ESPN/ABC’s NFL Draft coverage passes the biggest test

In reviewing ESPN/ABC’s draft coverage, let me find my inner Chris Berman and quote the Rolling Stones.

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.”

You could nitpick the draft coverage — and, don’t worry, we will below — but the new goal for networks doing live events during a pandemic is pass/fail. Can they get on the air?

ESPN/ABC passed. That’s the biggest takeaway in this new normal. It was on the air.

Eight hours prior to when Joe Burrow was selected by the Bengals, the reality of trying to do normal things in these times once again hit, as Todd McShay, scheduled to be ABC’s draft expert Thursday night, announced he was dealing with COVID-19 and would be absent from the coverage. The show went on.

The production of the virtual draft was impacted by the pandemic, starkly shown by the opening shot of an empty Las Vegas, which was supposed to be the site of the selection show.

Instead, ESPN nicely dressed up its Bristol home but — beside the fact Bristol ain’t Vegas — the show with everyone at home lacked the flash and energy of a normal draft. It did, though, display the strongest part of ESPN/ABC.

The guts of the network in Bristol — partnered with Disney’s Direct to Consumer & International technology team — has always been behind the scenes.

Thursday’s show was a technological marvel. The program emanated from Roger Goodell’s Bronxville basement and featured 181 total feeds from around the country of coaches, GMs and reporters, all at home.

To just get on the air was the goal. Like a lot of things prior to the pandemic, it would have been taken for granted before.

It was everything on Thursday. The shows might not have been all we wanted, but ESPN/ABC gave us what we needed.

Since ABC/ESPN gave us all a little normalcy, it would be rude if we didn’t return the favor and nitpick the hell out of them. So here we go:

Good Cop/Bad Cop: We were on ESPN more than ABC, so this is our view on host Trey Wingo. He doesn’t give the big feel that Berman did on draft coverage. This was his draft to own and he was fine, but sometimes it feels like he reaches to be like Berman.

That said, give Wingo credit for traffic-copping the show, which is not an easy task even for a veteran.

All-Clicker team: We have always been Team Mel Kiper. Like most people, he is not as hard now as when he was when he was questioning if the Jets know what the draft is, but we still like him. Daniel Jeremiah, borrowed from the NFL Network, was excellent. Louis Riddick is very informed and makes you smarter.

Oops Award: Prior to the Bengals pick, Goodell didn’t realize he was on the air when the camera came back to him. Goodell is always a bit awkward on TV, as he doesn’t look fully natural in the environment.

Oops Award II: Goodell announced on-air that Las Vegas would get a mulligan and host the draft in “2020.” It was later clarified that Las Vegas will host again in later years.

No Comment: The reason there were not many player interviews was because by the time the players celebrated and set up their cameras, the next pick was too far in.

The Decision: ABC/ESPN/NFL appropriately wanted to mention support for everything that was going on with COVID-19, but it took forever to get to the first pick. It felt like Jim Gray interviewing LeBron James about going to Miami. It took 25 minutes before we finally officially found out that Burrow was taking his talents to Cincinnati.

But overall, ABC/ESPN gave us something and that was enough for one night during a pandemic.

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