FAQ: How will 2020 NFL draft be different amid coronavirus pandemic?

Most sports have had complete shutdowns amid the coronavirus outbreak, but the NFL’s offseason has gone on mostly as scheduled.

There have been some adjustments, particularly with the league’s upcoming draft.

The draft has become a three-day event with huge live crowds watching NFL teams select college prospects. That will not be the case this year.

With the NFL draft standing practically alone on the sports calendar, it might draw in an unprecedented number of casual fans looking for any live sports, even if it’s just commissioner Roger Goodell reading names. Here are some of the main questions as we prepare for the draft.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, left, stands on stage with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after he was the first pick of the 2019 draft (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

I’m new to the NFL draft, what is it?

The centerpiece of the NFL’s offseason is when all 32 NFL teams pick eligible college prospects to join their franchise. There are seven rounds. The order of the draft is the reverse of the previous season’s standings; the worst teams draft first.

It’s a three-day event and draws huge television ratings. The draft will be broadcast on NFL Network, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ABC, with coverage on Thursday and Friday nights in prime time.

When and where will the NFL draft be?

The first round happens on April 23, the second and third rounds on April 24 and rounds 4-7 are on April 25. Goodell has remained steadfast that the draft will not be postponed.

The location was supposed to be in Las Vegas, but the NFL canceled all public events for the draft. Las Vegas could be in line to host the 2022 draft. This year, it will look more like a made-for-television broadcast without the crowds. The NFL’s plan is to have a draft hub, from which Goodell announces at least the first-round picks, that video connects to all 32 teams.

Goodell will be announcing the picks from his basement, which sums up the unique nature of this draft.

Why didn’t the NFL postpone the draft?

General managers have complained the draft should be pushed back, but Goodell has refused. There aren’t any health concerns, considering the public events with the draft have been canceled, and the NFL has said it will conduct the draft in accordance with CDC policies on social distancing.

In a memo to teams, via NFL.com, Goodell outlined why the draft will go on in a memo, saying:

“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. 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.”

Will we see draft prospects hug Roger Goodell when they’re picked?

For one year anyway, we’ll miss the spectacle of draft picks walking across stage and giving handshakes and hugs to Goodell. The prospects and their families will not be at any central draft venue.

The league wants everyone involved in the draft, including teams and the players at home, to display social distancing and proper hygiene.

In 2020, we won't see scenes like when Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins gave an uncoordinated shoulder bump with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Are teams going to do everything remotely?

Team officials won’t be in a centralized location to hand a card with their picks to Goodell, as is usually the case. The draft will be done completely remotely.

As of early April, the NFL was unsure if teams would be able to have a limited number of personnel in the same room during the draft — with social distancing — or if everything would have to be done remotely. The league sent a memo to teams on April 2 saying they could be allowed to use the club facility if it is “safe and legally compliant,” or choose to meet at an off-site facility (the Saints said they planned on having their draft room at the Dixie Brewing Company in New Orleans).

On April 6, the NFL told teams to prepare to do the entire draft remotely, saying it would happen “entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format.” The NFL said some teams wouldn’t have access to their facilities by the draft, and the league didn’t want any teams having an unfair advantage.

What are the TV broadcast plans?

On April 13, the NFL announced its adjusted broadcast plans. ABC will have a prime-time broadcast the first two nights, which covers the first three rounds. That broadcast will be separate than a unique NFL Network-ESPN collaboration that will be shown on both networks.

The ESPN/NFL Network broadcast will originate from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn. The people on hand will “adhere to proper social distancing guidelines and local workplace rules” in regards to coronavirus restrictions, the NFL said.

Trey Wingo of ESPN will host, with analysts from both networks contributing remotely for what they termed “an all-star broadcast.”

What will the broadcast look like?

It’s safe to say it will be much different than any NFL draft we’ve ever seen.

Already the NFL has started the process of “inviting” prospects to participate in the draft, but doing it via social media and video from their homes, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. More than 50 prospects have been invited to participate.

We’ll still see picks announced, the highlights of each prospect, analysis from the networks and players giving interviews, but it will be done remotely. NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent sent a letter to prospects, saying the NFL’s draft plans are “a moving target” but that it’s working on solutions to highlight players.

“We are contemplating several options that we will be communicating to you once details are confirmed,” Vincent said in a letter obtained by the Associated Press. “We want to ensure that you and your family stay safe while we develop the best way to give you a great experience and highlight your accomplishments as you are drafted into the NFL.”

Yahoo Sports will broadcast a live show during the first round of the draft on Thursday from 8 p.m.-midnight ET. Watch host Michelle Gingras, college football reporter Pete Thamel, NFL draft analyst Eric Edholm and NFL/fantasy analyst Tank Williams break down each first-round selection. NFL senior writer Charles Robinson will also join the show with breaking news and inside information on the teams’ decisions. You can watch the show on the Yahoo Sports app and on the NFL draft page.

Are there any other notable changes to the draft?

While the television event will look different, the act of teams picking players will be mostly the same. The NFL has discussed giving teams a one-time option of extending their time to pick by 1-2 minutes, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said (via Tom Pelissero of NFL Media). That would allow teams to conclude trades. Other than that, it doesn’t seem the draft will have many significant changes.

Teams have 10 minutes to pick in the first round, seven minutes in the second round, five minutes from rounds 3-6 and four minutes in the seventh round.

What are the main stories to follow in the 2020 draft?

Other than how the league works around the coronavirus outbreak, there are some fascinating stories in the draft. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, coming off a Heisman Trophy, is expected to be the first pick to the Cincinnati Bengals. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was considered the top prospect before last season, but Burrow’s breakout and Tagovailoa’s hip injury changed that. Now Tagovailoa is a wild card in the draft due to his injury history. Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love are two other quarterbacks who could go early in the first round. The Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers are among the teams picking in the top 10 who are in the market for a quarterback.

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is considered the best non-quarterback in the draft and the likely choice at No. 2 overall, which currently belongs to the Washington Redskins. This draft is deep at wide receiver and offensive line, with some top-end running backs as well.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be the top pick of the 2020 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, archive)

Who will be negatively impacted by the changes to the draft?

The pre-draft process is much different this year. Teams are not getting the benefit of 30 pre-draft visits and workouts from prospects. They’re having to interview prospects on Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. The inability to hold pre-draft meetings at team facilities is also new.

Yahoo Sports NFL draft expert Eric Edholm broke down the biggest effects the adjustments will have to draft prospects. The group most affected are players who weren’t invited to the combine and won’t get to impress at pro days.

Regardless of the various challenges, the NFL says the draft will go on.