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ESPN blankets the NFL Draft again

Our collaborative, distinctive, innovative approach shines again this week in ESPN's 39th year of coverage

(L-R) Mel Kiper, Kirk Herbstreit, Louis Riddick and Trey Wingo prepare for 2018 NFL Draft coverage.
(Allison Stoneberg/ESPN)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Senior VP, Event and Studio Production, Stephanie Druley is responsible for the entirety of ESPN’s remote production portfolio and associated studio shows for college sports, the National Football League and Major League Baseball. She reflects on ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage pedigree and previews the company’s distinctive approach to the 2018 event. Round 1 starts tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN2, as well as ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio, and streamed live on the ESPN App.

ESPN’s pioneering 1980 NFL Draft telecast featured (L to R): No. 1 pick Billy Sims; ESPN’s George Grande; analyst Joe Thomas (ESPN).

In 1979, the first year of our company’s existence, ESPN President Chet Simmons proposed to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle that ESPN televise the NFL Draft. Until that time (since 1936), it had been a largely private endeavor, but Simmons recognized an opportunity to present this unique event to a national audience, and the NFL believed in us.

ESPN televised its first NFL Draft in 1980. Each passing year, the event got bigger and bigger. Every year added new enhancements – scrolling on-screen graphics, reporters at team facilities, cameras inside “war rooms” and in the living rooms of draft prospects, and, of course, Mel Kiper, Jr.

Today, the popularity of the NFL Draft is indisputable. Together, ESPN and the NFL have built this into the league’s signature offseason event. Our company has immense pride in our association with it, and we remain committed to raising the bar with our presentation. That is what makes this year so special.

ESPN’s 39th NFL Draft kicks off tonight with something unprecedented – a multi-network approach that combines our industry-leading NFL and college football production teams for the first time.

On ESPN, fans will experience our traditional pick-by-pick NFL Draft telecast with instant analysis of every selection. Trey Wingo hosts with Mel – working his 35th draft for ESPN, Louis Riddick and, for the first time, Kirk Herbstreit, as our lead college football analyst joins ESPN’s main set.

On ESPN2, Rece Davis will lead College Football Primetime at The NFL Draft, our first collegiate-focused telecast, alongside former first-round picks Joey Galloway, Desmond Howard, Booger McFarland, and David Pollack.

Adding to the excitement will be the first College GameDay Built by The Home Depot from the NFL Draft. Airing today (5-7 p.m. ET), GameDay will help anchor 27 straight hours of coverage leading up to the No. 1 pick. (No spoilers, but I hear Coach Lee Corso has something up his sleeve for the selections segment.)

Other ESPN plans for the three-day event include another College GameDay tomorrow, five live hours on ESPN/ESPN2 for Rounds 2-3, and a seven-hour simulcast of Rounds 4-7 on both ESPN and ABC on Saturday.

I contributed to many NFL Draft telecasts through the years as an ESPN producer, so I understand first-hand how much planning and hard work goes into this event. I commend our NFL and college football production teams on the many months of work they have spent preparing for this event. Fans are really going to enjoy what they have planned.

Our entire ESPN team is proud to carry on the legacy established nearly 40 years ago of presenting the NFL Draft. If Chet Simmons were here today, he would be both amazed and impressed at the spectacle this event has become and at the resources that ESPN brings to bear.