Tonight, Mel Kiper, Jr. goes primetime.
The National Football League's 75th Draft will bow in primetime, with ESPN, now in its 31st year of covering the collegiate talent selection, and NFL Network televising the event's first-round on April 22 from Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
Coverage of the first round -- with the St. Louis Rams, at press time, holding the top pick -- is set for a 7:30 p.m. (ET) kickoff. The second and third round will take place on Friday April 23 at 6 p.m., with NFL Network joined by ESPN2. The final four rounds will play out on Saturday April 24, starting at 10 a.m., on ESPN and NFL Network.
In moving from its historical two-day, weekend format to primetime, the NFL will take on the broadcast and cable network's entertainment programming. The primetime positioning could boost the network's Nielsens beyond the 5.5 million and 803,000 viewers ESPN and NFL Network averaged with their respective first-day coverage last year, when the draft began at 4 p.m. on Saturday April 25. A record 39 million viewers watched part of the 2009 NFL Draft on ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network.
All told, ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise all 15 hours of the 2010 NFL Draft in high-definition, as well as 20 hours of SportsCenter special shows during NFL Draft week. On April 22 and April 23, Chris Berman will again host ESPN's coverage with Jon Gruden, Tom Jackson, draft guru Kiper, Jr., and Steve Young from ESPN's main set at Radio City. Senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and NFL Insider Adam Schefter will report from a stage set, while Suzy Kolber will conduct interviews in the green room and after players are selected. Also, ESPN Scouts Inc. director of college scouting Todd McShay will contribute from ESPN's Bristol, Conn., studios.
On the third day, NFL Live's Trey Wingo will host coverage from Radio City with Gruden, Jaworski and Kiper, with Mortensen and Schefter continuing to report from the Cablevision-owned art deco venue. Kolber will co-host rounds 4-7 from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., \teaming with Tedy Bruschi, Trent Dilfer, Herm Edwards and McShay.
ESPN is also leveraging its various assets to provide comprehensive coverage of the draft.
For its part, NFL Network will provide 38 hours of interviews, features and analysis over the three days. The league's in-house network's draft coverage starts Thursday at 11 a.m., with a special two-hour edition of Path to the Draft presented by GMC Sierra, followed by Total Access Pre-Draft presented by Lexus at 1 p.m.. The show features Mike Mayock's exclusive interview with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick discussing his unique draft philosophy and how it has thrived over the years.
Mayock joins Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, Jason La Canfora and Steve Mariucci on the set at Radio City, as the six-person team will take part in a live mock draft. Mayock will also release his final mock draft in the final hour of the show.
The 2010 NFL Draft presented by Verizon starts at 7:30 p.m.with NFL Network providing coverage of all 32 first-round picks and instant analysis from 11 former players, four former coaches and two team personnel alums. NFL Network reporters also contribute live reports from team facilities in St. Louis, Detroit, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In addition, NFL Network's draft coverage features live war rooms shots for six franchises (Atlanta, Dallas, Green Bay, St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle), giving viewers "fly on the wall" shots.
The second day begins with another two-hour edition of Path to the Draft Ppesented by GMC Sierra at 11a.m., followed by the NFL Total Access Pre-Draft Show presented by Lexus at 1 p.m. The second day of the 2010 NFL Draft Presented by Verizon, counting down the second- and third-round selections at 6 p.m.
Texas coach Mack Brown joins NFL Network's on-air team for the third and final day of coverage of the NFL Draft Saturday at 10 p.m.