The Lions get the 24th pick in the NFL draft in the main theater on Thursday, April 25, 2024 for the first day of the NFL Draft in Detroit. Syndication: Detroit Free Press

It’s around the 17th or 18th pick of the NFL Draft that, without a team to root for or rooting interest in where certain players land, you realize the draft is not an interesting television product.

It’s ironic given the truly bonkers amount of time dedicated to what happens across these three days, but when you finally get there, you quickly realize that it’s so much sizzle for so little steak.

That’s not ESPN’s fault. The NFL Draft was not created as a television product and almost certainly doesn’t need to be. With all its largesse and excess, the NFL willed it into becoming a must-see event, even if it becomes incredibly monotonous once you’re past the seven or eight names that everyone spent the last three months discussing.

Still, ESPN pulls out all the stops. They throw all their bells and whistles at it to try and make it entertaining. And to their credit, they accomplish that, for at least a while. It’s commendable how the efforts of the production team and broadcasting crew pay off and make the most of what they have to work with.

While there was distinct draft coverage on ABC (College GameDay crew) and ESPN+ (The Pat McAfee Show Draft Spectacular), the ESPN broadcast remains the “classic” presentation from an NFL perspective. Let’s take a closer look at how that broadcast of the 2024 NFL Draft went down.

What Worked – Molly McGrath

Sideline reporters often get the short end of the stick when it comes to their efforts, but the entire NFL Draft enterprise falls apart if McGrath isn’t creating memorable moments with her brief player interviews and green room interactions. There’s an art to knowing how to interview athletes when time is limited and McGrath got the memo. She didn’t just stick to basic “How does it feel?” platitudes, she incorporated details into her questions to help inform the audience while giving the players some runway to work with.

She was able to be playful when the players were loose and squeeze water from a stone when they weren’t. It was a real masterclass in how to do that job.

What Didn’t Work – Showing Players At Home Too Soon

When the first round was officially deep enough that most of the players being selected were watching at home, ESPN’s broadcast settled into a very strange rhythm. The pick would be announced and the broadcast would immediately move to the shot of the player and their family/friends, only, it was clear that they were on some kind of delay and weren’t aware that the pick had been made. That made for awkward television as he watched a room full of people looking bored. Then the broadcast would shift to player highlights and perhaps a moment with the analysts before returning to the players after they’ve finally heard the good news.

It seemed like ESPN finally figured out how to make it interesting with Jared Verse, the 19th pick, as the first look-in at him post-selection was one of celebration. 

In retrospect, it would have been a cleaner and more visually interesting experience if, after the pick was made, we immediately went to the analysts for their thoughts, before showing highlights and eventually going to the player at home when they are aware and celebrating.

What Worked – Adam Schefter

As much as we appreciate Woj’s playful games when it comes to tipping picks without tipping them, a draft is more enjoyable as a television product the longer we remain in suspense about what might happen. Schefter threaded the needle well, offering up valuable information about what a team’s intentions might be without saying outright who they were selecting.

He also often shared important updates with each appearance that gave us a sense of what was happening behind the scenes. The way he prepped audiences for the Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Penix, Jr. pick especially stood out.

What Didn’t Work – Too Many Cooks

We see so many five- or even six-person desks during sports broadcasts these days that a four-person broadcast sounds downright minimalist. That said, the ESPN crew still had one too many people. Mike Greenberg handled hosting duties just fine and Mel Kiper, Jr. did what Mel Kiper, Jr. does. Louis Riddick was the star of the show with the most compelling insights and interesting commentaries on players and how well they fit with their new teams. Booger McFarland had his moments but his insight often felt unnecessary. Dropping McFarland would have given Riddick and Kiper, Jr. a little more room to breathe and perhaps given us a few more instances of debate that would have benefitted the flow of the conversation.

What Worked – The Opening Montage

Look, you’re not gonna hold the NFL Draft in Detroit and NOT get Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, and Eminem to show up for a pre-taped bit, but they did a pretty good job with it. And good on Goodell for being a good sport about being booed, which he most certainly was most of the evening.

What Didn’t Work – ‘The Pick Is In’ Jingle

Not sure if they put an intern on the “The Pick Is In” jungle this year but there were multiple times when it created some very awkward situations during the broadcast. The most egregious came as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was talking about honoring a fallen soldier and the jaunty ditty interrupted him.

There were several other moments when the jingle interrupted someone speaking or a special moment. Strange that ESPN didn’t have someone checking for that before slamming the button.

Stray Thoughts

– Is there a bigger red flag than “traveled to attend the NFL Draft and wore an elaborate costume while there?” They make the people who go to Times Square for New Year’s Eve seem bland. All of these guys should be on a list, especially the Los Angeles Rams fan right out of Midsommar.

– Quibbles about the NFL Draft analyst desk aside, it was strange how little ESPN showed us their analysts during the early part of the draft. We heard them speak plenty, but they were barely visible until we got out of the top ten picks, when presumably there were fewer things for the broadcast to point to. I think they would have benefitted from showing the broadcaster crew more often in the early goings, but I also understand the need to throw every visual you can think of at the wall to make the Draft stimulating.

– “They’ve waited a century, let’s see if this is the time when they get it right,” said Mike Greenberg after the Chicago Bears drafted Caleb Williams. Sid Luckman and Jim McMahon catching a stray. 

– I’m glad they didn’t have too many instances where they’d cut to a player’s high school. The few times they did it was incredibly cringe, especially because you could usually see everyone get the cue to start cheering after the camera was on them. Not to mention that many of the kids in those crowds probably didn’t even know the player in question.

JC Latham! Be careful with Roger’s back!

– It looked like the ESPN graphics crew was not expecting Dallas Turner to be the pick at No. 17.

– The USAA Gronk commercials. Which government official do we need to contact to make them stop? 

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to