NFL draft goes prime time with quarterback drama

The Washington Post's Rick Maese and Jason Reid highlight the Redskins' needs heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.Photos courtesy of The Washington Post, AP, Getty, Reuters
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 2010

The NFL draft becomes a prime-time event Thursday, and the league probably couldn't have picked a better year in which to make the move. This is a draft that is considered deep in talented players and full of intrigue, and there could be plenty of quarterback-related drama featuring Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow.

The league's three-day format for the draft has the first round being held on Thursday evening. The second and third rounds are to come Friday night and the remainder of the seven-round draft comes Saturday. Previously, the draft was held over two days and began on a Saturday.

"We look at it as a great opportunity," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at last month's annual league meeting. "The idea of being able to take it from a Saturday afternoon start to starting it in prime time on . . . Thursday night, we think is just going to expose it to a much broader audience and we've got a lot of marketing and entertaining ideas that I think we are going to implement over those three days. We think it's going to be a terrific thing for our fans. Our clubs seem to be very excited about it. Our clubs are going to take advantage in their markets by having their own draft events. We're very excited about it. We think it's going to be great for everybody."

Some of the draft's participants are taking a matter-of-fact approach to the new arrangement.

"That's what it is," New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said at his team's pre-draft news conference last week. "So we'll be there Thursday. We'll be there Friday. We'll be there Saturday."

Teams with picks early in the second round potentially could benefit from the overnight break following the opening round, giving them longer to negotiate potential trades with other clubs.

"Historically, I agree with you that there was more trade movement in a restart round," Belichick said last week. "We've already received calls relative to our second-round picks. So teams are interested in those for one reason or another, and that isn't surprising to me."

The St. Louis Rams have the top overall selection Thursday and are believed by executives throughout the league to be poised to use the choice on Bradford, the Oklahoma quarterback who has been impressive during the pre-draft evaluation process and appears to have eased concerns about his surgically repaired throwing shoulder.

The Rams lack a franchise quarterback. They released veteran Marc Bulger this offseason, and Bradford could become the centerpiece of their rebuilding effort. However, the Rams haven't given any indication at this point that they'll reach a pre-draft contract agreement with Bradford to ensure that he'll be their selection, and there remains the possibility that they could trade the pick. The Cleveland Browns have acknowledged speaking to the Rams about the possibility of trading for the top choice to select Bradford.

What seems likely is that Bradford will be the first player taken, whether it's by the Rams or a team trading for the pick.

"I think everyone dreams about being number one," Bradford said at the NFL scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. "I'm preparing for this process to show these teams all I have. But it's not up to me at the end of the day. It's up to them."

There will be additional quarterback-related intrigue even after Bradford is taken. Clausen is likely to be the second quarterback drafted, but opinion seems divided about whether the Notre Dame product will go in the top 10 or drop into the later stages of the first round.

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