NFL Draft process? It’s miserable.
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.