Earlier this week, it was announced that Mike Hill, Mark Schlereth, and John Clayton would be the new ESPN Radio team covering the NFL Draft. Immediately, the question came to mind whether or not there would be a new television team as well for the Draft. SI's Richard Deitsch tweeted the ESPN coverage plans on telelvision, and it's another year of Chris Berman.
Oh well, I guess it's not a surprise that Berman will somehow be back for his 32nd NFL Draft. At this point, it appears only an act of God will take Boomer out of the main anchor chair for the NFL Draft. But what else can we look forward to from the TV coverage by ESPN and NFL Network? Our pal Ken over at Fang's Bites has all of the details in the press releases from both networks. Just a warning, you may want to carve out a couple of hours out of your day to read through the massive list of names involved...
Let's start with ESPN's coverage first. Last year we applauded ESPN's decision to go with a truncated main stage set, relying on Mel Kiper Jr. and Jon Gruden instead of double the amount of analysts. Gruden and Kiper were very good last year, showing good chemistry and not holding back when disagreeing with each other. In fact, a large component of their chemistry was the lack of canned laughter and backslapping that is seemingly a prerequisite for an ex-jock/analyst.
Of course a cast of thousands will be there to support the main trio of Berman, Kiper, and Gruden. One highlight looks like it will be former Colts boss Bill Polian, who will provide analysis from a front office perspective along side insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen on the second and third days of the draft. Analysts Todd McShay and Trent Dilfer will also see promotion to the main stage throughout the draft while Trey Wingo takes over for Berman on Day 3.
As usual with ESPN's coverage, it looks to be very hit and miss. The range of auxiliary analysts and reporters will have to really stand out to make any impression on viewers. Jon Gruden will have to stick to his insightful analysis and scouting reports without proclaiming every QB taken to be a future Pro Bowler. The duo of Kiper and McShay will have to make their disagreements seem organic and not staged as the draft moves into their wheelhouse in the later rounds. Trent Dilfer will have to be smart without trying so hard to sound smart. And finally, well, we just have to suffer through Berman for the first two days utnil an actual pro in Trey Wingo takes over.
Turning to the NFL Network, it's clear they are focusing their coverage on one of the rising stars of the football media, Mike Mayock. Perhaps the most surprising move is the release of a complete first round mock draft by Mayock on Wednesday night, which the NFL Network is hyping as his only exclusive mock of the year. NFL Network is devoting an entire hour to Mayock and hoping viewers will gravitate to his pointed analysis and then stick around for their Day 1 coverage. But, I don't know if Mayock has built a brand for himself like Mel Kiper Jr. that he can draw in viewers on his own star power just yet.
Other than that, NFL Network is far less specific about their plans for who will be on the main stage in New York amidst their dozens of analysts and reporters. Literally, they have 14 people who will be in New York and another 17 stationed in their L.A. studios, not to mention a boatload of team reporters. One interesting addition is current Stanford Head Coach David Shaw, who will undoubtedly provide insight into almost certain #1 pick Andrew Luck. Shaw and LSU coach Les Miles will be on the main set on Day 3 and we know Rich Eisen will also be the main host, but will they be drowned out by the likes of Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin?
So now to the important question....which one will you watch? For Time Warner customers like myself, the choice is made for us, it's ESPN or bust. But, if I had to do it myself, the choice would still be pretty difficult. There are clearly pros and cons to each network. The NFL Network has the best host (Eisen) and who many regard is the best analyst (Mayock). But, it seems ESPN learned a valuable lesson last year that less is more, especially on the main stage. And despite the bumbling and stumbling of the walking caricature that's left of Chris Berman, I still might opt for the combo of Gruden and Kiper over the NFL Network's dizzying ensemble.