It’s here. The college prospects are waiting impatiently for their names to be called to an NFL franchise to start their careers. The “experts” are finalizing their final mock drafts before the real one begins, and fans everywhere await with anticipation to see who the next possible star is for their team. The NFL Draft is one of my favorite sporting events in the world, as it generates some of the best television across the globe. Every year, we witness a kid who was projected a top pick, drop late in the 1st round due to his character, off the field issues, or from videos surfaced hours before the start of the draft. We also witness a guy who attended a small school get drafted earlier than expected. It’s reality TV at its finest, as we watch people who have worked their entire lives towards their dream of playing professional football come to fruition.
This is where superstars are born. It doesn’t matter what round they’re drafted in, they’ve made it. For the top prospects, it’s time to go out and show everyone why you were selected in the first round. As for guys taken later, you were drafted late, and so what? Now it’s time to go and prove everyone wrong. The Draft is what separates the bad teams from the great teams. The best evaluators make the most of their draft picks no matter how much, or little, they have. The Draft is where careers start, as we’ve seen the greatest NFL players of all time come through the system. Guys like Peyton Manning, or Charles Woodson, who dominated in college, and continued their domination in the NFL. You also have guys like Tom Brady, and Deacon Jones, who were selected late and ended up having Hall of Fame careers. But what makes the Draft so thrilling, is the gamble teams make with every selection. As every year consists of busts too. Mathematically, with every superstar selected, there’s two bad picks made (I made up that math myself). Like Jamarcus Russell, who never panned out for the Raiders after being selected 1st overall. Or Ryan Leaf, where experts literally thought would have a better career than Peyton Manning, only to become one of the biggest busts in NFL history. This is what makes the Draft so fun. You never actually know how it’s going to pan out, and I can’t wait for this thing to kickoff this Thursday at 8pm (eastern time).
Although the Draft is exciting, it’s different this year, as COVID-19 has forced people across the globe from gathering in large crowds. We’ll be missing out on some of the things we’re used to, but there will still be some familiarity. The spectacle may not be there, but the emotions, and captivating trades will be. Additionally, this years draft class is rather deep, and every NFL team is chomping at the bit to acquire these talented athletes onto their rosters. The 2020 NFL Draft should still usher in high quality content, despite the impact of the coronavirus.
COVID-19’s Affect on the NFL Draft
By now, everybody is aware of COVID-19 that has put an abrupt halt on the world (and if you don’t, then please, stay under the rock you’ve been living in for the last three and a half months for all of our safety). The impact has been heard around the globe, as businesses have been shut down, social gathering is no longer at our leisure, and sports have stopped playing completely. The NBA couldn’t even finish their season, the MLB didn’t even start theirs, and the XFL got completely wiped out. The start of football season is in question as well, as College football typically kicks off in August. But we’re here, and for the most part, it’s out of our control until a vaccine comes into play. So in the mean time, at least we have some sort of normalcy with the NFL Draft launching this week.
Last year, the NFL Draft was held in Nashville, Tennessee. It was placed smack dab in the middle of the busiest block of the city, and it generated an estimated attendance of 600,000 people, along with 47.5 million viewers in a three day time span. That number shattered the previous record of a mere 100,000 attendees at the 2018 draft in Dallas, Texas. This year however, the Draft was scheduled to be held Las Vegas, Nevada, Sin City, where Nashville’s record would have been undoubtedly been broken as well. The bright lights, the gambling, the drinks, the strippers, the dru… Okay, the NFL probably wouldn’t have shown the REALLY good parts of Vegas on national TV, but you get my point. The spectacle of the Draft was going to be at its highest peak, and we don’t get to see any of that because of the coronavirus. Instead, we’ll be watching at-home video footage of the commissioner, the teams, athletes, and announcers. It’s going to feel like watching a group of 32 teams conducting a fantasy draft that’s aired on TV for our viewing. It’s like a glorified episode of The League, only the characters are much more serious, and nobody (that we know of) has a psychotic brother-in-law named Rafi.
With that being said, the NFL seems to have done a good job of preparing each franchise for this odd situation, as earlier this week they conducted a couple mock drafts to make sure the system works. It was reported there was a hiccup during the first pick of the mock draft, but after it was resolved it became smooth sailing. There’s also been reports of coaches and GMs arguing with their families to stop hogging the wifi so the system didn’t run so slow. But other than that, it seems the NFL is ready for business this weekend. At first, team’s front offices voiced their concerns of possible hackers, but that idea has seemed to die out as quick as Gronk’s retirement. Now team’s are worried about the leisure of reaching out and signing Undrafted Free Agents. It’s going to be a race, a first come first serve scenario, as team’s make the phone calls to sign who they can before the start of training camp.
Something else we haven’t seen before, is the lack of communication coaches have had with the prospects. Of course, they have tape, and they had the chance to watch these athletes perform at the combine, as well as had the opportunity to sit down with some of the players. However, because of COVID-19, visiting players in person was cut short. Some coaches have described the situation as “going out on a Tinder date, then immediately asking that person to marry you.” So it seems some of these picks may not work out the way they planned due to the virus. This is what is REALLY going to separate the best teams from the worst. Front offices who don’t have strong scouts and evaluators are truly at a disadvantage over the ones who do. There are a handful of teams that are depending on the draft to help them go over the top to make a deep playoff run next year, and there’s teams looking for young talent to enter their program and become the future stars of the team. Without being able to evaluate these prospects accordingly, we could see more busts than usual.
