NFL Pro Bowl to adopt NHL All-Star Game ‘fantasy draft’ format

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On Wednesday, the National Football League announced sweeping changes to its annual All-Star event — the Pro Bowl — which included a new format first implemented by the National Hockey League.

The NFL will conduct a “fantasy draft” at the Pro Bowl, ditching the traditional AFC vs. NFC format while adhering to the “players pick the players” idea started by the NHL in 2011.

Here’s the official statement, from NFL.com:

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.

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,” [NFLPA President Domonique] Foxworth said. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”

The NHL’s first-ever All-Star fantasy draft occurred during the 2011 contest in Carolina. The format was slightly different as players voted on captains — Niklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal — and they were in charge of selecting the teams.

In 2012, Zdeno Chara and Daniel Alfredsson were selected as captains.

The Pro Bowl draft will air on Wednesday, January 22 on NFL Network. Four days later, the game will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, televised by NBC.