The coronavirus pandemic has brought much of the world to a screeching halt, but it hasn’t been able to stop the NFL’s draft clock.
That’s right. The league’s 32 teams will still be on the clock for the 2020 NFL Draft being held virtually Thursday through Saturday. The NFL had originally planned to hold the draft in Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders, but each team will instead submit their selections at home without staff physically being together.
With states all following different stay-at-home guidelines, the NFL made a rule change saying all league and team employees had to work from home during the draft, in the interest of creating a fair playing field. That includes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell who will reportedly announce the first-round picks from his home in New York (perhaps to less booing than he usually receives from fans).
Teams will still have their usual time on the clock to make a draft selection; the amount of time varies by round. However, the NFL’s player personnel department will have the ability to pause the draft in the event a team can’t submit a pick because of technical problems.
On Monday, the NFL held a simulated league-wide mock draft, during which some general managers reportedly had glitches and communication issues.
In a Tuesday call with reporters, Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace said the mock draft went smoothly from his perspective and that the team feels “very prepared” heading into the draft.
But running his draft operations out of his dining room is not without its challenges.
“You know, I’ve got this amazing setup with all these screens and [Pace’s wife] Stephanie [is] vacuuming and hits the chord and every screen goes black,” Pace said.
Some pundits are expecting the number of trades during the draft to be down because of the technical and communications concerns. Pace doesn’t think that will make his team any less aggressive though.
“I don’t feel like trades for us are going to be any more difficult this year. I mean I have a phone right here in front of me, it’s the same phone that I would have in the draft room. I don’t have any concerns about us pulling off trades or being aggressive in that nature if we need to be.”
The Bears finished last season with an 8-8 record, a disappointing third in the NFC North Division. The Bears don’t have a first round pick this year; they have seven total picks beginning with two in the second round.
The team looks to add playmakers who can start contributing despite a potentially uncertain offseason.
“Football intelligence is always an emphasis for us. I think maybe we’re even more mindful of that this year — just having guys with high football IQ,” Pace said.
One of the questions facing Pace is whether to draft a quarterback.
The Bears starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had an up and down season last year.
Last month, the Bears traded the Jacksonville Jaguars for quarterback Nick Foles. Foles is perhaps better known for his stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the 2017-2018 season when he helped the team win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Pace announced after the trade that it would be an “open competition” at the quarterback position. Will Pace be looking to open up that competition even more by drafting a quarterback?
“We’re always gonna take the best player available. So, if a quarterback was there and he was the highest guy on our board, in a strong way, we would consider that. I think that we would consider every position,” Pace said. “Let’s face it, the draft is risky enough, when you deviate from taking [the] best player [available] I think you just increase your risk.”
Whether or not the Bears draft a quarterback the team has needs to fill at offensive line, tight end and cornerback, to name a few.
Former Bears offensive lineman and WTTW News football analyst James “Big Cat” Williams gives us his three takes on what the team needs to address in the draft:
Big Cat Take #1: Offensively, the Bears need to find a weapon that opposing defenses will have to prepare to stop every game like: a tight end that causes matchup problems because of either his size or flat-out ability, a wide receiver that has the ability to take the top off of the defense, or a running back with breakaway speed.
Big Cat Take #2: Defensively, the team needs to add a safety or a corner to help sure-up the secondary.
Big Cat Take #3: The much talked about quarterback. The team should add a quarterback in the later rounds that they can start grooming for the future.