The 2020 NFL Draft will go on as scheduled, so says league commissioner Roger Goodell. The event was originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas from April 23-25, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to jurisdictional quarantines and shelter-in-place orders that led the league to scrap their Vegas plans, instead working to piece together a draft that will likely see them broadcast from a remote location with cutaways to teams on the clock and up to 50 prospects. Now that plan itself is in jeopardy, and Goodell may have to adapt yet again to a rapidly changing landscape dominated by justifiable COVID-19 concerns.
With new information that suggests COVID-19 may not simply be transmitted through touching, sneezing and coughing, but also through simply talking and breathing, team officials are reportedly hesitant to have a fully-staffed war room for the draft. Instead, some are considering the extreme measure of drafting from home, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, setting up virtual locales away from team facilities.
The league recently ordered all league facilities be closed, but that ban was to be lifted ahead of the draft.
Discussions are ongoing with the league’s front office on if this format will be given the green light, although it’s unclear how the NFL could force team officials to show up at their respective facilities — considering their concerns are for the well-being of themselves and their staff. The at-home draft idea isn’t a unanimous torch being carried by all 32 clubs though, with some still reportedly open to hosting limited staff as the NFL had hoped in its latest round of planning, per Josina Anderson of ESPN. The problem with limited staff is while precautions such as gloves and cloth masks can be taken, there’s no guarantee all involved would be 100 percent safe from catching or spreading the illness.
As sports leagues around the nation (and world) shut down due to coronavirus, the NFL has mostly continued to roll along, but banning free agent and NFL prospect visits are further evidence the league is aware of the dangers of COVID-19. Many are calling for them to fully commit to that belief and postpone the draft, but that’s not yet happened, and may never.
This means the league has a lot to figure out and very little time to do it.