Before the coronavirus pandemic forced numerous homes to become workplaces, Brandon Beane had a rec room in his Orchard Park residence. A pingpong table sat in the middle. There also was an area to play cornhole.
Now, the rec room is the Buffalo Bills' draft room.
That pingpong table, on which Beane and his sons, Troy and Wes, would stage frequent matches until the boys discovered "they can't win," at least according to their dad, has been replaced by two tables on wheels pushed together to form a desk. An office chair faces two computer monitors – one displaying a digital draft board, the other showing a clock and the picks as they come in – a Microsoft Surface and an office phone sitting on the desk and the large white draft board, with rows of black boxes, removed from the Bills' actual draft room and attached to a wall in Beane's basement.
That's the seat from which the general manager will make the Bills' picks, beginning with Friday night's second and third rounds. Tyson, 17, and Wes, 14, will take care of filling in the boxes on the board (with the help of a stepladder) as teams make their selections.
“If I can’t be in the draft room, this is like a mini-replica of what we’ve got at One Bills Drive," Beane said. "I mean, it's never going to be as good as what we have in our draft room, because we’ve done so much to that. But it's the next-best thing and we're going to be able to draft without a hindrance."
From his chair, Beane can see two television monitors tuned to draft coverage, to his left and right. Also to his right are two more computer monitors, showing the Bills' data on each player as he's selected.
Behind Beane is another chair that faces two more computer monitors and an iPad, which are for Zoom conferences with his staff, coach Sean McDermott, club owners Terry and Kim Pegula and the Bills' picks. A second phone sits next to the iPad. That's dialed into NFL draft headquarters, allowing Beane to hear each choice as it's submitted. It is muted, but should there be any problem with the electronic selection system, it can be unmuted to allow a pick to be submitted by voice.
Beane even has a backup cell phone in which he can insert the SIM card from his primary phone so all his contacts can be transferred. Similar setups can be found in the homes of the league's other GMs.
For now, the Beanes' family hang-out area is the location of the sole supplier of nourishment for Buffalo's sports-hungry masses.
As with others within the Bills and their fan base, Beane fully prepared himself for a "hard" time Thursday night, as the first round unfolded without being able to make a pick. He gave it to the Minnesota Vikings last month, as part of the trade to acquire wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Although Beane has maintained that he considers Diggs the Bills' first-round choice, there's an unavoidable sense of helplessness being a spectator through the draft's first 32 selections.
"You're seeing other teams get better," he said.
The Bills' makeshift draft room began coming together two weeks ago. That was when Dan Evans, the team's vice president of information technology, and Brian Burd, director of training center operations, began installing computer equipment and landlines, with accompanying wires, to allow Beane to conduct business in the same manner as he has for the past two drafts he oversaw for the Bills at club headquarters. An internet connection separate from the Beanes' family service was put in place to help ensure that the selecting and constant communicating are done without a hitch.
With a mask covering his nose and mouth, Evans has made almost daily visits to Beane's home – sometimes more than once a day – to make sure everything is working. There's a separate entrance to the basement from the outside, so Evans doesn't have to walk through the main part of the house to get there. Beane gave Evans an unlock code allowing him free access.
"He's probably more nervous about this than I am," Beane said. "That's how he's wired. He wants to be a perfectionist."
Last Friday, the Bills did a test run with Beane and his scouts. Last Monday, the NFL held a leaguewide mock draft.
"Every team had to do a mock trade," Beane said. "We had a mock trade with the Chargers that was scripted out for us."
Unlike the IT guy for the Detroit Lions, Evans doesn't need to sit in a motor home parked outside Beane's home in case anything goes wrong. They live in the same neighborhood. "I can hit a four-iron, and if it bounces around on the concrete a couple of times, I can get it to Dan's house," the GM said.
Trading during the draft is a Beane staple. In that respect, he has no intention of allowing the dramatic shift in how the draft is conducted to get in the way. Like Beane, key members of the organization have been outfitted with expanded technology.
If (and more likely when) the Bills make a deal, Beane will be on Zoom with senior VP of football administration Jim Overdorf, assistant GM Joe Schoen, and director of player personnel Dan Morgan. Schoen and Morgan will, as usual, initiate trade conversations with other teams and inform Beane when a deal could materialize. Once an agreement is reached, Overdorf calls the league's player-personnel office to relay the terms and waits for someone at the other end to confirm that the trading partner has relayed the same terms to finalize the trade.
McDermott and the Pegulas are also only a Zoom connection away.
"I always run through scenarios with (the Pegulas) prior to the draft and that day. 'Hey, this is what we think might be staring at us, these might be our options in the second round. We might have an opportunity to get this player or that player' or whatever," Beane said.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) April 23, 2020
As always, he will be downing fistfuls of his favorite draft snack, M&Ms, although Beane's wife, Haley, has made a point of supplying granola bars and other healthier choices for her husband and sons.
On Thursday night, Beane was like the rest of us, watching with curiosity to see how the NFL's first "virtual" draft would look and feel. On Friday, it will be time to get down to business.
“Really, the draft for me will start when the 32nd pick’s turned in," Beane said. "Because at that point, I’ll be able to see what’s on the board that may potentially work its way to us (Friday night) at 54.
“I think the work is done, the board’s set."
So is the Beane rec room.