On Thursday, one of the most popular events during the NFL calendar is set to begin.
The NFL Draft, televised over three days, begins with the first round on Thursday evening. Rounds two and three will take place Friday night and rounds four through seven will complete the draft on Saturday. This year's draft marks the third time the NFL will conduct the annual event in primetime and the second time it will be conducted over three days. Each team will have ten minutes in between selections in the first round, seven minutes per pick in the second round and five minutes for each pick in the final five rounds.
This year the Falcons have five draft picks, one in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. They used this year's first-round pick as part of the Julio Jones first-round draft selection last year and on Wednesday sent a seventh-round pick to Philadelphia to acquire Asante Samuel.
Though they're without a first-round pick, the Falcons under general manager Thomas Dimitroff should still be able to find players that can contribute in a number of ways. Dimitroff has had success finding players throughout the draft in his four seasons with the Falcons. Of Atlanta's 32 draft picks since 2008, 26 of them are still with the team, a 81.3 percent retention rate, second in the league.
Eight of Atlanta's projected starters next year have come during the Dimitroff drafts and 13 are original Falcons draft selections.
The Falcons aren't the only NFC South team without a first-round pick this year. The New Orleans Saints are without a first rounder as well, given up in the trade up last year for running back Mark Ingram. Their first pick will come in the third round, pick No. 89.
The Carolina Panthers will pick ninth overall in the first round and also have picks in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth (two picks) and seventh rounds.
The Tampa Bay Bucs pick fifth overall in the first round and second round, third round, fifth round, sixth round and seventh round picks.
Miscellaneous Notes on the 2012 Draft:
- Alabama could have five players taken in the first round, tying them for second-most first-round selections from one school in one draft year. The University of Miami has six first-round selections in 2004. USC in 1968, Miami in 2002 and Ohio State in 2006 all had five first-round selections.
- South Carolina has had only nine first-round picks in the school's history, but it may see two go in the first in 2012. Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore could be those two players, the first time two players from the school were drafted in the first round since 1981. Falcons defensive end John Abraham was a first-round pick from South Carolina by the New York Jets in 2000 and cornerback Dunta Robinson was Houston's first-round pick in 2004, also from USC.
- Three players who began their football-playing careers outside of the U.S. could be selected this year. German defensive end Markus Kuhn would become the third European-trained player picked by an NFL team, following New England's Sebastian Vollmer (2009) and Romeo Bandison (1994). The past 30 drafts have seen 18 Canadians selected and two more could make that list this season. Boise State's Tyrone Crawford is from Windsor, Ontario and Baylor's Philip Blake is from Toronto.
- In 2011 there were four first-round trades. The most first-round trades was 14 in 2001.
- Last year 16 offensive and 16 defensive players were drafted in the first round.
- Auburn, Notre Dame and Southern California all hold the record for the most No. 1 overall picks. Last year's first overall pick, Carolina's Cam Newton, played at Auburn.
- Texas holds the record for the most players taken in the entire draft with 17 players selected in 1984.
- In the past ten years there have been four occurrences where players with the same last name were drafted consecutively. The most recent instance of this was in the first round of the 2008 draft. Miami selected Jake Long with the No. 1 overall pick and St. Louis took Chris Long with the No. 2 overall pick.