Virtual Lessons Learned for NFL Draft

    • During NFL Draft, 45 players will beam in 'virtually,' including Trevor Lawrence.
    • TV viewers enjoyed 'hope and family' scenes of players celebrating at home in 2020.

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Bill Belichick’s dog Nike became the breakout star of the “virtual” 2020 NFL Draft. 

There won’t be as many dog shots on Thursday as the league returns to a traditional setup in Cleveland, but NFL Network producer Charlie Yook says TV networks will retain much of the remote coverage that proved popular last year.

It’s a good plan: Last year’s draft set an all-time viewership record, reaching 55 million viewers over three days across NFL Network, ESPN, ABC, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels. The average audience was up 35% to 8.4 million viewers.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell never seemed more relatable than he did while lounging in his basement, and Yook said viewers also loved the shots of players celebrating at home with their families. 

Yook, who is in charge of the NFL Network’s draft broadcast, detailed how last year’s learnings will impact coverage this year:

  • More prospects: 45 players will beam in via virtually this week (including presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence) compared to 11 in 2019. Thirteen prospects will be on-site in Cleveland.
  • Buttoned-up results: The networks won’t allow NFL Insiders to tip picks.
  • War rooms: All 32 clubs will have draft room cameras installed vs. maybe 20 two years ago. The Los Angeles Rams could steal the show, drafting from a beach house in Malibu.
  • More boots on the ground: For Thursday’s first round, NFL Network will put reporters at 10 team facilities, including those of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys.

“We don’t take for granted the moments these players have when they enter the NFL family with their own families,” Yook said. “That’s the biggest thing we learned.”