Sports 101

The National Football League draft is a little like chess: It's all about strategy and making the right moves. It's also a chance for teams at the bottom of their conference to stay competitive by picking top players. The NFL draft will take place this weekend at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Q: What is the schedule for the 1998 National Football League draft?

A: Rounds 1 through 3 will begin at noon on Saturday, April 18. Rounds 4 through 7 will start at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 19. ESPN will broadcast the event live.

Q: Who will be there?

A: Representatives from the 30 National Football League clubs, who will be in telephone communication with their general managers, coaches, and scouts.

Q: How does the draft process actually work?

A: Each team is assigned one pick per round based on the reverse order of finish in the 1997 season. So, the team that finished last (Indianapolis Colts) gets first pick, and the team who won the Super Bowl (Denver Broncos) goes last.

In addition, 19 compensatory choices have been given to 14 teams that lost players to free-agency last year.

Teams are also free to trade their draft-pick numbers, or active players for draft picks in order to move up or down in the drafting order.

Q: Are there time limits to each round?

A: Yes. Teams will have 15 minutes to make their pick in the first round, 10 minutes in the second round, and five minutes in the remaining rounds.

Q: How many players are involved and which ones are expected to be picked first?

A: Among the 229 players, the top picks will be quarterbacks Peyton Manning of Tennessee and Ryan Leaf of Washington State. It will be the second time since 1970 that two quarterbacks are the top two picks.

Q: How much money is involved?

A: In the early picks of the first round, the top eight players can get contracts worth millions of dollars, whereas a player picked in the third or fourth round is looking at a signing bonus of $75,000 to $200,000.

Q: Are fans allowed to attend the NFL draft?

A: Yes, but tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve complimentary basis April 18. One ticket will be distributed per person and can be used Saturday and Sunday. The seating capacity is 4,000, so a majority of fans will keep score on television.

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