The 2020 NFL Draft promises to be unlike any that we’ve experienced before. In part because, unlike the swank venues and lavish decor of yesteryear, Commissioner Roger Goodell will be presiding over the draft from the comfort of his Bronxville, N.Y., man cave.
And with team facilities closed indefinitely—or at least until the world rids itself of this pesky coronavirus—coaches, general managers, scouts and other people who are paid handsomely to build championship contenders will be making some of the most important decisions of their lives tonight under similar circumstances.
“It’s the first fully virtual draft,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Journal News. “It’s different, but so too are these times. We’ve adapted and we’ve embraced the challenge to do this.”
This is definitely gonna be interesting, and I know you’ve got questions, so I’ll try my best to answer some of the biggest ones heading into Thursday night’s draft.
Great question! I’m glad you asked.
Similar to Goodell’s man cave setup, the NFL has distributed 122 tech kits throughout Trump’s America. Every head coach and general manager in the league has received one, as did 58 of the top college prospects so that they can all broadcast from their homes. (Though if Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa experiences an Aaron Rogers-esque freefall, at least he can go in his backyard and ramble obscenities on Instagram Live.)
Outside of tech kits, the NFL also had to orchestrate a “massive IT effort”—complete with the necessary equipment, reliable internet connections and secure backups in case the Devil is busy—to ensure all 32 teams are a) on an even playing field and b) aren’t leaving the fate of their franchise up to some janky internet provider. In case of emergency, each team is also allowed to have one IT specialist in the home of whoever is making their pick—who, in the case of the Detroit Lions, have historically relied on a dartboard and blindfold.
After all 32 teams “log in,” they’ll be connected to a single video conference with a separate broadband connection to members of the league office. It’s not quite the exuberant hug and photo op that we’re accustomed to seeing every April, but feel free to take that up with COVID-19.
My iPhone acts up like every other day. Doesn’t a virtual draft make it way more susceptible to technical problems?
Pretty much, as evidenced by a failed dry run earlier this week.
If the Teddy Riley vs. Babyface battle taught us anything, it’s that old heads and technology don’t mix. And as I’m sure you are well aware, you’ll find no shortage of old-ass white men in these NFL front offices. So with so many of them being tasked with navigating new protocols and confusing software (programs like Zoom aren’t exactly user friendly), expect to endure at least some level of “This ain’t what Jesus died for!!!!” during the draft.
Prepare your nerves accordingly.
(Though the WNBA just pulled off its virtual draft with no problems.)
However, should technical difficulties prevent any team from submitting their draft pick, the player personnel department has the greenlight to pump the brakes on the draft and allow the intended pick, trade or transaction to occur. Typically, if a team misses its pick, the next team just laughs in their face, shoves them out the way and makes their own pick. But for better or worse, it sounds like the league will be doing it’s best to keep things cordial during its first-ever virtual draft.
So with the draft going digital, what’s to stop some asshole from hacking into it and trading the No. 1 overall pick to the Patriots?
The NFL’s geek squad has recruited Microsoft to help establish and enforce security measures. And while a security breach of that magnitude doesn’t appear to be a legit concern, teams can’t help but wonder if the league’s encryption methods will be enough.
“You get into the security aspect, which is probably the most important for teams,” Los Angeles Rams COO Kevin Demoff told ESPN. “How do you make sure your conversations are protected? ... That would be my biggest concern, just from an encryption standpoint, of how do you have these conversations confidentially and make sure they go through?”
Are carrier pigeons still a thing? Asking for a friend.
Much like our alleged president, NFL teams are filled with compulsive liars. They’ll do just about everything humanly possible to elude the truth and mislead other general managers and scouts about what player(s) they have a man-crush on and are interested in drafting. But with that being said, Tua remains a pretty big question mark—arguably the biggest ever in the history of the draft.
The dude swears his surgically repaired hip is fine and that he’ll be ready to contribute in whatever capacity is asked of him, but for all his otherworldly talent—former NFL quarterback Trent “Hyperbole” Dilfer believes he throws a better ball than all-time greats Aaron Rogers and Dan Marino—questions remain about his ability to stay healthy throughout the course of his NFL career. And justifiably so, considering the Alabama product has already allegedly undergone five surgeries.
Did I mention Tua’s only 22 years old?
Oregon’s Justin Herbert is another long-rumored option for the Dolphins, but even with COVID-19 preventing team doctors from getting a good look at Tua, I still believe his talent is too tantalizing to pass up.
He could either be the next Robert Griffin III or the next Drew Brees, but the Dolphins gotta roll those dice and snatch his ass up because if they don’t, there are plenty of teams who will.
The NFL Network’s studios are closed due to COVID-19 concerns, so it will be tag-teaming with ESPN—with analysts from both networks working from home—to deliver the draft. Trey Wingo will act as the studio host on all three nights, with Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and Maria Taylor holding things down on a separate broadcast the first two nights on ABC.
Here’s the full schedule for all three days on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio:
- Round 1 on Thursday, April 23, from 8-11:30 p.m. ET
- Rounds 2-3 on Friday, April 24, from 7-11:30 p.m. ET
- Rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 25, from noon-7 p.m. ET
Also of note, the 2020 NFL Draft is unofficially being called a “draft-a-thon,” since it will also pay tribute and benefit relief efforts to healthcare workers and first responders through the following charities: the American Red Cross, the CDC’s Combat Coronavirus Campaign, Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, Meals on Wheels’ COVID-19 Response Fund, the Salvation Army and the United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.
Good luck tonight, and prayerfully my team pulls in a better draft haul than yours.