If any NFL teams experience technical issues during the 2020 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers appear confident that they will not be among them. That was the feeling expressed by general manager Brian Gutekunst on Monday, when he spoke to the media via conference call from draft central, also known as the Gutekunst residence.
The biggest topic of concern, and rightfully so, is the team’s (and in particular, Gutekunst’s) ability to communicate, both across the front office and with league officials. Thankfully, Gutekunst and company appear to be fully ready to go when the draft begins on Thursday afternoon.
“The setup at my house is better than I could have expected,” Gutekunst said Monday. “I think that we’re pretty well prepared for something like this. It’s a lot of trial and error...the communication among our staff is going to be the most important thing. We had the trial run today and it went really well.”
The “trial run” that Gutekunst referred to was the NFL’s so-called mock draft, which took place earlier on Monday and featured some early issues. While Gutekunst would not reveal what player or players the Packers were assigned to “pick” in this mock — saying that it was all scripted — he said that the event actually went “pretty smooth.”
“A lot of it was just getting comfortable in how I was gonna communicate, not only with the league and other teams, but (with) our guys. We kind of went through that and got a lot of answers,” Gutekunst said. League communications in particular appear to be more flexible than usual this year, as he added that he thinks the NFL will “give you a little leeway” if a team is up against the clock. Still, delegation of duties should not be an issue for the front office: “I have a lot of experienced guys on staff, so I’m pretty confident that things will run pretty much as normal.”
Another factor that Gutekunst addressed for the first time is the overall impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the preparation process. His last availability came at the Scouting Combine, which wrapped up a little less than two weeks before colleges began canceling their Pro Days. As a result, Gutekunst acknowledges that the team is missing some information that it normally would have, but says that it will only have a modest impact on their evaulations:
“There’s things that you don’t have this go-around that you normally would have. Our process has been through the last 27 years, we’re very, very heavy on tape evaluation. That’s the most important part of what we do,” Gutekunst said. “There certainly are some things, certainly measureable-type things that we weren’t able to get, some medical things that maybe we would have normally had that we don’t have, but in terms of making decisions, for us, we have what we need to make good decisions for our football team.”
Despite the team’s preparations, however, the premier event of the offseason — the culmination of the college scouting department’s efforts for years — can never be truly the same in this format. Gutekunst lamented that fact: “For me personally, not being in our draft room, together, is disappointing. We work really well together. It’s an exciting time, we have a lot of juice having those guys around, so it won’t be the same.”
That goes for the fans as well. But hopefully the logistics of the draft will go off smoothly and the front office can all enjoy a beer together after the event is over — they’ll just have to do so via conference call once again.