Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spring outdoor alternative pro football leagues have done initial draft procedures differently

Prior to the kickoff of the A11 Football League in the spring of 2015, there have been three other major spring outdoor alternative professional football leagues – the United States Football League (1983-85), World League of American Football/NFL Europe (1991-92, 1995-2007) and the XFL (2001).

Those leagues had to decide how best to initially stock each team’s roster -- the A11FL will have to do the same. In the case of the USFL and the XFL, the league went with a dual approach of a territorial/regional draft and a common draft. The WLAF, having four teams not based in the United States, went with a “draft matrix” approach, followed by a supplemental draft.

-       The USFL had a territorial draft prior to the common draft before training camps opened for the 1983 season, and each of the 12 charter teams were assigned territorial colleges from which they could secure players’ rights prior to the common draft. A lot of those territorial colleges made sense (Arizona and Arizona State for the Arizona Wranglers, Alabama and Auburn for the Birmingham Stallions, etc.), but some didn’t (Nebraska for the Boston Breakers, Texas Tech for the Denver Gold, et al.).

The goal of the territorial draft, obviously, was to bring some local flavor to each team, while also keeping the pizazz of having big-name talent at the top of the common draft. In that respect, the USFL was successful. Here are some of the top players to out of the territorial draft that year – tight end Mark Keel (Arizona Wranglers, Arizona), defensive tackle Jackie Cline (Birmingham Stallions, Alabama), guard Tom Thayer (Chicago Blitz, Notre Dame), wide receiver Anthony Carter (Michigan Panthers, Michigan), running back Kelvin Bryant (Philadelphia Stars, North Carolina) and offensive lineman Nate Newton (Tampa Bay Bandits, Florida A&M).

-       The higher-ups with the WLAF had to decide how best to divvy up players for 10 teams – six in the U.S., one in Canada and three in Europe. Since the territorial approach wouldn’t work, the league came up with a “draft matrix” – each team selected one of 10 letters, and each letter represented a selection sequence. For instance, the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks selected the “H” position, which meant they selected first during the wide receiver portion of the draft, and had predetermined positions in the first round of other position groups.

Following the selection of players in the common draft by position group, the WLAF also had a supplemental draft and an allocation of international players, known as “Operation Discovery.”

-       The XFL’s eight teams went back to a USFL-type method of player allocation – a territorial draft, and a common draft. While USFL teams drafted college players in both drafts, the XFL drafted available free-agent professional players in theirs. Some of the top players to come out of the XFL territorial draft included Birmingham Thunderbolts running back James Bostic (Auburn), Chicago Enforcers quarterback Kevin McDougal (Notre Dame), Los Angeles Xtreme quarterback Tommy Maddox (UCLA), Memphis Maniax kicker Jeff Hall (Tennessee), New York/New Jersey Hitmen quarterback Wally Richardson (Penn State), Orlando Rage linebacker James Burgess (Miami) and San Francisco Demons quarterback Mike Pawlawski (California).

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