A loose standard emerges for tipping picks

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For the first time ever, the NFL attempted to put an end to the habit of undermining the drama of the Commissioner walking to the podium at Radio City Music Hall and announcing each of the various first-round picks.  To a certain extent, it was successful.

The end result seems to be the development of a loose standard for disclosing picks prematurely, as outlined by Richard Deitsch of SI.com in an excellently thorough (and/or thoroughly excellent) analysis of the entire three days of coverage.

On TV, discretion should be exercised.  On Twitter, anything goes.

That’s how Adam Schefter of ESPN approached things, presumably with the blessing of his bosses.  Eventually, NFL Network followed suit.

Still, there were moments during which it seemed that the on-air productions were unveiling the picks prematurely.  On Friday night, Jason La Canfora and Michael Lombardi of NFL Network predicted the next two picks — Mike Adams by the Steelers and Brock Osweiler by the Broncos — with guesses that came off as something more than guesses.  And ESPN’s Chris Berman said everything but “the Schwartz may be with the Browns” before Cleveland selected tackle Mitchell Schwartz near the top of round two.

It’s less of a problem on Friday night, but it still undermines the suspense that so many fans crave.  And Berman’s wink-nod on the Browns’ second-round pick prompted me to post on Twitter that Berman “is making vague guesses when he knows damn well who the pick is.”  ESPN producer Seth Markman denied to Deitsch that the production truck — which knows the pick in order to prepare on-screen graphics — gives advance information to Berman.  (Markman also lamented the fact that I didn’t call him before sharing that observation on Twitter.  To which I officially say in response, “Really?”)

Markman instead argues that Berman “has over 30 years of contacts in the NFL” and “notebooks full of notes that he shows me and says where this team is going to head.”  Fine, but the point is that, as the Commissioner is walking to the podium, no one wants to hear Berman’s guess — regardless of how Berman gets the info.

It’s been three years since I’ve watched the draft on TV, but it used to drive me crazy that Berman would slip in some subtle hint about what the pick will be, especially since he almost always was right, effectively stealing the Commissioner’s thunder.

So regardless of whether the production truck is giving Berman a head’s up through his earpiece (they call it an “IFB” in the business, which never made sense to me because it’s an extra syllable) or because Berman is some sort of draft-day Svengali, the audience doesn’t want to know.  The audience wants to wait until the words come out of the Commissioner’s mouth.

The larger problem is that delays in the process of getting the picks announced by the Commissioner (thanks to the fact that the player and his family and his agent linger on the stage with photos and interviews) allow for more information to be available for a longer period of time.  On multiple occasions during round one, the logjam of picks was at least three deep, with plenty of people at Radio City Music Hall and in war rooms across the country knowing the names of the players who are in the picks hopper.  Speeding up that process will give folks less time to disseminate information before the Commissioner can disclose the pick.

Regardless, the people who tune in to the draft coverage generally don’t want to know.  The sooner the folks who televise the draft coverage realize that, the sooner the audience will emerge from the process feeling satisfied.

As long as they don’t check Twitter and/or unfollow the folks who have no qualms about spoiling the surprise.

52 responses to “A loose standard emerges for tipping picks

  1. this is the right way to do it. if youre watching the broadcast, you are looking for the anticipation, the reaction from the fans and the moment where the commissioner reads your teams pick.

    if youre following on Twitter, its for one of two reasons – 1. youre looking for the picks to be announced and are not following the broadcast, or 2. you are ACTIVELY looking for inside dirt and info and dont care about the suspense of watching it live

  2. I don’t think the fans really care about the suspense. The NFL does. I just want the pick. I don’t need fanfare or trumpet blowing.

    Whether I get the info on Twitter, NFL Network or morse code, I don’t really give a crap. This isn’t the ending to Lost or The Sixth Sense.

    “All [I] want are the facts, ma’am.”

  3. Who really cares? If you don’t want to know before hand, stay off the internet during the draft. Does it really make a difference if you find out 30 seconds before it happens on TV? Either way, you are surprised.

  4. here here.

    I think it was mostly done right this year. If you want a heads up – check your twitter feed. Otherwise just leave it to the Commish to spill the beans.

