2020 NFL Draft

On as scheduled?

Jim Rome
March 26, 2020 - 12:37 pm
2020 NFL Draft

USA Today

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The NFL Draft is scheduled to begin four weeks from tonight in Las Vegas. Of course, initially the plan for the draft in Las Vegas was that it would be a massive spectacle. A chunk of the Strip would’ve been closed down. The draft stage was to be near the High Roller Ferris wheel.

You’ve probably seen that rendering of the red carpet stage that would’ve been over the water at the Bellagio Fountains and the boat that players would’ve taken to reach it.

It would’ve been one incredible scene, but of course that had to change. And there will be no public events due to COVID-19.

And according to reports, the date of the draft itself is now a source of tension within the league. Some teams want to change the date because they feel like they won’t be fully prepared to go ahead with it, while the league office, reportedly, would like to keep it in April.

Denver President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway told the Broncos website that his team is prepared if they have to go ahead, but "We'd rather have it backed up so we can get all our scouts and everybody in, but if it's limited and we can stay there and they're not going to move the draft, we're in good shape.”

He’s not alone in wanting it pushed back. Saints GM Mickey Loomis told Peter King "I'd be personally in favor of delaying the draft, so that we can get some of the work done that our scouts and our personnel people ordinarily do. And then just the logistics of trying to conduct the draft, with not having access to your draft rooms and your offices, creates a lot of logistic problems.”

Loomis went on to point out that the draft is serious business and it’s not something you want teams going into blindly. “This is not a fantasy draft that you conduct out there with just a list of things on a piece of paper. There's a lot of work that goes into it to prepare, and there's a lot of work that is done during the draft. Listen, it'll be very, very difficult to conduct that and do it in a way that you're doing justice to the process."

That’s significant. That’s not two unnamed sources going off the record. Those are two big-name and well-respected front office guys saying it would be better if the draft moved. 

In fact, Adam Schefter and Diana Russini reported that the league's general manager subcommittee voted either unanimously or nearly unanimously to recommend to Roger Goodell that the draft be pushed back.

Teams are concerned that they won’t have enough time to fully evaluate players and get physicals completed before the draft, and that teams in states which have stay at home orders, will be at a great disadvantage because they’ll  have to conduct the draft from their homes instead of being able to meet at the facility.

The league, on the other hand, is reportedly continuing ahead with the current date and working on a way of incorporating the top draft picks into some sort of virtual experience, to maintain some of the event-feel of the draft.

One league source told Schefter and Russini that "I think a lot of owners aren't sold on keeping it on schedule. Of course the power owners are calling the shots. Plus, add to the fact that April is going to be the toughest month with this virus. It's really a poor look."

I can see why the teams want to push it back. They are used to having a wealth of information on prospects, not just looking at film and talking to coaches, but going to pro days, conducting physicals, spending time with prospects at their facilities. They are used to having almost too much information and now they are looking at a scenario where they won’t have any of that information.

And it puts front offices in a tough spot. Do you take a guy based on his film even if you haven’t spent the usual amount of time around him? Can you draft a guy without having him take a physical? What if he’s coming off an injury, can you take a risk on him without having seen him in person?

I completely get why the teams want to postpone it. Because the general managers and team presidents and scouting departments are the ones who’ll be judged on this draft. They’ll be the ones who could be out of a job in a couple of years if they completely whiff on this draft.

And at the same time, I can understand why the league wants to go ahead with it. First off, going ahead with it means they don’t have to deal with the logistical nightmare of rescheduling it. As with everything else that’s being suspended, delayed, or rescheduled right now, it’s not just a matter of picking a new date and everyone reconvenes at that time. There are layers to this and ripples to this.

And I’m guessing part of the reason why the league and some owners might want to go ahead with it as scheduled is they know the NFL draft is always a massive story and in a time where there will be no sports, it will be an even bigger story.

If the draft is still starting four weeks from tonight, even people who’ve never tuned into the draft before will be so hyped for this draft. They’ll be locked in on it like it’s an actual game.

So what happens? It’s impossible to say at this point. So many things that didn’t look like they’d move ended up moving, so is the NFL Draft the next thing to move? Or will the league keep that date no matter what?

This is an awkward one for both sides. It’s either going to start four weeks from tonight or it’s going to move. And whether it stays or it moves, someone is going to be pissed. 

But I can see why the league would fight the idea of pushing it back because it will push everything else back

Because it’s now going to be some sort of virtual draft, they still have some time to make a decision. I completely get the point about the evaluations. Jeremiah had said in the past that teams he was with had a rule that they simply would not draft a guy they hadn’t given a physical to

Because you have no idea what you’re getting

I completely understand why the GM’s would be freaking out about this - it’s their jobs that will be on the line if they screw up, not the owners or the league office

And where we are currently, with numbers rising, it would be a really weird look to have the league continuing like business is usual.

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