The NFL Draft is much more than NFL teams selecting the new players that will fill out their 53 man rosters in the fall. The NFL Draft is a television event. The NFL Draft is about the drama of trades, steals, players falling down the board, and whether or not a player will be drafted from Marietta that Mel Kiper doesn’t have a grade on. The most dramatic element is supposed to be the moment the commissioner steps to the podium to announce who your team is picking. Will it be the one player you’ve longed for since first googling “NFL Mock Draft” when your team was out of the playoff chase in November? Will it be a moment of massive disappointment because the pick is a huge reach? Will your GM once again ignore your obvious holes on the offensive line and go for the workout freak that was able to outrun Rich Eisen at the combine?
The NFL Draft is a naturally compelling television event, but in recent years, more and more of that drama has been sucked out of the First Round with the tipping of picks. Instead of waiting for the moment the commissioner makes the announcement of the selection at the podium, we’re often tipped off in a number of ways as to what the coming pick will be. Sometimes, a network insider like Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen, or Jason La Canfora will predict what’s coming. Most times, the pick is spoiled by camera footage of the draftee on the phone with his new team in the green room or sitting at home. This practice of breaking the news as quickly as possible takes much of the intrigue out of the moment when the pick is announced.
Thankfully, that practice will be greatly reduced this year as Richard Deitsch reported earlier this week. The NFL has worked with ESPN and NFL Network to ensure that players are not shown on the telephone before they are announced as a selection. This is fantastic for viewers and fans at home and will restore some of that intrigue that has been lost with annoying green room shots. With this year’s Draft specifically, the questions of who is getting drafted where doesn’t even start until the third pick with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III 99.9999% sure to go #1 and #2 overall.
Critiscism of the amount of green room shots and tipping picks reached a fever pitch last year with ESPN and NFLN going all out in getting news of the picks first. There will still be a fair share of tipping picks though, with no restrictions being placed on NFL insiders from reporting news about picks and trades. In addition, following along with the NFL Draft on social media (as scores of viewers will do) will by nature reveal some of that information before the announcement as well. It’s bound to happen for some picks, but it is the extent of tipping picks that has frustrated viewers in recent years.
Therein is the delicate balance of televising the NFL Draft. It is both a news event and a television event. However, refusing to show players in the green room pre-pick is the sensible compromise as there is no news value in watching a guy talk on a phone. This will allow both ESPN and NFLN to actually use their reporting chops to tell us what is going to happen instead of merely switching to Camera 2.