  5. I do agree that they either need to put up a side stage for the draft picks family and entourage to be stationed where the commission and player make their way to after doing their shaking hands, presentation of jersey, and photo op or keep the family and entourage backstage and do a photo op with the draft pick and them when he makes his way back there. Right after the commissioner takes the photo op with the draft pick, the young man can leave the stage and allow go back stage where the entourage awaits allowing the commissioner to continue the draft or if they are on the side stage, the commissioner simply walks onto the main stage to announce the next pick if it’s in.

  6. The problem was that it ended up being the worst of all worlds.. Berman and Co didn’t just tip off a couple of picks- the vast majority of them were hinted at one way or the other. Combine that with how far behind coverage was, and I had to resort to twitter- NOT my first choice, I might add.

    It was frustrating to say the least.

  7. I flipped on NFL network Saturday afternoon just in time to have Michael Lombardi announce a pick before the NFL network cut to commercial and way before the pick was officially announced. I gave up on NFL network after that and stayed with the ESPN coverage for the remainder of the draft.

  8. Chris Berman has been shticking so long on ESPN that he’s become a parody of himself. I bet his favorite sources wear leather.

  9. I always like to see the initial reaction of the player and his family when they find out he is going to be the next draft pick. It’s much more spontaneous than Goodell announcing the name and the player coming to the stage.

  10. I stopped watching the draft when they moved it to prime time. I check the internet periodically and don’t care if they are “tipped” early or not.

    Draft Saturday used to be a great day for me. A couple friends and I would hang out, drink beers, cook out on the grill and talk football all day. The wife would usually leave the house and go shopping or something. Now that it is a prime time 3 day event, I don’t even want to watch it.

    Another way the NFL ruined something for fans so they could make a few more dollars.

  11. It’s really frustrating when the screen says “Pick Is In” for like five freakin’ minutes. Watching live is unbearable in that sense. Also, on the third day, they wait until after maybe five picks have gone by, and show film on some but not all of them. It would be nice if they discussed each draft pick.

  12. The issue of tipping picks is kind of a moot point with how you guys nail your mock drafts every year.

  13. Berman is the biggest phony in the business. No one believes he knows who these picks will be. It’s his own bloated sense of self importance that drives him to drops those hints.

  14. I’m surprised that after the fiasco of NFL Network coverage during the first 30 minutes that we’re still talking about tipping picks.

    I can’t speak to how things went on ESPN, but the NFL Network production was a jumbled mess at the top of the draft. The clocks were wrong, the team order graphics were wrong, and the personalities couldn’t keep up with the events transpiring in the background. In the first eleven minutes, three teams had picked, and the commissioner had just finished introducing only one of them. Instead of hearing about the picks when they happened, we the viewers had to wait for the pageantry to subside before getting to the relevant information. And while this was going on, the on-air talent had nothing to do but make speculation not about who would be picked, but about who ALREADY had been picked. At one point, Mike Mayock was guessing entire sequences of picks because trades had been made but picks hadn’t been announced yet.

    None of this was particularly compelling because the picks had been withheld – it was compelling because so many trades had taken place. Waiting for the commissioner to announce the picks made it worse, not better.

  15. All I hear when Berman opens his mouth is “You’re with me, Leather”

  16. I don’t watch ESPN hardly at all any more. Only time I do is MNF and if they have a game from other sports that I want to see. I can’t stand ESPN. They are so arrogant that they want to charge for their Insider, the information they have on Insider can be found on other sites, PFT, CBS, NFL, for free.

  17. When I was a kid I loved opening up my presents on Christmas morning. There were always friends of mine that would peek or open a small peep hole to know what they were getting. I never could figure that one ? The draft is my Christmas now and believe me,I look forward to it with as much anticipation as a 5 year old at first light on Christmas morning.

  18. I think the NFL Draft officially jumped the shark this year. This 3-day format is waaaaay too drawn out.

    Granted, I don’t know what I expect since the entire premise is based around hype… I just can’t handle all the artificial delays; the picks stacking up 3 and 4 deep while we wait for photo ops on stage; the commentators pretending like they’re giving us an opinion on who will be picked when we know it’s a fact…

    The whole thing just seemed to insult fans’ intelligence. They have officially milked it and hyped it as much as humanly possible. It’s time to dial things down a notch.

