CHICAGO – Bryan Ryder produces a weekly college football game for ESPN in the fall, but soon after the first of the year his focus shifts entirely to planning and preparing for the annual NFL Draft. From scouting the host venue to overseeing the creation of player highlight packages to prepping commentators for the three-day telecast, he is at the center of it all.
“It never escapes your mind,” Ryder said. “On January 13, I had to flip that switch from producing weekly games to the Draft. You have to be mentally ready to do that because it just consumes you. And whether that’s out of pride or fear, you know how massive the project is and you have to just prepare every day.”
The following timeline highlights just a handful of the things Ryder has been doing the past several months in the run up to ESPN’s NFL Draft telecast (tonight, 8 p.m. ET).
Nov. 5, 2014 – Site surveys:
Ryder and key members of ESPN’s production team attend the first of several monthly site surveys at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago, the new host venue for the Draft.
Jan. 13 – Research:
Following the College Football Playoff National Championship, Ryder turns his attention to Draft, reading research packets and news stories, listening to myriad interviews and podcasts, compiling notes and reviewing video footage.
January – Player highlight packages:
Ryder’s production team (Chris Jarmon, Corey Taylor, Aaron Hilton, Aaron Pepper, Morgan Meredith, Steven Bishop, Brandon Barrad, Steven Kim and Kala Bolton) starts compiling “football resumes” for the Draft prospects. In 2015, the group has prepped 325 player highlight packages.
February – Graphics:
Led by associate producer Josh Careswell, Ryder, researcher Vince Masi and news editor Jim Carr prepare 7-10 graphics per team to tell the pre-Draft story of all 32 NFL franchises. Careswell is also responsible for front and back-end graphics on the 325 player highlight packages, 50 player personality “bumps” and more – 600 graphic items in all.
Feb. 17-23 – NFL Scouting Combine:
Ryder’s team captures portraits and specialty shots of 70 prospects at two ESPN sets at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The footage will be used in the Draft telecast and on ESPN NFL shows leading up to draft.
March 2 – NFL Pro Days:
Ryder’s team monitors pro day workouts of players across the country to see whether their “draft stock” is rising or falling, and to keep abreast of small school prospects who perform better than expected.
April 15 – Film study with Jon Gruden:
Ryder and associate producer Jeremy Drummond spend a 10-hour day watching film with Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden at his FFCA office in Tampa to plan 10-15 specialty, technical breakdowns focusing on top players.
April 16 – Commentator meeting:
Ryder and some of his production staffers meet with ESPN’s Round 1 commentators – Chris Berman, Mel Kiper and Gruden – to discuss prospects, team needs and more. Ryder also leads the team through a mock Draft practice session where they review Round 1 pick-by-picks, minute-by-minute, to simulate Draft night.