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ESPN, NFL Network to combine forces for NFL Draft broadcast

A man watches the NFL draft during a

A man watches the NFL draft during a Raiders draft event at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas on April 28, 2018. Credit: AP/John Locher

It will be an NFL Draft unlike any conducted before, and so will be the television coverage of it.

The league on Monday revealed a plan that will combine the efforts and personalities of ESPN and NFL Network, which in normal times produce competing versions of the event.

The draft, scheduled for April 23-25, will be conducted virtually as league and team officials operate from their homes — including commissioner Roger Goodell announcing picks from his home in Westchester County — which in turn will present challenges for television coverage.

Hosts primarily will be based at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut. The NFL Network’s studios in California and New Jersey are closed because of state-mandated precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While ESPN and the NFL Network will show the same telecast, ABC again will offer coverage on Thursday and Friday nights designed to appeal to more casual fans.

The league also will use the event as a fundraiser to benefit six charities working to help with COVID-19 relief aid.

“The National Football League, ESPN and ABC hope the 2020 NFL Draft will bring fans a small but welcome diversion in the middle of a difficult and unprecedented time,” the league said in a news release.

The draft originally was scheduled to be held before fans in Las Vegas but now will be presented by a limited number of hosts in Bristol while most reporters and commentators appear from their homes.

“We recognize the challenging times we are living in, but we are looking forward to presenting the 2020 NFL Draft and providing some hope for football fans everywhere,” Seth Markman, ESPN’s vice president of production, said in the news release.

Said Mark Quenzel, NFL Network’s senior vice president of programming: “By bringing the exceptional on-air talent and production staffs of both ESPN and NFL Network together, we hope to deliver a unified presentation of the draft that not only helps raise awareness and funds for the COVID-19 relief efforts, but also provides entertainment that millions of sports fans have been craving.”

On April 23, first-round coverage will be seen from 8 to 11:30 p.m.

Trey Wingo will host all three days from Bristol, joined remotely by analysts Mel Kiper Jr., covering his 37th draft, Louis Riddick and Booger McFarland.

The NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, Daniel Jeremiah, Michael Irvin and Kurt Warner will contribute remotely all three days.

Suzy Kolber will conduct remote interviews with draft picks from an ESPN studio. Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will report from their homes.

Rece Davis will anchor the ABC coverage from Bristol, where he will be joined by Jesse Palmer, Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi. Todd McShay, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack also will be on ABC’s telecast.

Seven reporters have been assigned to the various teams, with Sal Paolantonio on the Jets and Giants.

New York Sports