In order to prepare for this year’s NFL draft — one that will take place in a fully virtual setting due to the Coronavirus pandemic — the league decided to hold a two-round trial run on Monday together with all 32 teams. The plan itself was a good one, and the schedule pretty straight forward: trades were tested in the first round, with the first 16 teams all switching selections with the last 16, before a normal one-by-one rundown in Round Two.
Monday’s mock draft was supposed to help the the league and its organizations to identify and correct any potential issues that may arise, and it seems as if they got plenty of work on their hands: according to a ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the first team on the clock during the trial run — the Cincinnati Bengals, who hold the first overall selection — already experienced technical difficulties which in turn led to a two-and-a-half minute delay.
The issue was reportedly not the Bengals’ fault, but it was a sign of things to come as a series of reports by ESPN’s Dianna Russini illustrates:
I’m texting with multiple coaches and GM’s who are on this mock draft call and everybody is saying the same thing which is band width is a problem. There are many communication issues.
Text from a GM during this mock draft “there are early communication issues because 32 of us GMs are on conference call and we didn’t hit mute. Sounds awful”
Asked a coach to describe this mock draft “You got the NFL main room-that only main people in the organization can log into, you got 15-20 scouts/coaches on another meeting. You have to find a way to call prospects after you pick them, sign off on trades, lots of moving parts.”
I was on the phone with a head coach talking about the mock draft today and he was losing his mind because his Internet went down... apparently his young children were all on their iPads using up the band width. “everybody get off the Internet”-in loud dad voice. I hung up.
The NFL had already anticipated some issues coming up before Monday’s mock draft, with former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum recently noting that the league “will ‘stop the clock’ if teams exceed the time allotment to allow for trades that are in the process of being completed.” Needless to say, however, that IT specialists all over the league — including the New England Patriots’ Dan Famosi — will play a key role during this week’s event.
That said, there is precedent when it comes to conducting drafts virtually: the WNBA held its own draft last Friday, and there were no technological issues. Granted, the setting is a much smaller one — the WNBA draft features only three rounds and 36 total picks compared to the NFL’s 255 over seven rounds — but the foundational idea behind the two events is the same; the NFL and its 32 teams just need to adjust those new circumstances.
This process apparently already happened on Monday, according to Russini:
Just checked back in on league’s mock draft “smooth sailing!”
The league will have to hope that the early glitches and communication issues will get figured out, and that the infrastructure provided — the NFL is using Microsoft Teams to officially register the draft’s selections, according to Reuters’ Amy Tennery, with front offices relying on Zoom to conduct direct calls with other teams in order to discuss potential trades — does its job as well as the WNBA’s did last week.