The NFL applying fantasy-draft to develop Pro Bowl rosters

USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has threatened to change the Pro Bowl and finally followed through on that. Just not with what we expected.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly expressed concern and disappointment with the league's All-Star game. Despite strong television ratings, the NFL Pro Bowl has put a product on the field that's not only earned scorned from most fans, but as a source of saturated humor for the repeated lack of effort that's being shown.

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the NFL has eliminated the traditional AFC-NFC game and will be replacing it with a fantasy-like draft.

The NFL has been throwing around other ideas in the past, including a game show-like element to ensure that "every single minute of the game has some sort of thing that's going to keep fans interested and engaged."

According to Schefter, Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will be "draft captains" and players will be drafted on either team. There will be no more kickoffs and the rosters will consist of 43 players. The game is scheduled for Jan. 26 in Hawaii.

On the bright side, there are no implications for home field advantage in the championship game for the winner of an exhibition game. So there's that.

Here's the league's press release:

The 2014 Pro Bowl, presented by McDonald’s, will feature a new format for the NFL All-Star Game based on major changes proposed by NFLPA President DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH designed to make it the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced today.

Gone is the familiar AFC vs. NFC match-up that has existed since 1971.  Instead, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players.  For example, the top six quarterbacks following voting will earn distinction as All-Stars, regardless of how many are from AFC or NFC teams.

Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two leading vote getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions – who will attend the Pro Bowl – to draft players.  One of these champions will earn their spot as part of Lenovo’s Fantasy Coach of the Year program, which provides NFL.com fans a chance to be rewarded for their fantasy football skills.  The other champion can compete for a Pro Bowl role by playing at NFL.com/fantasy.

The fantasy football champions will have Hall of Fame help.  Pro Football Hall of Famers JERRY RICE and DEION SANDERS will serve as alumni team captains, assisting the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft process.

"As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” Foxworth said.  "To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”

The Pro Bowl player draft will air on Wednesday, January 22 on NFL Network.  Players will practice with their teams on Thursday, Saturday.  The coaching staffs will be from the losing teams in the AFC and NFC Divisional playoffs with the best regular-season record.  The 2014 Pro Bowl takes place on Sunday, January 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will be televised by NBC.

"We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth,” said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL.  "From there, our office worked closely with him in developing the concept.  The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever.  We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players.”

In addition to these changes, several other aspects of the Pro Bowl will be new in 2014:

  • Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter.  This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct "two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
  • No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first.  The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
  • Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad.  The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
  • Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play "cover two” and "press” coverage.  In previous years, only "man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
  • Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass.  This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
  • Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
  • Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
  • Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game.  Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
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