For the first time ever, the NFL attempted to put an end to the habit of undermining the drama of the Commissioner walking to the podium at Radio City Music Hall and announcing each of the various first-round picks. To a certain extent, it was successful.
The end result seems to be the development of a loose standard for disclosing picks prematurely, as outlined by Richard Deitsch of SI.com in an excellently thorough (and/or thoroughly excellent) analysis of the entire three days of coverage.
On TV, discretion should be exercised. On Twitter, anything goes.
That’s how Adam Schefter of ESPN approached things, presumably with the blessing of his bosses. Eventually, NFL Network followed suit.
Still, there were moments during which it seemed that the on-air productions were unveiling the picks prematurely. On Friday night, Jason La Canfora and Michael Lombardi of NFL Network predicted the next two picks -- Mike Adams by the Steelers and Brock Osweiler by the Broncos -- with guesses that came off as something more than guesses. And ESPN’s Chris Berman said everything but “the Schwartz may be with the Browns” before Cleveland selected tackle Mitchell Schwartz near the top of round two.
It’s less of a problem on Friday night, but it still undermines the suspense that so many fans crave. And Berman’s wink-nod on the Browns’ second-round pick prompted me to post on Twitter that Berman “is making vague guesses when he knows damn well who the pick is.” ESPN producer Seth Markman denied to Deitsch that the production truck -- which knows the pick in order to prepare on-screen graphics -- gives advance information to Berman. (Markman also lamented the fact that I didn’t call him before sharing that observation on Twitter. To which I officially say in response, “Really?”)
Markman instead argues that Berman “has over 30 years of contacts in the NFL” and “notebooks full of notes that he shows me and says where this team is going to head.” Fine, but the point is that, as the Commissioner is walking to the podium, no one wants to hear Berman’s guess -- regardless of how Berman gets the info.
It’s been three years since I’ve watched the draft on TV, but it used to drive me crazy that Berman would slip in some subtle hint about what the pick will be, especially since he almost always was right, effectively stealing the Commissioner’s thunder.
So regardless of whether the production truck is giving Berman a head’s up through his earpiece (they call it an “IFB” in the business, which never made sense to me because it’s an extra syllable) or because Berman is some sort of draft-day Svengali, the audience doesn’t want to know. The audience wants to wait until the words come out of the Commissioner’s mouth.
The larger problem is that delays in the process of getting the picks announced by the Commissioner (thanks to the fact that the player and his family and his agent linger on the stage with photos and interviews) allow for more information to be available for a longer period of time. On multiple occasions during round one, the logjam of picks was at least three deep, with plenty of people at Radio City Music Hall and in war rooms across the country knowing the names of the players who are in the picks hopper. Speeding up that process will give folks less time to disseminate information before the Commissioner can disclose the pick.
Regardless, the people who tune in to the draft coverage generally don’t want to know. The sooner the folks who televise the draft coverage realize that, the sooner the audience will emerge from the process feeling satisfied.
As long as they don’t check Twitter and/or unfollow the folks who have no qualms about spoiling the surprise.