With the NFL draft coming up on Thursday, it is an exciting time for the 254 prospects that will have their names called. The draft bonanza is generally the last NFL event until training camp, but that’s not the case this year. Once the lockout officially ends, the free agency scramble will take place making it the final event of the offseason.
Every year the NFL invites a select number of prospects to New York City. For the rookies and their families it is a memorable time; like Disneyland it will last a lifetime. The week is jam packed with players mingling together. The families enjoy a great time as well. There are photo sessions, sightseeing tours and dinners at top restaurants every night.
Talking to current players that went through the process, one made these comments: “It would have been a damn shame if these players were not able to experience what I did. It is a time that my parents and siblings will never forget as long as we all live.”
The NFL will host record 25 rookie prospects and their families to the Big Apple for what should be the biggest pre-draft event ever held. Here is the list of invited prospects as of today:
Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers
Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn
Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb
Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
Georgia receiver A.J. Green
Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich
Alabama running back Mark Ingram
California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller
UCLA safety Rahim Moore
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson
Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey
Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith
Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor
Baylor guard Danny Watkins
Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams
Of the 25 players, the positional breakdown is as follows:
The players invited are not all in the top 32 (or maybe they are and I just didn’t grade them that high).
Ryan Williams is an impact player as a change-of-pace back. I had him at the top of the second round.
Rahim Moore is the only safety in this draft that has a chance at being a first-round selection, but he is listed in the second on my board.
Mark Herzlich, the linebacker from Boston College, is a feel-good story having defeated cancer and beat all odds to return and play his senior season. He has the skill set to develop into a NFL starter. I have him slotted as a second- or third-round talent.
There are several players that have turned down the invite like Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers to spend it with family. Some of these players may sit for a while in the Green Room (the holding pen for all draft picks and their families) waiting for their names to be called. You’ll know when their wait is over because they will be getting high fives from their agents.
After all the hugs from family, friends, wives or girlfriends, the walk to the stage to shake commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand will seem like a quarter mile. Holding up the team jersey and wearing the cap for the photo will be a special moment for all involved. I’m glad the lockout didn’t wash this great moment away.