The first-ever 2020 NFL Virtual Draft is over. The spectacle drew in a record audience of over 15.6 million viewers on the opening night of the draft. The 15.6 million viewers set a record for the most-watched selection show of all-time in regards to professional team sports. The NFL decided to revert to this format after they deemed it unsafe to have a physical location due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, Sports Talk 365 will provide a 2020 NFL Virtual Draft experience review. I explain if virtual drafts will be the way to go in the future and what can be done to improve other selection shows that may be held utilizing the virtual format.
1. Too Much Time to Announce the First Overall Pick in the Draft
If you lived in a location that was based on the central time zone standard, the draft started at 7:00 p.m. After all of the talking between television hosts and commercial breaks, the Cincinnati Bengals did not make their selection until 7:27 p.m. Everyone knew that they were going to select quarterback Joe Burrow out of LSU, so what was the point of prolonging the pick? The Bengals should have made their selection within the first 15 minutes of the draft going to live television.
2. ESPN Went Over the Top Explaining the Journeys of the Players Being Selected
One issue that seemed to gain steam among outlets such as Twitter and the national media was ESPN’s over the top delivery of explaining the player’s journey to the NFL. Based on my observation, every player that was selected had a tragic story attached to it. Were the players consulted by the NFL to release the information on how they struggled to achieve their dream?
One player in particular that garnered the attention of many members within the media was the Bengals selection Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins. Check out the image below, of ESPN explaining the details of the Bengals selecting Tee Higgins.
— 🏁G🏁 (@_WSBG) April 24, 2020
Did Trey Wingo have to explain to a national audience that Higgins’s mother battled drug addiction for an extended time? Probably not, but Wingo’s remark was one of many made over the virtual draft’s three-day experience. It had gotten to the point where I had to put the television on mute after the commissioner made the selection of the players being picked. ESPN would later apologize for the graphic being shown about Higgins’s mother.
“It was a mistake, and we apologize for it,” ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman told the newspaper in a statement Sunday. “We want our draft coverage to personalize players and, where appropriate, acknowledge the obstacles they’ve had to overcome on their journey to the NFL. This graphic lacked proper context.”
The network’s over the top method of explaining a player’s journey is an area that needs to be addressed going forward.
3. Improve the Overall Fan Reaction
Not having the ability to hear the crowd respond to the picks that were made put a damper on the total fan experience of the 2020 NFL Virtual Draft. Usually, when the event is held in a physical location, you can hear the fan’s frustration or the pure joy of a player joining their franchise. Due to strict social distancing guidelines, fans were limited to small groups that were shown on Commissioner Roger Goodell’s monitor.
If the league decides to utilize the virtual experience route, they should allow the fans to show up at team facilities or other venues such as stadiums so that the audience can hear the pure emotion of those picks being made.
4. Should the Virtual Draft Method be Utilized Going Forward?
The buzz coming out the NFL’s first-ever virtual draft is that it was a success, and it can be utilized by other professional sports league’s going forward. Analysts believe that the virtual method is cost-effective, and the draft can still be profitable without using a physical location. However, will it bring the rating number that it did a few days ago?
League officials must take into consideration that there are absolutely no live professional sports going on right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual draft experience can be a success going forward, but there must be some changes in regards to the overall fan experience and the time being utilized between picks. This is your 2020 NFL Virtual Draft experience review.
2020 NFL Virtual Draft Overall Grade: B+
Photo courtesy of KITV 4