LOS ANGELES: The NFL Draft will head into uncharted territory today, with lockdown restrictions put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic forcing teams to take part in an unprecedented “virtual draft”.
The annual three-day marketplace to choose the cream of collegiate talent was initially due to have been held on the Las Vegas strip, with a special stage constructed amid the famous fountains of the Bellagio hotel.
But with Sin City’s neon lights dimmed and casinos shuttered due to COVID-19, the gaudy backdrop envisioned by the NFL for one of its biggest events of the year has long since fallen by the wayside.
Instead, the NFL’s 30 teams will choose the 255 draft selections from remote locations scattered across the United States.
With different states having different lockdown regulations, the NFL has ruled that all league and team employees participating in the draft must do so from offices set up at home using an encrypted draft channel designed by Microsoft. Teams of NFL technical support staff have spent weeks ensuring each participant has reliable internet connections at home while each team will have an IT specialist on standby at the home of its key decision maker. Fifty-eight of the top draft prospects meanwhile will have in-home cameras as they wait to watch NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announce the coveted first round picks from the basement of his home in New York. —Agencies