Let me say right off the top I’m no fan of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
He’s heavy-handed, can care less about the fans who support his league, is beholden to the networks, hasn’t done right by those players and coaches who made the NFL what it is today and his game has never been more poorly officiated or steeped in controversy as it currently is.
But when Goodell told his general managers Friday the NFL Draft is going on as scheduled next month, I applauded his decision. This one he got right.
I was actually looking forward to covering the draft for Gaming Today had it been held in Las Vegas. It was going to be GT’s initial opportunity to connect with the city’s newest team, the Raiders. We have plans to cover the Raiders every week, attend home games, maybe make a few road trips and fold it into our usual comprehensive NFL coverage, both in print and digitally, much like we do online with the NHL’s Golden Knights and with UNLV basketball and football.
But the draft will be conducted from New York, where the NFL’s headquarters are located. Teams will send their selections to the league in some electronic form, the picks will be announced and fans all over the world will be able to track their favorite team’s selections on television. The only thing missing will be the bro-hugs between Goodell and the draftees. I don’t know about you, but I can live with that.
The notion to push the draft back to May or even June had zero merit. Every team has been scouting college players for months, even years in some cases. If they don’t have their boards built by now, they deserve to fail on April 23.
They should be conducting mock drafts now. They should be focusing in on filling their needs and honing in on those players who can address those needs. Another month to deliberate isn’t going to make them any smarter.
But here’s the most important reason the NFL needs to maintain the status quo and keep the draft on the dates it designated. Most of the country can’t leave their homes and I can’t think of a better diversion for America than to watch the NFL Draft unfold in front of them in real time. By April 23, you will probably have had your fill of binge watching whatever Netflix, HBO or Showtime has produced. You certainly are going to need a break from the daily depressing reports on the news. What better way to get your minds off quarantining than seeing who the Jets draft? You can boo at your flat screen and they’ll probably hear it in Florham Park.
Think of the ratings for the struggling networks. ESPN and the NFL Network will think Christmas came early. And Mel Kiper Jr. can re-introduce himself to America. Not that anyone ever forgot him.
Believe it or not, the NFL used to conduct the draft the way it plans to next month. The league ran it out of its New York office, teams called in their picks on a rotary telephone and the names were placed on a blackboard.
This time, it’ll be a little more sophisticated. Every team works from home, the picks get sent to the league electronically and announced by Goodell on TV. The players will likely be Skyped in or FaceTimed for their perfunctory interviews. The media covering the draft will be doing interviews via teleconference with the GM and coach along with the players who were selected and they’ll get their stories up on their website for you to read and watch.
I’m sure the NFL will give Vegas another shot at some point. This is going to be a one-off for Goodell and his league. In 2021, assuming no other pandemics attack the world, the draft will go to a city, hundreds of thousands will show up, there’ll be a red carpet and a green room.
And there’ll be bro-hugs with Goodell. All will be right in our world.