Earlier today we shared our report card for ESPN's coverage of Round 1 of the NFL Draft. Now it's NFL Network's turn. Would their draft grades fare worse or better than their competition in Bristol? Here's our report card for the key contributors involved in NFL Network's live coverage of Round 1 of the NFL draft.
Mike Mayock: A+
Mayock's analysis has always been top-notch, but he seems to be getting better at prognosticating the picks every year. He was predicting everything Thursday night, with the highlight coming when everyone figured the Vikings had jumped back into Round 1 to take Manti Te'o. Mayock was pretty damn certain Minnesota's pick would be Cordarrelle Patterson, and he nailed it. Mayock just blows everyone else at that desk away and continues to show why he's now the most trusted NFL Draft expert.
Rich Eisen: A-
Eisen is one of the best sports hosts in the country, period. He's not in his element as much during the draft, because it's really the Mike Mayock Show and he can't be the star of the set, but he accepts that and still does an exceptional job year after year. He makes some of the same lame, goofy observations that Chris Berman makes, but he somehow pulls them off in a way that doesn't cause me to shake my head. On Thursday night, he was on the ball as always with his sharp observations about things that don't matter, such as the "run on DJs" we had with the 11th and 12th pick and the fact the Texans "got a DeAndre to go with their Andre." He was again smooth, funny and insightful, and he was rarely annoying. Can't ask for much more than that from a host.
Marshall Faulk: B
Faulk's logical and he's good at summing things up and finding the key points to cover. While Michael Irvin is usually lost, Faulk is often on the ball. I don't know how well he knows the players, but he knows the NFL teams so well that he's able to connect dots quickly. He's also becoming more comfortable making big statements. His analysis of the Jets' Dee Milliner pick was the best moment of his night. Faulk suggested that bringing in Milliner right after trading Darrelle Revis could be a move that could severely damage Milliner's career. He also checks his ego at the door and is very likable on camera.
Daniel Jeremiah: B
I watched carefully as Jeremiah sat at the main anchor desk up until 7 p.m. ET, because it's his first draft since leaving the scouting world and joining NFL.com and NFL Network and I was very impressed. The guy just knows his stuff when it comes to both the teams and the players. Nobody has the overall knowledge he does, save for Mayock. Then he was relegated to the insider desk in the pit with Ian Rapoport and we heard him say about 12 words during the actual draft. I can't even tell you how much better the broadcast could be with Jeremiah sitting in Irvin's chair. I don't understand how the network execs don't see that. Hopefully he gets moved to the main set soon.
Ian Rapoport: B-
As I mentioned above, they barely go to that insider desk in the pit. The fact that they're not tipping picks anymore has rendered guys like Rapoport and Adam Schefter pretty much useless on draft night. But I've got no problem with Rapoport on air, which is why he gets a slightly above average grade.
Steve Mariucci: B-
Mooch continues to be everyone's favorite football-analyzing uncle. He's goofy but has the ability to make you laugh once in a while. His analysis is decent enough, but he takes a back seat to everyone on set except Irvin. I hate to say this, because I do like Mariucci, but Brian Billick is much better. Too bad he doesn't have the seniority, or whatever, because he was booted off the anchor desk at 7 p.m. ET, never to be seen again for the remainder of the night.
Deion Sanders: C
I can actually tolerate Sanders in the "reporter" role because it's pure fluff. He doesn't have to convince us that he's done any preparation because it isn't required. He just stands there and sucks up to a bunch of guys he wishes he could still be like, asking different variations of the world-famous "How does it feel?" cliché. I tend to ignore those bravado-riddled interviews anyway, but I will give Deion credit for doing a good job with E.J. Manuel when Manuel became extremely emotional. He also did a good job getting to the point and handling Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher at the same time in the green room just prior to the start of the draft.
Michael Irvin: F
Where do I begin? Underprepared. Not well spoken. Settles into clichés constantly. As far as sports television goes, Irvin is an undrafted free agent and Mayock is a first-round pick. It's sad to see them sitting next to each other. You forget he's there until he suddenly seems to realize he's not adding anything to the conversation and pipes in with the sort of generic statement that your aunt could have made 30 seconds prior at home. It's funny, because Mayock treats him like a child. They came back from break just before the eighth pick and Mayock went out of his way to give Irvin a chance to elaborate on a point he made while they were at commercial. Irvin responded by stumbling over himself, never getting around to the actual point before deferring back to Mayock, who had no time to clarify before they had to throw it to the commissioner for the next pick. If not for his half-decent ability to break down receivers and make comparisons to guys who played for the Cowboys in the 1990s, Irvin would add absolutely nothing to the draft broadcast.
Alex Flanagan's Manti Te'o feature: F
ESPN is still better than NFL Network at the fancy non-football stuff. NFLN sent Flanagan to Hawaii, where she stood on some rocky cliff-like thing overlooking the ocean and kept telling us that Manti Te'o was at a secret location. You're telling me you traveled 2,500 miles from Los Angeles to Hawaii and couldn't manage to finagle your way into that family draft party? Then there was the cheesy, over the top feature story on Te'o, which did absolutely nothing to add to an already overexposed storyline. Nothing original, nothing off the beaten path. Where's the special access? Where's the ROI on a trip halfway across the Pacific? ESPN has the personnel for assignments like those, but NFLN doesn't.
