MGM's Las Vegas resorts temporarily closing due to coronavirus, putting NFL draft in further doubt

The NFL is going on with free agency as planned. The draft might be a different story.

There has been no announcement about the league plans for its draft, which was to be held in Las Vegas on April 23-25. But it seems impossible the league will go forward with the draft as planned, given the coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down most of the country.

The latest sign came Sunday, when MGM said it would be temporarily suspending operations at its resorts in Las Vegas and wouldn’t be taking incoming reservations until May 1. That’s a week after the scheduled NFL draft.

NFL draft hasn’t been changed yet

Two companies operate most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip: Caesars and MGM. Yahoo and MGM have a sports betting partnership.

With so many rooms in Las Vegas off limits for the foreseeable future, it makes no sense for the draft to happen as scheduled. Along with the CDC’s recommendation against 50-person gatherings for at least eight weeks, there doesn’t seem to be any hope that the draft will go as scheduled. The NFL seems to understand that reality.

No announcement has been made yet, but that could happen soon.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to decide what will happen with the 2020 draft. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NFL will have to decide what’s next with draft

The NFL will have to consider its options when it comes to the draft.

Like free agency, the league could hold its draft mostly behind closed doors and without a large crowd. Networks could broadcast the picks as they come in. Given the lack of live events in sports for the next couple months, television ratings would still do very well for a stripped-down NFL draft.

Las Vegas, which is getting the Raiders this season, was a prime destination for fans and would have been a great way for the NFL to embrace its newest market. The NFL could decide to push the draft way back to still hold the draft in Las Vegas but that seems imprudent, especially with no idea when large sporting events will be OK again.

The draft could look a lot different. It used to be a much smaller scale affair, held in a ballroom, and that might be what it looks like in 2020. There wouldn’t be the same pomp and circumstance we’ve seen the past few years as the NFL has turned the draft into a huge three-day event, but players would still be picked by teams and could start their professional careers. The NFL offseason would be limited, but mostly would follow the normal schedule, in terms of player transactions.

The NFL will have to weigh its options for the draft. About the only unrealistic option is going forward with the draft as planned in Las Vegas next month.

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