The NFL draft is one of the biggest television events of the year, sports or non-sports. The funny part about that, of course, is that no game is played. It’s all about anticipation and suspense and the almighty future, which is why it enables both ESPN and NFL Network to get their creative juices flowing in order to carry storylines forward and keep viewers interested in something that until 20 years ago wasn’t considered to be television-friendly.

ESPN usually has more bells, whistles, features and human-interest content, while NFLN brings you the straight goods. Here’s our review of NFLN’s broadcast Thursday evening from Chicago.

A grades

The set: The Auditorium in Chicago is significantly smaller than Radio City Music Hall and thus cozier. NFLN’s set felt closer to the “action,” with a big screen and the stage directly behind Rich Eisen, David Shaw, Steve Mariucci and Mike Mayock.

David Shaw: It’s unbelievable how much of an upgrade Shaw is over Michael Irvin in the first round. Irvin phones it in, Shaw is a college football genius who knows these players inside and out. He has coached them and recruited them. His contributions were invaluable. Nobody missed Irvin.

Shaw and Mike Mayock make up a great duo because Mayock comes from more of an NFL fit perspective, while Shaw can give us the NCAA angle. He also gave us a great tidbit when he mentioned that Andrew Luck accidentally hung up on the Colts when they called to draft him, just as Marcus Mariota did with the Titans Thursday night.

Rich Eisen: I hardly ever have anything to say about Eisen because he doesn’t screw up, he’s smooth, he’s funny, he’s professional and he’s extremely well prepared. He’s hardly ever annoying or overly chatty. He just does the job better than almost anyone I’ve watched.

B grades

Mike Mayock: I’ve raved about Mayock time and again, and nothing’s changed. The one thing I’ve noticed he’s been doing better of late is making NFL-level comparisons in order to give viewers perspective. That’s the first thing he did with Marcus Mariota and Colin Kaepernick Thursday night.

Mayock’s only weakness is that he sometimes isn’t critical enough. Not saying he’s got Jon Gruden syndrome, because he was still pretty hard on Danny Shelton and criticized Andrus Peat while addressing Shaw (who coached Peat at Stanford), but I want to hear more about the potential downside. After all, precedents indicate about half of these guys will be busts.

Daniel Jeremiah: Jeremiah is so good on TV for a guy who doesn’t have a TV background. It’s really astounding that he’s only been working on the media side of things for a few years. He delivers context and also does a nice job making comparisons to current players. He’s likable, succinct and smart.

Charles Davis: One thing NFLN really stressed this year was an emphasis on establishing comparisons between draft picks and current NFL players. Davis was a star in this area, even pulling Merlin Olsen out of his memory bank for a comparison to Leonard Williams. The only criticism is it did often feel as though both Jeremiah and Davis were simply piggybacking off of Mayock’s thoughts, rather than offering up new perspectives.

Chris Rose: Rose is good, he just isn’t needed. When he threw to some picks and set up his analysts, he was just as smooth as Eisen. He’s not as witty or quick on his feet, but he did have some strong tidbits while queuing up picks or segments.

Melissa Stark: Stark isn’t any more inquisitive than Deion Sanders, but she at least does some digging in order to bring something different to the table. She did a great job with Breshad Perriman, who was still waiting to hear his name called in the green room. She noted that Perriman’s dad played with Michael Irvin, and then asked if Irvin changed his diapers. That’s at least something fresh.

C grades

Telecast introduction: A bit cliché showing kids looking up at Russell Wilson cut-outs, teenagers throwing footballs through tires swings and prospect-aged dudes running through cone drills, but at least the Dick Butkus-narrated introduction went heavy on Chicago. “The loop,” that bean thingy, the Blackhawks and Chicago’s architecture were all featured, which was an obvious but fitting and nice touch for the first draft in half a century held outside of New York. It was kind of weird that Amari Cooper and Dante Fowler Jr. weren’t among the players highlighted, but that’s admittedly nitpicky.

Kurt Warner: Because only two quarterbacks were drafted, we didn’t hear much from Warner. As the only quarterback on any of those sets, his commentary is rather valuable and he usually delivers. It was interesting to hear him go in a new direction with a Matt Ryan comparison during an extended analyst on Jameis Winston. His take on Mariota, though, was quite bland.


About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.