Albert Breer: N/A
Where the hell was he?
Final Grade: A
Overall, NFL Network continues to do a fantastic job with the draft. I think a lot of people watch ESPN out of habit, but there's no doubt that these guys have better hosts and analysts. Eisen and Mayock in particular are clearly the best at what they do. As a whole, NFL Network was on their game last night, with few awkward moments and mistakes.
Tip for the future. In the first sentence, on words "Earlier today" you put a link to that piece about ESPN coverage.
While I agree that NFLN was better, the gap was not as much as shown. Irvin alone brings NFLN to a B at best, and with Deion and the pointless insiders at the front of the room, they are a B-. Sure, Berman was terrible for ESPN but Gruden was really good and Kiper was solid. Also, complete failure here to mention the fact that Eisen would not stop talking about Te'o with every pick. He and Kiper both kept bringing him up every five seconds.
The problem I sometimes have with this site (which I really enjoy) is they seem to be looking to take shots at ESPN. Sometimes I think they do this just because they know it is a good business model: taking shots at ESPN generates traffic and revenue. However, some of the stuff they criticize ESPN for (blank text in Graphics, fields that weren't filled in) seem like petty message-board type stuff. I think Awful Announcing can't reach its true potential as a sports media criticism site until it stops just looking to point holes at ESPN (especially on twitter) for very minor mistakes
Strongly disagree with the overall grade - the broadcast was awful. Mayock was indeed a bright spot and deserves an A, but after a while I started thinking he was getting some advance knowledge of the picks. Eisen was solid but at times seemed to struggle keeping things on track. Faulk and Mooch were all right and Irvin was beyond useless.
The big problem was that the pick announcements seemed keyed to whenever there was an opportunity to make them in the NFLN's coverage. The pick would have been "in" for 5 minutes but they appeared to have to wait for when the commerical break was over or whenever the interview/talking heads finally finished (also, excessive time with the cameras on the talking heads rather than showing highlights of the draftees, another big let-down on the NFLN's part). This led to massive problems when they were getting a backlog and picks/trades were coming in even before the prior pick had been announced. They get a great big "F" at actually relaying what was going on during the draft.
(this comment submitted with the caveat that it looked to me like the NFLN was running the show and so the delays/backups were their fault. If not, they obviously don't deserve as much criticism as I gave them)
@falcon886 I agree to a large extent. I've said it for a few years now that it's less about giving the fan the picks and trades and more about the personalities and talking heads.
Just once I'd love for them to break from talking to tell us what the trades are when they actually happen and give us the picks when they actually come in. There's no way the NFLN or ESPN couldn't find hourly sponsors to go commercial free.
To me, the hardcore fan experience sucks - especially when your team pick comes in and everyone of the beat reporters knows the pick before it's announced on TV - for like 5 MINUTES before. There's an easy fix, when the pick goes in the commissioner announces it. Not waiting for 5 minutes.
It would also allow for them to actually talk about & show the highlights of the player in question longer.
@andycoppens @falcon886 One thing I was struck by when watching the Elway to Marino 30 for 30 the other night was that one team, I think it was the Bears, ran the clock down to the wire before the guy thrust out his draft card, which I guess was enough to get the pick in. The card was then delivered more or less directly to Pete Rozelle, who read it right there and then, actually announcing the pick to the world. No tipping the pick to other teams or the production trucks before going on air, let alone waiting for the hot press to churn out the fake photo op jersey (because, you know, there wasn't even a green room back then). Seriously, it should take like five seconds, at most, to type in the first few letters of someone's name, click their name on the list that comes up, and have all the graphics you need set up automatically. Now it's almost like the commissioner is almost one of the co-hosts. I get that it's entertainment, but this fake announcement crap just gets on my nerves. Even the NBA is more genuine. And that's before we get into the lengthy salutes to the troops when we're already behind, or the #BostonStrong tribute before the pick the Patriots just TRADED...
And not only do we have to wait for the production truck and hot press to get all their ducks in a row, but then the network goes to commercial when there's already another pick (or even two) in. Then we get a pick, and then the other network goes to commercial, or maybe the other network just decides to wait for almost a minute before joining the first network in commercial. The delays would be a lot better if only a) there was only one network covering the draft and b) they took their commercials more strategically; if there's time left on the clock, preferably more than 90 seconds, you go to commercial, if not, you don't and you go to the next pick ASAP. I get you want to get as close to the top and bottom of the hour as you can for the cable company's ads, but that's not a constraint for actual games, so why should it be here? This got really bad on Friday, to the point I started wondering whether they were TRYING to make sure the next pick was in before announcing the previous one; I never thought I'd actually be happy when networks started skipping pick announcements.