Right about now, we’re facing potentially the most unique season the NFL has ever had in its long history.
The global pandemic, that’s still ravaging across the world and sending billions of people into a never before seen quarantine, has already shut down 3 of the 4 major sports leagues in the United States. The NBA suspended its season back in March, and while discussions and possible start dates have been discussed, there’s no concrete timetable on when basketball will be played once again. The same goes for the NHL, and for MLB, which hasn’t even started its 2020 season that was due to kick off in late March.
But despite 3 of the 4 major leagues shutting down, there’s been one outlier so far in terms of ability to carry daily operations, the NFL.
The NFL has carried on with its normal off-season operations, including free agency, however, their operations haven’t been spared completely.
The 2020 NFL Draft was held within a fully virtual format for the first time in modern history. There were no handshakes with newly drafted players and the commissioner, no fans being able to watch their favorite teams’s newest rookie grace the stage, and no rowdy draft environment we’ve grown accustomed to over the last 5 or so years.
Instead, we all sat inside our homes, and watched the draft unfold over 3 days full of the usual TV operations, and Roger Goodell getting comfortable in his chair while announcing pick after pick.
After the draft concluded, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this upcoming rookie class.
Why? Let me explain.
The newest rookie class is talented, but they’re facing a challenge no other rookie class has faced before.
Carry the heavy expectations that normal rookie classes receive, but potentially without the day to day operations rookies usually get exposed to during this time.
Facilities are closed across the league, and will remain closed until further notice. That means no time to get face to face with coaches, no time to get settled in as quickly as possible, no immediate hands on work, that give rookies the opportunity to get a jump on the basics coaches need them to get a grip on heading into OTA’s and mini-camp.
It’s basically all on the hands of this class, to get comfortable as soon as possible, and to do it without the luxury of immediate guidance from their respected coaching staffs.
Now I won’t sit here, and say this class deserves a total break, but I will say everyone will need to lower the expectations for this group until things get back to normal. Yes, these guys are professionals, and will be expected to contribute to their teams *potentially* come this fall. But the disadvantages this class is facing right now, surely can’t be ignored, and should be considered when it comes to their evaluation.
The process of learning NFL playbooks, and understanding the little things the staff wants you to understand, are already hard enough for most rookies to do when they enter the league. It’s way more difficult when rookies can’t even get into their own facilities.
It’s like walking into a Fortune 500 company, immediately being hired as the CEO without any sort of training or previous guidance, and being expected to continue the company’s prosperous times, while leading the company through growth as you chug towards the future.
You can say “they can learn the playbook, the checks, protections, coverages, all the nuts and bolts at home!”.
To that, I say bull honkey.
Think of transferring to a new school, you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings, and you know absolutely no one. Of course these guys aren’t 12 year olds struggling to adapt to change, but I believe you get the gist.
This rookie class could show up and show out for all I know, they could come 100% prepared for the upcoming NFL year, and put this article to shame. But with the way the off-season has transpired so far, and with the many uncertainties that stand in the way of the 2020 NFL season, I think it’s unreasonable to expect the majority of this rookie class to be 100% ready for the start of the season.
A lot of things have yet to be sorted out, but based on the path we’re headed, it’s best to temper expectations for this rookie class altogether.
Flip the page to see some of the rookies that might need their expectations lowered for this upcoming year.