Virtual NFL Draft puts 'War Room' in team officials' homes

Posted at 11:49 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 17:42:04-04

Watch WCPO 9's Pre-Draft Special at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the 2020 NFL Draft on WCPO 9 and ABC at 8 p.m.

CINCINNATI - They call it the "war room.”

The place where team officials gather and make their decisions during the NFL Draft.

"I've seen it get contentious," said Jonathan Hayes, former Bengals assistant coach.

Hayes was involved in Cincinnati's war room 16 times.

"You're gonna have different opinions on who to take and why," Hayes said.

Those opinions will come from far away during this week’s draft since coaches can't be in the same room and the draft is completely virtual due to COVID-19.

"This is Draft Room East. You want a tour of Draft Room East?" player personnel director Duke Tobin said to a visitor at his home.

The photo above shows what a "war room" will look like for the 2020 Draft. All team officials participating in the draft will have similar setups in their homes.

"That'll be where we turn in draft picks,” said Tobin, who will conduct Zoom meetings between Bengals officials and relay the Bengals’ picks to the league. “This computer will be where we run the Zoom meeting and the screen up there will be where I have the draft order coming off."

The idea of a virtual draft seems a little daunting.

"Technology can go out, and it happened to us," Hayes said.

But it's really nothing new for Hayes, who was head coach of the St. Louis team in the XFL this past season.

"Our IT person comes running around the corner. She goes, 'Are we out?’

“I said, ‘I can still hear them, but no one can hear the team trying to make the announcement.’”

They had a 70-round virtual draft before the XFL season.

"We made sure we had a landline,” Hayes said. “We also made sure we had cell numbers."

The NFL Draft is only seven rounds, but there are 32 teams instead of eight in the XFL.

“I worry about everything,” Tobin said, “so has that crossed my mind? Sure."

The concerns are there but the Bengals have taken precautions…

"Our IT guy Jake and our video guy Travis and their teams have done a great job getting us set up," Tobin said.

With the first pick, the Bengals will be the first team to use this year's virtual draft.

"If you ask anybody, they'd want that opportunity,” Tobin said. “We unfortunately earned it, but we're going to take advantage of it."