EAGAN, Minn. — It's only Monday of NFL Draft week, but the Vikings will be on the clock today.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman may even negotiate his way up or down the draft board.
GMs, player personnel departments and coaches for all 32 teams will participate in a "mock draft" with NFL officials in preparation of the official three-day event that is scheduled to start Thursday night.
The practice session is designed to test technology and chains of communication that will be implemented coast-to-coast from remote locations.
The scattering of teams' staff that normally would be gathering in one room is part of a virtual draft with no public events.
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Rather than scouts and coaches filling the Thomson Reuters Draft Room at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center that is home to a state-of-the-art, wall-to-wall draft board, Spielman will be at his Eden Prairie home, and Head Coach Mike Zimmer will be at Zimmer Ridge Ranch in Northern Kentucky.
The format has been necessitated as most Americans are under shelter-in-place, stay-at-home or safer-at-home policies that have been implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease pandemic.
"We are fully virtual, so all teams' personnel, the GMs and coaches will be in their individual homes throughout the draft," NFL EVP of Club Business and League Events Peter O'Reilly said Friday during a conference call. "All prospects will be in their homes, including the 58 that we announced who will be in their homes with kits and connected to the draft and broadcast. Fans, obviously, will be in their homes, and we'll find ways to connect with them. Then, finally, [Commissioner Roger Goodell] will be in his basement, announcing the picks on night one and two."
O'Reilly said the NFL is "very focused, clearly, on ensuring everything we do aligns with safety protocols and guidelines. That's been number one from the very start."
Additionally, NFL officials wanted to maintain a competitive equity for all teams that may be under different rules and guidelines, depending on their home state.
The NFL hopes that the draft will provide fans with what O'Reilly described as a "welcome respite" as the league greets "the next generation of players into the NFL family."
It also will provide a platform through which to honor health care workers, first responders and essential frontline workers during the broadcast and on other platforms and implement a Draft-A-Thon fundraising effort.
The NFL is able to proceed with its draft while all other leagues have halted live events, O'Reilly said, because "ultimately it's like one big conference call in a normal year."
"Each team will have its own communication chain with GM, coach, owner, player personnel folks having a conversation using multiple platforms and a redundancy to do that, video conference, phone and otherwise," O'Reilly said. "So they'll make the decision, 'We want to pick Player X,' and then we have a very clear process of that being communicated in to our player personnel folks, who will also be located in their homes, and to make that announcement."
View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.
O'Reilly said the league is "pretty confident overall in the technology" that will be implemented such as video conferencing through Microsoft Teams and redundancies beyond that.
"We're lucky to have, really, best-in-class partners working with us every step of the way," O'Reilly said. "I mentioned Microsoft; we've got Amazon Web Services helping us on the cloud side. Verizon, Bose, others. There's backup on backup."
According to NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy, teams will be allowed to designate three individuals who can submit a pick in case there is an issue at a residence. McCarthy also mentioned during the call that the NFL will be "in a position to stop the clock and make sure a pick is submitted, or a trade can occur" if technological issues force a delay.
The mock draft will include some simulated trades to cover the scenario that is sure to occur during the draft despite the un-normal circumstances.
"Although the term 'mock draft' is being used, it's potentially a little less sexy than that," O'Reilly said. "It's really a communications test where everybody will be in their position, and our folks on the player personnel side will make sure the communication is strong."