The 2020 NFL Draft is still scheduled to take place from April 23-25, albeit with a host of changes and limitations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home and social distancing mandates implemented to limit exposure.
With the league’s newest crop of players set to take the stage later this month—though not literally—the NFL is proceeding with business as usual for the most part despite the pandemic.
“I tell my players they have to focus on staying in shape and being ready,” said Deryk Gilmore, founder of Day 1 Sports and Entertainment Management. “They’re having a draft which means they’re bringing in people to take jobs so you have to prepare to keep your job. Focus on you, focus on your family, stay healthy, stay in shape. We just have to get through this.”
Gilmore’s list of NFL clients include Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, Seattle Seahawks guard D.J. Fluker, Kansas City Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz, and Carolina Panthers linebacker Andre Smith. He also represents two draft prospects in University of Kansas offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji and University of Miami linebacker Michael Pinckney.
“The biggest question I’ve gotten is what’s going to happen with the season,” Gilmore said. “It’s all speculation at this point. I feel like it’s a blessing that our season is so far away though. … I have to think it’s going to be under control by then.”
The NFL is in a unique position as the only major sports league in North America to not be in the midst of a season. The NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS have all been suspended as a result of coronavirus. The NFL announced it is still planning to begin its 2020 campaign on time and in front of fans in September; the schedule of games will likely be released on or about May 9.
While the league is planning for its regular-season schedule to not be affected by the pandemic, it is enacting certain changes to comply with health and safety orders from government and healthcare officials.
The NFL on March 16 released new guidelines for teams’ offseason programs, including prohibiting clubs from bringing in or meeting with free agents. Offseason Team Activities (OTAs) have been suspended indefinitely. Pre-draft visits have been prohibited, though teams are permitted to conduct interviews with prospects via telephone or video conference under certain restrictions.
With team facilities closed, the draft will be conducted virtually with executives making selections from remote locations, while abiding by social distancing rules. The New Orlean Saints, for example, are setting up a makeshift draft headquarters for select personnel at the new Dixie Brewing Company facility, which is owned by team owner Gayle Benson.
Adeniji, who participated in the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, was able to visit one NFL organization before the league-wide sanctions were announced.
“We had 10 visits set up and all that got cancelled,” Gilmore said. “Teams have been able to do stuff with him through Skype or conference calls, so that has been beneficial.”
Gilmore keeps in touch with all of his clients via phone, text and social media, even sharing photos and videos of their meals and workouts with one another. He continues to reach out to teams regarding his two incoming rookies via phone; the only Zoom meetings he’s had are for bible study. Gilmore had a lot of college recruiting scheduled for May, but is cancelling meetings, flights and hotel reservations.
Despite all of the changes, he remains optimistic and is trying to find a silver lining amid the unique circumstances.
“From an NFL standpoint, we were able to get through free agency, and the draft is still on track,” Gilmore said. “Football is the one sport right now that’s forging forward. … My guys are still grinding. The mindset for us is still positive.”