The NFL will conduct a mock draft on Monday as a dress rehearsal for the first-ever virtual draft, set for Thursday through Saturday.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league canceled its original draft plans for Las Vegas, where half a million people were expected for the three-day event. In its place will be a made-for-television event that will feature commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks from the basement of his Westchester County home and teams communicating via a range of electronic and telephone systems. Monday’s dry run will give the league an idea of what to expect for the first-of-its-kind football draft.
“Each team will have their own communication chain, where the GM, coach, owners and player personnel people will have communication using some video conference, phone and otherwise,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events. “We’ll be part of a mock draft [on Monday], which will be run through everyone in their positions.”
In addition to the unique format for conducting the draft itself, the league will simultaneously run a telethon event to benefit six non-profit organizations that are addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.
“When it became clear that this draft was going to take on a very different look and feel, we wanted to see what the best was for the NFL to unify in such an unprecedented time,” said Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility. “Let’s use this moment in time to give back, to raise funds, and to raise more awareness and use our platform for good.”
The six non-profits are the Salvation Army, United Way, American Red Cross, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, and the CDC Foundation. Isaacson said NFL owners, executives, players and other employees already have raised around $50 million to help the COVID-19 effort.
O’Reilly said the communications system on Monday will test the ability of teams to make trades during the draft, as well as how to submit picks.
“It’s really a communications test where everyone will be in their positions, where our folks on the [NFL] player personnel side will make sure the communication is strong,” he said.
Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications and public communications, said each team will have three people who are authorized to make picks.
“If there’s an issue at one person’s residence, two other people can make the pick,” McCarthy said. “If a team is experiencing technical difficulty, the [NFL] player personnel can stop the clock. We’ve built that in as well.”
O’Reilly said the league and team information technology experts “have been rock stars throughout this, keeping it simple, keeping it clear, and the [communication] kits we’ve sent to coaches, general managers and prospects have been straightforward and are being tested now.”
Coaches, GMs and several dozen prospects will appear on the television broadcast. The event is being produced jointly by ESPN and NFL Network, and ABC will have a separate broadcast.