Because I’m a lunatic who thinks entirely too much about the NFL Draft, I’ve been wondering what the process would look like next week. Last year, Roger Goodell slouched in his beat up leather chair while wearing a cardigan, then read the names. The camera would cut to wherever those athletes were, they’d put on the hat, hug their loved ones, and then the camera would cut away.
(Side note: I need to know how the hat situation worked. Did they mail 32 hats to every prospect? What happened to the hats? Maybe I’ll look into that.)
This year, with the draft returning to a live venue in Cleveland, the image of Goodell walking back to the podium, serenaded by the customary chorus of boos, is a thought that brings me great comfort. It’s already been reported that presumptive No. 1 pick, Trevor Lawrence, won’t be at the draft, but the top prospects after him will all be there
So, what happens when one of them gets their name called?
Let’s play pretend for a minute. The New York Jets are on the clock with the second pick. Everyone and their mother knows they are drafting who they hope will be their franchise quarterback of the future. As a couple options remain, we all wonder with anticipation in which direction they’ll go as NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah begins to talk about the off-platform throwing ability of BYU’s Zach Wilson, while then going through the collegiate resumé of Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Goodell walks out to his podium to a blending of boos and “J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!” chants. He looks at the draft card and begins reading..
“With the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select… Justin Fields, quarterback, Ohio State.”
The crowd, corralled into what looks like an airplane hangar, erupts. Some cheer, some boo. The shock of the pick is palpable, as most assumed it would be Wilson. A camera cuts to a Jets fan wearing a very presumptuous custom-made Wilson Jets jersey, holding a beer in one hand while screaming profanities toward whoever will listen. A camera then cuts backstage to Fields, standing from his table, putting on the Jets hat as he begins to walk toward the stage.
All of this makes sense. What I wasn’t sure of, however, is what would happen next. In your typical year, Goodell would be holding a Jets jersey with the No. 1 on it. The prospect — Fields in this case — would walk across the stage, beaming and dripping with charisma. Then, he’d throw a bro hug on Goodell, then hold one side of the jersey while Goodell holds the other, turn and smile for the cameras, before going on to talk with reporters and say how blessed he is for this opportunity and that he’s ready to get to work.
How would this year look? Would the NFL put Goodell behind some plexiglass partition and have him wave to the new rookies from across the stage? Hazmat suit, perhaps? Would these young men pick up their hat and jersey from a random NFL production intern then take a picture in front of a green screen? I had no idea. I am not even a little bit (OK maybe slightly) embarrassed to admit that I have thought about this no less than once per day for the last three weeks or so.
Fortunately, for both our viewing pleasure and for the experience of these prospects, the NFL is going to allow the customary bro hugs and chest bumps to occur as Goodell is fully vaccinated, and I for one am very relieved by this news.
Hooray, bro hugs! Having a draft take place that looks and feels normal is going to be a very welcome site for football enthusiasts. I, for one, can’t wait.