NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to all 32 NFL franchises to inform them that the Draft will go ahead, and laid out the processes and protocols involved to ensure a smooth running of the event.
The event, which has become a huge spectator event, attracts huge television audiences globally, but the NFL’s plans to hold a spectacular show in Las Vegas for this year’s Draft between April 23 and 25 have had to be canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In his memo to teams, commissioner Goodell explained that the draft would be conducted “entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format.”
“We want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices,” wrote Goodell.
“Our staff will carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices. And after consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical and public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need to properly screen participants and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face.”
The Draft will still be televised via ESPN and the NFL Network, and will feature guest appearances and a host of interviews, all conducted via video conferencing.
The picks themselves will be submitted the same way as normal, by telephone, but those making the calls to the NFL to submit their picks will do so from their own homes, rather than their team’s “war room”.
The players themselves, who are all set for the biggest day of their lives as they become professional sportsmen in the NFL, will still be a big part of the event, with their involvement coming from home.
“All clubs should dedicate their personnel and technology resources toward preparing for a fully virtual Draft, with personnel in separate locations,” said Goodell.
“Our understanding is that many clubs are already well advanced in preparing for a virtual Draft and we are confident that all clubs can take the necessary steps to make the 2020 Draft a successful event.”
The Cincinnati Bengals hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft and are widely expected to draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, while pass rusher Chase Young is considered by many analysts to be the best overall talent in the Draft.
But perhaps the most intriguing story to follow on Draft day will be that of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The left-handed phenom looked nailed-on to be the clear No. 1 pick in the draft before a dislocated hip ended his season and put big question marks over his fitness.
All signs are pointing to Tagovailoa being fully recovered, but with teams unable to conduct their own physical assessments on the player due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it remains to be seen which teams are still wary of drafting him, and which might be prepared to trade up the order to grab a player considered eight months ago to be the best quarterback to come out of college football in years.