The 2020 NFL Draft will be one unlike any other in the recent past, for a number of different reasons. But for teams, the biggest difference will be simply how much less information that they have available to them about prospects, particularly off the field, than they have been accustomed to as the NFL Draft has evolved over the years and become a primetime event.
Ordinarily, a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers would be well-represented on the Pro Day circuit, with their leading men, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, spotted at a dozen or more of them over the course of the months leading to the draft. Eagle eyes will place scouts all over the country. It’s hard to imagine many teams casting a wider net.
Not only were nearly all Pro Days cancelled, teams have also been unable to bring in players for pre-draft visits, instead being limited to FaceTiming prospects with fairly substantial restrictions. And even using that, they have not been allowed as many as they normally have if they were bringing them into the building.
It’s also important to keep in mind that all of these restrictions happened after the NFL Scouting Combine—which, by the way, reduced the number of formal interviews teams can do from 60 to 45 this year—so you have to wonder what teams may have done differently then had they known what was to come.
It all builds up to a very interesting period with a lot more uncertainty, and, by necessity, a lot more emphasis on tape. And a lot less group think, or so suspects Daniel Jeremiah, one of the more respected of the big names on the draft beat, a former scout himself.
“I’m curious to see how this draft goes and how it’s looked back on five years from now because there’s going to be less analytic impact on this draft than any one we’ve seen over the last handful of years because we don’t have all the numbers”, Jeremiah said.
“So when you look back on this five years from now, will we find out that it was beneficial that they just went off the tape?”, he wondered. “Or, are they going to look back and say, ‘man, you can see the holes in the data and that’s why we had such a horrible hit rate in this draft’. I think it’s going to be fascinating to look back on in five years”.
Some trends I suspect that we’ll see are a greater emphasis, especially in earlier rounds, on players from Power 5 schools, and fewer teams taking chances on players with character concerns. Ordinarily those players would have ample opportunity to convince teams of their character. This year, a team would really have to go out of its way to find out more.