Draft coverage (cont.)
(In honor of Peter King, here are some additional notes about the coverage)
A. I think Trent Dilfer was terrific during the Saturday coverage. Dilfer has long been a favorite of this column, and would be my choice to succeed Gruden on Monday Night Football -- should Gruden return to coaching. He was forceful with his commentary on Saturday, backed up by intellect. "How much of a burden did they have in college?" Dilfer said when analyzing the quarterbacks. "Andy Dalton carried the entire program of TCU. That tells me more than any shorts workouts and seeing how the ball spins."
B. I think television executives remain enchanted by Gruden. "I met Friday with [NFL Network Senior Vice President of Programming and Production] Mark Quenzel and Eric Weinberger," said Rothman, "and the first thing they said was, God, Gruden is f------ awesome. And before Dilfer came on the set, he said to me, 'Gruden was awesome.' I think Jon has that buzz and people want to hear what he has to say. It's just like QB Camp. He is a sticky guy, meaning you want to stick around and see what he has to say."
C. I think the NFL Network remains inexplicably transfixed with Irvin. "I thought Michael did a great job on opening night," said Weinberger. "He sat back most of it and he chimed in when he needed to chime in. Those are tough roles.
D. I don't think Gruden and Kiper hate each other, but I do think ESPN knows genuine conflict is good television. At one point, it seemed Gruden's head was about to explode as he exclaimed how much he liked Locker ("He reminds me of a young Rich Gannon!") following Kiper questioning his accuracy in the pocket. "Jon has the utmost respect for Mel and vice versa," said Rothman. "If you sat in our meetings, they were awesome and hysterical.
"Jon is a grinder. He works his butt off. Mel respects him for that. There are analysts out there who just read the preview guides and don't do the work. Jon does the work. He watches the tape. He always says to me: 'Jay, you think a monkey flew out of my ass and put this tape together?' Mel respects him for that.
"Conversely, Jon respects the hell out of Mel because he does the work. He's not a talking head who just regurgitates stuff. I was glad that Jon got lit up a bit and had his balls busted. I think he takes to heart this rap of 'Johnny Positive.' John is the ultimate ball-buster and he wants his balls to be busted back."
D. I think the NFL Network actually might add more staffers for its draft coverage next year. Said Weinberger: "I want to add more and more layers to the foundation of the analysis."
E. I think you can never have enough information guys on the set. ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter were excellent throughout the three days and Schefter (Twitter) and the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora (Twitter) added terrific value for multi-taskers through their Twitter accounts. The NFL Network's Lombardi had the scoop of the draft by breaking the news that the Patriots would select Mallett. Schefter and Mortensen were all over the Julio Jones trade. Said Mortensen (Twitter) prior to the pick: "General manager Thomas Dimitroff told me they were going to get an explosive player and they were going to have to trade up to get a guy."
F. I think NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders proved once again that it's always about him. During a taped interview with Cam Newton, Sanders asked the Auburn quarterback, "Do you know the cologne I'm wearing? It's called confidence. I wear it every day." (For the record, Newton said it smelled good.)
G. I think both networks showed how the labor rules affected the draft, with easy-to understand graphics. Schefter and Mortensen, in particular, did a nice job at the top of Thursday night's broadcast explaining the possibilities of what could be coming.
J. I think NFL Network host Rich Eisen did the best job of anyone capturing the surrealism of the moment when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was booed at the start of the draft.
J. I think Mayock showed why he was terrific when Cameron Jordan went No. 24 overall to the Saints. Within a short timeframe, Mayock told viewers that he's the son of former Vikings tight end Steve Jordan, he was tough against the run, he did not have elite end speed, but why he would be effective as a bookend with Will Smith.
K. I think the NFL Network has a philosophy of staying in the room with the picks for Rounds 4-7, while ESPN often opts to for extended conversation from the Bristol set. Both strategies work. For example, Mayock was talking about the Broncos' selection of Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter on Saturday, while ESPN interviewed Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff about the Julio Jones pick
L. I think the NFL Network getting Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich on Skype was very cool. But not as cool as Eisen giving on-air props to the NFL Network staffer who pulled it off. I'd love to see more name drops of behind-the-air staffers.
M. I think one of favorite lines of the draft came from Mayock on his analysis of Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, who went to Kansas City in the first round. "Jonathan Baldwin is a diva. Jonathan Baldwin is a handful. But he's a talented handful."
N. I think Kiper and McShay had a nice moment on Saturday when Kiper dogged McShay for falling in love with Mallett now that he was a Patriot. Clearly, these two like each other, and when they have genuine disagreement, it is just that. No Sean Salisbury-John Clayton faux-fighting here.
O. I think NFL Network executives would not mind expanding the draft to four days "We'd be for it; it's another day of an event," said Weinberger. "It will shorten and help the television window. You may want to push that through the competition committee.
P. I think ESPN is going to have a three-person set for the first two rounds of next year's draft. "I definitely thought three on the main set was the way to go," said Rothman. "I thought fans got what they needed to get. They got more Mel and Jon."
Q. I think (actually, I know) ESPN and the NFL Network drew approximately seven million viewers Thursday night for the opening round, down from 8.3 million last year for the opening round. It was the second-most watched first round ever (8.3M in '10).
R. I think (actually, I know) ESPN's coverage drew 1.3 million fewer viewers for this year's first round than a year ago (6 million viewers from 7.3). The rating was 4.4, down 17 percent from 5.3 a year ago. But viewership was up among young men. The NFL Network averaged a record 566,000 viewers over the three days of the 2011 NFL Draft, up from 560,000 in 2010). The network averaged 1.04 million viewers on Thursday night.
S. I think after Gruden said A.J. Green was the best offensive player in the draft, he delivered a great smackdown on a current Bengals receiver. Said Gruden: "I think this guy is just what the Bengals need. Terrell Owens doesn't look like he'll be back. Ochocinco is playing soccer somewhere."
T. I think you should file away these predictions made by ESPN analysts prior to the draft and see how they play out:
Ron Jaworski: "Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams will be the best running back in the draft."
Tom Jackson: "Nick Fairley will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year but not make the Pro Bowl because of his style of play."
Keyshawn Johnson: "Jake Locker will be the first quarterback in this draft to make the Pro Bowl."
Dilfer: "The first quarterback to take a team to the playoffs will be Andy Dalton."
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