The NFL is always looking for ways to increase the entertainment value of its events, and last night’s first round of the draft was no different. It’s funny, though, because while Thursday’s opening round was chock-full of drama, the suspense of the evening had nothing to do with the league’s latest effort to add intrigue to its product.
Last night’s first round was dramatic because of the record-breaking 19 trades, six of which affected the first seven picks. It was dramatic because we saw four quarterbacks fly off the board and a running back was taken in the No. 3 spot.
It was dramatic in spite of the fact that the NFL’s attempt to eliminate pick spoiling went to hell.
If you aren’t familiar with pick spoiling, you’ve never watched the draft. Every year, the broadcasting networks would subtly or not-so-subtly tip the vast majority of first-round picks by either dropping cheesy verbal hints (Berman, Chris) or showing soon-to-be-drafted players on their cellphones in the green room.
That was supposed to change this year. And while the networks generally avoided the shots of sobbing prospects taking calls in the green room and Berman and NFL Network pilot Rich Eisen generally avoided giving picks away before throwing to commissioner Roger Goodell for the official announcement, the majority of viewers were, unfortunately, already well aware of who was going to be chosen.
There were probably only about five occasions Thursday night where I wasn’t 99.9 or 100 percent sure whose name was about to be called. The problem is that the NFL introduced this mandate about half a decade too late. Nowadays, what with the Twitter and all, there’s no preventing the public from discovering the picks — whether they want to or not — ahead of time.
Unless they completely avoid Twitter for the night, but that would just be absurd.
To truly be surprised by a draft pick nowadays, you have to shut down the laptop and mute the TV between selections. There’s really no other way. At some points Thursday, Twitter was three whole picks ahead of ESPN and NFL Network.
I do believe the networks made a conscious effort to abide by the league’s request, but by the time the Browns were set to draft Brandon Weeden at 22, they’d pretty much given up. They showed Weeden in one of those clichéd family-room shots, spoiling nothing for anybody because Twitter had already been shouting the pick at us for 120 seconds. By the time the Buccaneers were on the clock with the 31st pick, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was flat-out telling us that Boise St. running back Doug Martin was the selection.
As ESPN’s Rachel Nichols pointed out on Twitter during the broadcast, the league was only able to mandate that no official TV broadcasts or team employees could tip, but that nothing else was regulated. So technically, Schefter was within his rights to tweet out pretty much every selection ahead of time since it wasn’t on the TV broadcast. If Seahawks owner Paul Allen counts as a “team employee” he pissed all over said mandate by preemptively tweeting the first 15 picks and several trades.
But it’s tough to ask Schefter, who is paid to break news, to abstain from doing his job, and even if you muzzle Allen — and that might have happened — there’ll be others who will emerge to reveal the gifts before Christmas morning. It’s 2012, man. There’s no such thing as a secret anymore. Just ask the Saints.