For the third consecutive year, ESPN and ABC will each offer a different flavor of NFL Draft broadcast for the first two days of coverage.
ESPN’s will be, well, ESPN’s; pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from their coverage over the decades except now with Mike Greenberg. ABC, meanwhile, will once again offer a more college football-focused version, featuring College GameDay analysts and hosted by Rece Davis and Maria Taylor.
Last year’s draft coverage took place amidst the early days of the pandemic, and it was one of the only events on the sporting calendar that was able to take place more or less without disruption, although it was certainly an early test for the kinds of remote/from-home broadcasts that became the norm over the last year or so. This year the league is bringing things back to a presentation that will feel a bit more traditional in Cleveland, with Roger Goodell and some prospects there in-person, along with some fans.
ESPN and ABC will both be broadcasting from Cleveland as well, as noted by ESPN’s release:
On ESPN, Mike Greenberg will debut as host mere months ahead of his 25th company anniversary. Greenberg will lead ESPN’s 42nd NFL Draft on Day 1 and 2 with senior NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., covering his 38th draft, and NFL analysts Louis Riddick, his seventh, and Booger McFarland, his third. ESPN’s event coverage will also feature Senior NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen, covering his 31st draft, and Adam Schefter, his 12th, and NFL host Suzy Kolber, who will cover the event for the 18th year and interview draftees.
Meanwhile, the ABC crew:
On ABC, 25-year company veteran Rece Davis, who recently signed an ESPN extension, and Maria Taylor, a leading voice across college sports and on NBA Countdown, will co-host the prime-time broadcasts on Day 1 and 2. Davis will cover the event with college football analysts Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, returning for their fourth draft, and senior NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay, his 12th. From a nearby set, Taylor, covering her fourth draft, will anchor with college football analyst and third-year draft commentator Jesse Palmer. College football analyst David Pollack, returning for his fourth draft, will also provide insights alongside his College GameDay teammates.
On Day 3, Davis will host the 2021 NFL Draft on ESPN and ABC with Kiper, McShay, Riddick, Mortensen and Schefter.
NFL Network will also have live coverage of all seven rounds.
The dual-broadcast approach only began in 2019, but it’s interesting to look back at the roots of that decision. In 2018, the NFL offered a pretty strong signal they weren’t happy with ESPN as a rights partner by granting network FOX the right to simulcast NFL Network’s coverage, with Fox NFL analysts appearing throughout. ESPN ended up winning the ratings battle that year, but it remained a shot across the bow, and it wasn’t hard to imagine a future where ESPN and the NFL went their separate ways once rights came up.
Instead, ESPN and new president Jimmy Pitaro doubled down on the NFL, adding the ABC draft coverage in 2019, and now both entities are even more firmly tied together, with ESPN retaining Monday Night Football and jumping into the Super Bowl rotation via ABC.
The 2021 NFL Draft will kicks off Thursday, April 29th with the first round, and then finishes across the next two days.