NFL Draft process? It’s mis­er­able.

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MAS­TER TESFATSION

Min­utes after the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins drafted Ryan An­der­son with the 49th over­all pick Fri­day even­ing, he was on a con­fer­ence call with lo­cal re­porters. Dur­ing the in­ter­view, which lasted less than four min­utes, it was clear the out­side line­backer was still pro­cess­ing his emo­tions. An­der­son was pas­sion­ate, but at a loss for words and re­quested to end the con­fer­ence call.

“I just want to en­joy the rest of the night, if y’all don’t mind,” An­der­son said. “If y’all done with me or what­ever, I’m ready to en­joy the rest of this night with my fam­ily and let it just soak all in. I’m a Wash­ing­ton Red­skin.”

It was com­pletely un­der­stand­able. The Alabama out­side line­backer has spent most of his life dream­ing about re­ceiv­ing a phone call on draft night, and it fi­nally hap­pened with the 17th pick in the sec­ond round. It’s the best part about the draft for the play­ers and fans. Their dreams come true, and we get to watch it all un­fold.

This mo­ment had us think­ing though. The NFL draft process sounds mis­er­able. Sure, dreams come true, but it’s a tax­ing process both phys­i­cally and men­tally.

Take An­der­son and Alabama de­fen­sive end Jonathan Allen, who was taken 17th over­all by the Red­skins in first round. They’ve been prac­tic­ing since the first week of Au­gust at Alabama and played 15 games last year, in­clud­ing the SEC cham­pi­onship game, the col­lege foot­ball semi­fi­nal and the na­tional cham­pi­onship game. Though they’re am­a­teurs, they were one shy of the NFL’s 16-game reg­u­lar sea­son.

After Alabama lost to Clem­son on Jan. 9, the draft process started. But Allen and An­der­son were al­ready be­hind be­cause they played for one of the fi­nal two teams re­main­ing in col­lege foot­ball.

“Com­ing off that long sea­son, the way we play and the way at Alabama, you know it’s phys­i­cally and men­tally. … It’ll wear you down,” An­der­son said. “We had to catch up, man. We had to play catch-up on the train­ing stuff, on the com­bine stuff. It was tough. Guys had been done play­ing in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber and were al­ready train­ing. That would be the tough part for me, and it was just non­stop. We re­ally didn’t get a break, and we jump right back into it now. I’m glad that part is over with, and it’s back to foot­ball now.”

Allen de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the Se­nior Bowl two weeks later. An­der­son ac­cepted, but he in­jured his thumb dur­ing a Se­nior Bowl prac­tice and sat out the rest of the week. They de­voted a con­sid­er­able amount of time train­ing for the NFL com­bine, which oc­curred dur­ing the first week of March, to im­prove that stock. That meant hon­ing the tech­nique for spe­cific drills such as the 40-yard dash, even though this in­for­ma­tion be­comes use­less im­me­di­ately after the event. In the NFL, Allen and An­der­son won’t need to re­mem­ber where to place their hands dur­ing the 40-yard dash.

“It might sim­u­late a lit­tle bit, but it’s all about TV rat­ings and the me­dia,” Allen said Satur­day dur­ing his in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence. “I un­der­stand that part of it. This is a busi­ness. I’m not go­ing to act like this is for fun. This is a busi­ness. I com­pletely un­der­stand that.”

After the com­bine, Allen and An­der­son pre­pared for Alabama’s pro day on March 8. Then, it’s top-30 vis­its with teams and pri­vate work­outs.

Allen was widely con­sid­ered a top-10 pick, and a top five player by some draft ex­perts, but he slid to No. 17. There’s been spec­u­la­tion that it was be­cause of his arthritic shoul­ders, but it worked out for him. The Vir­ginia na­tive got to come home.

An­der­son said he didn’t sleep much lead­ing up to the draft. The Daphne, Alabama, na­tive said he worked out at his high school the morn­ing be­fore Days 1 and 2 to ease his mind.

“I got ad­vice from a lot of play­ers that went through it, and they said the same thing,” An­der­son said Satur­day. “Just try to en­joy it. You’ve only got to do it one time, but I re­ally wasn’t hear­ing that. I re­ally ain’t like the draft process that much.”

The draft may be over, but the grind con­tin­ues. Allen and An­der­son must pre­pare for rookie mini­camp, which starts May 12, off-sea­son prac­tices and mini­camp in June be­fore they can get some time off be­fore train­ing camp at the end of July. Off the field, they have to get to know their coaches and team­mates and be­gin learn­ing the play­book.

There were 253 play­ers se­lected in this year’s draft, and there will be plenty more un­drafted free agents join­ing teams over the next few weeks. They won’t all make a 53man ros­ter, a 10-man prac­tice squad or even a 90-man ros­ter head­ing into train­ing camp. The process, be­gin­ning from the start of a prospect’s fi­nal sea­son in col­lege, weeds out play­ers that aren’t both phys­i­cally and men­tally built for the next level. It doesn’t re­ally end un­til the con­clu­sion of a prospect’s rookie sea­son, if he’s for­tu­nate enough to make that far.


The Red­skins’ top draft picks Jonathan Allen and Ryan An­der­son are in­tro­duced to fans and me­dia at FedEx Field.

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