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Stressing Draft's Third Day

Posted May 4, 2014

Players that have to wait until the fourth round or later can feel the frustration

New Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer takes part in Georgia Tech's pro day back in 2010.

When Jonathan Dwyer left Georgia Tech for the NFL draft in 2010, he joined the first class of players ushering in a newly-expanded three-day format.

Previously, the event held its first three rounds on Saturday and the final four on Sunday. As is the custom now, the 2010 draft began with the first round on Thursday, followed by two rounds on Friday and the final four on Saturday.

But what did Dwyer care? The star running back expected to go by the third round at the latest, with the slight possibility of sneaking into the first round. Either way, by the third day he figured to be worry-free and gainfully employed.

For the first round, Dwyer invited over only close friends and family, which turned out to be a wise decision when his name wasn’t called. On Day 2, it seemed like the whole neighborhood turned out, ready to celebrate the realization of his dream. But as the hours ticked on, Dwyer was never selected.

“The first day it didn’t really bother me because it was just a toss-up,” Dwyer said. “To sit there and wait the second day, you wait and wait and you don’t get picked – you get frustrated. Your family is sitting there asking questions: ‘What’s going on?’”

So began one of the longer nights of Dwyer’s life. Even though many players had dropped in past drafts, at least there was a resolution in two days. As he went to bed, Dwyer was still in limbo.

“You feel low as dirt,” Dwyer said. “That’s probably one of the times I was actually scared. This was my dream, and to sit there and not know what’s going to happen. … Usually you’re so in control of your life and what you get to do, where you get to go. That’s the first time I wasn’t in control of my decisions, so all you do is sit there and pray and try to be as calm as possible.”

Dwyer was finally picked on Day 3, but not until the sixth round by the Steelers. In the ensuing years, several other Cardinals went through the same harrowing process.

Running back Andre Ellington ran the gamut of emotions during his ordeal in 2013. He was relaxed during the first round, but a nervous wreck on Day 2. He doubted himself that night, then felt recharged the next morning.

“On that third day, I woke up like it was game day,” Ellington said. “I got a little anxious, but I was more motivated than anything.  I went into it believing I was going to get drafted on that day.”

Ellington was at peace with the process by the time he was selected. After intently watching the choices early on, he spent the latter portion of the draft horsing around with his nieces. He wasn’t in the room when the Cardinals took him in the sixth round.

“Everybody’s yelling, like, ‘Your phone’s ringing!’” Ellington said. “I went back and got my phone and it was Arizona.”

Stepfan Taylor knew he wouldn’t be a first-round pick, but felt slighted as Day 2 came and went without a destination. While Taylor was quick to point out how fortunate he feels to be on a roster, the three-day wait motivates him to this day.

“It’s when that chip definitely starts building on your shoulder,” Taylor said. “You see the other running backs taken in front of you and the chip gets bigger. I was ready. I said, ‘I just need an opportunity. Once I get in, I’m making a team.’”

The players projected to be late-round picks or undrafted free agents have it easier early on. While Dwyer had high hopes from the first round, offensive tackle Nate Potter watched the first two days comfortably.

In fact, Potter – who was taken by the Cardinals in the seventh round of the 2012 draft -- was realistic all the way through. He knew his only real shot was to get selected on the final day, and invited a small circle to watch the Saturday proceedings with him.

“I didn’t want to have a huge thing and go undrafted,” Potter said. “That’s not cool.”

While the three days felt like forever to some of those picked in the final four rounds, the players said the stress dissipated the moment their names were called. Although Dwyer’s selection came later than expected, everyone in his support group returned on Saturday, and they celebrated with a cookout.

“By the way my family and I reacted, you would have thought I was the first overall pick,” Dwyer said. “Finally, we could enjoy ourselves.”

Since the NFL draft continues to be a ratings bonanza, commissioner Roger Goodell recently spoke of potential expansion to a fourth day. For the football diehards, it would be more time to analyze and dream. For the draft picks, it would be another day of agony.

“A fourth day might be a little bit too much for a player,” Taylor said. “You just want to know, get it over with and get back to work.”

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