Despite all of the scrutiny and attention we give to it each year, it's always struck me that there remain some misperceptions about how NFL teams actually approach the draft. It seems some people think there's this stock market-like atmosphere in the draft room, in which scouts are advocating for different players at the last minute. Or that the team's draft board is fluctuating up until the very second the club makes its selection. I assure you, that's simply not the case. Most draft rooms are quiet, and the board has likely been set for months.
I can't speak as to what every draft room is like, just the ones I've been in and the ones I've run. Still, I wanted to provide a sense of what a real NFL draft room is really like. To that end, let's explore some of the key factors of draft day, in this case, through the prism of the Kansas City Chiefs and the No. 1 overall pick.
Start with this simple fact: To succeed in the modern NFL, you need to succeed in the draft. It's here that you can replenish your roster with young, healthy and (after the last collective bargaining agreement) relatively inexpensive assets that will serve as the foundation to your franchise. If you miss on a prospect, particularly in the first round, it will hurt you down the road. If you miss too often, the noise outside and inside the organization grows and the ownership may not give you the chance to redeem yourself. That's the overarching factor at play on draft day.
The pressure GMs feel most keenly on draft day isn't that of the fans, or the media -- though they provide their fair share. It's the pressure of keeping your job by making the right decisions for your team. Everything else pales in comparison. However, those outside pressures are amplified the closer you are to the top of the draft.
Ownership can be -- and in my case in Indianapolis was -- very helpful in tuning out the noise. The only voices the Colts were concerned about were coming from our draft room. That certainly aids in alleviating some of the pressure. But not all. And that's particularly true when you hold the No. 1 overall pick.