There are untold variables that will come into play during the 2020 NFL Draft, and we will only get a chance to become aware of them as they unfold. The league did its part to try to reduce any potential complications by running a draft simulation earlier this week, during which each team practiced both making a pick and executing a trade, but that doesn’t mean everything will just go off without a hitch.
The NFL understands that, and has tried to alleviate as many fears as possible. Among the things that have been reported, the league will have a separate and secure line for teams as they discuss trades. They will also make allowances for technical glitches that might occur.
One informal measure that teams are taking, according to Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, is that they will basically do their part to not screw each other over and take advantage of a circumstance that may present itself to exploit a mistake that another team might make.
Ed Werder reported earlier this week that Schneider told reporters that his understanding is there will be “an honor system in place”, wherein, if a team is unable to execute a trade or make a selection in their allotted time, the team behind them will respect the circumstances and not jump their pick.
#Seahawks GM John Schneider said his understanding is that there’s going to be an honor system in place for the virtual #NFL draft in which teams negotiating a trade that exceeds the time limit on their pick won’t be jumped by teams behind them.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) April 21, 2020
The last time the NFL Draft saw a pick jumped was in 2011. The Baltimore Ravens were attempting to make a trade back in the first round, but the paperwork was not submitted into the league in time. The Kansas City Chiefs, clearly not operating on the honor system, took the opportunity to get their pick in when the clock ran down, ahead of Baltimore’s, selecting wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
It still all worked out for the Ravens, because they got the player that they wanted in cornerback Jimmy Smith, but they were hoping to have been able to trade back three spots with the Chicago Bears, expecting that Smith would still be there while picking up an extra draft choice. In between the Ravens and Bears, the New Orleans Saints picked Mark Ingram, and that likely would have been their selection whether or not Smith was on the board.
That was not the first time a pick had ever been skipped, and this happened under normal circumstances. While it has not happened since then—nearly a decade at this point—every team is working in new and unfamiliar ways, which could easily result in there being breakdowns along the way at some point that see a team fail to make a selection on-time.
Since this is an ‘honor system’, it doesn’t mean that teams have to abide by it, of course. Many of the responses to Werder’s Tweet made comments—joking or otherwise—suggesting that Bill Belichick would be the one to break with the protocol.