Encouraging viewers to stay tuned for a two-hour show to announce the 2018 NFL schedule Thursday night, an ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host said breathlessly, “It’s the moment NFL fans have been waiting for.”
When the moment came for the show to begin, host Trey Wingo was much closer to the truth, calling it “an appetizer for the draft.”
This is the time of the year for NBA and NHL playoffs and baseball. But with college spring games, the first round of organized training activities for many NFL teams and relentless analysis of the draft, April can hardly be considered part of football’s offseason.
The draft’s first round, which starts at 5 p.m. PDT on Thursday, should be particularly intriguing for Southern California football fans. (The second and third rounds are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. on Friday, the final four rounds at 9 a.m. on Saturday.)
Although the Rams don’t have a choice until the third round unless they trade up, the Chargers pick 17th. We should know much sooner than that the destinations of quarterbacks Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen of UCLA. Darnold has been projected in various mock drafts to go anywhere from first to fifth, Rosen from second to 15th.
If you’re watching on television, you won’t have to be concerned about spoiler alerts.
The NFL Network and ESPN again have instructed their employees not to report on teams’ choices until they are revealed at the podium by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
That also would be the case for Fox, which is simulcasting the first two days of the NFL Network’s feed.
So no matter when a reporter for one of those outlets might be tipped off about an upcoming pick, he or she won’t be able to report it until it’s official.
That’s understandable for the NFL Network, which is owned by the league. It wants to protect one of the league’s most anticipated television shows of the year. But we should expect better of ESPN.
ESPN has an army of reporters covering the NFL. Their job is to report news as soon as they confirm it. Except when it isn’t, such as during the draft.
Stand down, Adam Schefter.
Fortunately, other media outlets, including the The Times, won’t be shackling their reporters or cheating their readers and viewers.
You can get the news on numerous platforms. If you don’t want it because you prefer to be surprised by draft selections, the solution is simple. Stay off Twitter for a couple of hours.
The television coverage during the draft will be in stark contrast to how the networks have been examining and re-examining it since the day after the Super Bowl.
The NFL Network and ESPN have experts. The NFL Network has Mike Mayock. Take your pick of Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. on ESPN. (The preference here is McShay.) ESPN also has made a semiregular out of Greg Cosell, Howard’s nephew whose day job is with NFL Films.
On the quarterback question, Mayock said in a recent teleconference that he doesn’t see a sure thing, including Darnold or Rosen, among the top prospects. He added the only two sure things he had seen in recent years were Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz. That’s a high bar.
Of Darnold, Cosell said, “He’s an exciting, tantalizing prospect but not a can’t-miss.”
The experts seem to agree that’s because of his turnovers — interceptions and fumbles. He’s also 20 with only two years of college experience.
His upside — size, strength and leadership.
“I really like the way he extends plays inside and outside of the pocket,” Mayock said. “If he scrambles or moves, it’s with the intention of getting the ball down the field. His eyes are always open.”
McShay called Darnold “the most complete quarterback in the draft” — as opposed to Mayock’s description of Rosen as “the best pure thrower, the best pure passer.”
With Rosen, one question mark is his durability. He had shoulder issues in high school and college and two concussions last season. It doesn’t help that he’s not particularly elusive.
“He was a tennis player,” Cosell said. “He’s not a statue back there. But there are questions about his pocket movement. He might get hit a lot.”
As Mayock said, “I’m concerned about whether he can play enough games to make a significant dent in the NFL.”
Another question mark is whether Rosen is dedicated to football. He has been called too smart, which is a compliment in most professions but not always in professional sports.
“If he doesn’t go in the top 10, it’s because teams are hesitant about who he is,” McShay said.
We are fortunate to have gotten such intelligent, well-articulated analysis from the NFL Network and ESPN in months leading to the draft. We’ll get more of the same during the draft. We’ll just have to look elsewhere for news.