The coronavirus pandemic has already ensured the 2020 NFL Draftalongside thousands of fans, but league executives remain insistent the annual event will carry on, outlining more plans for this year's dramatically altered spectacle during a Tuesday conference call.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell the draft would proceed as planned, running from April 23-25, albeit strictly over a broadcast rather than in person. On Tuesday, league executive Jeff Pash said the NFL's focus is now on ensuring "competitive equity" in the draft's selection process, as well as the "life-changing" celebration of prospects joining "the NFL family." The other big priority, Pash said, is "providing escape for our fans" amid the ongoing public-health crisis.
As for details of the draft itself, the April 23-25 event will primarily feature a central hub where Goodell will announce picks, NFL exec Peter O'Reilly explained, with additional video connectivity at all 32 team locations. Approximately 50 prospects will be part of the broadcast, as NFL Network previously reported, but live home video of NFL fans could also be featured. The league is still finalizing actual media production of the draft, Pash said, with ABC, ESPN and NFL Network preparing "multiple contingencies" and "second-screen experiences" to transform the showcase into an all-virtual experience.
Perhaps the most notable tweak to the process could be the implementation of a special rule for draft-day trades. Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive VP of football operations, said during the conference call the league is considering a "reasonable" idea of granting teams a one-time option to extend their selection window by one or two minutes in order to finalize a trade with another team. Since team executives will presumably be separated from both other clubs and their own team's staff during the draft, a potential extension could help teams in the event logistical issues complicate discussions. That possibility, Vincent said, will be discussed with the NFL's Competition Committee.
The lead-up to the 2020 NFL Draft, of course, has been unlike any other. Because all team facilities are closed, prospect Pro Days have been canceled, and no prospects are allowed to physically meet with club officials to further the pre-draft evaluation process, reportedly leading to a push by some general managers to delay the draft and give teams more time to prepare. Goodell, however, said in his announcement regarding the NFL's firm date for the draft that many team owners agree with the decision to move forward.