The lives of 32 US college prospects will be transformed forever in the early hours of Friday morning as the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft gets underway.
Draft week will forever remain a special part of the sporting calendar. Hundreds of unique backgrounds and stories embarking on an overnight transition from university graduate to professional NFL player.
Amid the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, 2020’s showpiece recruitment event arrives as a timely and rare source of sporting entertainment to enjoy.
Whether it’s your first draft or your 20th, Sky Sports promises to cater to all as we provide more live coverage than ever before.
Here’s a beginner’s guide on what to look out for…
Cincinnati in pole position
The Cincinnati Bengals occupy the draft’s No 1 overall pick, their first since 2003, after finishing last season with the NFL’s worst record at 2-14, marking their fourth-straight losing season.
Having beaten the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LIV in Miami, the Kansas City Chiefs naturally own the final first-round pick at No 32 overall. Andy Reid’s champions have just five picks at their disposal on the night, tied for the fewest with the New Orleans Saints.
The Miami Dolphins meanwhile own the most picks with 14, giving head coach Brian Flores an excellent opportunity to bolster his roster after finishing 5-11 and bottom of the AFC East in 2019.
This year will see a total of 255 picks be made across the seven rounds, one down from the usual maximum of 256 due to the Arizona Cardinals forfeiting a fifth-round pick by selecting safety Jalen Thompson in last year’s compensatory draft. Nonetheless, the Cardinals do still have a fifth-round pick to make use of thanks to last year’s trade that saw quarterback Josh Rosen head to the Dolphins.
Four of the last five No 1 picks at the draft have been quarterbacks, the latest being Kyler Murray to the Cardinals in Nashville last year. In fact, 14 quarterbacks have been selected at No 1 since the turn of the century – only two of which have since won a Super Bowl ring.
The last non-quarterback selected first was defensive end Myles Garrett, landing with the Cleveland Browns in 2017.
Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks
The quarterback trend looks certain to continue this year, with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow widely-expected to become the new face of the Bengals franchise.
Burrow led LSU to the College National Championship with victory over Clemson last season, leading the nation in passing yards and winning the Heisman Trophy winner with a record percentage of votes.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert could both also go in the top 10, while Utah State’s Jordan Love, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Washington’s Jacob Eason and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts are also up for grabs.
Will Tagovailoa drop in light of concerns over his recovery from hip surgery? Will Herbert be heading to the Dolphins or the Los Angeles Chargers? Will Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots draft a potential successor to Tom Brady? Will the Washington Redskins spring a surprise and overlook pass rusher Chase Young to draft a quarterback at No 2?
Drafting the right quarterback can set a franchise up for the next decade and beyond. Drafting the wrong quarterback can cost an organisation years of rebuilding.
A generational wide receiver class
It isn’t all about the guys throwing the football this year. In fact, there may never have been a deeper class of wide receivers on offer than that of 2020.
Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb and Alabama’s duo of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are frontrunners to be the first receivers off the board, flaunting a combined skill set of reliable hands, polished route-running, yards-after-catch ability and searing speed.
Then there are the likes of LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Clemson’s Tee Higgins, Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault and Baylor’s Denzel Mims that are all capable of coming in as NFL starters.
In his latest mock draft, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah projected six wide receivers being taken in the first round.
Don’t be surprised to see a receiver frenzy among the New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings – to name but a few.
A unique draft
Whether you’re an NFL rookie or a veteran fan, this year’s draft promises to be a brand new experience for us all.
Las Vegas had originally been set to play stage to a draft extravaganza in which players were expected to be transported to stage by boat at the Fountains of Bellagio.
The NFL have since been forced to cancel public events due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and instead plan for an entirely virtual draft format.
Teams have been unable to host pre-Draft visits as would ordinarily happen at this time of year, instead conducting interviews via phone or video call, while many Pro Days have also been cancelled.
With team facilities closed, coaches and players are required to remain in their individual homes throughout the process. The 32 teams will be connected on a video conference and general managers will be able to pass on their picks to officials via their internet connection.
In his recent Football Morning in America column, Peter King reported that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will announce the first-round selections from his basement.
Naturally, concerns have emerged among general managers over the prospect of information being hacked and technical issues arising while they are on the clock.
As it stands, the NFL will not be allowing extra time when making picks, leaving teams with 10 minutes between first-round picks, seven minutes between second-round picks, five minutes from round three to round six and four minutes between round-seven picks.
Trades, shock slips and late gems
This is where it gets really fun – the trades!
Teams have the opportunity to offer up picks to other teams should they wish to move up the board in a bid to land a player of interest.
The Chicago Bears traded away a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a 2018 third-round pick to move from No 3 overall to No 2 overall and draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, overlooking Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes in the process.
Trades can also work out for the best. Look at the 49ers, who sent second and third-round picks to the Patriots in 1985 to move up from the 28th pick to No 16 to draft wide receiver Jerry Rice, who went on to become a three-time Super Bowl champion and 13-time Pro Bowl selection.
Draft night can also produce shock player slides, with Texans offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, the expected No 1 pick in 2016, slipping to the Dolphins at No 13 after a video emerged 10 minutes before the draft of him apparently inhaling marijuana.
The draft isn’t all about round one, either. Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick in round six of the 2000 draft. Shannon Sharpe won three Super Bowl rings after being selected 192nd overall in round seven of the 1990 draft by the Denver Broncos.
In a more recent case, the Dallas Cowboys found their franchise quarterback with pick No 135 in round four of the 2016 draft.
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