  19. IFB- Internal Fold Back
    an IFB is like have stage monitors, only the monitor is in your ear. Stage Monitors in the corporate world are called fold backs. Why? I dunno. I guess they like to be fancy with everything.

  20. While the attention has been focused on the new loose standard for disclosing picks prematurely on TV, nothing is being mentioned about the disclosing of picks for those actually in attendance at Radio City Music Hall on Day 3 of the draft.

    It became quite tedious when the picks were put up on the video screens long before any audio announcement of the pick came from the announcer over the PA inside Radio City. The drama and surprise of these picks was so ruined for so many of these still quite talented football players that I lost all interest in the draft after the 5th round and decided to head out at the start of the 6th round.

  21. AMEN. Worst part was the on air talent acting like they guessed the pick right, even though they knew damn well who it was. That’s how ppl like Schfter and LaConfora lose the little credibility they have.

  22. The coverage by NFLN was far superior to anything I’ve ever seen watching on ESPN. I avoid ESPN at all costs these days.

  23. One of my biggest complaints about ESPN’s coverage this year was Day 3. Instead of talking about the player picked for at least a minute, they focused five minutes on a player they liked.

    In general, I think fans want to hear about the players their favorite team picked. When you get to the later rounds you’re really getting into players most of us probably don’t see a lot of or never heard of. Tell us something aobut the guy instead of focusing another half hour on how Andrew Luck and RG3 went with the first two picks.

  24. Unfortunately I had to watch ESPN as NFL Network is not on my cable package. Taht being said Shefter completely announced both Patriots first round picks before the commish. and ESPN had him on screen, and his announcement on the crawler before the picks were announced.

    I thought it was weird because they were supposed to stop that.

  25. The plan for watching the Draft was to toggle between NFLN and ESPN to avoid commercials. As soon as Adam Schefter and Chris Berman started tipping picks we switched to NFLN and stayed there.

    My son, who attends school where ESPN is the only option, was disappointed that ESPN chose to violate the spirit of the policy and ruin the exerience for viewers.

  26. There are many earpieces in television production, the IFB for the talent is just one of them.

    Besides, you’ve no doubt seen the spaghetti bowl of wires in a control room. It’s easy to label a jack with 3 letters rather than “talent’s earpiece”

  27. @emperorzero

    You are exactly right. 3rd day is horrible – just a bunch of commercials with draft choices scrolling at the bottom with a few interviews and overall draft analysis of 6-8 teams interspersed. I expect that from ESPN, but NFLN should get its act together and give us some info on each of those picks (or is that too much to ask of a bunch of draft analysts?)

    As for the speed issue in round 1 – maybe the NFL can stop inviting an increasing number of players to the draft. Probably a nice experience for some of those players, but as a fan, I could care less if my team’s first round pick is there or at a draft party in his home.

  28. Part of moving the process along also has to be getting the talking heads of both networks to shut the hell up! We’ve heard you boys yapping for weeks about players – now that the pick is in, shut up and let them announce the pick. I swear at the top of round 2, two more picks were in before they were finished breaking down the Brian Quick selection…

  29. This was the best draft by far in a long time that had any suspense to it. I kept to the NFLN broadcast and except for a few moments they pretty much kept the announcement secret until the commissioner announced it and it absolutely makes the draft a 100 times more fun and entertaining.

  30. Probably the most entertaining part of the NFLN broadcast was to listen how many times Mayock incorrectly guessed the wrong guy. Loved that!

  31. Nfl network had great coverage. They didn’t spoil anything. Mike Mayock was guessing all night sometimes right sometimes wrong. I thought it was great. I don’t watch Espn because I can’t stand Mel and his big hair. That guy might be the biggest dumbass I’ve seen.

  32. I want to know the picks before the next team makes a pick, they need to speed the process on TV, or suspend the clock if they want to draw it out, but don’t just let the Q build to 3 or 4 picks deep.

  33. Again he was wonderful 20 years ago, even 10 years ago he was somewhat entertaining. However now he has become boring because of his ego. What a shame that unlike Vince Scully or Marv Albert, Chris Berman could not stay a little more humble to his beginnings

  34. It’s hard to tell guys (who can’t shut up) like Adam Schefter to zip it.

    Berman is the host, he ultimately can say whatever, after saying “I won’t say whatever” when ultimately he will.

