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What is the NFL Supplemental Draft?

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Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who had been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for NCAA rules violations, announced Tuesday that he will enter the NFL’s supplemental draft rather than return to school. Here’s a brief history of the event.

What is the supplemental draft and who is eligible for it?

The supplemental draft is a means by which underclassmen who become ineligible for the college football season after the deadline to enter the NFL’s regular draft can enter the league. To be declared eligible for the supplemental draft, a player must file a petition, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In Pryor’s case, while he was eligible to return from his suspension midseason, he recently forfeited his college eligibility by hiring agent Drew Rosenhaus.


The supplemental draft is held after the regular draft, which takes place in April, and before the season begins. All players must be at least three years removed from high school.

When will this year’s supplemental draft be held?

The NFL lockout had cast some doubt on whether there would even be a supplemental draft this season, but an NFL official recently told ESPN that the draft will be held in July, at least 10 days before the start of training camp, if there are eligible applicants.

How does the supplemental draft work?

The league’s 32 teams are divided into three groups based on their performance during the previous season. Teams that won six or fewer games form one group, non-playoff teams that won more than six games form a second group, and playoff teams form a third group. A lottery determines the draft order within each group and teams with worse records have a greater chance of drawing a higher pick. For example, the team with the worst record last season, Carolina, has the best chance to win the first pick in the supplemental draft and is guaranteed to pick no lower than 13th, as there were 13 teams with six or fewer wins last season.

Unlike the regular draft, during which teams announce their picks, teams submit blind bids to the NFL commissioner indicating what players they are interested in drafting in the supplemental draft. In addition, a team must indicate what round in the draft it would like to select a given player. The team that submits the highest bid is awarded the rights to the player and forfeits its pick in that round in the following season’s regular draft. If two teams submit a bid for the same player in the same round, the team with the higher pick in that round, as determined by the semi-lottery system described above, is awarded the player.

When was the first supplemental draft?

The supplemental draft was a provision of the 1977 labor agreement between the NFL and its Players Association. During the 1977 offseason, Notre Dame star running back Al Hunter was suspended from the team for being seen with a girl in his dormitory after 2 a.m. It was the second such suspension for Hunter, who had one year of eligibility remaining. While Hunter had missed the filing deadline for the regular draft, he was declared eligible to play in the NFL because his class had graduated in June. The league held its first supplemental draft that August and the Seahawks selected Hunter, forfeiting a fourth-round pick in the 1978 NFL draft. “His troubles have been grossly overplayed,” Seahawks head coach Jack Patera said of Hunter, who would rush for 715 yards and four touchdowns in his brief NFL career.

The USFL and CFL Draft of 1984

The NFL held a different sort of supplemental draft in 1984, with its teams selecting players under contract with United States Football League and Canadian Football League teams. The point of the draft was to eliminate the bidding wars that would result when a star USFL or CFL player became a free agent. The previous season, Warren Moon left the Edmonton Eskimos for the NFL and was signed by the Houston Oilers. There were some future NFL stars among the 84 players selected in the non-traditional draft. Three of the first four picks—Steve Young, Gary Zimmerman, and Reggie White—are in the Hall of Fame.

How Bernie Kosar Became a Cleveland Brown

The semi-random process for determining the supplemental draft order that is used today was developed partly in response to the controversy surrounding the supplemental draft of 1985. After leading the Miami Hurricanes to the national title in 1984, a report surfaced that Ohio native Bernie Kosar planned to turn pro. Kosar had two years of college eligibility remaining, but planned to graduate during the summer of 1985. NFL rules required that Kosar send a letter to the league indicating that he planned to graduate before the 1985 season to be eligible for the regular draft.


The Buffalo Bills held the No. 1 pick in the 1985 NFL Draft and announced they would take Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith. The Minnesota Vikings traded up to the No. 2 spot with the intent of taking Kosar, who had indicated that he was hoping to be drafted by the Browns. Agent AJ Faigin helped concoct a plan to make that happen.

Faigin reportedly told Kosar’s father not to file the paperwork for the regular NFL draft and to instead have his son enter the league via the supplemental draft. The Browns traded for Buffalo’s No. 1 pick in the supplemental draft, which, at the time, was determined by the reverse order of the previous season’s standings. The Vikings protested and the Houston Oilers threatened to sue, but NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle declared that no rules had been broken.

After extending the deadline for Kosar to enter the regular draft and holding a hearing on the matter, Rozelle left the decision up to the quarterback. To no one’s surprise, he chose Cleveland.

The Boz Warns Teams Not to Draft Him

Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth was expected to be one of the first players taken in the 1987 NFL Draft after Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Bosworth didn’t want to play for the Indianapolis Colts or the Buffalo Bills, who held the second and third picks, so the two-time Butkus Award winner, who graduated early, entered the supplemental draft instead.


The league had adopted a lottery system for determining the supplemental draft order that year, meaning there was a chance that Indianapolis or Buffalo might be in position to draft Bosworth anyway. Bosworth tried to account for this fact by sending letters to all 28 teams in the league indicating that he would play for only five of them—the Rams, Raiders, Jets, Giants, or Eagles.


On draft day, the Seattle Seahawks, who were awarded the No. 1 pick despite 37-to-1 odds, ignored Bosworth’s warning and drafted him in the first round. Bosworth threatened to sit out the season and enter the league via the regular draft in 1988, but he eventually agreed to a then-record 10-year, $11 million rookie contract. Injuries ended Bosworth’s career after only 24 games.

Have any other good players come out of the supplemental draft?

There have been 40 players selected in the supplemental draft since 1977. Here are a few more names that you might recognize:

• Cris Carter: Pryor can only hope he finds as much success in the NFL as another former Buckeye who entered the league via the supplemental draft. Carter was suspended for his senior season after accepting money from agents, but petitioned the league to allow him to enter a special supplemental draft for players who had accepted money from agents in violation of NCAA rules. The Philadelphia Eagles took Carter in the fourth round. The draft marked the first time that the NFL allowed teams to draft players before they had graduated. Thirteen of the league’s 28 teams did not participate out of protest.


• Steve Walsh: The Cowboys selected Walsh out of the University of Miami in 1989 after the quarterback led the Hurricanes to a 32-1 record in his two seasons as the starter.

• Rob Moore: The Syracuse wideout was drafted by the New York Jets in the 1990 supplemental draft after graduating a year early but missing the deadline for the regular draft.

• Dave Brown: The Duke quarterback, who grew up rooting for the Giants, graduated a year early and opted not to return for his final year of eligibility in 1992. The Giants used a first-round pick to draft him.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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