The changes coronavirus has created across the world have far-reaching ripple effects that vary in both size and scope, with the health and safety of humans being the top priority, miles and miles ahead of the cancellation of sports. Almost every single major event has either been canceled or postponed, except the NFL Draft. As we prepare to watch modified sporting events for the foreseeable future, the NFL Draft will serve as the test dummy, possibly producing more exciting results than ever before.
Originally set to take place in the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, picks in the 2020 NFL Draft will now be made from home. Instead of shuttered in a large conference room, front office personnel must reach a conclusion by communicating via Zoom meeting or conference call. The technology aspect almost guarantees that something will go wrong, to the detriment of one inept franchise (I’m looking at you, Bengals) but that’s not what will make this year’s event so mesmerizing.
Scouts were able to evaluate players at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, but they missed out on dozens of pro days across the country. Mark Stoops joked, “Maybe it will be good for them to quit worrying about all the other things and just look at the film and see who the best football players are.”
The absence of pro days is obviously going to force front office personnel to grind more tape. There’s one other big thing missing from the experience that will go unnoticed by the untrained eye.
Former NFL scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes this year will be so much more unpredictable because the scouts that follow each other from one pro day to the next have not spent enough time together on the road to reach a broad consensus on the pecking orders of players.
I believe we'll see less groupthink in the draft this year. At pro days, coaches & scouts (from diff teams) spend so much time around each other & they end up forming a consensus on players. Not the case this year. Some will be shocked at how high/low these guys go.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 17, 2020
This consensus is not reached by some sinister plan. As Freddie Maggard pointed out on the KSR Football Podcast, this can gradually happen when the NFL guys have casual conversations about their jobs sitting around the breakfast table. As they get a better idea of where players stand throughout the process, this large community of scouts will eventually share their knowledge with the media.
“The media is wronger about mock drafts this year than you guys have ever been,” a general manager told Ian Rapoport.
There will be more twists and turns with unexpected picks than ever before. It may not be evident in the first round but you will see if in the later rounds. The mock drafters may have one player in the fourth round, but a team may like him too much to turn down in the second round (cough, Lynn Bowden, cough cough).
The absence of groupthink in the NFL community is going to make the 2020 NFL Draft the most unpredictable in years. Grab your popcorn and enjoy as history unfolds this Thursday.