NFL DRAFT: THE PICK IS IN (2023)
Release Date: 08/25/23 [Roku Channel]
Studio: NFL Films. Skydance Sports.
"For the first time, Skydance Sports and NFL Films take us behind the scenes of the most dynamic weekend in football. Film crews are embedded in the draft rooms of the Cowboys, Panthers, Colts, and Jaguars across all seven rounds of the NFL draft. Get exclusive insights—with draft coverage from NFL Network host Rich Eisen and insider Ian Rapoport, pick announcements from Commissioner Roger Goodell, agent Reggie Johnson’s perspective from the rookie green room, and more."
OUR DOCUSERIES REVIEW:
Every year, the National Football League (NFL) drafts 250 young collegiate athletes into its professional ranks. These young men are an elite cohort, standing out among 30,000 other college football players. The dreams of playing in the big time can be realized with a simple phone call from an NFL general manager. It's a tricky business, with futures, dreams, and careers hanging in the air. The NFL Draft has gone from a small day-trading operation into virtually a national holiday. People host draft parties, draw up mock draft sheets, boo and cheer for their team's selections as needed. The NFL Draft is a big deal to the fans and young athletes. The thirty-two NFL managers, however, carry the most pressure as they balance the current position needs of their team, the future of their team, and the livelihood of the football prospects on the other end of the phone. These managers face this challenge head-on, flanked and guided by their head coach and team owner, while the clock ticks.
NFL Films and Roku have come together to cover four professional teams during the 2023 draft. The viewer gets to look inside at what would typically be a very secretive, anxious game of calculus that involves cunning, intuition, and guts. The Dallas Cowboys, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Carolina Panthers opened their draft room chambers to the cameras. But are we interested to see what we find?
The answer depends slightly on how much you like professional American football. It truly depends on how interesting you find business deals. I will give a partial clinic here on draft policies and practices, but I'll do my best with a truncated explanation. The most that the uninitiated need to know about the NFL draft is that thirty-two teams contend to recruit the highest quality player to fill whatever position that team needs, i.e., quarterback, tight end, safety, etc., across five rounds. The teams' drafting order are formally arranged based on their win/loss record the previous season, from weakest to strongest, to allow the fairest opportunity for each organization to prepare for the new season. What makes the Draft an intriguing mystery is that the order can change when teams begin trading and negotiating, as everyone speculates on which team will make what move to grab whichever player.
The Pick Is In floats between the four featured teams' rooms, the NFL draft, this year located in Kansas City, and various homes of the young men hoping to be called up to play. This documentary runs on the same steam as the actual NFL Draft. The first round is electric. The highest-rated prospects are the first to go. These young men are usually on-site at the Draft in the green room, twiddling their thumbs or pacing the hall as they wait to hear their names. The most lucrative grabs are the quarterbacks. C.J. Stroud from Ohio State, Anthony Richardson from the University of Florida, and Bryce Young from the University of Alabama would comprise three of the first four selections in the first round. Stroud, pick 2, would land with the Houston Texans, and the Indianapolis Colts would call up Richardson, pick 4. Young was selected #1 overall, with the Carolina Panthers confident the unusually short QB (5 '10") is their answer. Hopeful and talented, Will Levis from the University of Kentucky would be dropped to the second round (pick 33 overall) by the Tennessee Titans as no other NFL team had an aching or immediate requirement to fill their quarterback position.
The staff members from the featured teams lead the theatrics, chatting about depth charts and combining statistics and the “locker room personality” of a player. But after the first round, the second round has less fanfare. By the Draft’s concluding round, everyone involved is on fumes. The few remaining players look lost and defeated. The Pick Is In is very much the same way. The filmmakers tie in a human element in the Dallas Cowboys war room by following around a team scout, an employee whose son has not been selected in the Draft. While this segment is sweet and touching, it doesn’t quite deliver the punch you need for a proper climax. But that’s the Draft: bursting speed up front until it sizzles to a slow crawl, leaving your interest in the middle of the second round.
The Pick Is In does permit a lot of access to if you’ll forgive this expression, the inside baseball of football drafting. It provides much information but didn’t grab me like I wanted it to. Many football fans may recall watching the fictionalized version of this situation in Draft Day from 2014, starring Kevin Costner and the late Chadwick Boseman. While that story was far from the truth, it was highly engaging, entertaining, and fun. I would rather see that again.