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Borrowed laptops and bad WiFi: How the NFL is adapting to an online draft

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The NFL is calling in all its favors to make this work.

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NFL: Super Bowl LIV-NFL Experience Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is working overtime to ensure it’s as ready as possible for this year’s virtual draft starting Thursday, and that includes calling in a few favors.

One day removed from the NFL’s shaky-at-best mock draft, the league is working with mobile and internet providers to better equip general managers before Thursday. Verizon, a league partner, is going so far as to map out usage for the NFL on the days of the draft, according to a report from The Athletic.

To make sure things run as smoothly as possible, the league is asking teams to be prompt with their picks rather than running out the entire clock. Yes, there are going to be times teams need their full allotment to ensure a trade can be executed, but anyone who has watched the draft knows sometimes teams take an agonizingly long time to make an obvious choice.

Perhaps the best part of The Athletic’s report is how completely unprepared coaches and officials were for the mock draft. Here’s the CliffsNotes version:

  • Washington head coach Ron Rivera didn’t have his own workstation and needed to borrow his daughter’s laptop.
  • Bears general manager Ryan Pace had to move his computer from the basement to the dining room to get a better WiFi signal.
  • Eric DeCosta, Ravens general manager, beefed up his home generator in case of a power outage during the draft.

There are legitimate concerns for team officials who live in densely populated areas. Home internet connections are already being pressed more than usual due to stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders. A 10-city study by BroadBand Now in late March showed degrading speeds in Houston, San Diego, San Jose and New York City as the result of higher-than-usual home network use. The expectation is this has only gotten worse with time as more and more people have transitioned to remote work and e-learning.

There is a backup plan should technical difficulties disrupt the selection process. Teams will be able to phone in their selections to NFL personnel director Ken Fiore or his staff.