Since the beginning of what is often called the “Schneider Era,” the NFL Draft has been a source of excitement and positivity for Seahawks fans. General Manager John Schneider and his team are renowned around the league for their impressive savvy when it comes to thrifty trades, mindful moves and deliberate decision-making, and the Draft tends to be when the Seahawks front office shines brightest. Putting aside their shaky record with first round selections, it seems that year after year the Seahawks manage to find solid contributors deep into days two and three of the draft, miraculously squeezing positive value out of a process which many consider to be a shot in the dark. While earlier this year one would’ve expected this year to be no different, coronavirus is set to throw a proverbial wrench into many front offices’ plans. As Seattle football fans try to set expectations on a draft which will surely have its fair of blunders, miscues, and surprises, it’s important to consider whether or not the virtualization of the draft will, in fact, give the Seahawks a competitive advantage as they select their champions of the next half-decade.
Considering how news-starved sports fans currently are due to the coronavirus and their resulting mundane quarantine routine, it’s likely that you have been refreshing social media minute-ly for weeks and have thus already heard about the unprecedented changes to the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. If not, here are the essentials: the draft will still take place from April 23-25, but it will be entirely virtual: no giant crowd, no green room, no shaking hands and holding up jerseys. Teams were instructed not to gather, which means teams will have to conduct their war room operations over an online video call. TV coverage of the draft will be about the same, but viewers most likely won’t get the same live looks into homes and draft rooms that they usually do.
Obviously, this abrupt new process will have a profound impact on every team’s ability to efficiently and simultaneously select the right players, consider trade offers, and communicate with their ten- to twelve-man war room. Many of us have found ourselves on a work video call over the last few weeks. Your dog barks in the background as a coworker’s mouth moves without sound and another coworker desperately tries to inform them that they are muted and no one can hear them. Now, replace your coworkers with NFL football executives, many of whom still put No. 2 pencils behind their ears as statements of fashion and use Windows 95 because that’s the “only version of Powerpoint they know.” Now, replace your work assignment with a career-altering decision which is being waited upon by millions of viewers and multiple major news networks. All together, this scenario spells doom for an ill-prepared franchise.
Luckily, ill-prepared is not a word often associated with John Schneider and Co. While technical issues and communication errors are bound to happen at some point, it’s safe to say the Seahawks will be as adaptable as anyone throughout the process.
However, with the heightened barrier of stress and technology raised by a virtual draft, many have assumed that communication between different teams throughout the draft will decrease. This seems to be a safe assumption: teams will already have enough on their plate trying to communicate with each other. They may not have time to orchestrate a trade up or down within the allotted time unless it’s really necessary. If this is the case, then it’s worth considering the potential toll on the Seahawks. The Seahawks have taken advantage of other teams’ aggressiveness by trading down to acquire draft capital in every draft in the Schneider era. Just last year, Schneider put on a masterclass of on-the-clock savvy by flipping four total picks in the 2019 Draft into eleven. With three picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, it’s safe to say a trade down was in the cards – at least until the announcement of a virtual draft. Does the virtual draft require a fundamental change in what has historically been Seattle’s go-to drafting strategy? Until draft night, it will be impossible for the Seahawks to definitively know whether or not teams will be less inclined to inquire with the Seahawks about a trade.
As long as you don’t work in an NFL front office, the 2020 NFL Draft is set to be a fun, chaotic distraction from the woes we are facing during this time. Although trade down options may be limited for the Seahawks this year, Schneider has earned our trust as a thorough and thoughtful executive. If any front office were to come out on top after the draft, Pete and John would certainly have to be on the shortlist. They have had their struggles, but I would never count on the Seahawks showing up to draft night unprepared, no matter the circumstances. For that reason alone, I think Seattle fans should prepare themselves for a few nights of imperfect sports entertainment as we see what Schneider and his team can do with a fascinating situation.