The NFL’s coaches and team executives apparently don’t yet know the specific contours of the new rule regarding the lowering of the helmet to initiate contact. They apparently won’t know how the rule specifically will be implemented until May.
There’s an argument to be made for knowing more about the rule a lot sooner than that.
A loyal PFT PM listener (a/k/a a member of the #PFTPMPosse) recently asked whether teams will know the full impact of the new helmet rule on the running game before the draft. They won’t — unless, of course, some teams have inside information about how the rule will finally look.
The Falcons, for example, should be grilling team CEO/Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay on the specific question of whether the rule will be applied literally and broadly. If it is, the running game necessarily will be impacted, since both running backs and would-be tacklers won’t be allowed to do what so many running backs and would-be tackled do between the tackles: Drop their helmets an instant before the point of impact.
If the running game will be de-emphasized by a rule that makes it harder to run the ball in and through the tackle box, that should be a factor when determining how to use draft assets. Quarterbacks, receivers, cornerbacks, free safeties, pass rushers, outside running backs, and pass-catching tight ends become more relevant; bulldozing running backs, fullbacks, run-blocking offensive linemen, run-stuffing defensive linemen, slow-footed middle linebackers, inside-the-box strong safeties, and blocking tight ends become less relevant.
Whatever the situation, teams should have known specifically what the rule would and wouldn’t allow when the rule was passed. As it stands, there’s a chance that teams will be using draft picks on players who will have less value if the running game ends up being less prevalent and valuable.