On Thursday morning, the NFL told PFT that the draft will proceed as scheduled. On Thursday night, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an even more clear message to the 32 franchises that, four weeks from tonight, the draft will commence.
“As you know, we have been reviewing and addressing all aspects of our off-season operations, including the Draft, in light of current public health conditions,” Goodell informed all clubs in a memo dated March 26, a copy of which PFT has obtained. “Earlier today, the [NFL Management Council Executive Committee] discussed the issues relating to the Draft. The Committee was unanimous and unequivocal that the Draft should go forward as scheduled on April 23-25, 2020.”
Goodell also explained that he has “personally discussed this matter with many other owners, club executives and coaches, and there is widespread support for the . . . conclusion” to proceed with the draft as scheduled.
“Everyone recognizes that public health conditions are highly uncertain and there is no assurance that we can select a different date and be confident that conditions will be significantly more favorable than they are today,” Goodell wrote. “I also believe that the Draft can serve a very positive purpose for our clubs, our fans, and the country at large, and many of you have agreed.”
He’s right. With no live sports for weeks if not longer, the draft is all we’ll have. And the draft will, as a result, perform better than ever before, even though it will look like never before.
“Because of the unique circumstances in our country today, the 2020 Draft will obviously need to be conducted in a different way,” Goodell wrote. “Already, we have cancelled all public events, we will not be bringing prospects and their families to the Draft, and the Draft itself will be conducted and televised in a way that reflects current conditions.
“Our staff is certainly mindful of the operational issues this presents, and our top priority is putting in place procedures that allow all clubs to operate on a level playing field so that the Draft is conducted in a way that is competitively fair to all clubs. All clubs should now be doing the necessary planning to conduct Draft operations in a location outside of your facility, with a limited number of people present, and with sufficient technology resources to allow you to communicate internally, with other clubs, and with Draft headquarters. Needless to say, we will be prepared to adjust to changed circumstances in the next several weeks, including the prospect of clubs being able to resume even limited operations within their facilities.”
That will happen only if none of the states in which the NFL does business has mandatory “stay at home” orders in place when the draft begins. Currently, that’s highly unlikely. Which means that all facilities likely will remain closed, and that the coverage of the draft will look like every news and sports show currently does: People using their phones as cameras, and AirPods as earpieces.