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NFL Draft goes virtual amid the COVID-19 crisis

He didn’t shake NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand at the podium, and there weren’t any fans adulating him at his home in Athens, Ohio on Thursday night, but Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow was picked first by the Cincinnati Bengals to open league’s virtual draft amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Burrow is one of 58 NFL hopefuls who received camera equipment from the league to set up a makeshift studio in their respective homes for this week’s draft after plans to host the event in Las Vegas were scrapped due to the ongoing epidemic.

Instead of being booed on stage, Goodell received his annual dose of vitriol over social media on Thursday night as he announced picks from his basement in Bronxville, New York.

Even the national anthem was performed by Emmy award-winning singer and dveout Saints fan Harry Connick Jr. from his New Orleans-area home.  

Louisiana State quarterback and Heisman winner Joe Burrow is expected to be taken first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. The Ohio native is coming off a national title

Louisiana State quarterback and Heisman winner Joe Burrow is expected to be taken first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. The Ohio native is coming off a national title

Joe Burrow poses with the Heisman Trophy in December

Joe Burrow poses with the Heisman Trophy in December

Louisiana State quarterback and Heisman winner Joe Burrow is expected to be taken first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. The Ohio native is coming off a national title

Goodell hosted the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday from his basement in Bronxville

Goodell hosted the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday from his basement in Bronxville

Goodell hosted the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday from his basement in Bronxville

Barber shops are not open in Burrow's hometown in Ohio, so he may look a bit harrier tonight

Barber shops are not open in Burrow's hometown in Ohio, so he may look a bit harrier tonight

Barber shops are not open in Burrow’s hometown in Ohio, so he may look a bit harrier tonight

Goodell, who ordered all team facilities closed on March 26 and has extended that ban indefinitely, didn’t share any hugs with Burrow, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young or any of the other 32 first-rounders. He offered congratulations remotely, in an unusually understated broadcast, by NFL standards.

It’s unlike anything his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, ever faced as commissioner. In fact, not since the NFL draft became a televised event in 1980 has it been stripped to the basics like this year’s proceedings will be.

With all participants and staff sheltering in place, the NFL needed to build massive technical infrastructure over just a few weeks to bring the draft to fruition under difficult circumstances.

Some of it already existed because of the amount of video transmitted during games, but this is more extensive because of the more than 100 feeds coming in from prospects, general managers, coaches and fans. Three call centers were set up to serve as the main point of communication before they were transferred to the ESPN/NFL Network production center in Bristol, Connecticut, to be interviewed.

In an effort to raise money for the NFL draft-a-thon, which will benefit COVID-19 relief charities, Goodell appeared in a Bud Light ad asking fans to record themselves booing the Commissioner and using the hashtag, '#BooTheCommish.' Bud Light pledged to donate $1 for every tweet containing that hashtag up to $500,000. To date, the claims it has donated $76 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in collaboration with the National Football League Players Association, clubs, owners, and players

In an effort to raise money for the NFL draft-a-thon, which will benefit COVID-19 relief charities, Goodell appeared in a Bud Light ad asking fans to record themselves booing the Commissioner and using the hashtag, '#BooTheCommish.' Bud Light pledged to donate $1 for every tweet containing that hashtag up to $500,000. To date, the claims it has donated $76 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in collaboration with the National Football League Players Association, clubs, owners, and players

In an effort to raise money for the NFL draft-a-thon, which will benefit COVID-19 relief charities, Goodell appeared in a Bud Light ad asking fans to record themselves booing the Commissioner and using the hashtag, ‘#BooTheCommish.’ Bud Light pledged to donate $1 for every tweet containing that hashtag up to $500,000. To date, the claims it has donated $76 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in collaboration with the National Football League Players Association, clubs, owners, and players

Fifty-eight prospects received video kits from the NFL that record their reactions to being selected, whether is it is during the first round on Thursday, second or third rounds on Friday, or during the remaining four rounds on Saturday.

The kits sent to prospects included two cellphones, two light stands, a pair of tripods, a headset for interviews and a microphone. One of the phone cameras was to stay on the entire time until the player was selected while the other was used for interviews with Goodell and the teams that pick them.

The package also included hats from all 32 teams, so the players could put on the right one after they’re selected.

Michelle McKenna, the NFL’s chief information officer, said prospects had an easier time adjusting to things being done virtually.

‘You don’t have to tell them how to mute or unmute a phone because they know how to do it,’ she said. ‘The only issues have been making sure the framing and lighting were going to be right.’

Coaches and general managers also received a kit, but it included only one phone. While the information technology departments of teams put in overtime to ensure homes are set up for the draft, not much rewiring was required in Goodell’s basement, where the commissioner dug in during the draft.

Goodell’s home in Bronxville, New York, has plenty of televisions in the basement for him to watch games on weekends when he isn’t traveling.

Roger Goodell on stage during the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville

Roger Goodell on stage during the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville

Roger Goodell on stage during the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville

‘One of the fun things has been seeing how relaxed he (Goodell) has been throughout the process,’ McKenna said. ‘He recognizes it is a special moment in history and we can do something unique.’

In an effort to raise money for the NFL draft-a-thon, which will benefit COVID-19 relief charities, Goodell appeared in a Bud Light ad asking fans to record themselves booing the Commissioner and using the hashtag, ‘#BooTheCommish.’

Bud Light pledged to donate $1 for every tweet containing that hashtag up to $500,000. To date, the NFL claims it has donated $76 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in collaboration with the National Football League Players Association, clubs, owners, and players.

There were some teams that wanted the draft pushed back a few weeks. The main issue naturally, has been the collection of information.

With no in-person interviews outside of the brief ones at the scouting combine, few pro days and, perhaps most essentially, no in-depth physical exams conducted by team doctors, the deep data dives have turned into snorkeling exercises.

That obviously didn’t hurt the likes of LSU quarterback Burrow, the Heisman winner who had been projected to be taken first overall for months.

With Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert  (pictured) also potential top 10 picks, this could be the sixth straight year with multiple quarterbacks selected among the first 10 selections. That would be the longest such streak in the common draft era

With Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert  (pictured) also potential top 10 picks, this could be the sixth straight year with multiple quarterbacks selected among the first 10 selections. That would be the longest such streak in the common draft era

With Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert  (pictured) also potential top 10 picks, this could be the sixth straight year with multiple quarterbacks selected among the first 10 selections. That would be the longest such streak in the common draft era

Ohio State's Chase Young is expected to be picked second by his hometown Redskins

Ohio State's Chase Young is expected to be picked second by his hometown Redskins

Ohio State’s Chase Young is expected to be picked second by his hometown Redskins

Chase Young, a Washington-area native, is already endeared himself to Redskins fans by sending lunch to 300 nurses at Southern Maryland Hospital

Chase Young, a Washington-area native, is already endeared himself to Redskins fans by sending lunch to 300 nurses at Southern Maryland Hospital

Chase Young, a Washington-area native, is already endeared himself to Redskins fans by sending lunch to 300 nurses at Southern Maryland Hospital

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