From the time head coach Ron Rivera was alone in his house with just his laptop and iPad filling out player reviews in January, the Redskins have been diligently preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Now, with just a few days before the league's first-ever virtual draft event, that work has mostly been completed, and even Rivera admits the anticipation is getting to him.
"We're pretty excited about it," Rivera told Voice of the Redskins during a virtual leadership luncheon last week. "[It's] killing me just like it is a lot of people."
With the NFL adjusting to working from home for the past month and the foreseeable future, the Redskins have finished their player evaluations and write-ups. Their draft board is mostly set. The only thing left to do is wait and prepare for a draft that will be unlike any other before it.
"It's going to be interesting," Rivera told local media via videoconference on April 7. "I really do like the process, the way it's been mapped out."
The first half of the Redskins' draft preparations went largely as planned. Rivera and Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith gathered their information on prospects, attended the NFL Scouting Combine and started to prepare the draft board. But then the process got upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL instructed all clubs to shut down their facilities to everyone except essential employees, meaning the team would have to go through critical evaluations remotely.
It took some time for Rivera to get used to videoconferencing technology like Zoom to conduct meetings and even virtual player meetings. He told reporters that he is "truly the proverbial trained gorilla" when it comes to that area of expertise. But Rivera has been in touch with his staff on a daily basis, and he has regular conversations with Smith about the draft process.
"The way we're doing it is a little different than the way I've done it in the past," Rivera said, "but it's something I actually enjoy. I just think we're getting some pretty good insight."
Earlier this month, Rivera and his staff worked for five straight days on their coaches' readings where they added their own evaluations to what their scouts had already compiled. Although they're relying more on their scouts than ever to give them solid evaluations, Rivera still wanted his coaches to go through each player to see if each of them were a fit for the system they're trying to build in Washington.
"Because a lot of the time, all you go off is their numbers [and] not off their football ability, whether or not their football ability will transfer into fitting your style of play," Rivera said.
From there, the coaching staff held Zoom meetings on each position, starting with the offensive line and working their way to special teams players. Now, Rivera said, it's all about refining their board.
"You talk about what your specific needs are going into the process," he said. "And as you go through the process, now you start to look at what players are available and where you project those players [to be drafted]."
Rivera doesn't want the Redskins to draft specifically for need, and he doesn't want to necessarily draft for the best player available. Rather, he wants to pick the best player available that fits their needs. That's why this point in the process is so important.
"You want to be careful with that, you really do," Rivera said. "I've heard the expression that you don't want to shop hungry. So, keeping that in mind as we go through the board, we have to be really, really honest with ourselves in terms of where we see players and what our needs are."
While the Redskins are making final adjustments to their own plans, they also have to prepare for the draft being held virtually. The NFL held a two-round mock draft with all 32 teams on Monday so they could get used to the technology put in place for trades and other forms of communication.
"I think with the technology today, we should be able to do this draft without a hitch," Rivera said. "But there's always trepidation where something crazy would happen. We're working through all those fail-safes."
Dating back to his playing days with the Chicago Bears, Rivera has always felt anxious ahead of the draft. That feeling doesn't change now, but as a coach, his biggest anticipation is finding out which players will be joining the roster.
"A lot of young guys have played a lot of young football for this team, so I'm excited about it," Rivera said. "Hopefully we can couple it with a few draft picks."