There won’t be war rooms, a live crowd or even a chorus of boos for commissioner Roger Goodell when the NFL Draft gets started on Thursday.
Instead, the draft will be done virtually with all team personnel in separate locations. For everyone involved, including two former UNC football players who entered the draft, the introduction of online communication elements will lead to an unprecedented experience.
Offensive lineman Charlie Heck and defensive lineman Jason Strowbridge will both hear their names called at some point in the draft. However, neither knows when, and some of their opportunities to impress NFL teams have been taken away from them.
“All of those pre-draft visits or anything like that, any workout, they’re all just online Zoom meetings now,” Heck said during a press conference over Zoom on Monday. “So whatever in-person thing you would’ve had, it’s now on Zoom.”
Although they may not be able to conduct in-person workouts, both prospects were invited to the NFL Combine and got a chance to show off their skills virtually.
“I was grateful that I was able to go to the combine,” Heck said. “I was really looking forward to UNC Pro Day just to kind of help out some of those numbers, but luckily I was able to get a lot of exposure [at the combine] and at some of the bowl games I went to.”
Heck is in a unique situation because there are two people in his house going through the virtual draft process, just on opposite sides.
His father, Andy Heck, who is the offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, is also adapting to this new reality while evaluating players, and that gives Charlie an advantage that most players don’t have.
“Every day he’s on Zoom meetings with players, so he tells me what he likes, how I should be presenting myself, all that type of stuff,” Charlie said.
But Charlie isn’t the only one in a unique situation. Strowbridge is in limbo between positions because teams have told them they want him to play at different spots on the defensive line.
And those different spots mean different weights, leaving Strowbridge to play a waiting game.
“Right now I’m just kinda staying in the middle,” Strowbridge said. “Depending on what team I go to, whatever they need me to weigh in at, I know how to get my body weight up and down.”
And when he does get drafted by one of those teams, things are going to look different. Instead of having a watch party, both Strowbridge and Charlie will be with a small group in their respective homes.
“Right now we just plan on staying home,” Strowbridge said. “Maybe three other people will be here, and we’re all gonna be social distancing. It has changed very drastically, but for my loved ones to be there, that’s really all that matters to me.”
Of course, both players have been waiting their entire football careers to experience the moment when their name is called on draft night. And both don’t really have an exact idea of when that will happen.
“It’s not gonna be the first day, I’m not gonna sugarcoat that,” Heck said. "But the second and third day I’m gonna start getting perked up a little bit and have my phone near me for whenever.”
“I’ll just be watching it all three days,” Strowbridge said. “You never know.”
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