I didn’t think ESPN had a particularly great draft last night. Except for Suzy Kolber.
Kolber had the draft’s definitive moment in the first round after New Orleans drafted Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Kolber went to her smart phone and read an email from Mark Ingram’s incarcerated father to his son, and in seconds the former Heisman Trophy winner was reduced to tears. After a few moments he said, “I want to tell my dad I love him. I miss you, dawg.” It’s the kind of moment that will be replayed over and over as long as the draft exists.
As for ESPN’s overall draft coverage, it was obvious the network needed to reduce the number of analysts on the set. In 2008 it looks like they had five guys (Kiper, Mort, Keyshawn, Young, Berman), and if memory serves, they rotated Tom Jackson into Keyshawn’s spot in 2009. I believe they stuck with five guys in 2010 (or was it six?), but scaled back to just three guys – Kiper, Gruden, Berman – this year. What was missing was the back-and-forth between Kiper and … anyone. He is at his best sparring with fellow analyst Todd McShay, something Sportscenter viewers have been seeing (and I assume enjoying) for months. The production felt … boring.
Gruden still “likes” every guy. He’s relentlessly optimistic about 99% of the picks, and even when a team needs to be called out, he’s not the guy for the job. With nobody to disagree with, Kiper also seemed reduced to simply liking every pick. Having only two voices also meant lots of extra airtime to fill, something Chris Berman was happy to oblige. I’m not sure viewers felt the same way.