This year the NFL Draft will be unlike it ever has before. This radical change in the Draft format will cause problems. With problems come opportunity. The Jets could be well-suited to take advantage of this type of situation. Let’s take a look at why.
First how will the Draft remain the same?
This is a good place to start. The Draft set up is exactly as it was in previous years. There will be 255 picks made by the 32 teams. The total amount of picks varies slightly through the awarding of compensatory picks for losing players in free agency or by teams having to forfeit picks through some transgression or the previous year’s Supplemental Draft.
A total of 21 selections have been forfeited since 1980 for 16 rules violations by 11 teams, while three other selections have been moved down from their original position. The New England Patriots have been the most penalized team, losing four draft picks for three violations. They may lose more in the future over taping of the Bengals sideline but that has moved that to the back burner for now.
2020 NFL Draft Schedule is
Round 1: Thursday, April 23, 8:00 p.m. ET.
Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 24, 7:00 p.m. ET.
Rounds 4-7: Saturday, April 25, 12:00 p.m. ET.
The Draft itself will be run as it has in past years. This means 10 minutes between picks in the first round, seven minutes in the second round, five minutes in Rounds 3 to 6, and four minutes in Round 7.
So what is different then?
Many things are different from the way we know them. Not since the days of Pete Rozelle and his chalkboard have NFL GM’s and decision makers seen such a profound change in the format.
First, all team facilities are closed. This means there were zero visits by potential picks and no chance to test their skills in a workout with position coaches. There were no medical checks by team doctors. There was no chance to test the knowledge of situational football.
Teams could talk to prospects through video conferencing. They did so in the past as well. The rules for these conferences were as follows.
- Teams could talk with a prospect by phone or computer up to three times per week (Sunday through Saturday) for a maximum of an hour per session.
- There were no limits to the number of total prospects with whom teams can speak. Yet with the limited time frame to work teams surely were judicious with the players they spoke with. If a team was video chatting with a prospect they were certain to have a legitimate interest in that player.
- Conferences could conflict with a player’s school schedule if applicable.
Though this sounds like it could be effective in the theory, it was likely difficult in practice. There was only one person at each video site as team officials must be separated. If you wanted to work up plays the video actually made the play sheet view backwards to the prospect so it takes time to work through that. Sessions could only be an hour long so how much could get done?
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert reportedly suggested that each NFL team should be given three extra draft picks in 2020 because of the challenges the pandemic has created. Colbert reportedly said that teams could make more mistakes without person-to-person meetings, pro Days and private workouts. His request fell on deaf ears.
Second, with team facilities closed all team executives will be working from their homes. Even Roger Goodell will be hosting the Draft from his own home. Each executive is to be by himself (except for a video crew). There will be no physical war room. General managers will be in touch through various communication devices with others in the organization, but this is a situation that could get complicated.
NFL coaches and most GMs are experts in all things NFL. They don’t appear to be a tech savvy bunch, though. Mistakes will likely be made. Ron Rivera of Washington has already said he will shorten his decision time to allow for problems.
Problems? You know there will be problems. The teams who can handle those the best will have an advantage. Trades may be made in haste or not made at all; so teams who want to move may have to pay dearly for the move.
Human nature is a fickle thing. An old adage I was told many years ago is that a confused mind says no. It is better to do nothing than to make a mistake, even if doing nothing is a mistake. So a team that is looking to trade up may not have a trade partner with the team they want. They will need to look elsewhere.
GMs may have to do most of the heavy lifting themselves. The league know that and is almost counting on it. In a radio interview Troy Vincent the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations said “We’re going to find out exactly where the true talent evaluators are.” He even told coach John Harbaugh to “stop it” when he complained that someone may hack into his computer.
All 32 teams will be connected via one video conference, through a modified Microsoft application, and will have a separate broadband connection with members of the league office. When they’ve decided on the player, they can pass it along directly to league officials via their internet connection. Land lines and email serve as backup.
There will be a time stoppage for a pick if a team has technical problems.
So how can this help the Jets?
Most successful teams have a well established protocols when it comes to the Draft. There is a hierarchy of decision makers who debate the choice. There may not be time for all that this year, and with the possibilities of communication problems this could exacerbate the situation.
Plus there is always the possibility of a surprise if a team trades up to take a prized prospect you were counting on selecting. Draft boards which are normally physically near your are now in the virtual world, not over your shoulder. Time is short, and you have to communicate to the NFL office swiftly. The probability of a team exceeding its time has increased.
Anytime you take a group of people out of their comfort zone, then add a time element you have a recipe for a disaster. You can almost be assured there will be a team that will cry foul after the Draft or during. This is a situation that can be advantageous for a smart GM.
Again how can this help the Jets?
The reasoning is simple. Joe Douglas was a scout who has become a GM. He has been in Draft rooms for the last two decades. He has probably dreamed about this for a long time. Unlike most other teams Joe doesn’t have a group of trusted confidants to lean on. Heck he has no idea what these guys are like in a war room. Now he does have Phil Savage, Chad Alexander, and Jon Carr to assist him. Yet deep down you know he wants to prove he has what it takes to be a successful GM in the NFL. He is going to trust himself most.
Now in future years he will truly know who’s advice to trust and who thinks like he does. Until then he has an idea in his head of what he wants to do and will proceed with that strategy. The less he has to rely on others, the easier and quicker the decision he can make. Less moving parts equals less problems especially in a situation like this with so many unknowns and variables.
It would be hard for Joe to forget his first Draft as a GM.
A quality Draft could be a springboard to a successful future.
That’s what I think.
What do you think?