Lastly, my favorite part of the NFL Draft won’t be in full swing on Thursday either. Every year, on every pick he approaches the podium, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is boo’d by everyone in attendance. It’s glorious, wonderful music to my ears. The boo’s are like beautiful song birds singing in the early morning as you sip your hot coffee. The boo’s of Roger Goodell soothe me to my core in the same way a mother’s song soothes a sleeping child. And it’s been taken away from me. From us. Those boo’s and jeers we’re used to are now gone this year, all because some dude supposedly ate a bat!? It’s not completely lost though, as I know that everyone who watches the Draft this weekend will be booing from home. Although we won’t hear the boo’s on our television screens, we will be booing Roger Goodell from the safety of our homes, which truly touches my heart. Boooooo, Roger. Boooooooo.
What We Can Still Expect
Even though the NFL Draft will feel different this year, there’s still a few things to look forward to. First, we’ll still have access to witness the emotions of the prospects as they receive that call with great news. I love watching these kids who have sacrificed so much, and who have worded so hard, to one day be drafted in the league. The reactions they have as they pick up the phone and talk with the coach. Their loved ones swarming them with love and affection. The tears of joy, the laughter, and the pride, will all still be there, as most of the athletes will have an at-home setup for viewers to see.
Additionally, it’s not like the NFL lacks drama. The Draft is full of possible trade scenarios, sending different future draft selections, and sometimes, they trade away players to different franchises. This year there are some intriguing names involved in the rumor mill. Guys like Malik Hooker, Trent Williams, Leonard Fournette, OJ Howard, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jamal Adams have all had their names thrown around as possible trade candidates for the Draft. After this weekend, some (or all) of these players could have a new home by Saturday. The NFL is a race for the Super Bowl, and every team will do what they feel is necessary to accomplish that goal. There’s not only big names available in the draft, but these guys I named are big name players in the NFL already. There is going to be a ton of maneuvers made this year, adding more excitement to the already highly anticipated Draft.
We’re also still going to see the Draft “experts” be incredibly wrong like they are every year. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both work for ESPN, and it’s their jobs to predict the Draft. Only thing is, they’re literally wrong every single year. Where else can you work and be wrong well over 90% of the time? Now, don’t get me wrong, both Kiper and McShay are capable of spouting off stats about players you and I have never heard of, who have attended a school that is just as anonymous. So it’s not like the experts don’t do their homework. But it always makes me laugh to see Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay bash a team for it’s selection because it didn’t match with their own draft boards. It’s even better when that player goes and plays well, making Kiper and McShay look dumb for making those comments. So, it’s a sure fire bet we’ll be seeing the same, usual, inaccurate Draft boards the “experts” put up.
This Years Draft Class
This years class is DEEP. I don’t remember the last time there were so many QBs that have the potential to take over a franchise one day. We have Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert all projected first rounders with remarkable college careers. There’s also Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, and Jacob Eason that scouts are excited about as well. I mean, even the QBs projected late have some potential. I’ve seen scouts raving about James Morgan, Nate Stanley, and Cole McDonald. Another reason the QB position is interesting this year, is there seems to be more teams searching for a QB. Whether it’s a high caliber guy to come in and play right away, or maybe a team needs depth for the future. The Bengals, Dolphins, and Chargers, are all rumored to draft a QB with their first picks, while the Saints, Patriots, Titans, and Buccaneers, are all teams that need a young backup.
On top of that, we’re looking at the deepest Wide Receiver class to date, where many analysts are claiming they have up to 20 WRs named in their top 100 prospects. There’s so many good receivers this year, if your team drafts one in round 5, he still has the potential and the talent to come into the organization and gain immediate reps. Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, all lead the long list of WRs available this year, and for a passing league, the NFL is going to become more air heavy next year. One GM was mentioned, saying that he’d rather, “take the 10th best WR on the board before drafting the top TE in the Draft.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but really it’s true, as the number of talented WRs in the Draft drastically out weighs the talent in the TE position.
The Draft doesn’t lack any defensive talent either, as Chase Young is easily the top prospect in the Draft this year. I personally am more excited about him right now, than I was when Jadeveon Clowney entered the Draft. But Young isn’t the only name that sparks my interest. There’s some serious talent in the likes of Jeff Okudah, CJ Henderson, Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray, and Derrick Brown. There is so much talent this year that it’s very possible we’re looking at one of the best Draft Classes we’ve seen in history… But only time will tell.
It’s Bigger Than Sports
I’ve loved watching sports since I was a little kid. Michael Jordan was the first athlete I remember watching as I learned the game of basketball. Then that quickly transitioned to Kobe Bryant. Then I began watching football, where the first Super Bowl I remember was the Tennessee Titans VS the St. Louis Rams. I remember choosing to root for the Titans that game strictly because everyone else was rooting against them at the house we were watching in… and I’ve been a die hard Titans fan ever since. Sports contain valuable life lessons as well, like, how to work towards a goal, team work, leadership, studying, coaching, etc. It has everything you’d want your children to learn growing up, and they learn these life lessons while staying active, and staying in shape. These kids this weekend that are available in the 2020 Draft, have dedicated their entire childhoods to football, with the hopes of reaching the NFL and changing their lives forever.
COVID-19 has shut down the opportunity for any sports to happen currently. States are starting to open back up, and slowly but surely everything will go back to normal… eventually. The best thing we can do is find good in the little things right now, and spend time with friends and family (FROM A DISTANCE!!). It’s nice to know that the NFL Draft is going to bring some equilibrium to the sports world, as lord knows we need it. So on Thursday night, 8pm eastern time (west coast, you’re so lucky with your time zone, you don’t even know how good you have it), put on your favorite jersey, crack open a beer, and sit back and enjoy the NFL Draft together, from the comfort and safety of our homes.