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Yearning for sports, I’ll take a virtual draft

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Last week, I talked about the Basketball Hall of Fame class announcement. This week, I’m going to give my thoughts on the NFL draft going virtual.

This year’s draft will take place April 23-25. Since the COVID-19 outbreak has prohibited gatherings of large groups, NFL teams will make their selections via phone call.

This is actually how it was done in the older days when the NFL was just a baby. The NFL draft wasn’t that big of a spectacle back then as it is now. It wasn’t televised. People just woke up the next morning and found out which players their team picked through the newspaper or local news. Or if football fans were really interested, they would listen on the radio live as it was happening.

The NFL decided to move forward with the draft instead of postponing it for two reasons: there is no guarantee that social distancing guidelines will change in the weeks and even months ahead and the league and its partners have an opportunity to capture an audience that is thirsting for a shred of sports normality.

Those are very good points. We clearly don’t know when the coronavirus pandemic will die down and things will go back to normal again. In the meantime, people are yearning for some type of sporting event. I’m one of those people.

So here’s how this year’s NFL draft will go down. First, everyone will be safe at home conducting the draft through a video conference call. When general managers decide their pick, they will communicate via phone call or email.

So what if there’s a technical difficulty and a team misses out on a pick because of bad internet connection or bad phone reception? As of right now, the same rule applies as it did in previous drafts. If a team runs out of time for their pick, the next team will jump up and take their place and then the original team will make their selection when they are able.

This actually happened in 2003, when the Minnesota Vikings’ time expired as they were trying to trade out of the No. 7 overall pick. In the ensuing confusion, the Jacksonville Jaguars submitted a pick for quarterback Byron Leftwich, and the Carolina Panthers chose offensive tackle Jordan Gross. The Vikings finally got their card in at No. 9, selecting defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

There’s also a question of hacking and cyber security. The NFL’s security department has been working with Microsoft to gird its teams application as much as possible.

So how will this be broadcast if it’s a virtual draft? Both ESPN and NFL Network will cover the draft and highlight all of the picks from 8-11:30 p.m. on April 23 and 7-11:30 p.m. on April 24, then finally 12-7 p.m. on April 25.

So there you have it. Not even a worldwide pandemic can shut down the NFL draft. I for one am excited. My Washington Redskins get the No. 2 overall pick this year. I hope they get Ohio State’s Chase Young to bolster their pass rush.

You know I’ll be tuning in April 23. Will you? Send me your thoughts on the virtual NFL Draft. I would love to hear from you.

Also let me know if there’s a big sports story you want featured in the newspaper.


Marty Simpkins is the sports editor of The Wake Weekly. He can be reached at 919-424-1779 or marty@wakeweekly.com.

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