Television coverage has a big impact on fans of any sport, and the NFL is certainly no exception. As a writer specializing in NFL Draft content, I believe this article will cover a topic relevant to all fans following the draft, not just the Steelers fan base.
If you enjoy the draft as much as I do, you probably have a preference for who you watch or listen to on draft night. For me, I’ve always preferred the graphics and draft bells that ESPN provides, giving me that true draft-night feel. However, the on-set analysts are what make or break a network’s coverage, and for years ESPN has boasted its two most popular draft analysts in Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay. They also hire the most insightful front office analyst in Louis Riddick. The trio is unfortunately about to lose one of its members.
Just a few years after losing host Trey Wingo, ESPN is letting go of another talented mind. It was announced on Friday Todd McShay was one of many on-air layoffs the company did, which came as a shock to almost everyone who follows ESPN’s draft coverage.
McShay is sure to get a job elsewhere, but this throws a big wrench into the expectations fans had for future draft coverage. Most expected McShay to be the face of ESPN’s draft coverage once Kiper decides to call it a career, but the network will now look to newer faces, such as Matt Miller and Jordan Reid, to fill the void left by McShay.
This brings us to the topic of today’s article: what does this mean for NFL Draft TV coverage going forward?
The move is a big hit to ESPN’s draft analyst “depth chart,” but depending on where McShay lands, this could open the door for more networks to participate in draft-night coverage. Before we dive into what election night draft coverage would look like, let’s determine the most likely landing spots for the former ESPN draft guru.
What network is the most likely landing spot for Todd McShay?
FOX seems like the most likely landing spot, as its robust college football coverage could go to another level with a reporter of McShay’s caliber. Former ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi moved to FOX back in 2020, and he’s been used for some of the network’s biggest games, regardless of the sport. Adding McShay would give them a true draft analyst as well as another sideline commentator who would be a great addition to their top team that already includes Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft.
Which network is best for Todd McShay?
A lot of people think NFL Network is the logical landing spot for McShay, but I could personally see him landing at NBC. NBC will cover a top primetime game in the Big Ten each week, with Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge and Kathryn Tappen making up the coverage team. Adding McShay would make sense for both parties, as McShay and Blackledge worked on the same staff at ESPN for several seasons. Putting them on the same team in their normal roles would only help the new crew on the air. This would also help NBC if they wanted to get into draft-night television coverage. A desk consisting of Mike Tirico, Todd McShay, Chris Simms and Chris Collinsworth would sound appealing to the average fan.
Which network needs Todd McShay the most?
CBS Sports’ draft coverage is relevant, but they are certainly not one of the leaders when it comes to coverage of the event. Ryan Wilson does what is asked of him on the network, but he is not a household name like McShay. With CBS apparently looking to expand their overall college football coverage moving forward, adding a guy like McShay could transform the network’s college football and NFL draft coverage. He would also bring greater relevance to CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports HQ during the pre-draft process.
When FOX aired the first two nights of the 2018 draft, it was rumored that the NFL might try to get other networks in on the action and make draft night feel more like election night, with coverage of the event on every major television network. Neither FOX nor ESPN were guaranteed exclusivity to the event in their contracts, leading many to believe that it was only a matter of time before more networks joined the coverage.
It was just a year later when ABC launched College GameDay’s coverage of the draft. Since then, it has been an annual tradition for the GameDay team to cover the first two nights of the draft on ABC, with Day 3 simply being a simulcast of ESPN’s coverage. Outside of the NFL Network and ESPN/ABC, no network has joined live coverage since the beginning of GameDay’s coverage in 2019. However, Todd McShay’s departure from ESPN could change that.
Whichever network hires McShay will surely want to use his talents as a draft analyst, and what better way to do that than to provide live coverage on draft night? It’s fair to believe that the winner of the Todd McShay sweepstakes will try to get involved in draft-night coverage, but this could be the perfect opportunity for the NFL to get their wish and make the draft an event that is covered by all major networks.
There may only be one Todd McShay, but he’s not the only credible name in the draft world. Dane Brugler of The Athletic is certainly a name that would draw interest from a network that fails to land McShay. Lance Zierlein is currently with NFL Media, but if he wanted a more prominent role, he could be another name the network is trying to land. Albert Breer, Mike Renner, Ian Cummings and Trevor Sikkema could also join the televised concerts.
For real, we’ll put McShay with FOX Sports, as this seems like the most likely place for him to land. With that in mind, let’s make projections and see what draft pick-style coverage would look like.
