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2020 NFL online draft coming into focus

Covid-19 has pushed the 2020 NFL Draft completely online this season. We take you through what the draft will look like this year, including when to watch, how to watch, and how teams will be making their virtual picks.

NFL Combine - Day 2, Joe Burrow

As you know by now, the 2020 NFL draft will go ahead as scheduled on Thursday, April 23rd at 8 p.m. ET. In a world with very few sporting events going on and no major sports in the United States, all eyes will be on the draft, which will have an unprecedented feel as everything will be done remotely.

The actual 2020 draft will be in stark contrast to the the glitz and BOATS! that were planned for the on-site draft in Las Vegas. Equaling what has become the norm across the world, fans will look in on Roger Goodell’s basement as he oversees the first round, giving virtual hugs instead of actual ones.

Besides the online format, much of the draft is scheduled to go as it usually would, with time for picks remaining 10 minutes for the first round, seven minutes for rounds two and three and five minutes for rounds four through seven.

The draft can be seen on multiple platforms, so this should easily be the most watched draft in history. ESPN is the primary host, but NFL Network analysts will take part as well. Here are the particulars for where to watch each day.

  • Thursday, April 23 (8-11:30 p.m. ET): NFL Draft, Rd 1 – ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
  • Friday, April 24 (7-11:30 p.m.): NFL Draft, Rds 2 and 3 ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
  • Saturday, April 25 (12-7 p.m.): NFL Draft, Rds 4–7 – ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

The actual particulars of making picks were summed up by Peter King in his latest at Pro Football Talk piece:

Making picks will happen like this: Each team’s designated drafter will be connected to the league’s official Microsoft Teams private and encrypted draft channel, and will make the pick through that channel. There are two fail-safes: A GM can call Fiore or a member of his team directly by landline or cell with the pick. Also, there will be a conference call for the length of the draft with club officials muted; the club official designated to make the pick can unmute his/her line and announce the pick. If the pick is made through Microsoft Teams, Fiore or his representative will announce on the conference call that a pick has been made and the next team is on the clock.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was concerned about Zoom meetings being hacked into and team secrets getting out, but it’s probably not a real concern for an entity worth billions like the NFL. We’ll see, but the Twitter jokes about old team execs (we’re looking at you Gettleman), will likely be funnier than prescient. They will also hold a “mock draft” with all 32 teams, which won’t actually involve picks, but be more of a “systems test,” per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The draft, in the NFL’s words, “will serve as a three-day virtual fundraiser benefitting six charities – selected by the NFL Foundation – that are battling the spread of COVID-19 and delivering relief to millions in need.” Those charities include, American Red Cross, CDC Foundation’s All of Us: Combat Coronavirus Campaign, Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, Meals on Wheels COVID-19 Response Fund, Salvation Army, and United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.

We’ll also have some entertainment with, “the national anthem [] performed before the start of round one by a performer of some fame, from his/her home,” according to Peter King. We can all take guesses on what “some fame” means there.

There will be 58 draftees set up for reaction shots remotely from their home along with a few of their coaches for added content. There will also be “a virtual montage of 15 fans of the team on the clock will be the backdrop behind Goodell,” per Peter King. It will be interesting to see if any of those fans will boo the commissioner or the pick their team makes. If you are playing at home, that might make for some interesting friendly wagers.

Trading picks is still a work in progress according to King. One GM told King “he’s likely to divide the 31 potential trade partners into four groups. Each one of those groups, with seven or eight teams in it, will be told before the draft if he/she has a trade to discuss during the draft to call the contact person, who will then tell the GM that Team X wants to talk trade. If the GM can pick up right then, he will, and he’ll engage that team. But it won’t be as smooth as having everyone in the same room.” When multiple teams are looking to make a trade, things will likely get tougher and in the end, it might lower the number of trades we’ll see. But, the Chargers GM Tom Telesco thinks it might be fun, saying “We’re going to have some people who’d usually be at our draft-room table who will probably be connected by video-conferencing. So I can talk to them while I’m on the phone. If there’s a couple of phones going off, I may have one of my kids pick up the phone. It’s all hands on deck. Could have both of my sons with jobs—keeping track of who’s been picked, the board. It’ll be fun.”

Overall, the draft will probably go off well, with teams getting the players they want while the NFL raises some much needed cash for some deserving charities working to get us back to some face-to-face drafting in 2021.