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Klein ’20: NFL Draft Preview

The 2020 NFL Draft will take place Thursday night to Saturday afternoon, and it is sure to capture even more attention than usual due to the current absence of live sporting events in the United States. For the first time ever, the draft will be conducted virtually, with general managers sending in their picks electronically and Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks from his basement. To add to the intrigue, the league’s 32 teams have had to navigate unprecedented circumstances while trying to find the best talent for next season, since in-person scouting has been rendered impossible. A host of mistakes and ill-conceived trades could happen because of this limited format. As a result, expect a lot of confusion and hectic activity in the NFL this weekend. Let’s take a look at three big questions entering the draft.

Will the virtual draft run smoothly?

NFL personnel are learning about technology they have never used before in order to conduct the draft, which could prove troublesome. A mock draft practice-run on Monday had issues from the very first pick, with ominous reports of technical glitches surfacing. If major problems occur, teams could be racing to find alternate means of registering their selections before the clock runs out. If the draft ends up ruined by technical failings, Goodell will face a wave of criticism for not delaying the draft until a more traditional format was possible. Goodell wants to capitalize on a massive audience while many fans are staying inside their homes, but there is also potential for everyone to witness a fiasco. 

The broadcast could prove difficult as well; it is hard to provide entertaining coverage of a virtual draft for hours on end. ESPN televised the WNBA draft last week, which seemed to be reasonably successful. But player reactions in the immediate aftermath of a pick were handled a bit clunkily, as the network cut to footage of selected prospects too quickly — the players' televisions or online streams were sometimes several seconds behind the actual broadcast. It could be awkward watching players and their relatives sitting with no expression, not yet aware that they had been drafted. 

Will Joe Burrow and Chase Young be the first two players picked? 

Joe Burrow just enjoyed a practically perfect college season. He threw for a ridiculous 60 touchdowns and 5,671 yards, with only six interceptions. Burrow led Louisiana State to a national championship and excelled when it mattered most, finishing the Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff with 956 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns and no picks in two games. The quarterback has tremendous vision, placing difficult passes through tight windows with proper timing. The only questions that remain about the 23-year-old are his arm strength, which is not off the charts, and his age — Burrow is actually a month older than second-year professional superstar Lamar Jackson, so if Burrow ends up needing to improve dramatically, he will not have as much time to do so. Regardless, the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals should be overjoyed to have him join their organization. 

Although Burrow will likely be the number-one pick, it would not be a great surprise for Chase Young to emerge as the best player from this year’s draft. Assuming Burrow is selected first, the defensive end will be off to Washington, D.C. as the second pick. Young registered 16.5 sacks for Ohio State last year and should be ready to perform at a high level immediately. At 6’5”, 265 pounds and boasting an explosive first step, he has the potential to overwhelm opposing defenses throughout his NFL career. Nick Bosa, a defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers, was the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and reached the Pro Bowl in his rookie year. Young could follow that same trajectory next season. 

When will Tua Tagovailoa be picked?

Tagovailoa emerged as a star in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship when he replaced Jalen Hurts as quarterback mid-game for Alabama and sparked a comeback victory. The lefty put up impressive stats over the rest of his college career, showcasing impressive touch on his throws as well as athleticism and agility when navigating the pocket. Unfortunately, a serious hip injury that ended his season in 2019 could cause him to fall in the draft. Teams do not have the ability to check on Tagovailoa’s health in the same way they normally do, so organizations could hesitate to take the 22-year-old. The Miami Dolphins, possessing the fifth pick, appear to be in the right position to select Tagovailoa, but rumors have emerged that they might be considering Oregon’s Justin Herbert instead. Could Tua go to the Los Angeles Chargers, who have the sixth pick? Could the New England Patriots try to trade up and take Tagovailoa? Much remains to be decided. 

Thursday night will be a historic occasion for the NFL. Teams will have to make franchise-altering decisions without their normal scouting methods, unable to discuss situations face-to-face. This unique draft could make or break organizations in the years to come. And no matter what happens, it is going to be fascinating for us to watch it unfold.


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