While the rest of the sporting world remains idle due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the NFL pushes forward with the annual draft, producing it virtually this year instead of hosting it in front of a large raucous crowd.
In Nashville last spring, the draft was an animated and spirited event. The league estimated that 600,000 fans crowded around the NFL Draft stage or attended experiential exhibits near Nissan Stadium. The 2019 coverage on television produced a 3.9 household TV rating and averaged 6.1 million viewers.
This year, as Americans are asked to socially distance themselves, the league is using the event to drum up funds on behalf of Covid-19 victims. Dollars raised will be channeled to six major national nonprofits that are helping those afflicted or impacted. “Draft-A-Thon” as it’s nimbly being called by the NFL, will also pay tribute to the efforts of healthcare workers and first responders.
How it will look for teams:
With team facilities shut down, this year’s draft might resemble more of a fantasy football draft than the large ‘War Rooms’ and red-carpet venues we’ve seen in past years. In a massive IT effort, everyone involved in the draft coverage, including Roger Goodell, will partake from their homes.
Because of the novel multi-venue production, the devil will be in the detail. So there will be even more attention to the granular, for example:
- Each team allocates one “decision maker” who submits its team’s pick:
- Each decision maker is allowed one, in room, IT specialist for any technical difficulties.
- All 32 teams, through the Microsoft Team’s application, will be linked to one video conference.
- Additional independent phone lines will be established for trades between teams and for communication with the league office.
- Multiple technological backups are being established in the event that a team on the clock runs into issues.
How it will look for players:
- 58 players are slotted to be a part of the draft production, with the emphasis on being good role models for the public. That means no flashy Great Gatsby suits on the way to taking pictures with the commissioner in front of a ruckus crowd.
- No more than 10 people in a room, 6 feet apart, good hygiene, and no one with Covid-19 symptoms.
- 2 cameras in player’s rooms, one for live stream reaction shots and another for interviews.
How you’ll consume it:
From a perspective of insight, viewers shouldn’t notice a large difference between this year’s virtual draft and traditional productions of previous years.
The telecast will be under the joint aegis of ABC/ESPN and NFL Network. It will be presented across ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network, Thursday, April 23-Saturday, April 25th. It’s the second straight year that ESPN/ABC has worked with the National Football League to offer a multi-network presentation for all seven rounds. Highlights are:
- ABC to Present All Three Days for the Second Straight Year with Distinctive Prime-Time Presentations Thursday and Friday
- Hosts to be Primarily Based at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. Studios with Other Experts Contributing Remotely from Around the Country
- 2020 NFL Draft to be Streamed Through the NFL App, NFL.com/Watch and the ESPN App
NFL Draft Schedule
- Thurs, April 23 (8-11:30 p.m. ET): NFL Draft, Rd 1 – ABC, ESPN, NFL Network,
- Fri, April 24 (7-11:30 p.m.): NFL Draft, Rounds 2 and 3 – ABC, ESPN, NFL Network
- Sat, April 25(12-7 p.m.): NFL Draft, Rounds 4–7 – ABC, ESPN, NFL Network
ESPN and NFL Network:
Trey Wingo will host all three days of ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage for the fourth consecutive year. He will be based in Bristol. Wingo will be joined remotely by ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. (37th draft), Louis Riddick (sixth) and Booger McFarland (third). NFL Network host Rich Eisen (17th), Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah (eighth) and Pro Football Hall of Famers Michael Irvin (ninth) and Kurt Warner (10th) will also contribute remotely all three days. ESPN NFL host Suzy Kolber will conduct remote interviews with NFL draftees from an ESPN studio, and ESPN Senior NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will again be part of the three-day telecast, providing updates from their respective homes.
Hosts Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and Maria Taylor will lead ABC’s unique prime-time presentation of the NFL Draft on April 23-24. Featuring NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay (12th draft, first commentating on all seven rounds) and college football analysts Kirk Herbstreit (third), Desmond Howard (third), David Pollack (third), and correspondent/feature reporter Tom Rinaldi, ABC will focus on storytelling and the journey draft prospects and their families have taken to get to the NFL. Davis, Palmer, Taylor and Rinaldi will be in-studio in Bristol.
On NBC Sports Network last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell shared this with host Mike Tirico and the audience: “It’s important to have normalcy…We’re doing this in a way that I think demonstrates that you can continue to do what we need to do in this country and do it safely from home…Our clubs want their rosters finalized, they want to be moving forward…We want to keep on schedule as best we can.”
As for Draft-A-Thon, Goodell said: “All of this hopefully will inspire our country, but also it’s giving us a platform to thank the people that are on the frontline…We have a great opportunity here to provide relief funds for so many people that are in need today.”
- Players with injury concerns or off-the-field issues could very well suffer because in-person interviews with draftees were limited due to travel restrictions caused by Covid-19. Stocks of these players can drop.
- General Managers, front office personnel and scouts all stake their reputations and often their jobs on players they ultimately draft. Thus, they might be less willing to take risks on the unknown or the unsure.
- After failing two pre-draft physicals, Alabama’s Tua Tagovaila’s injury history might cause his draft stock to draft. He can wind up the 3rd quarterback (after Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert) taken in the draft and fall below the top 10 overall pick.
- Overrated: Joe Burrow (LSU) Late bloomer or product of a system? Yes, I’m going with the overwhelming presumptive number one overall pick as my overrated QB selection. Ultimately, it comes down to opportunity cost. I’m wary of a red-shirt 4-year starter who didn’t pop until his final season on an offense loaded with high end, soon to be, NFL talent. While I expect Burrow to be an above average franchise QB, I don’t believe he’ll live up to the hype of being a #1 overall pick. If I were the Bengals, I would trade down, collect a ransom of high leverage picks, and still be in a position to take a top ranked QB this year or next.