The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our normal way of life and changed the sports landscape as we know it.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, we are living in a time of great unknown. Almost everyone in this country — not including emergency and medical personnel and other essential workers — is social distancing or following their local shelter-in-place orders.
For the NFL, these unique times and protocols, where correct and supported, have made it challenging for business to go on as usual. We saw some of the complications in free agency at the start of the new league year when many players couldn’t get their medical tests done before signing their new contracts. Teams and players had to get creative.
But it also affects the 2020 NFL Draft.
The draft, which was scheduled to be conducted in Las Vegas from April 23-25, will look a lot different this year. The league announced last week it will no longer conduct in-person events of that weekend. Instead, the selection process will be televised from a studio setting.
While many scheduled operations have been suspended until the middle or end of April, the NFL hasn’t changed the dates of the upcoming draft. It has been discussed behind the scenes about moving the draft date. Many general managers around the NFL have lobbied for the draft to be postponed citing travel restrictions and closed facilities slowing down their processes of evaluating prospects, getting updated medicals and even trying to get some sort of updated athletic testing numbers.
However, it seems like the NFL is standing pat. Knowing that, it gave ESPN's Adam Schefter another idea for how the draft can be altered to make the selection process more thorough for general managers.
A seven-day draft event? One round every night? Sounds absurd, right?
Maybe. But it’s not illogical.
Certainly, there would be many elements of production that would have to be adjusted for a seven-day draft weekend. Studios and television plans would have to be altered. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes regarding sponsorship and air time. The logistics of what it takes to produce selections every night would need to be sorted out, but if it can be done, the benefits could be positive for everyone involved.
For general managers, one round every night would put a lot less stress on their big board with less strict time constraints. Decision-makers in each team's war rooms would not only have more time when their names came on the clock, but they would also be given the luxury of gradually re-calibrating their big boards every day instead of having just two days for six rounds.
This could also be good for players as well. Instead of NFL teams being forced to just go with prospects they did some research on before the lockdowns, they could have more time to do research and discuss lesser-known players, giving prospects who have been negatively affected through this process with the loss of team visits and pro days a better chance to still be drafted. More time available on the clock and in between rounds just means more chances for some of the players who lost a lot of leverage.
This NFL could also take advantage of a world without live sports. Draft weekend is going to be the most exciting sports weekend anyone has in the last two months and maybe for the next month or two after. This year there were no conference tournaments in men's basketball, there was no NCAA tournament for men's and women's basketball, the NHL season and Opening Day for the MLB has been postponed, the NBA season is on hold and even the 2020 Summer Olympics have been put off until 2021.
All that to say: The draft is it.
Spreading the spectacle out over the course of a week would be a lot of fun. It would give the general managers some relief, and it would give sports fans something new to look forward to and enjoy every single night — a feeling that is familiar to what we're used to but one we haven’t been able to feel in the midst of this social unknown.