Delaying start of NFL year and draft a possibility due to coronavirus

A man watches the NFL draft during an Oakland Raiders draft pick event in Las Vegas on April 28, 2018.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Now that the collective bargaining agreement has been ratified, the NFL can turn its full attention to the immediate upcoming events: the start of the league year Wednesday, which marks the beginning of free agency, and the April 23-25 draft.

Pushing back both is a distinct possibility in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The decision on the Las Vegas draft is particularly complex. The original plan calls for clusters of at least 100 fans representing each franchise positioned in sections closest to the stage to cheer their team for the TV cameras. That flies in the face of all the advisories about social distancing and avoiding unnecessary travel.


If the league were to keep the current date and make the draft even more of a made-for-TV event, with closer camera angles on the players that crop out the nonexistent crowd, that still would require everyone involved to be tested for coronavirus. That means testing everyone involved with the production, including media. Those tests are not currently available.

These discussions are underway, according to individuals familiar with the proceedings.

For many reasons, the safest course of action is to push back the draft, perhaps into May, which could allow for the prospects to make the traditional team visits the NFL currently has banned.

Any time a major event is delayed in a city, there is the potential for complications and clashes regarding scheduling. Is the venue available at that time? Are there enough hotel rooms? Las Vegas is a city built to host major events such as these, so that might not be an issue, but those are among the options being discussed.