Coronavirus prompts NFL Draft to go 'fully virtual'

NFL coaches, executives will conduct their drafts from home

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The 2020 NFL Draft will feature an unprecedented fully virtual format later this month, with team executives working from home to select their rookies in order to comply with social distancing protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted the virtual format was necessary due to shelter-in-place orders in cities around the country and the indefinite closure of all team facilities. The decision was made in order to ensure competitive balance among all 32 teams and to “model safe and appropriate health practices” during the pandemic.

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“Because of these circumstances, clubs have been advised to prepare to conduct the 2020 NFL Draft entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format, with club personnel in separate locations and able to communicate with one another and draft headquarters by phone or internet,” Goodell said in a letter to team executives.

The NFL Draft will begin with its first round on April 23 and run through April 25. While the pandemic forced several U.S. sports leagues to suspend their seasons and the NFL to cancel its planned owners meeting late last month, the league has maintained that the draft would proceed as scheduled.

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The virtual format was confirmed weeks after the NFL scrapped its plans to hold the draft on the Las Vegas Strip. The original plan became untenable as the pandemic worsened.

In the letter, Goodell acknowledged the work-from-home format would be a challenge for team executives that have traditionally worked through the draft process from packed “war rooms” at their facilities. Since the pandemic forced the NFL to cancel all travel and rookie workouts, teams are operating without the benefit of their normal scouting process to assess college players.

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“I have spoken to many of you in the past several days and recognize the challenges facing all of us,” Goodell said. “We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before, one that requires flexibility, patience and cooperation.”

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