This will be an NFL draft like none other.

Despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NFL keeps chugging right along, following the most important dates of the league’s offseason schedule. And that means the show, next week’s draft, must go on.

Here’s what you need to know about the NFL’s plan for attempting to keep things as normal as possible during this abnormal time:

NFL Draft: When and where?

The 2020 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 23, at 5 p.m. PT with the first round. The next day, beginning at 4 p.m. PT, will be Rounds 2 and 3. Then, on Saturday, April 25, the draft concludes, beginning at 9 a.m. PT with Rounds 4 through 7.

The draft, originally scheduled to be in Las Vegas, will take America inside the home of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who will reveal the selections from his home in Westchester County, New York.

We’ve never been invited inside his home, but we can only figure it’s a modest abode. After all, a salary of $30 million-plus annually only gets you so far.

How long do teams have between picks?

There is a 10-minute limit between picks in the first round; seven minutes per selection in the second round; a five-minute limit for picks from Rounds 3 through 6; and four minutes per selection in the seventh round.

The NFL is expected to be lenient with those time limits in case, say, the Bengals claim the dog ate their homework on Joe Burrow. The league also has provided backup phone numbers to dial-in picks and trades just in case there are any technical glitches.


GMs and coaches on camera

Obviously, there’s an entertainment value in taking viewers into the home offices of the decision-makers for each NFL club. It will give the world an opportunity to see where the top NFL decision-makers do their shopping. (Take a shot any time you see IKEA furniture.)

But the NFL also is using it as a way to verify that everyone is social-distancing.

The NFL wants to make sure the general managers and coaches are alone. Team personnel have not been allowed to get together since March 25, when the NFL put restrictions in place that prohibits NFL employees from working at team headquarters due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

So the league will be paying close attention to see if shadows resembling the outlines of 49ers executives Adam Peters or Martin Mayhew are off-camera at general manager John Lynch’s office.

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When will GMs and coaches know they will be shown on TV?

The individuals with cameras in their home offices are forewarned that “look-ins” could take place in the opening five to 10 minutes each day of the draft. So it’s OK to floss after that opening sequence if your team does not pick for a while.

Then, they could also appear on TV as they are on the clock, immediately following the selection of a player or after a trade has been submitted to the league. The cameras are set up for video with no audio capabilities.

We’re hoping to see a pounding of a table after a team picks someone that the team next-up targeted. Former 49ers GM Trent Baalke was always good for one of those.

How will NFL ensure there are no technical problems?

Next week, the NFL will conduct a mock draft to familiarize each team with the process. ESPN reports the teams will work from the script of last year’s draft. The 49ers can be expected to take a victory lap after making their announcement of Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick.

Is the NFL being "tone-deaf?"

That argument can certainly be made. After all, the NFL never has widely concerned itself with establishing solid footing on moral high ground.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The world, by and large, has come to a halt. But the NFL is about the only section of our lives that has continued on uninterrupted.

Free agency continued as planned. And in March the top national stories were, of course, COVID-19 and Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL does not slow down for anyone or anything.

This is just the opinion of the person whose byline is atop this piece: It is a good thing the NFL works in its own world. Amid the shutting down of the sporting world, this beast continues to operate without any discernible changes.


Sure, NFL personnel are inconvenienced. Sure, draft prospects are not allowed to travel to meet with club personnel or conduct private workouts. But those are details that do not concern the average fan. Those challenges are for others to sort out. The draft goes on ... just as it does in any year. And there is something refreshing about that.

The NFL has tried to answer the concerns of those who argue the league does not see the big picture. The league announced last week that the draft, which will air live on ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network, will serve as a three-day fundraiser  -- a “Draft-a-thon” -- that benefits six charities:

  • American Red Cross
  • CDC Foundation’s All of Us: Combat Coronavirus Campaign
  • Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund
  • Meals on Wheels America’s COVID-19 Response Fund
  • Salvation Army
  • United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund

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Which prospects are going to be part of the broadcast?

The NFL last week confirmed 58 of the top draft prospects committed to participate “virtually.” The league provided the prospects with the cameras to be installed in their homes for the draft.

The NFL advised the participating players to adhere to guidelines and “strongly” discouraging the presence of anyone who hasn’t been living in the same household with the prospect, Pro Football Talk reported.

After Goodell reveals the pick, he will have some interaction with the player –- unfortunately, there is no technology that can simulate a bear hug and lifting the commissioner 18 inches off his basement floor.

Here is the list of prospects who will take part virtually in the draft, listed by position:

Quarterback (7)

Joe Burrow, LSU
Jacob Eason, Washington
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Jordan Love, Utah State
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Running back (4)

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
Zach Moss, Utah
D'Andre Swift, Georgia
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Wide receiver (10)

Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Tee Higgins, Clemson
Justin Jefferson. LSU
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Jalen Reagor, TCU
Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Laviska Shenault, Colorado

Tight end (2)

Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
Thaddeus Moss, LSU

Offensive line (10)

T Mekhi Becton, Louisville
T Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
G Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU
T Austin Jackson, USC
T Josh Jones, Houston
G Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
T Andrew Thomas, Georgia
T Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
T Jedrick Wills, Alabama
T Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Defensive line (9)

DT Ross Blacklock, TCU
DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
DE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
DE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
DE Chase Young, Ohio State


Linebacker (6)

K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
Patrick Queen, LSU
Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Josh Uche, Michigan

Defensive back (10)

S Grant Delpit, LSU
CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
CB C.J. Henderson, Florida
CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
CB AJ Terrell, Clemson
S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota