Press Box: The NFL Draft should not be pushed back

Illustration by Erin Jhi

Ryan Grube, Staff Writer

As sports leagues of all levels across the nation face suspension or cancellation amid the coronavirus outbreak, one group that has remained an outlier is the NFL.

Given the NFL’s fall and winter-based season, the league hasn’t been prompted to postpone the start of its season. But it’s possible the NFL Draft, set to take place April 23-25, could be postponed to a later date — a delay that would be largely unnecessary. 

There won’t be a boat escorting the selected players across the Bellagio Hotel fountain to the stage in Las Vegas anymore, but the draft itself should still go on as scheduled.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that current plans are in motion for the event to be broadcasted in a studio-type setting, which would include live look-ins to the headquarters of different teams as players are selected. 

The NFL has all the technological means at its disposal still to deliver an intriguing show, with new elements, for fans in need of a major sporting event to enjoy.

General managers around the league have grown worrisome that there won’t be enough time to conduct interviews and to fully evaluate potential prospects.

New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis spoke on “The Peter King Podcast” on March 18 to voice his preference for a deferral.

“I’d be personally in favor of delaying the draft so that we can get some of the work done that our scouts and our personnel people ordinarily do,” Loomis said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it to prepare, and there’s a lot of work that is done during the draft.”

But front offices have access to video conferencing applications like Zoom or Skype that can be used to chat with players. That, combined with highlight tapes from college and the NFL Scouting Combine — depending if certain players were invited — should be enough for scouts to make decisions ahead of draft day.

The league doesn’t need fans present to orchestrate a successful draft. At this point, football fans should be able to appreciate a live sporting event on television.    

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and company already began the new league year without a hitch. The legal tampering period began March 16, and free agent players were able to negotiate and sign with new teams beginning March 18 — all without a pushback.

Now comes the next step as front offices prepare to stock their rosters with young, promising rookies.

Radio and television host Mike Florio said in an interview that because the league went forward with free agency opening on time, he doesn’t see the draft being put off for a later date.

“I don’t care how many people come out and say they’d like it to move,” Florio said. “I think the NFL is hell-bent on going forward with the draft.”   

The league office still has plenty of time to make any further decisions regarding this month’s draft, but the consensus among team owners is that they want to avoid a postponement.

By moving the draft to solely a television broadcast, the NFL doesn’t run a risk of athletes and fans potentially contracting the coronavirus, and people can still enjoy the show from the comfort of their homes. 

The NFL draft should go on as scheduled. Us sports fans need the live coverage to preserve our sanity.

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