With just under two weeks left until the start of the NFL Draft, there is some essential NFL Network viewing for draft enthusiasts and history lovers that has received little, if any coverage here at Canal Street Chronicles: NFL Films' mini-series Caught in the Draft.
I can't remember exactly how I came across it...maybe I saw the title in my DVR's on-screen guide, or if I just saw it somewhere on the interwebs, but when I searched on it last week, an official NFL Communications news release came up, so I CHASED THAT LINK, and was not disappointed.
Here's a little over the top hyperbole from the intro...
Premiering Wednesday, April 9 at 9:00 PM ET and airing every Wednesday leading up to the eve of the 2014 NFL Draft, the five-episode series examines five specific drafts which had a profound impact on the National Football League and helped to transform the NFL Draft into the enormous event it has become.
Episode by episode, it covers the drafts from 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994, and 2004.
Through archival sources and fresh interviews, Caught in the Draft provides viewers with the most compelling stories from each draft and offers a look inside at just how differently drafts were conducted in the past, and how the nature of the game as it was played in each of those times dictated the types of players selected. Additionally, each episode of Caught in the Draft features graphics and music related to that period of time, truly putting viewers "in the moment" of each decade.
Once I read this, I knew I needed to watch it, so I set up a season pass to catch the new episodes as they premiere (only two left now!), and then located the previously-aired episodes and set the DVR to record them, too.
I fully intended to hold out and start from the beginning to watch them all in chronological order, but my curiosity got the better of me this weekend, so I went ahead and watched the one from 1974 (called The Future Is Now).
Again, I was not disappointed. With the requisite NFL Films gravitas-imbuing musical scoring and dramatic voice-over that we have come to know and love, I was transported back to the NFL Draft of 1974 (you know, the one where the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted four future Hall of Famers - Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster).
I thoroughly enjoyed the hour-long program, which also featured a small bidding war over some players between the NFL and the upstart World Football League (involving former OL and future superagent Tom Condon), a brief snippet of the voice of a young Greg Gumbel, George Allen of the Redskins attempting to trade the same draft pick twice, and the humble beginnings of what would become the massive NFL-industrial complex of draft preview and analysis by experts. It was also interesting to hear the music and see the television coverage from 1974 sports broadcasting of the event, which looks almost primitive and quaint compared to the over-produced spectacle that it has become now.
Here are the capsules on each episode (from the same release linked to above):
1964: The Greatest Draft Ever? (April 9) - In a draft that includes 11 Hall of Famers - more than any other draft in NFL history - the Dallas Cowboys revolutionize the scarcely covered player selection meeting and plant the seeds for a national phenomenon with the selections of Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes and Mel Renfro. Additionally, the New York Jets lay the foundation for their Super Bowl III championship with the selection of six eventual starters, and number one overall pick Dave Parks later makes history by being the first marquee player to challenge the league on player movement. Features interviews with Roger Staubach, Bill Parcells, Peter King, Bobby Beathard, Dan Daly and more.
1974: The Future is Now (April 16) - The Pittsburgh Steelers change the way organizations view the NFL Draft by adopting a philosophy of building a championship team through the draft and selecting four future Hall of Famers in Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. Features interviews with the first ‘draftnik' Pete Marasco, Lynn Swann, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, and more.
1984: A War Is Upon Us (April 23) - Engaged in a bidding war with the USFL, the 1984 NFL Draft takes place in one marathon day after the USFL Draft had concluded. Future Hall of Famers Reggie White and Steve Young signed with the USFL, while Boomer Esiason fell to the second round of the NFL Draft after saying he did not want to play in the USFL. Additionally, the first overall pick is traded twice and NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. makes his ESPN debut. Features interviews with Boomer Esiason, Steve Young, Irving Fryar, Peter King, Mel Kiper, Jr. and more.
1994: A Day That Will Live in Infamy (April 30) - Against the backdrop of highly-touted quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and Heath Shuler jockeying for position, a verbal on-air spat between ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. and Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Tobin, and the NFL becoming a year-round sport, the NFL Draft becomes the must-see event it is today. Additionally, players such as Kurt Warner, Rod Smith, Jeff Garcia and D'Marco Farr go undrafted. Features interviews with Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Bill Tobin, Trent Dilfer, Mel Kiper, Jr., Peter King and more.
2004: Storm Over Eli (May 7) - When number one overall pick Eli Manning refuses to play for the San Diego Chargers, it triggers the biggest showdown between an organization and player in two decades and alters the fortunes of quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Additionally, the University of Miami (FL) sets an NFL record for most first-round selections with six. Features interviews with Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Mike Mayock, Leigh Steinberg, Peter King, Mel Kiper, Jr. and more.
If you'd like to see an excerpt from the first episode, The Greatest Draft Ever?, CLICK HERE.
After what I've seen so far, I am very much looking forward to watching the other four episodes in this series. Has anyone else heard about or watched this show? Is anyone planning to do so now? Let's discuss!