NFL Draft Goes Virtual

(Photo: Raiders.com)

By: Amber Wilson

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The 2020 NFL Draft will still take place April 23-25

TV and Live Stream: NFL Network, ESPN, and ABC

Round 1: Thursday, April 23, 5 p.m. PT

Round 2-3: Friday, April 24, 4 p.m. PT

Round 4-7: Saturday, April 25, 9 a.m. PT

The spread of the coronavirus in the United States has put a halt of sporting events all around the country and had prompted questions whether the 2020 NFL season will take place or not. The NFL is working close to figuring out the regular season schedule depending on when the virus decreases across the country and they come up with a plan to keep the players, fans, and workers safe. 

The NFL has more leeway in terms of pushing back a start date and taking games off the regular schedule, but there is that possibility that the 2020 football season could be shortened. With the change is the season brings the NFL to move the NFL draft to virtual. There are 32 general managers in the NFL, but a few as confident as our GM Mike Mayock when it came to the 2020 NFL Draft. NFL draft was supposed to represent a grand introduction to Las Vegas as the league’s newest market. The entertainment hub had big plans for the three-day event on The Strip, adjacent to the site of the nearly-constructed Allegiant Stadium that will be the Raiders’ new home in 2020. For the first time in its history, the draft was held virtually this year because of COVID-19. As you can imagine, this presents a lot of obstacles; however, our general manager Mayock and our scouting department weren’t worried. Personally as a fan (not just as Raider fan and employee). Another coworker of mine, Mark Garcia talks about his perspective on the virtual draft. He states “I thought it was weird at first. But then realized I watch the draft from home every year anyway so it wasn’t much different other than nobody’s walking on the stage”. 

This draft was different and another one of my co-workers, Randy Ventura felt different about it than past years. Overall the vibe of the draft was different due to the pandemic but it went pretty smooth for it being the first time doing something like this. I’m happy that Tua got drafted in the top 5 who my family knows him and had the opportunity to play against him in high school. I was so happy when Justin Herbert got draft pretty high in the draft from Oregon because I am a huge Oregon fan myself. For the Raiders, I really like our draft class and think with the players we pick up, we have a pretty high chance to make the playoffs. Now we just have to trust Gruden and Mayock process in what they have in store this season and what I like to say “In Gruden We Trust”.

More than 55 million viewers tuned in to watch an NFL draft unlike any other in the past. Thursday’s first-round alone drew 15.6 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels, shattering the previous record of 12.4 million in 2014.”

With one of the biggest issues over the last month has been performing physicals during free-agent signings, and continue to be an issue during the draft, Mayock, Head Coach Jon Gruden, and their crew have done their due diligence. Each team usually congregates together in the draft room, but this year everyone will operate individually from their homes.

The city of Las Vegas was very excited of course to be hosting the draft and with the bonus of it being the official year, the Raiders would be in their new home by the end of the summer. With the draft being virtual now they had to cancel having the red carpet stage constructed atop the lake at the fountains of the famous Bellagio Hotel, on the Las Vegas strip. Draftees and their families will have to be ferried to-and-from the stage for red carpet interviews. Raiders were to host after-parties at some of our local nightclubs to kick-off and celebrate the draft weekend and the new draftees, but that came to an end when COVID-19 took over. Fans like Mark and Raider Nation believed that the NFL and Raiders adapted to the virtual draft, they did it’s best obviously since it was the first time ever the draft would be done like this. 

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The Raiders slated to pick at No. 12 and No. 19 overall, they were once predicted by NFL analysts to select a linebacker at No. 19, but with the additions of Cory Littleton and Nick, Kwiatkoski caused those predictions to become highly unlikely. During the draft progresses, Mayock and coach Gruden evaluate their draft board as players were selected, and weigh their options accordingly. With the draft being virtual, it presents an interesting element to the complexity of the whole thing, but Mayock had it under control with his five whiteboards. Mayock and Gruden have positioned the Raiders in an excellent spot with two first-round picks and a trio of third-round picks. Because of their success in signing key free agents in March, it’s allowed the front office to hone in on the needs that can be addressed during the draft, with the biggest one being a wide receiver.

With the help of social media, the officially Las Vegas Raider account made the draft experience more interactive and personal with video content of their draft picks accepting their offer from our general manager. A tradition that our social media team does every year for the draft is: “ I’m happy to be a raider” where fans post a picture of them in their Raider gear and tag them to get reposted on the official account. The Raiders’ social media always does a good job not just during the draft but they have a way of keeping us informed (me being a die-hard fan I had other means of getting info on the players). I feel they did a good job of informing their followers (both casual and hardcore). Since the take over of COVID-19, they have been ahead of the media in their decision of canceling the NFL draft celebrations with a statement from our owner Mark Davis saying,  “After careful consideration, the Las Vegas Raiders, the NFL, the NFLPA and the LVCVA have decided to cancel the 2020 Las Vegas NFL Draft celebration. Health and safety have always been our top priority, so despite it being a major disappointment, this was the right decision. I would like to thank Governor Sisolak and the LVCVA for all of the passion they put into creating an event that would have been second to none. Although Las Vegas lost this chance to shine, there will be many more opportunities to show the world just what Las Vegas is made of. Whether it be the Draft, the Pro Bowl, or the Super Bowl, the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World is ready”!

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Just before the Raiders’ second first-round pick during Thursday’s draft telecast, commissioner Roger Goodell announced said “I’m pleased to announce that Las Vegas will host the 2022 NFL draft, where we look forward to holding an even bigger and better event than we could have ever imagined this year,” Goodell said in a statement. “Congratulations to Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Raiders’ organization, and Raider Nation.” The NFL Draft is coming to Las Vegas in 2022. Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft said that, despite the disappointment in missing out on this year’s draft, the county is ready to try again in 2022.

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“The NFL knows that nothing can keep us down for long. They know that the greatest hospitality and entertainment workers in the world will be ready to welcome them come 2022. NFL fans, we will see you in 2022 for the NFL draft in Las Vegas.

 

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