The 85th annual NFL Draft took is currently taking place, beginning Thursday night and ending today. Originally scheduled to be held live in Las Vegas, which would have also been a first-time occurence, the 2020 Draft took place from the homes of both league and team personnel due to COVID-19.
It was something we had never seen before. The virtual draft eliminated the live cheering and booing from fans that drowned out commissioner Roger Goodell’s attempts to announce picks, but it was a brilliant idea to bring in fans via video chat on a screen behind Goodell as he announced each pick from his home.
All jokes aside, the NFL and its broadcasting partners, Disney (ABC and ESPN) and the NFL Network, delivered on what mattered most — an error-free broadcast.
No obvious technical issues occurred as the NFL conducted the first round of the draft on Thursday. Instead of focusing on player interviews, the NFL displayed its powerful storytelling by showing the hardships of the draft prospects’ journeys.
The 2020 NFL Draft began with Commissioner Roger Goodell opening up with a powerful statement about all those who have been affected by the global pandemic by thanking the frontline workers, mentioning the NFL is holding a “Draft-A-Thon” to raise funds for COVID-19 relief, and holding a moment of silence for those who lost their lives due to coronavirus.
However, the tone quickly changed when the draft began. Following the opening statement, Goodell allowed fans to keep one of the biggest draft traditions alive — booing the commissioner. Those fans that waited patiently behind him? They were there to boo. The longstanding tradition between the commissioner and the fans even allowed Goodell to have fun with it by encouraging the boos.
Furthermore, Goodell surprisingly partnered with Bud Light to do a #BooTheCommish ad to quickly brighten the mood. It was the perfect way to provide some light to the draft given the unusual somber tone to begin it.
From there, the draft continued in typical fashion with the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Joe Burrow from LSU first overall. It carried on with all the typical before-and-after analysis sprinkled in between each pick by draft experts, giving it a real feel.
On the other hand, one of the coolest aspects from this year’s virtual draft had to be the inside access to the players’ homes. Since the 2020 NFL Draft could not take place in Vegas, players were selected virtually, leaving them to celebrate with friends and family from the comfort of their own homes. In doing so, it allowed for a glimpse into the homes of the draft prospects which gave a new level of access for NFL fans.
Another thing that was an interesting aspect of this year’s draft was how the communication would work between team personnel in regards to trading. Due to everything being online this time around, the draft reminded me somewhat of fantasy football. Having only a couple of minutes while on the clock to try and trade up or down was more than likely difficult to pull off due to this year’s conditions being entirely online.
Perhaps that is why the first trade did not occur until pick 13, despite their being multiple reports of teams that wanting to move up into the top-10. Tampa Bay executed the first trade of the 2020 NFL Draft when they traded the 14th and 117th overall picks to San Francisco for pick 13, as well as the 49ers’ last seventh-round pick.
Overall, this year’s draft seemed to be a success just like any others from the past. Although it was a different type of NFL Draft than we are accustomed to seeing, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. This year’s draft still had everything we needed — interviews, storytelling, analysis and of course, the booing of the commissioner.