Storylines From NFL’s Successful Virtual Draft


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Stay-at-Home Selection: The number one NFL draft pick quarterback Joe Burrow went to the woebegone Bengals but was spared the usual trip to an NFL draft host city. This year’s draftees were on a stay-at-home basis as the NFL launched a successful first-ever virtual draft.

With the rest of the sports world sidelined due to COVID-19, the NFL held its first ever virtual draft last week from April 23-25. Hundreds of talented collegiate athletes watched from the comforts of their own home as their names were announced on national television. Likely due to the amount of bored viewers at home, the NFL Draft shattered viewership records, recording over 55 million views over the three-day period, with total views growing 37 percent from last year’s draft. Throughout the draft, the NFL placed heavy emphasis on thanking those on the front lines fighting against the coronavirus. To help the cause, the NFL raised over $100 million in COVID-19 relief  through the “NFL Draft-A-Thon Live,” program.

Several storylines dominated the buzz around the draft. First off, as expected, the Bengals selected Heisman-winner and national champion Joe Burrow out of LSU with the first pick, with hope that he can save the Bengals devastated franchise after the team went 2-14. The Dolphins selected Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick. Tagovailoa became a much-debated pick, as the electrifying numbers he was able to put up while healthy solidified him as a top prospect, however health is an issue as he was injured five teams in only two seasons. Lastly, one of the biggest surprises was star Oklahoma wide-receiver CeeDee Lamb dropping to the back half of the draft, as he was projected as a high pick. The Cowboys were ecstatic to pair him with star wideout Amari Cooper with such a late pick. 

The hometown Atlanta Falcons were one of the top pre-draft stories, as they were reported as aggressively trying to pursue a top-10 draft pick. Many analysts predicted the Falcons would trade up and select a top defensive player such as Jeff Okudah or Derrick Brown. However, the draft surprised many as no trade was made until the 13th pick, which was the longest it has taken for the first trade of the draft to happen since 2015. The Falcons ended up taking Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell instead, who was praised for his defensive prowess throughout last season, however  plummeted in draft stock due to his abysmal performance against LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the national championship game.

Ultimately, as much as fans and analysts wish to critique draft picks and grade selections, there is no current way of judging how well these players’ careers will be until they take the field. The football world is hoping that will happen this September, as growing fear of COVID-19 interfering with fall sports proliferates. Currently, as the severity of the virus months from now remains a mystery, there is no telling how the world of collegiate and professional athletics will be affected. For the time being, sports fans just have to buckle up and hang on until then. Go Dubs!