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On set: Mike Greenberg, Mel Kiper, Jr., Louis Riddick, Booger McFarland
Insiders: Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter
Interviewer: Laura Rutledge
Besides losing Todd McShay and Suzi Kolber, nothing would change for ESPN. McShay was used on College GameDay coverage for the first two days anyway, and ESPN typically prefers a lighter set for the early rounds. Rutledge, the host of NFL Live, was also part of the GameDay coverage, but a move to the ESPN team seems like a legitimate possibility.
Also, don’t rule out Kevin Negandhi and Joe Buck as long-term hosts for early-round coverage. Buck is a popular name due to being the voice of Monday night footballand Negandhi has demonstrated greater in-depth knowledge of the draft than Greenberg.
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On set: Rich Eisen, Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, Kurt Warner, Bucky Brooks
Insiders: Ian Rapoport, Peter Schrager
Interviewer: Jamie Erdahl
If this mega-coverage scenario comes to fruition, it wouldn’t shock me if Bucky Brooks received an offer to be the lead analyst for CBS Sports, as he would be a logical fit for their style of draft coverage. But his relationship with Daniel Jeremiah through Move the sticks can entice him to hang around. An increased role on draft-night coverage may possibly also improving NFL Network’s chances of keeping him.
Melissa Stark worked with the NFL Network team for the 2023 draft, but if NBC decides to cover the event, she may stick with her Sunday Night Football team, depending on her contractual agreements with both the NFL Network and NBC. If she is not available, Jamie Erdahl makes the most sense to replace her.
Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
On set: Reece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Matt Miller, Robert Griffin III, Pat McAfee
Insiders: Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter
Interviewer: Sam Ponder
With Todd McShay gone, this is Matt Miller’s opportunity to take the reins as the company’s top draft analyst behind Kiper. This would make Miller the on-set draft guru for ABC’s GameDay coverage, and he would merge with ESPN’s crew for the Saturday Simulcast, hosted by Reece Davis. Aside from Miller, not much has changed. With Herbstreit and Miller’s insight and Pat McAfee’s humor, this set would definitely have balance.
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On set: Rob Stone, Todd McShay, Joel Klatt, Michael Strahan, Tom Brady, Urban Meyer
Insiders: Jay Glazer
Interviewers: Tom Rinaldi, Erin Andrews
With Joel Klatt already in-house, it could be argued that FOX doesn’t need Todd McShay to present exciting draft coverage. However, a set that includes both McShay and Klatt puts them in real competition with ESPN’s set. Throw in the popularity factor of Michael Strahan and Tom Brady and suddenly ESPN wishes they never let go of Todd Todd Todd. Curt Menefee and Kevin Burkhardt could also be in the running for the hosting job, but Stone’s strong hosting presence, specifically on the Big Noon Kickoff, could give him the edge.
Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images
On set: Mike Tirico, Chris Simms, Albert Breer, Jason Garrett, Chris Collinsworth, Peter King
Insider: Mike Florio
Interviewer: Melissa Stark
Assembling the entire Sunday Night Football team would be a big win for NBC, but if Stark were to stick with NFL Network for draft coverage, Kathryn Tappen and Maria Taylor would be alternate options. We saw Peter King leave Sports Illustrated for NBC back in 2018, making NBC the most logical landing spot for Albert Breer, the person who took King’s role as writer of Monday Morning Quarterback when King left. Jason Garrett wouldn’t be my personal favorite as an on-set coach, but he would be the most likely selection for draft coverage. Peter King himself can watch a few TV spots on draft night.
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On set: Nate Burleson, Tony Romo, Ryan Wilson, Bill Cowher, Dane Brugler, Boomer Esiason
Insider: Jonathan Jones
Interviewer: JJ Watt
My personal preference for host would be James Brown as I consider him a stronger hosting presence. However, CBS has been slowly incorporating Burleson into more hosting roles, and this would be their chance to give him his own event to host. The combination of Tony Romo and Bill Cowher sounds exciting, but in the eyes of most fans, Ryan Wilson would not provide as much credibility as a Kiper, McShay or even Albert Breer.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic has risen in popularity in recent years, and he is young enough to develop into a true star in the industry. In short, the combination of Brugler and Wilson sounds much more exciting to the average fan than just Wilson. As for interviews, Evan Washburn and Tracy Wolfson might be the most likely names to take over, but newly acquired JJ Watt could bring a unique flavor to interviews that no other coverage team provides.
This scenario is far from a sure thing, but it makes sense given the current landscape of NFL Draft coverage. After Todd McShay’s shocking departure from ESPN, nothing is secure in the media landscape. However, other TV networks could use this as an opportunity to take their own piece of the pie and participate in the NFL’s biggest offseason event.