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In the Age of Quarantine, the NFL Draft Will Look Different

Unless you’re hiding under a rock or have completely thrown your calendar out, if you’re a sports fan, you know that tonight (April 23) starts the first round of the NFL Draft. As exciting as it stands to be, this year’s draft is going to look unique compared to past years.

We’re used to the NFL Draft as a made-for-TV spectacle in a brightly lit venue with energetic and excited live audiences both inside and outside. In the age of quarantine, the normal isn’t the case. What will the 2020 NFL Draft look like?

On the back end, the draft will work the same as it has the past several years, with teams submitting their picks via Microsoft Teams and general managers calling each other for trades and other conversations. The NFL held a mock draft earlier this week with all 32 teams participating to test systems and ensure that communications work properly.

How will things look for us, the viewers? The NFL has announced that coverage won’t take place in Las Vegas as originally planned:

ESPN and NFL Network will combine to offer a singular presentation across both networks, while ABC will present its own distinctive, prime-time telecasts for rounds 1-3, in addition to simulcasting the ESPN and NFL Network telecast of rounds 4-7.

The 2020 NFL Draft telecasts – originally scheduled to be on-site in Las Vegas, Nevada – will now originate from ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., studios and adhere to proper social distancing guidelines and local workplace rules due to COVID-19. Draft hosts and a limited number of commentators will be in-studio while a majority of the analysts, reporters and other experts will contribute remotely from home studios. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will introduce the picks from his home.

Additionally, the draft coverage will include a virtual fundraiser toward the efforts to combat COVID-19 as well as to support first responders.

As previously announced, the NFL Draft will also feature a “Draft-A-Thon”which will pay tribute to healthcare workers and first responders in a variety of ways – including raising funds for the work being done to combat the impact of COVID-19. Funds will help support six national nonprofits and their respective COVID-19 relief efforts.

Obviously we won’t see Roger Goodell strolling out to the boos of the crowd. We won’t see players excitedly entering the stage to grab a jersey from their new team. We won’t get quick cuts to the “war rooms” where teams frantically make the next decisions.

What we will get with ESPN’s combined coverage with the NFL Network is information from experts and analysts, as well as live interviews with players. ABC will feature ESPN’s college football broadcast team and will focus on storytelling and the journeys that each player has taken to get to the NFL.

One interesting facet of this year’s draft is that it looks to become the most gambled-on draft in history. With so many people stuck at home and not traveling, coupled with no other American sporting events to bet on, sportsbooks are seeing more bets on the draft than ever.

The Associated Press reports:

“There’s no doubt this will be the biggest-bet draft ever,” said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S. “The draft is a time of renewal, and I think people are looking forward to a bit of fun after all of the tough news we’ve had recently. Betting on the draft is small in context, so this is no silver bullet, but it’s something positive for sure.”

He said he expected his company to see 10 times the amount of bets it usually does on the draft.

Experts suggest that bets on the NFL Draft could total between $5 million and $20 million, much more than the average of $1 million bet on the draft in normal years.

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