Other than the Super Bowl, the NFL Draft is one of the most important annual events in the National Football League. Even in 2020 with most people watching it on television, it had an audience of 8.4 million viewers. Usually the draft is held in the stadium of one of the thirty-two teams, and alternates between each team every year. Because of COVID-19, adjustments had to be made.
The 2020 NFL draft was held completely online where everyone was in their own house and every pick was broadcasted through zoom. It was live streamed all over the world on five different platforms: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, the ESPN App, and even TikTok. This draft, although the first ever to be held virtually, had the largest audience ever recorded of an NFL draft. Every player that was selected had a camera in their own house where they would have a live broadcast that was connected to the main broadcast that millions were watching around the world. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, held the draft in his own house as he went through all seven rounds through zoom. Since the world has greatly improved since then, the 2021 draft was able to be semi-in-person, a shift back towards old versions of the draft.
Rather than being held in the Allegiant Stadium, located in Las Vegas, the draft had to be switched to a more COVID-friendly area where people could and would be able to attend. As a result, the draft was held in Cleveland, where the NFL assembled an outdoor venue where a limited number of people could attend. Even though they didn’t reach the full extent of a “real” draft, it was a drastic improvement from last year. Although creating an outdoor stadium from scratch in a week and fulfilling all COVID precautions was difficult, scouting the players was an even more difficult task.
This was the most complicated college season to ever take place. NFL scouts were scouting second and third string positions that were playing because the first stringers had opted out of the season due to COVID scares. Players such as Jamar Chase, Gregory Rousseau, and Caleb Farley were top of the class even though they missed the 2020-2021 college season. Managers picked their players based on footage and players’ all pro days rather than picking them off their performance in the past season. What made things even more difficult was not having a NFL combine. Every year, the top players in the country gather for a few days and do different drills for teams to assess their skills. Team scouts go to this combine so they can determine the player’s worth to the team, giving every team an idea of who they will be picking in the draft. Due to COVID, the combine was not conducted, so the scouts had to find alternate ways to assess the players, and compare them to one another.
Thus, the football brains of America came together and they created Pro Days. Pro Days were held in the top college campuses around the country. Every day a different team would stream their best players’ workouts in front of college scouts virtually, so they could evaluate them and have a less foggy picture of their draft line up. With the help of all these new inventions, the 2021 NFL draft was able to proceed and succeed.
Daniel Brown, class of 2023, said, “What the NFL did was just incredible. The fact that they could assemble so many people in such a short amount of time in this era is just unbelievable.” He was more ecstatic about the draft than Jimmy Rosen, class of 2021. Jimmy Rosen said, “I think that although the draft was incredible, it wasn’t very COVID friendly and they should make adjustments for next year.”
Overall, the NFL faced the problems of 2020 alongside the rest of society, yet were able to find an intricate solution for their annual draft. Over the course of the past few months, the NFL has made many incredible adjustments which will be shown in the future of football.