The NFL’s first virtual draft is in the books, and you can be sure the league will revisit the elements that made the production so successful, including a Draft-A-Thon that raised more than $100 million for COVID-19 relief.
Thirty-two thoughts on the three-day event:
1. The NFL has a problem with this draft format: It’s better than the old way. Now the league has to figure out how to incorporate this authentic, not-too-perfect style into the glitzy extravaganza typical drafts have become.
2. After watching NFL general managers draft from home, this much is undeniable: These guys have very high ceilings.
3. The beautiful golden retriever with Commissioner Roger Goodell at the beginning of the Round 1 broadcast? That’s Blake. The family got him during the 2011 lockout.
4. Weird how the mom of Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs was wearing a faded #LFG T-shirt before the draft. That’s Tom Brady’s signature hashtag and stands for “Let’s ... Go.” Then Wirfs, who could have gone much earlier, was drafted 13th by Tampa Bay to block for Brady.
5. Requisite questions of draft picks:
1. Are you wearing the appropriate clothes?
2. Are your cameras set up properly?
3. Do you have some kind of tragedy we can talk about?
6. John Lynch seemed like a bizarre choice when San Francisco made him its general manager. But yet again, the former All-Pro safety showed he’s one step ahead of the field. His first-round maneuverings and the trade for tackle Trent Williams were surprising and smart.
7. 49ers left tackle Joe Staley announced he’s retiring, so for the team to get an All-Pro replacement for picks in the third and fifth rounds is remarkable.
8. Remember that postgame playoff confrontation when Williams punched Seattle’s Richard Sherman in the face? Well, they’re teammates in San Francisco now. Saturday, Sherman jokingly tweeted, “Welcome… I’m gonna need a rematch.”
9. The NFL sent “tech kits” to 58 players that included lights, microphones, tripods, and two iPhones — all for streaming video of the sheltered-at-home prospects celebrating being drafted. Do they have to return the phones? Well, that’s a little unclear… but the NFL did enclose return shipping labels.
10. The Draft-A-Thon was a great idea and raised a tremendous amount of money to help people on the front lines of the pandemic. If the league does it again, it might want to have a sea of NFL stars answering phones from their homes. That could generate even more activity.
11. Cool idea, Goodell auctioning off the opportunity to sit in his basement, in his favorite chair, to watch a “Monday Night Football” game. All for charity, of course.
12. No truth to the rumor that the next NFL owners meeting will be held at the home of the Arizona Cardinals coach, the Ritz-Kingsbury.
13. Building, refining, and agonizing over a mock draft — then finally pushing the button — is a little like raising a child. At some point, you need to push that draft out of the nest and let it experience failure on its own.
14. Guard Ben Bartch, a fourth-round pick of Jacksonville, went from 250 to 309 pounds before his junior year at Division III St. John’s (Minn.). Here’s his daily smoothie recipe: “I would scramble seven eggs, a big tub of cottage cheese, quick grits, then peanut butter and banana and Gatorade. I would throw it all in and plug my nose. I’d gag sometimes, but that’s what you have to do.”
15. Tampa Bay guard Ali Marpet is the highest-drafted Division III player, with the former Hobart player going to the Buccaneers in 2015 with the 61st overall pick. He’s been a starter ever since. Occidental running back Vance Mueller was a fourth-round pick of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1986.
16. Three players taken in the second round had dads who played in the NFL. But Houston’s second-round pick, Texas Christian defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, has a father with a different athletic background. Jimmy Blacklock played for and now coaches the Harlem Globetrotters.
17. There’s no such thing as a prototypical quarterback anymore. So the 6-foot-6, strong-armed Jacob Eason of Washington slipping all the way to the fourth round isn’t such a shock. But what a break for him, landing in Indianapolis where he can learn behind Philip Rivers and be coached by Frank Reich. But what does that mean for Jacoby Brissett?
18. Alabama… LSU… Alabama… LSU… Both schools had seven players selected in the first two rounds. That’s never happened with two schools in the same draft.
19. Some of the draft picks whose brothers play or played in the NFL: DB Trevon Diggs (Dallas, No. 51), brother of Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs; C Matt Hennessy (Atlanta, No. 78) brother of New York Jets long snapper Thomas Hennessy; LB Julian Okwara (Detroit, No. 67) brother of Detroit DE Romeo Okwara.
20. The Rams are scheduled to play host to the Jets this season. The father of just-drafted Rams receiver Van Jefferson coaches wideouts for the Jets.
21. The NFL plans to release this season’s schedule by May 9, if not sooner.
22. Stanford is Tight End U. Seven of them drafted since 2012. The latest is Colby Parkinson, taken in the fourth round Saturday by Seattle.
23. Dallas traded up for the last selection in the fourth round, sending a couple of picks to Philadelphia. It was the first time the Cowboys and Eagles made a draft trade with each other since 2010. Imagine that. And they seemed so friendly.
24. Carolina drafted safety Kenny Robinson Jr., who played for the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL. He’s not the Panthers’ first player from that league. Running back Rod Smart, known as “He Hate Me” in the original XFL, played for Carolina from 2002 to 2005.
25. If the average wingspan-to-height ratio is one to one, Brandon Aiyuk, new receiver for the 49ers, is a 6-foot-1 man with a wingspan of someone 6-7.
26. Texas receiver Collin Johnson, a fifth-round pick by Jacksonville, has some deep local roots. His dad is former L.A. Rams defensive back Johnnie Johnson, and his mom, Julie, was a Rams cheerleader.
27. From ESPN Stats & Info: Defensive tackle Bravvion Roy played for Carolina coach Matt Rhule at Baylor, and now he’ll play for him in the league. The last time a player was drafted by his collegiate head coach was in 2010, when Pete Carroll took USC tight end Anthony McCoy.
28. Here’s a weird one, again from ESPN Stats & Info: For the third time in their history, the Cincinnati Bengals had the first pick in every round of the draft. No other NFL franchise has done that even once.
29. The Cardinals drafted Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin in the seventh round with the 222nd pick. Mark Dalton, Cardinals PR czar, notes that the last time the franchise took a Sun Devil was 1998 when it selected the legendary Pat Tillman with the 226th pick.
30. USC had two players chosen among the first 34: tackle Austin Jackson (No. 18 pick, Miami) and receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (34, Indianapolis), but that was it. Three UCLA players were selected after that: tight end Devin Asiasi (91, New England), cornerback Darnay Holmes (110, New York Giants), and running back Joshua Kelly (112, Chargers). It marked the third time in five years that UCLA has had more players selected than its crosstown rival.
31. Among the Southern California locals who were drafted but didn’t attend USC or UCLA: Norco High and Oregon linebacker Troy Dye (132, Minnesota), Buena Park and California defensive back Jaylinn Hawkins (134, Atlanta), JSerra and Washington center Nick Harris (160, Cleveland), St. Anthony and Boise State defensive end Curtis Weaver (164, Miami), Paramount and Wyoming linebacker Cassh Maluia (204, New England), and Sonora and Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald (224, Tennessee).
32. Winners and losers in the 2020 draft? Check back in 2024.