NFL virtual mock draft overcame awful start to give execs hope

NFL virtual mock draft overcame awful start to give execs hope

It was 30 minutes before the NFL was to conduct a dry run of the draft Monday, and first-year Jets general manager Joe Douglas was speaking to reporters on a pre-draft conference call.

This is Douglas’ first draft as a GM, as the boss, as the person with the keys to the kingdom in hand.

Combine that with the fact that the coronavirus crisis has forced the draft — which begins Thursday night and continues through Saturday — to take place remotely, with GMs, coaches, scouts and league officials all working from home and that figures to raise the stress level a tick or two.

So, Douglas was asked if he thought the dry run would ease any concerns he might have about the operation.

“It’s either going to allay them or create anxiety,’’ Douglas said jokingly. “I feel like this has been a really smooth process. We have backup plans in case something crazy were to happen with power or internet going out. I’m looking forward to getting into the draft room and seeing how it’s going to work. Right now, I have no concerns. I’m excited about joining this mock draft in 30 minutes.’’

The NFL’s dry run, according to people who participated in it — including Broncos president John Elway, who used the word “hiccup when we first started’’ — got off to a dodgy start with the Bengals’ first overall pick taking about 20 minutes to get in because of some phone glitches.

But after that, it ran like clockwork, with Ken Fiore, the NFL’s vice president of player personnel acting the part of commissioner Roger Goodell, conducting two rounds with teams using names of players who are expected to be selected in the lower rounds. Each team even consummated a fake trade so everyone knew how to execute that function in the process.

“Yeah, there was a [glitch] in the beginning, but that’s why you go through it,’’ one league head coach who was on the call told The Post. “No doubt, there’s always anxiety, and I’m sure the anxiety rose at first. Then, all of a sudden after that first pick stuff went on everyone knew how to do it and everything went smooth.

“It was smart of them to do this. They did a good job of scripting everything out — every possible scenario that could happen, like trades. Every team made a mock trade so everyone knows how to make a trade and call it in, how it’s going to go. We did two rounds. They gave us a mock list of names, lower-round players, to use as our picks.

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“I think they did a good job,’’ the coach, requesting his name not be used because the league was adamant about keeping the process confidential, continued. “You’ve got all this stuff going on — everyone is alone, so how do you coordinate all that stuff? I’m glad they did it.’’

The setup, according to the coach, is similar to the way the draft usually operates, but everyone is communicating via Webex from their respective remote locations at home.

“Your pick comes up, you have a Webex call and you just call the pick in, and it’s the same with trades,’’ the coach said. “We have the GM, our scouts, medical people, the owner all on the line — all the people that are normally in the draft room.’’

Chris Pettit, the Giants’ director of college scouting, said last week that “everything is going to be done and treated the same way’’ that the team has conducted the past two drafts together.

“Really, nothing is different — we’re not in the same room,’’ he said.

Douglas will be working from what he called “a makeshift office’’ on the first floor of his New Jersey home.

“I tried to create an environment that’s almost identical to the office I have in Florham Park,’’ Douglas said, referring to the Jets training facility. “I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people doing that. My wife’s upset because we moved into our house during the season, so I haven’t spent much time in the house and we don’t have the proper decorations up. The last two days she’s made sure to get some pictures on the wall so it looks good for the camera. She’s been on me about that.’’

If that’s the only problem Douglas encounters with this unprecedented virtual draft, it will have been a good one for him and the Jets.

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