JACKSONVILLE – The time is now. At last.
It's going to be a historic time, and the 2020 NFL Draft won't look like any before it – for the Jaguars or the other 31 NFL teams.
The '20 draft begins Thursday at 8 p.m. and runs through Saturday. COVID-19 will make a "virtual draft" – without fans and with Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing Round 1 selections from his Bronxville, N.Y., basement. General managers and coaches will work remotely, depending on technology to a degree unprecedented in the event's history – all of which means we don't know what to expect the next three days.
Here's what we do know:
An always-important process is particularly important this year for the Jaguars.
"It's huge," Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said.
Caldwell said that during a pre-draft video conference last Thursday, a fitting format considering he and 31 others NFL general managers will be using videoconferencing and digital communication throughout draft weekend.
Logistics have been a focal point in recent weeks, with IT departments leaguewide working to ensure necessary communication not only between 32 general managers and the league office but between the teams' scouts, coaches and football personnel.
The Jaguars set up their virtual war room last weekend, and Caldwell said the personnel in it will be similar to previous years: Owner Shad Khan, Head Coach Doug Marrone and other key team officials.
Caldwell's primary logistics concern is one shared by many team officials around the league – that trades, particularly in the later rounds with five (seventh round) and four minutes (Rounds 3-6) between selections compared to 10 in Round 1, could prove difficult.
"That's probably the one thing that gives me a little bit of angst of how the process is going to go on," Caldwell said.
Former NFL executive Mark Dominik, now with SiriusXM, said the issue could change how teams approach the draft.
"I expect there will be less trades than we've seen before," Dominick said.
Causing Caldwell less angst is the Jaguars' position in the draft.
The Jaguars' 12 selections marks their most since Caldwell took over as general manager before the 2013 NFL Draft. They hold two first-round selections and three of the first 42 selections, with the breakdown as follows:
Two in Round 1 (Nos. 9 and 20), one in Round 2 (No. 42), one in Round 3 (No. 73), three in Round 4 (Nos. 116, 137 and 140), two in Round 5 (Nos. 165 and 170), two in Round 6 (Nos. 189 and 206) and one in Round 7.
"This is the most draft capital we've had here," Caldwell said. "We need to hit on all 12; that's our philosophy. Our process is we want to make every one of them count."
Caldwell last week left open the possibility of trading up or acquiring more selections in the draft – and whatever the Jaguars' final number of selections, they're likely to be one of the more active teams in what generally is considered a deep, talented draft.
The draft generally is considered very strong and deep at wide receiver and cornerback, with many analysts expecting more wide receivers to be selected in this draft than in any previous draft. It also is considered a good draft on the offensive line, particularly early with four potential tackles – Mekhi Becton of Louisville, Andrew Thomas of Georgia, Jedrick Wills Jr. of Alabama and Tristian Wirfs of Iowa – expected to be selected in the first half of Round 1.
Quarterback is expected to be a major storyline, with Joe Burrow of Louisiana State the likely No. 1 overall selection by Cincinnati. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama is expected to be a Top 10 selection despite extensive questions over his injury history, and many recent mock drafts project Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert in the Top 10.
Other players widely projected in the Top 10 include Ohio State edge defender Chase Young, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown. Various analysts in recent weeks have discussed all four as potentially the draft's best player.
Caldwell last week spoke of four players in this draft being good enough that if they slipped to the Jaguars he would select them without hesitation. Asked to identify the four he smiled and did not respond – but analysts agreed that considering the depth and talent available, the Jaguars are in good position in the coming days.
"They can have whatever they want," NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks told jaguars.com, and CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson added: "Given their needs, it's absolutely a good year. It's a good draft if you want offensive line, or defensive-line help – or if you're trying to solidify the cornerback position. There are years where there aren't any cornerbacks (or other coveted positions), and you're stuck with all these picks and you don't know what to do with them.
"This is a great year to have a ton of picks in the first 100."