People desperate for sports coverage since the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has canceled all major events are getting a welcome reprieve: The National Football League (NFL) draft is set to kick off Thursday evening.
In lieu of holding the draft with a live audience in New York or Las Vegas as it usually does, the NFL will hold its first virtual draft. Usually, each team’s coaches and management are shown huddling in their respective war rooms, but with social distancing in place, they’ll be discussing their picks from their homes.
The three-day draft event will be simultaneously broadcast on four channels starting at 5 p.m. PT on Thursday April 23: ESPN, ESPN Deportes, the NFL Network, and ABC. The NFL Network, ABC and ESPN will also stream the draft live for customers with a TV package.
For those of us without cable, a livestream is also available on FuboTV, which is offering a free trial week. CBS Sports will also carry live coverage, with commentary starting an hour before each round begins.
ESPN Radio and SiriusXM will also carry the draft and commentary. SlingTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV all carry either ABC and/or ESPN as well.
Round 1 begins at 5 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 23.
Rounds 2 and 3 begin at 4 p.m. PT on Friday, April 24.
Rounds 4 through 7 begin at 9 a.m. PT on Saturday, April 25.
Each team will still have 10 minutes to announce their picks and there are seven rounds with 255 overall picks available — the Arizona Cardinals forfeited a fifth-round pick this year because they made one in 2019’s supplemental draft.
The breakdown by round will also remain the same: 32 in each of the first two rounds, 42 in the third, 40 in the fourth round, 34 in the fifth round, and 36 and 41 in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively.
What might have a bigger impact this year is that teams’ offices have been closed since mid-March, when the NFL also ordered teams to stop predraft visits with prospective players.
The NFL has taken steps to make sure videoconferences aren’t hacked during the draft, according to ESPN. Microsoft Teams will be used to conduct the draft, alongside a separate conference call between all of the 32 teams and the NFL.
The league worked with each team to ensure reliable, safe internet connections and is allowing each team to have an IT support person available should any issues arise.
To compensate for any glitches, each team has assigned three people with the authority to submit their picks. Though the league isn’t giving teams more time for picks, it said it will accommodate any delays due to technical problems.
The draft is also serving as a fundraiser — called the “Draft-a-Thon” — for coronavirus relief efforts by the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, and the United Way.
ESPN granted Digital Trends exclusive access to their 2020 NFL Draft preparations and rehearsal. You can watch that on YouTube.
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