NFLN, ESPN reporters have been told not to report the first overall pick

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It’s a given that the NFL has instructed its in-house reporters and broadcast partners not to tip picks during the draft. That continues to be a good practice, because the audience doesn’t want to know who the pick will be until the Commissioner walks to the stadium, gets booed, and announces it.

But the league has taken the directive to the next level. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, both NFL Network, which will televise the draft, and ESPN, which along with sister network ABC will televise it as well, have informed their reporters to not report the identity of the first overall pick in the 2019 draft.

This doesn’t mean that any of them currently know what will happen with the first overall pick and are actively concealing it. It does mean, however, that if they manage to get to the truth before the Cardinals go on the clock, they’re forbidden from breaking the news.

It’s not really a surprise; we’ve speculated for weeks that the reporters who work for the networks that will televise the draft have been told not to spoil the surprise. Even if spoiling surprises is what reporters routinely aspire to do.

Journalism really isn’t tweeting a transaction five minutes before its officially announced, thanks to a business or personal relationship that includes the quid pro quo courtesy of a head’s-up via text message. It’s about telling the audience things they don’t want the audience to know. And they clearly don’t want the audience to know who the first overall pick will be until the pick is announced.

Again, different dynamics apply when it comes to tipping picks during the draft, because that information becomes readily available to people in the business via the backlog of picks that emerges as the league tries to space out the selections for TV purposes. At that point, it makes sense to defer to the process, since the delay is only a matter of minutes if not seconds.

As it relates to the first overall pick in the draft, plenty of reporters have been working harder to create uncertainty about the identity of the pick than to get to the truth about who the pick will be. The effort to keep it all secret has created a situation in which the Cardinals are creating the impression that, after being on the clock for nearly four months, they still don’t know what they’re going to do. Which is not a good look for the Cardinals.