Last Thursday was the first Live Virtual NFL Draft. I had been looking forward it to for a few weeks. I hadn’t been looking forward to it for the usual reasons (my team had the second pick in the draft) or because of the excitement of trades; this year was about coming together in a totally different way because this NFL draft would be different than ever before. Not only was it occurring during the first pandemic in a century, it was happening completely virtually. Overall, the draft was a success! And actually, there were very little failures in the execution.
First, I’ll start with a focus on football itself and the theme of the first three picks. The first three picks all played for Ohio State at one time and for coach Urban Meyer, who is a college football legend at this point (assault accusations against one of Meyer’s assistant coaches marring his legend). The first pick was expected; the Bengals took Joe Burrow from LSU. Burrow is an amazing story. He wasn’t a starter at Ohio State, so he transferred to LSU, and became the number one pick in the draft. Burrow is from Iowa and loves to rep his state and give back. The second pick in the draft was owned by the Redskins (my football team). We picked up a defense player (thankfully!), Chase Young from Ohio State. The third pick in the draft came from the Detroit Lions, and they picked up Jeff Okudah from Ohio State.
The rest of the first round was pretty standard except for a few surprises. Miami drafted 5th, picking Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama. Yes, Tagovailoa had some incredible moments in college football, but he also has had three surgeries in the last three years, making him a high injury risk. Packers also pulled an interesting move trading their pick so that they could draft a quarterback (they have Aaron Rodgers for 3 more seasons) late in the first round, Jordan Love from Utah State.
The subsequent rounds of the draft had some interesting picks. New England picked up a kicker. After their success with Vinatieri, this pick could be big for them. Washington traded Trent Williams (left tackle and some drama) to San Francisco and picked up Saahdiq Charles. This is not an equal trade, so this trade will be interesting to follow once the season starts. New York Jets picked up a 5th rounder that could be a starter: Bryce Hall from Virginia. Dallas picked up two different corners: these picks could both turn into starters and cause problems for opposing team offenses. Finally, late in the draft, Arizona potentially got a bargain with a 222nd pick, a running back in Eno Benjamin.
Finally, lets talk about how the draft was different. Normally, the draft is a huge, live, in-person event. Due to COVID-19, clearly no one was together in a big elaborate set up (unless this is how we refer to the Arizona coach’s home, but pretty sure that was just his house. Yes, jealous much?). Every participant in the draft had live feeds, so viewers got a glimpse into players and coaches lives. It was fantastic and made the stories so real. Viewers saw families and players interact, which made the real emotion of a life changing moment to much more evident. Roger Goodell may have gotten a bit tired by the end of the first day, understandably, but that is also what made this draft one that I won’t ever forget. Viewers got a look into what is normally staged. The draft is always a major production, and this year was no different. I give major props to the NFL for the whole experience. I am counting down the days to the season starting.