Behind The Scenes

NFL draft’s content traffic cop

You love the NFL draft, you say?

You were glued to your plasma screen for all 254 selections last week, from first overall pick Cam Newton to the last player selected, Cheta Ozougwu.

You consumed all 15 hours and 8 minutes of ESPN’s coverage of the event on various networks and platforms over three days.

You’re a real draftnik.

But just imagine having to not only consume all of that content, but account for it.

That was Bill Graff’s job this past week, and it was a baptism by fire. It was the first NFL draft he’s worked in 21 years with the network.

The ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer led a team that not only accumulated draft interviews and analysis created by the main desk helmed by Chris Berman, but also created additional content. Mike Tirico, Trey Wingo, Mike Hill and Suzy Kolber helped anchor the additional coverage over the course of the three-day draft.

“If they couldn’t interview a coach, we interviewed a coach. If they couldn’t interview a player, we interviewed a player,” said Graff, who worked from ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters in concert with colleagues in New York City.

In all, Graff’s team helped account for 112 interview and analysis pieces that went to a central storage system. On Thursday night, the 3-hour, 30-
minute Round 1 produced 73 pieces of content.

Graphics Producer Chris Damiani’s spreadsheets helped various ESPN platforms —, ESPNMobile, ESPNews, WatchESPN and even SportsCenter — know what draft content was available to air or publish.

The harvesting system was installed this year to help those entities find the NFL draft content easier, Graff said.

“We wanted to use the power of ESPN to be everywhere for everyone at all times,” Graff said.

Graff thanks his team of producers Rob Lemley and Paul Palmer, directors Rodney Perez, Larry Kirin and Tommy Edwards, production assistant Jeff York and content manager Brian Lynch, as well as Damiani.

“I oversee the wraps unit, which does all the pregames, halftimes and postgames of all live events,” Graff said.

“This type of content is what our group is good at, a quick turnaround of events and distributing them to shows.”

Graff, a soccer fan who grew up a fan of the old New York Cosmos, has covered several World Cups for ESPN. Soccer is his favorite sport, with college football a close second.

But he enjoyed his immersion in the NFL draft. In helping produce coverage and distribute content, Graff has been described as sort of an air traffic controller.

He chuckles when he hears that comparison, given recent news reports about overtaxed air traffic controllers.

“I consider that a compliment, but I will also tell you that there was no chance of falling asleep in that room,” Graff said.

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