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The 2020 NFL Draft in Las Vegas: A newcomer’s guide

We could learn more Tuesday about the 2020 NFL Draft and Las Vegas’ plans to host it.

That’s great for fans who have been counting down the days since the city was awarded the marquee event back in December 2018. But what about everyone else? Those of you who typically have other plans on Sundays (and Mondays, Thursdays and certain Saturdays)? Those of you who keep looking for an actual red-colored zone on the field?

Get a little more familiar with the process, and have some of your questions answered, with this NFL Draft guide for newbies:

So what’s this draft thing?

Once a year, representatives of all 32 NFL teams gather in the host city to stock their rosters from a pool of eligible players at least three years removed from high school football. Barring trades — and there will be trades — the teams pick in reverse order of finish.

Wait, so the teams pick? Why can’t the players just play wherever they want?

Because somebody has to play in Cleveland.

If it’s just the teams announcing the players they want, what’s that take? Thirty? Forty-five minutes?

Hahahahahahaha. Hoo boy! No. Not even close. The draft is made up of seven rounds spread over three days. Next year, it’s scheduled for April 23 to 25. The whole thing takes about 14 hours.

And the draft is a big deal?

The 2019 draft attracted more than 600,000 fans in Nashville, Tennessee, and was watched by more than 47.5 million television viewers.

Is this the first time the draft will be in Las Vegas?

Kind of. Since 2017, the Raiders have made their Day Three picks from their soon- to-be home of Las Vegas. Last year, the site was Allegiant Stadium. Before that, it was Nellis Air Force Base and the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.

Since it’s going to be in Las Vegas, are they going to have Penn &Teller or somebody make the draftees appear out of thin air? You know, to make things more interesting?

We can only hope.

So only the best football players are drafted, right?

Not necessarily. Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was drafted by the Vikings in 1973 despite not having played college football. (He also was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the ABA’s Utah Stars.) In 2018, the Eagles selected Australian rugby league player Jordan Mailata, who’d never played a down of American football.

But at least they’re very athletic.

The Falcons once drafted John Wayne.

Sure, but didn’t he play college football?

This was in 1972. The Duke was 64 years old.



If you’re drafted by a team you don’t want to play for, are you just stuck?

Usually, but not always. Bo Jackson said he’d never play for Tampa Bay, but that didn’t deter the Buccaneers from taking him No. 1 in 1986. He sat out that season and played baseball for the Kansas City Royals organization before being taken by the Raiders the following year with the 183rd pick. In 1983, top pick John Elway also threatened to play baseball rather than play for the Colts, who selected him. Within a week, he’d engineered his trade to the Broncos. In 1936, Jay Berwanger, the league’s first-ever draft selection, declined to play football entirely because of the low pay and began selling foam rubber instead.

Do all the best players get drafted?

Well, no. Some always fall through the cracks. Immediately after the draft, undrafted free agents can sign with any team. Then there’s quarterback Kurt Warner. The Hall of Famer, Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP went undrafted coming out of the University of Northern Iowa in 1994. He stocked shelves at an Iowa grocery store and played in the Arena Football League before finally getting a shot with the Rams in 1999.

What about kickers? Surely the league just assigns them to teams.

Nope. In 1966, Princeton kicker Charlie Gogolak was drafted sixth overall by the Redskins. In 2000, the Raiders chose Sebastian Janikowski with the 17th pick — 182 selections before the Patriots took a chance on a kid named Tom Brady.

I feel bad for whoever gets picked last. It brings up bad memories of gym class.

Don’t. The final pick is bestowed the moniker “Mr. Irrelevant” and feted during a weeklong celebration that includes a tour of Disneyland, numerous media opportunities, a regatta and a charity gala.

Couldn’t I just watch that Kevin Costner movie “Draft Day” to learn about the draft?

Please don’t. That movie is preposterous.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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2020 NFL Draft Set for Las Vegas

The city of Las Vegas will welcome the NFL with open arms in 2020, with the draft set for April 23-25 and the new Raiders stadium opening in July.