While the NFL season is not being interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league is still being affected by it. The social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 have forced the NFL to go completely virtual for the upcoming NFL draft. This is in addition to the league closing team facilities for the time being. With this, many coaches and front office members are worried about what can potentially go wrong at this year’s draft. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers have an interesting solution.
COVID-19 is impacting the entire sports world
While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world, it has really impacted sports leagues.
When Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11, the NBA decided to suspend its season. The NCAA then canceled its college basketball tournaments as well as the rest of winter and spring sports championships. The MLB then canceled the rest of spring training and suspended all operations. Then on March 24, the International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Olympics.
This is all in addition to the postponement of the Masters golf tournament from April to November and the cancelation of the Wimbledon tennis tournament for the first time since World War II, according to BBC.
The NFL announces that the league will have a virtual draft
The 2020 NFL draft was originally scheduled to take place on April 23-25 in Las Vegas. However, the NFL announced the cancelation of all draft-related public events on March 16.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority—the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, according to Bleacher Report. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”Roger Goodell
Then on April 6, Goodell sent a memo to the league that team facilities will remain closed indefinitely. So, the NFL will conduct a “fully virtual” draft, according to a tweet from NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. Club personnel will also be in separate locations, according to the memo. Goodell said, “We will reopen facilities when it is safe to do so based on medical and public health advice, and in compliance with government mandates.” according to Bleacher Report.
Pittsburgh Steelers GM thinks the NFL should add three extra rounds
There are plenty of concerns when looking at the NFL draft. A couple of those concerns are slow home internet speeds or teams potentially getting hacked. Additionally, closed team facilities has equaled less evaluation time. There are not the typical Pro Days and private workouts this year. Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has a solution for all of this, though.
He told league officials during a conference call that teams should get three extra draft picks. This is because of the inherent challenges posed by the coronavirus restrictions, according to the New York Daily News. He believes that teams will be prone to make more mistakes without the additional evaluation time. So, Colbert thinks that a 10-round draft could widen a team’s margin for error, according to the New York Daily News.
All teams, however, can conduct video conference interviews with prospects up to three times per week, according to the New York Daily News. They can also interview an unlimited amount of prospects. The major setback, though, is that they cannot have the prospects partake in private on-field workouts.
So, will every team receive three extra picks in this year’s NFL draft? Probably not. There would probably be a lot of hoops to jump through because this involves player contracts. However, this is something that the league should seriously consider. Teams now have fewer opportunities to evaluate prospects. They also must rely on technology while deciding on the future of their franchise. Teams, and players, can only benefit from getting three extra picks. It would ultimately give them a little relief too.