The NFL tried to put some of the suspense back into the draft this year by telling its TV partners not to give picks away before the commissioner announced them, and not to show players on the phone with the team that was about to draft them. But the reality of the information age is that it’s virtually impossible to keep information under wraps.
The league lets NFL Network and ESPN know ahead of time who the pick will be so the networks can have their graphics and highlight packages ready to go as soon as the name is called. That allows the on-air people to know, too, and some picks were still given away in advance — or at least strongly hinted at — by the on-air talent on the TV networks. ESPN’s Chris Berman, the man who was widely blamed for the trend of giving picks away — often just seconds before the name came out of the commissioner’s mouth — has backed off on his old practice of ruining the suspense while the commissioner walks to the podium. But there were still times when Berman and other on-air people made comments just before the picks were announced that strongly hinted they had already been told.
As soon as the team on the clock turns in its card, the NFL tells every other team who the pick is, and the next team is put on the clock. Sometimes the card is turned in several minutes before the commissioner announces it, and that means everyone in every NFL draft room — hundreds of people — knows the pick for several minutes before it’s announced. All it takes is one of those hundreds of people to put the pick on Twitter, and it’s out.
That’s what everyone who follows Seahawks owner Paul Allen on Twitter found out Thursday night: Allen repeatedly posted the picks as soon as he learned of them, often several minutes before Roger Goodell made his announcement. Allen did that with most of the picks in the first half of the first round before stopping after his own team picked Bruce Irvin at No. 15. Other insiders on Twitter had occasional leaked information, and the Bears tweeted their pick of Shea McClellin before Goodell announced it.
Some fans want no one — not members of the media, not team officials, no one — to give any picks away until Goodell announces them. Others would argue that there’s a distinction between a guy like Berman tipping the pick because he’s been told whose name is on the card and a reporter like ESPN’s Adam Schefter repeating what his sources have told him about who the team on the clock likes. And some fans want to know the pick as soon as it’s been decided from whatever source has the information, and don’t want to wait until Goodell and the TV networks are ready to put the pick on the air.
If the NFL really wants to clamp down on tipping picks, it could stop telling the networks in advance, and wait until the commissioner announces one team’s pick before putting the next team on the clock. But even then, a few people would know the pick before Goodell announced it, and all it takes is one to let the cat out of the bag. In a world of virtually limitless sources of information, there’s probably nothing the NFL can do to make Roger Goodell the only person who gives draft picks away.