Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh on replace retired guard Marshal Yanda in the upcoming NFL draft.
For years, the Ravens have conducted business during the NFL draft from a state-of-the-art war room in the team’s Owings Mills facility. There’s a dynamic draft board, seating for team officials and coaches, multiple TV monitors. If you haven’t been invited to watch, it’s probably because you’re not needed.
With the coronavirus pandemic upending the league’s draft plans, Eric DeCosta will still be making the final call on the team’s picks. He just might be doing it from the comfort of his home. In a memo sent Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote that teams will conduct their draft operations remotely, “with team personnel separately located in their homes.”
To coach John Harbaugh, that’s worrisome. The Ravens have nine picks in this month’s draft and, according to DeCosta, about 185 draftable players under consideration. Zoom, the popular video-conferencing service, has been their point of contact when phone calls won’t suffice.
And Zoom, Harbaugh also knows, has had calls targeted by hackers.
“Yeah, big concern,” he said during a predraft conference Zoom call Monday. “Every time I read something in, like, the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is, or some of these other deals ... I immediately text it to our IT people, and [director of football administration] Nick Matteo’s one of those guys, and they assure me that we are doing everything humanly possible."
Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff told NBC Sports that he’s worried about how you "make sure your conversations are protected. Someone could hack into this Zoom [interview], and you’re probably not going to learn a lot. Hacking into a team’s draft room on Zoom is probably a lot different.”
In response to a string of hacking and harassment incidents on its platform, Zoom recently announced new security measures, including the introduction of passwords and waiting rooms for users on its free tier.
The Ravens, one of the NFL’s most valuable franchises, are probably not free-tier users. But Harbaugh expressed concern about the potential for wrongdoing, noting that ostensibly secure institutions like banks have suffered massive data breaches.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings. That would be preferable, if we can stay away from that.”
Joked DeCosta: “I’ve got more confidence in Zoom than I do [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and John and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and [team president] Dick [Cass] with a copy of our draft board that they just, like, leave in their car in the front seat or something like that.”