With the recent news that the 2020 NFL Draft will be a completely virtual event, we know that this draft will be like nothing we’ve experienced before. Prepare for the strangest draft in NFL history.
It’s unlikely general managers will be able to spend Draftcoins on the NFL deep web for extra picks or that a team will log in late and autodraft a kicker (a la fantasy football). And I really doubt Brian Gutekunst will get hacked mid-draft by a rival GM. But the quirks and perils of technology will loom over the event.
According to ESPN, the NFL has already begun testing internet connections and safeguards to make sure picks can get in correctly and without delay. The possibility of emailing in a pick if a connection is interrupted is being considered as a way for general managers to discretely announce their selections, and while pick time isn’t increased, the NFL is likely to be more flexible in order to allow teams to work out trade details in this unorthodox style, according to the aforementioned article.
A challenge involved will be the actual testing, as most IT professionals will want to avoid coming into contact with others via there homes.
NFL.com reports that all 32 teams will participate in a mock draft in order to get used to this new format and work out any potential issues. The mock draft will be a dress rehearsal and not feature any “timeouts”.
The challenges of conducting the draft during a pandemic expand far beyond making the actual selections. Scouting staffs lost access to pro days, workouts, and prospect meetings as everyone practices physical distancing. This especially puts prospects with question marks, like those recovering from a major injury, those with disciplinary issues, or those from small schools, in a perilous position, as they lack means to show how prepared they are.
Teams are reliant on existing tape now more than ever and will have to rely on word of mouth to get more information. Teams are still able to have phone conversations, but scouts have a very limited amount of time to talk to prospects.
Workouts are effected as well, with gyms and facilities being closed, and most prospects will have to do what they can at home.
While the regular season could still start as planned, team training activities will be effected. Team workout programs, OTAs, and minicamps will likely be delayed or canceled. Teams looking for rookies to come in and contribute right away (realistically every team) will need to hope their players can jump in and fill a role without these activities. Learning a new scheme or position ill be especially difficult.
It’s important to remember that just because this is a one of a kind draft experience doesn’t mean teams will make bad picks solely because of these restrictions. The truth is that most teams are already bad at making picks even in the best of times. If a GM is already on the hot seat, they shouldn’t get a pass because of the strangeness of 2020.
This will certainly be the oddest draft in NFL history and a particularly harrowing time for the prospects that have trained their whole lives for this moment. Hopefully, the event happens without issue and we can have football sooner rather than later. Until then, wash your hands, and wash your butts.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.