Updated April 14, 2020 - 2:00 pm
Producers of the broadcast of the NFL’s first virtual draft still aren’t sure how commissioner Roger Goodell will be presented as he announces picks from his basement. They are, however, sure they don’t want those selections given away before they are made on television.
During a Tuesday morning conference call discussing plans for the joint venture, NFL Network senior vice president Mark Quenzel and ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman said neither of the networks’ reporters would tip picks before they are made on the broadcast.
“We feel very strongly about that,” Quenzel said.
The broadcast, which will run April 23-25, will look much different this year as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel really confident, but it is damn complicated,” Markman said of coordinating the broadcast, which he called the most challenging he’s been a part of in the 27 years he’s worked at the network.
Each of the league’s coaches and general managers will conduct operations from their own homes and have been sent equipment that will enable them to be featured on the coverage, as have a wide group of potential draftees.
Quenzel and Markman have assured teams no proprietary information will be shared.
The joint coverage will air on both networks and utilize reporters from both ESPN and NFL Network.
ABC will have a separate broadcast in prime time for round one on April 23 and rounds two and three on April 24.
Markman said only essential staff will be on the network’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut, in order to pull off the broadcast, which has become an even bigger undertaking than in year’s past due to social distancing guidelines.
“Most years, we are probably looking at 20 people in a control room at a time,” Markman said. “We are limiting it to seven. Everyone will be at least 6 feet apart, and I’ll tell you, it will be more than that. We are also mandating everyone behind the scenes wears masks. It’s tricky on a lot of levels.”
Goodell revealed he will be in his basement, though the network executives were still unsure of whether he will be standing or at a desk or what the backdrop may look like.
There won’t be fans to boo him, as is tradition, though Markman and Quenzel indicated they are exploring ways to incorporate fans into the broadcast in some way.
The draft was supposed to be a live event in Las Vegas. Both executives lamented the loss of the live element and credited Las Vegas organizers for putting together what was expected to be an elaborate spectacle on the Strip.
“Our guys are upset” about missing out on the draft in Vegas, Markman said of the ESPN crew and talent. He believes the city will be awarded another draft in the near future.
The coverage will also include a draft-a-thon to raise money for coronavirus relief and pay tribute to health care workers.
NFL draft schedule
— Round 1: April 23, 5 p.m.; ABC (separate broadcast), ESPN and NFL Network (simulcast)
— Rounds 2-3: April 24, 4 p.m.; ABC, ESPN and NFL Network (simulcast)
— Rounds 4-7: April 25, 9 a.m.; ABC, ESPN and NFL Network (simulcast)