    This is why NFLN is so supreme. They try and play towards the fans as much as possible.

    ESPN, they play towards the east coast. That’s about it.

    If the NFL is gonna make a HUGE spectacle, 3-day showing of the NFL Draft…..DON’T TIP THE PICKS.

  35. A better poll would be “do you care if you know the draft pick before the commissioner announces it?”

    Because I don’t ACTIVELY want to know before the commissioner announces it. I just don’t give a flying…ahem…fig who tells me and whether it is a few minutes before it is official or not.

  36. I was watching the Eagles live broadcast online and they announced the Eagles third pick at least 5 minutes before they announced it at the podium on TV. The drama is long since gone but we still keep coming back because we all have a crack addiction to the NFL.

  37. With regards to the poll:

    Why is there an option for “No Opinion” If you don’t have an opinion why would you vote? Someone needs to think about poll answers before posting the poll. The sad part is 10% of those who voted had “No Opinion”

  38. Maybe I’m in the minority, but next year I really hope the networks go back to announcing the picks before Goodell (or whomever) walks to the podium. With both networks trying to follow the new rules this year, the results were some awkward, long waits while picks log-jammed due to photo ops, hugs and handshakes that I really couldn’t care less about. I really missed not knowing the picks sooner. ESPN’s broadcast was especially clunky while trying to accommodate this change (NFL-N seemed better prepared for it, which is probably not a coincidence). Watching Roger Goodell stand at a podium only generates eye-rolling in me, not suspense.

  39. @coryn23,

    I voted “No Opinion” because the draft is a made for TV joke. A bunch of talking heads that think their “Opinion” matters.

  40. Bottom line: moving forward, whichever network does a better job of leaving the picks a podium-surprise is the network I’ll watch.

    I care more about the moment of suspense than I do the analysis.

  41. I’m getting tired of reading about your dislike for ESPN. I know they are a rival network but it just seems petty and silly. You have a good website, obviously it is nice to have most of the football news I care about in one place. But this FOX vs MSNBC style complaining is annoying. Did they shun you?

    As to the draft I used to love watching family members react to a ‘phone call… it also sped the process up and showed more emotion. We didn’t have to go through the dog-and-pony show waiting for the player to make it all the way out on stage, hug the commissioner, and take a photo. As someone else mentioned it may be nice for the player but it causes the broadcast to drag on way too long.

    Day one is impossible for me to watch on NFLN. The day one crew is way too annoying. I like Day 3 on NFLN a bunch, with college coaches getting involved. It would be nice of they did talk about each pick but that isn’t that realistic b/c most only have a limited amount of information and most fans don’t know who that player is anyway. It’s much easier to talk about RGIII. Also there were way to many awkward moments on both broadcasts… I really hope they can work it out next year

  42. It wasn’t just ESPN and the d-bag Adam Schefter twittering the picks. Jay Glazer on Fox Sports radio was doing the same thing and gloating as if he had “insider info”. I was listening to the radio on the way home and had to suffer through Glazer patting himself on the back and the announcers acting as if Glazer was walking on water because he was “first” (he wasn’t). Then watching the draft on ESPN.com was more of the same with the chat window and Schefter bragging about HIS “insider info”. Most normal and rationale people don’t really care, but I wanted to get more info on the picks and players that wasn’t being said on TV.

  43. geo1113 says: May 2, 2012 10:20 AM

    I always like to see the initial reaction of the player and his family when they find out he is going to be the next draft pick. It’s much more spontaneous than Goodell announcing the name and the player coming to the stage.

  44. geo1113 says: May 2, 2012 10:20 AM

    “I always like to see the initial reaction of the player and his family when they find out he is going to be the next draft pick. It’s much more spontaneous than Goodell announcing the name and the player coming to the stage.”

    Sorry about that my computer has a mind of its own. They could show their reactions after the picks are made and everyone is happy.

  45. I don’t care if the team announces the 1st pick before the draft because most of the time its obvious anyways. But what’s really annoying is watching the ESPN draft coverage. Those clowns completely ruin the whole experience of the draft. Watch it on NFL network, it still happens but not as bad.

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