared Goff and two first-round picks for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, who swiftly led the team to winning the big prize.
All of that has not gone unnoticed by other NFL franchises. This year, a record eight clubs have already traded away their first-round picks, making it the third time in four years that at least seven franchises won’t make a selection in the first round — something that has happened just twice in the first 52 years of the common draft. Just like the Rams, more and more teams are avoiding the risks associated with drafting unproven players who they can only hope will be great.
This trend shows little sign of easing. Already, five teams don’t have 2023 first-round picks.
The NFL Draft’s pull as appointment viewing is still strong. The opening round of last year’s draft averaged 12.5 million TV viewers, the second highest number in the history of the event and more than the NBA Finals or the World Series garnered — and those are actual sports competitions!. That said, 2021’s views were still down 18% from 2020, even with five marquee quarterbacks up for grabs. This year, there don’t seem to be any franchise-defining prospects to generate much buzz around the event.
LZ and Will discuss whether the NFL Draft is starting to lose its luster, given that teams are starting to devalue the first round’s importance as a source of talent.