Thus far I have detailed the entire process leading up to a team’s first draft choice and the Commissioner announcing that the Club is on the clock. So what exactly does happen in those final minutes before a team actually selects a player to draft?
As a team’s first draft pick approaches, the room starts to get busy. Everyone knows the few prospects the team is targeting, but there is some question as to if those players will still be available. Other teams could trade up last minute and swipe a player. Or the team might get a call with a trade offer to move down in the order, and additional picks would be acquired. Or it might be determined that it is worth it to trade up for a player that has fallen farther than the team has expected. Exploratory phone calls are made to determine the “cost” of moving up. At this point the phones are ringing, and the trade value chart is consulted to determine if the proposed trades are worth it. Some teams might offer Draft picks with a cumulative value worth more than the ones they are acquiring simply because they are desperate to move up: There might be a player that they feel they absolutely have to have.
The important thing to remember is that every team has a different grade and a different perceived value for each player in the Draft. Consequently, a selecting team may gamble and attempt to trade down believing that they can still get a targeted player at a lower point in the Draft because other teams do not have as a high of a grade on him. This has two positive results: One, the team will receive an additional Draft pick or picks as compensation for giving another team the chance to move up. These Draft picks can be used to select additional players, or they may be used as ammo to trade up again later in the Draft. Two, a lower Draft choice will result in a smaller total contract value which, in turn, results in the team saving cash and cap space.
The primary negative is obviously that another team may choose to select the targeted player. After deliberation and calculated reasoning, the team may have deduced that there is just no possible way the teams selecting with Draft choices between the traded away position and the new lower position will select the coveted player. In that case, it might just be worth the risk. However, do not forget that ANY team may decide to trade up with one these teams, and suddenly a new threat can emerge with a team that very much might be interested in the targeted player. So the team must either feel very confident that none of the other 31 teams are as interested, or they are just very willing to play the ‘Risk versus Reward’ game.
There are often times that the player(s) a team covets might not be available at the selection choice number a team holds. The best available players still on the board are not worth a selection choice that high. In other words, the team feels that the player doesn’t warrant the pick. (This goes beyond the strategy described above that could be applied if a team believes a player will still be available later in the Draft. Also see ‘Rolling the Dice’ below.) For example, Player A and Player B are the highest rated on the team board, but these player grades correlate to being drafted about pick 40. If the team currently has a pick at 33, the team could make calls to the teams holding the picks at 38 through 41 to see if anyone is interested in trading up. Usually there is a team that will answer with an offer, but sometimes the phones are dead and nobody wants to trade up. Other times the offers are not good enough to justify trading down. In these cases, the team simply selects the best player at 33.
Regardless of the scenario, the pick the team holds eventually arrives, and hopefully there are one or more players available that the team graded higher than the current pick number. If the mock drafts were accurate, the players available are also the ones the team had anticipated. So the team has done its research, planned accordingly, and now it is decided that the best player is going to be selected. The final decision usually rests with the General Manager, but do not be fooled into thinking that the Owner, Head Coach, Vice President of Personnel, President, etc… hasn’t also made a last second case to potentially influence the pick. Next, the player is called to make sure he is available, healthy and hopefully excited! (There have been cases where a player has incurred serious injury in the weeks prior to the Draft.) The executive in charge will then ask the person on the phone with New York to relay the name and school of the player to the team representatives there. Lastly, the name and school are written down on an official card by these representatives in New York City, and the card is then delivered to the podium where the announcement is made.
Ringing Off the Hook
The whole process of making a pick is high energy. Sometimes there isn’t much interest in the team’s selection number, and other times there are more teams calling than there are phones available to answer. A lot of the groundwork for potential trades is made prior to the pick, but usually a deal isn’t consummated until the team selecting is on the clock. After all, it isn’t known for sure which players will be available until the team is actually on the clock.
Usually multiple teams are calling to inquire about trading up and trading down. Once mutual interest is determined, negotiations begin. And a good deal of this happens within the 10 minute window the team is allotted for its pick. Multiple calls back and forth often need to be made to solidify a trade. An example of a typical scenario involves Team A holding pick number 19, and Team B holding pick number 22. Team B calls a few picks before Team A is on the clock.
Call 1 (3 picks before Team A’s pick)
Team B: “Hi, any interest in moving down?”
Team A: “What are you thinking?”
Team B: “We swap 22 for 19 and throw in a 4th if our guy is still on the board.”
Team A: “We will think about it, but that might not be enough. We will call you back. Let us know if you can sweeten the deal.”
Call 2 (1 pick before Team A’s pick)
Team A: “Ok, we’re getting other interest, and a 4th isn’t enough.”
Team B: “We might be able to give you a 6th too.”
Team A: “We’re getting better than that from a team right next to you, and the chart indicates a 3rd.”
Team B: “We’ll call you back.”
At this point it is a high stakes game of posturing, calling bluffs and deciding which team has more actual or perceived leverage.
Call 3 (Team A has just gone on the clock)
Team B: “Our guy is still there. We will give you a 3rd and swap picks in the 1st and 6th.”
Team A: “Make it a 3rd and a 6th, and it’s done.”
Team B: “We’ll give a 7th.”
Team A: “Done. Pick 19 for picks 22, 86, and 192.”
Team B: “We will call it in.”
Trade talks have to be succinct and direct. Often, especially if a team is looking to trade, these same phone calls are occurring with multiple teams! Imagine how hectic and high energy the room is. In order for information to be properly delivered, there cannot be commotion or more than one person talking. Decisions need to be made fast, but they also need to be wise. The team owner may need to be consulted. Compounding the situation is the fact that the time allotted for picks decreases as the rounds progress: 10 minutes in round 1, 7 minutes in round 2, and 5 minutes for rounds 3-7. Needless to say, this is no quick or easy process.
Check back next Friday as I put a wrap on the series with Part VI which will speak more about value in the Draft, the ability to follow a plan, and the free-for-all that follows the Draft. Comment below and send us a tweet @SportsNetworker