On Monday, the NFL made it official – the NFL Draft would be going virtual later in April.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell just informed clubs in a memo that club facilities will remain closed indefinitely and the league will conduct a “fully virtual” draft, with club personnel separately located in their homes. pic.twitter.com/28t2kNnLAI
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 6, 2020
The two key notes from that letter: the teams will have to conduct their draft operations from outside their facilities and each team’s personnel will be based in separate locations (so, for instance, there won’t be a draft party at Bill Belichick’s house).
While this is certainly going to result in a much different draft experience, I think it could be a step in the right direction towards making the NFL Draft a much more streamlined, enjoyable viewing experience.
First off, without a crowd, a stage, or a green room, a lot of the dead time will seemingly be chopped out of the Draft. We won’t have to deal with watching Roger Goodell’s slow walk across the stage 32 times in the first round. We won’t have those painful shots of players sitting in the green room, waiting to be picked. We won’t have to wait for the players in attendance to leave the green room, hug several family members and friends, make their way across the stage, hold up a jersey, hug Goodell, and give an interview talking about how excited and happy they are. It’s fine to see once or twice, but when it happens ~20 times in an evening, it really gets old.
The lack of those dead moments could nudge the NFL to cut down the time between picks. Ten minutes between picks, with much less to do on-site, is far too long. Less time between picks also means there’s less chance for broadcasters to beat home the same repetitive narratives, and less of a chance that viewers will get annoyed by those narratives.
And hey, without the teams at their facilities, that means we won’t get the largely meaningless shots of the war rooms, featuring guys sitting around a table, applauding themselves, and getting coffee. That’s one more aspect of the Draft getting eliminated with the shift to virtual that we won’t miss.
To me, there doesn’t seem to be much downside for the NFL going to the virtual format. Sure, it was the only realistic solution, given the ban on mass gatherings in most communities across the country, but it’s also one that (if executed correctly) could show the NFL where it has veered off the course with the Draft in recent years. Instead of an utter slog, the Draft could be a streamlined, entertaining event that is focused on the game and its players, rather than the pageantry of the event itself.