With most of the United States under stay-at-home rules, the N.F.L. has turned its normally raucous three-day draft into an online and television-only event.
The spectacle starts at 8 p.m. Eastern time, and will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the NFL Network, and will also be streamed.
Roger Goodell will announce picks from his basement.
In keeping with the times, all team officials will work remotely from their homes and Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce their 32 picks from the basement of his house in Bronxville, N.Y. He showed fans a tour of his setup in a video posted to Twitter.
During the draft, fans will see 58 top prospects via remote video from their homes, after the league sent “technology kits” to them by mail. (They will have to hug Goodell at some other point.) Between picks, viewers will see telethon-style performances from celebrities, including the comedian Kevin Hart and the singer Harry Connick, Jr.
Team officials will have 10 minutes to make their first-round picks on Thursday, and less time for Rounds 2-7 on Friday and Saturday. General managers and coaches have been showing off their draft tech setups on social media, with the Giants Dave Gettleman showing off a relatively lo-fi home office, at least compared with that of Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone.
If there are technical glitches while a team is on the clock, the N.F.L. will have the option of extending the amount of time the team has to make a pick.
No one in the N.F.L. knows how the draft will unfold. But the first two picks, which belong to the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, feel as certain as sunrise.
Who cares if Joe Burrow has 9-inch hands, as they were reportedly measured at the draft scouting combine in February? The Bengals certainly won’t. Burrow, the Louisiana State quarterback, won the Heisman Trophy last season. He also carried the Tigers to a national championship. A son of Ohio — he grew up in Athens, about 150 miles east of Cincinnati — Burrow returns to his home state to resurrect a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since January 1991, almost six years before he was born.
For the second consecutive year, a defensive end from Ohio State is primed to be taken at No. 2. It’s hard to fathom, given how well Nick Bosa played as a rookie for the 49ers, but Chase Young, who is likely bound for Washington, might wind up being better. Young had 16½ sacks last season, a single-season record for the Buckeyes. Across his two seasons at Ohio State, he had 27 total sacks and 35½ tackles for loss. As Washington rebuilds under a new coaching staff led by Ron Rivera, it can’t afford to waste its draft picks. It won’t with Young.
The Tua vs. Justin debate will get settled.
This draft is loaded with intrigue, but where Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gets picked Thursday night — and by whom — is the most fascinating story line. Once the presumptive No. 1 over all pick, Tagovailoa sustained a season-ending hip injury in November that shrouded his future.
His talent is unquestioned. But teams must consider both his present health and his history of injuries — a task complicated by the travel restrictions wrought by the pandemic, which prevents teams from evaluating him themselves.
Oregon’s Justin Herbert is expected to tempt the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, who pick fifth and sixth and each need a passer. Herbert stands 6-foot-6, 237 pounds and is only the second Ducks quarterback to throw for over 10,000 yards and score more than 100 touchdowns (Marcus Mariota is the other), stats he put up without elite receivers.
One of the biggest variables in every draft is the trade deals that teams make to pick earlier or stockpile selections for later. In the past 20 years, the draft has featured an average of 13 trades in the first round. With facilities closed to most personnel and all travel banned, coaches and scouts have had fewer in-person interviews with prospects than in other years. The lack of information about players from smaller schools may make known quantities — free agents as well as college players who appeared in a lot of televised games — more valuable, leading teams to make more trades than in a typical year.
No team’s moves are more anticipated than those of the New England Patriots, which ended the 2019 season with an uncharacteristic playoff loss in the wild-card round, then subsequently let the franchise cornerstone quarterback Tom Brady walk in free agency and traded Rob Gronkowski to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Jarrett Stidham, who has four career pass attempts (with one interception), and Brian Hoyer, a 34-year-old journeyman who has lost 12 of his last 13 starts, on the roster, New England seems poised to draft a quarterback at some point.
Bill Belichick has 12 picks, but only one, the 23rd overall, in the first round. Two points of history worth noting: Belichick is notorious for trading down, preferring to dig for gems in later rounds, and he has not often drafted impactful wide receivers, a position of depth in this year’s class.