Due to the current Coronavirus outbreak, this year will see the first-ever virtual draft. Scheduled to take place in Las Vegas from April 23 – 25 this year’s selections will take place remotely.
There has been much speculation as to how this unprecedented draft will work. Whether it is how teams will make the pick or what the TV coverage will look like. Things will look a little different this year.
We joined ESPN’s Seth Markman and NFL Network’s Mark Quenzel to piece together how the three-day event will work.
ESPN Controlling the Coverage
Inevitably, the TV coverage is going to look and feel slightly different this year. Both NFL Network and ESPN have teamed up to combine their coverage. So whether you watch ESPN or NFL Network is your preference, you are going to see the same telecast.
ESPN are controlling the coverage through their television centre in Bristol, Connecticut. It will be hosted in their studios by Trey Wingo and feature several experts and commentators from their homes remotely. So we should prepare for lots of flashy bookshelves and wireless earphones.
ESPN controlling the coverage means you shouldn’t expect to see your usual NFL Network favourites which will only feature Rich Eisen, Daniel Jeremiah, Michael Irvin and Kurt Warner.
What Will the Virtual Draft Coverage Look Like?
The commissioner will be announcing the picks from his basement in Bronxville, New York. Although ESPN is still testing how exactly this will look. It is unlikely we will get the ceremonial booing we have come to expect.
As all franchise facilities are currently shut down, it means we shouldn’t expect any war room footage. There will be cameras in all head coaches’ and general managers’ homes that ESPN will have some access to. So we will see how they are working and what their setups look like.
There will be fan involvement in some way. Seth Markman, vice president of production at ESPN, told us there will be a virtual fan concept. This is still being worked through and tested. If ESPN cannot find a way of bringing live feeds of fans, then The NFL has asked for fans to send in video clips prior to the draft of them chanting and cheering. The clips can then be incorporated into the live draft feed.
It is also rumoured that the NFL will be partnering up with EA Sports, who will be creating virtual moments. This, potentially, could be of prospects walking on to the stage to meet the commissioner.
What About the Prospects?
58 prospects have been invited to participate in the virtual draft from their homes. Each will have at least 2 cameras in their homes. One will be on the whole time to capture the prospects reactions to getting their call. The second will simulate the walk to the commissioner.
It is clear that the NFL are trying to make this experience as real as possible for the players. Whereas, ESPN are keen to keep it as normal as possible. So after the player has spoken to the commissioner they will then do their usual stage interview. This year remotely with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber who will be in a separate studio.
ESPN sat down with 70 prospects at the NFL combine, finding out about them and their stories, so we can expect to hear more about the players than usual.
What Could Go Wrong With the Virtual Draft?
The easy answer is a lot. Seth Markman from ESPN told us it is the most difficult event he had been a part of.
ESPN are not worried that the draft picks won’t be submitted. The NFL, each organisation and each staff member will have multiple fallbacks for every task that happens on draft night. There are contingencies for electricity blackouts, WiFi failings and anything you could possibly think of.
It has also been rumoured in recent days that the league will have the option to stop the clock and halt the draft if any team starts to experience technical issues.
What ESPN are clearly worried about is how the technology could fail during the live broadcast. ESPN are planning to conduct a much larger practice run than normal.
There will be more than 150 video feeds from across America that ESPN will need access to if they are to bring us the standard of coverage they want. They will be diverting the live feeds through a video call centre first to avoid and glitches.
The 2020 draft will feel and look like any other we have seen. The NFL are trying there best to make the event has unique and special for the players as possible.
ESPN are trying their best to make the virtual draft as much of a spectacle for fans as they can. Naturally, the draft won’t be the football extravaganza we have come to expect and it won’t be the show Las Vegas was promising. The NFL, however, do plan on going back to Las Vegas in the future. That promises to be the show of all shows.
Feature Image: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey