For reasons that the NFL appears set to explain as scheduling conflicts or respect for religious holidays, the league's draft will move from late April to mid-May, starting in 2014.
What does that mean for the pre- and post-draft processes? Let's take a closer look, by sorting through the facts and fiction of the changes.
1. The NFL combine would be less important.
False. But ... the atmosphere at the combine might be very, very different, if the NFL also opts to move the start of the league year before that annual event -- currently, the combine occurs in February with the start of the league year (and, along with it, free agency) beginning in March.
Should those reverse, with the league year opening before the combine in March, there's no doubt that the media would see less access to coaches and GMs in Indianapolis. Those that still make themselves available would have to play their cards much closer to the vest, so as not to tip any free agency plans. Teams also will have a much greater sense of what players and positions to focus on, based off the start of free agency.
It sounds as if the combine-to-draft timing would be similar -- about two months between -- so the evaluation period would not change all that much.
2. This will screw up mini-camp schedules.
True (sort of). This year, the earliest rookie minicamps began on May 3, with some Offseason Team Activities (OTAs) opening on May 13. All of that would have to be pushed back, leaving less time for teams to squeeze in a rookie mini-camp, plus a full-team mini-camp and three OTA sessions before training camp in July.
There's still a window more than wide enough to get it all done, mind you -- the latest mini-camps this offseason run June 18-20 -- but it's quite possible that some teams will kick that three-day rookie camp to the curb in the interest of time.. Why wait to bring the whole team together if you don't have to?
3. Rookies will be behind.
True and False. Obviously, from a simple glance at the calendar, pushing the draft back a couple of weeks will give incoming rookies less time to acclimate themselves to their new teams. (It also would leave potential draft picks more time to slip-up off the field before the actual draft). However, as mentioned right above, teams could still be able to get their rookie mini-camps in well before training camp, if they choose.
A later draft also could allow a lot more rookies to actually participate in those camps. The NFL currently has a (rather ridiculous) rule on the books that prevents rookies from taking part in mini-camps until their college class graduates -- Oregon's draft picks, for example, cannot join practices this year until after the school's June 17 graduation; Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet was cut by the Eagles without being able to practice, because his school does not graduate until May 23.
Those dates might still fall later than the NFL draft, but it's likely that more rookies would be able to jump into camp in May.
4. Teams will be able to scout more players.
True. Peter King touched on this in his Tuesday mailbag, and it's particularly important for any players that may have to sit out the combine with an injury.
Now, teams still will have to comply with NFL rules that limit them to 30 pre-draft prospect visits. They may use them differently, however, focusing a bit more on those players that did not see combine action or were rehabbing injuries. Again, keep in mind that teams will have a pretty good idea of where they stand heading into the combine, should free agency begin before that event.
More scouts might be utilized for pro days, under this new schedule, with an extended calendar allowing for that extra travel between the end of the college season and the May draft.
5. This will make the draft less interesting.
False. When all is said and done, this won't change all that much in terms of how teams approach the draft or how everything unfolds at Radio City Music Hall. A later draft date simply gives teams more time to prepare, while the proposed combine/league year calendar flip-flop may impact how teams go about their business at the combine. Other than that, the draft will be pretty status quo once it rolls around -- even if you'll have to deal with two or three more weeks of experts' chatter and mock drafts.