Day 40 without sports ?: It’s NFL draft week! Here are four key story lines.

We're 40 days in now, folks. Forty days without NBA and NHL playoff games, or Major League Baseball, or spring football practices or March Madness.

But this week, at least, we still have a marquee event to look forward to.

Though arenas and stadiums remain empty, the NFL draft will go on as scheduled beginning Thursday night, with additional action to follow Friday and Saturday. It will be the second virtual draft in as many weeks after the WNBA televised its own draft last Friday.

We'll have tons of content this week to get you ready for Thursday's proceedings, including a live mock draft with reporters from around USA TODAY Sports Network today at 1 p.m. ET. (Check it out on our Facebook page or YouTube.)

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In the meantime, here are four of the key story lines we'll be monitoring through the start of the draft and beyond.

1. Tua watch: Perhaps no prospect will come to define this year's draft more than Tua Tagovailoa, the once-presumptive No. 1 overall pick who is now arguably the biggest question mark in this class. It's entirely possible that a team could trade up into the top five and try to nab him before the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins get on the clock. It's also possible the Alabama quarterback's injury history could scare teams away, and lead to a precipitous fall.

Our most recent mock draft has Tagovailoa going fifth to the Dolphins, but keep your eyes peeled on draft night. If history has taught us anything, it's that NFL decision-makers are quick to fall in love with quarterbacks when they need one — and not afraid to give up significant assets to go get their guy.

2. The post-Brady era begins in New England: The Patriots have drafted as well as anyone over the past two decades, but there will be even more pressure on them this year to get it right. With Tom Brady now in Tampa, they'll probably need to bring in some sort of offensive help — and perhaps even another quarterback to compete with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.

Bill Belichick always seems to have a trick or two up his proverbial sleeve, so don't be surprised if he makes a draft-day trade or two to help add a few more pieces. And keep an eye on the third round, when the Patriots will have three picks in a short span: Nos. 87, 98 and 100 overall.

3. Deal or no deal? Last year's draft was a trade bonanza, with a total of 38 deals being struck over the event's three days, according to — including six in the first round alone. Will 2020 bring more of the same? 

It will be interesting to see whether the unorthodox nature of the pre-draft process plays a role here. Will there be less consensus on prospects than usual, because of the absence of pro days and private workouts? Or more?

4. A brave new (boo-less) world: Yes, there will be no boo birds when commissioner Roger Goodell announces each pick. And that won't be the only weird part of this year's virtual draft. General managers and coaches will be monitoring the event from basements and kitchen tables. Draftees will be interviewed remotely after they're picked. The whole thing will probably feel a little strange. The question is: How strange?

Sports video of the day

Regardless of whether you were able to catch the first two episodes of "The Last Dance" last night, it's worth taking a few minutes here to relive Michael Jordan's epic playoff performance on this date 34 years ago. His 63 points against the Celtics that night remain a single-game playoff record.

On this day in sports

1912: The Boston Red Sox play their first regular-season game at Fenway Park, while Tiger Stadium opens in Detroit.  

1916: The Chicago Cubs play their first regular-season game at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. 

1939: Ted Williams records his first MLB hit. 

1958: The Montreal Canadiens capture their third straight Stanley Cup.

1996: Keyshawn Johnson is selected with the first pick in the NFL draft.  

2002: The expansion Houston Texans select David Carr with the first pick in the NFL draft.  

2008: Danica Patrick makes history by winning the Indy Japan 300.

Story time! Here are some of our best

DON'T MISS OUT: These 11 players could end up as NFL draft steals

A DRAFT WITH MORE MEANING: Never has an NFL draft been more essential to our national psyche

WIDE RECEIVER HEAVY: Jaguars compares NFL draft wide receiver prospects to vaunted class of 2014

HOW NBA MAKES IT WORK:Behind the scenes of live sports during pandemic

PEYTON MANNING TO BURROW: Feel free to break my rookie (INT) record

Sports on TV

NFL: 1989 NFL draft, first round. For those who are itching to catch this year's draft, why not turn back the clock 31 years to 1989? The Dallas Cowboys selected Troy Aikman at No. 1. Pretty good pick. 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2.

Olympics: Michael Phelps, 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. A 1 1/2-hour special will showcase Phelps' Olympic-record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games i. 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network.

Sports we're missing

NBA and NHL playoffs


  • Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox
  • New York Yankees @ Detroit Tigers
  • Tampa Bay Rays @ Houston Astros
  • Seattle Mariners @ Minnesota Twins
  • Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals
  • Kansas City Royals @ Chicago White Sox
  • Baltimore Orioles @ Los Angeles Angels

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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