One of the most memorable moments of Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft came from the Dallas Cowboys’ selection of Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn in the sixth round, 212th overall. Normally, a pick that late might not attract that much attention. But Vaughn is the son of Cowboys’ assistant director of college scouting Chris Vaughn, and that led to quite the reaction from the elder Vaughn when he was told of the pick in the Cowboys’ war room (as seen above). Here’s how that was shown on ESPN and NFL Network:
The reaction in the Cowboys draft room when Jerry Jones told the team’s assistant director of college scouting Chris Vaughn that Dallas was drafting his son, Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 29, 2023
Here's how NFL Network covered the pick of Deuce Vaughn 212th overall by the Dallas Cowboys. Vaughn is the son of Cowboys' assistant director of college scouting Chris Vaughn. pic.twitter.com/ifGC0SCaOB
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 1, 2023
Richard Deitsch of The Athletic spoke to ESPN vice president (production) Seth Markman and NFL Network executive producer Charlie Yook on their networks’ coverage of that pick, and got some great quotes:
“Obviously, there’s high interest when the Cowboys do anything,” Yook said. “Deuce was a name in this draft that we wanted to highlight. Once [Daniel] Jeremiah said his father worked for the Cowboys, we had the shot. It was a perfect storm. The Cowboys made the pick, it was a player we were interested in, and once again Daniel Jeremiah says something that gets us looking at the elements that we have. It was a great moment.”
…“Look, on Day 3 do we do pick by pick by pick? No. You want to find those names that make sense,” Yook said. “We’re not worried necessarily about the next pick. We’ll pay it off on a board ticker or elsewhere. This was a big moment, a family moment, and something that connects everyone whether you’re a Cowboys fan or Kansas State fan or not. It was a player that we think is actually going to be pretty good for the Cowboys. You want to find those moments that are organically happening and have the production value behind it. When those two things collide, you get great moments.”
…“It’s completely what we dream of,” said ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman, who is Yook’s equivalent at ESPN as the point person of his company’s NFL Draft coverage .“There are certain moments over the years where you need your people to recognize this is a special moment and we need to stay with it. I was not in the truck at the time. I was watching it like a viewer. I’m nervous that someone is going to make a decision to leave and cut out of that shot and go to a highlight. So what I was most pleased with is the amount of time we gave it. We let the moment happen.”
The “what we dream of” and amount of time discussion from Markman is interesting, as is Yook’s “We’re not worried necessarily about the next pick. We’ll pay it off on a board ticker or elsewhere.” That speaks to what these networks are doing on Day 3 in particular, looking to spotlight particular stories they think will have wider appeal rather than just breaking down every pick. Day 3 this year even saw ESPN showing pre-recorded performances from Fall Out Boy and Mötley Crüe in place of live picks.
Focusing on an actual player like Vaughn is probably less controversial than showing those concert clips. It likely had a lot of appeal to many viewers, as the social media reaction shows, and it fits in with the spectacle the draft has become. But it is perhaps unfortunate for the other late-round picks without relatives in the NFL who wound up “paid off on a board ticker or elsewhere” and didn’t get as much of a TV spotlight. And it’s maybe a bit unfortunate for fans of other teams whose late-round picks got less attention and analysis.
Draft coverage at this point has a lot of focus on off-field stories, though, especially in the later rounds. And this is a better story to spotlight than the off-field tragedies the networks have often emphasized in the past, which they fortunately reduced this year. It’s also a story the networks have been on for some time, including with this NFL Network-aired “Road to the Combine” video from combine sponsor NoBull.
So there was definitely some logic to how ESPN and NFLN handled this. And it’s interesting to hear those producers talk about why their networks made the decisions to cover it the way they did.