There’s a weird vibe in Cleveland this week. The mood is weird as there is apparently no buzz at all regarding the NFL Draft. That’s not normal, because as ESPN Cleveland’s Emmett Golden said, the draft has normally been the Browns’ Super Bowl. But since they’re one of eight teams that will enter the NFL Draft without a first-round pick, interest is limited this year.
“The funny thing is we’re talking about the fact that there’s no juice at all with the draft this year,” Golden said. “It’s very weird for us. We mainly address the elephant in the room, which always goes to Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield.
It’s an interesting question to ponder: how does a host approach the NFL Draft when the home team doesn’t have a first-round pick? The answers differ from city to city. David Haugh, co-host of Mully and Haugh on 670 The Score in Chicago, is still in draft talks, even though the Bears won’t choose a player until the second round.
“In Chicago, it’s a fact that the draft is a big deal,” he said. “We treat the draft the same way every year. Last year when they had a first-round midfielder pick, we treated him like a big deal and this year we treat him like a big deal. They have two second-round picks, but we started our countdown last Tuesday.
It is very common for stations to host live broadcasts at a local bar or restaurant on NFL Draft night. In fact, these events are sometimes the most important of the year for a station. There’s nothing quite like doing a live show, with the home team picking a player and hearing the fans going absolutely nuts in the background while the hosts are on the air. For my money, this is one of the sweetest sounds on sports radio. But it’s hard to build the event when the home team doesn’t have the excitement of picking a player on the first night.
104.3 The Denver fan always throws a huge event on the first night of the NFL Draft. ESPN Cleveland too. But how will these two stations approach the biggest night of the offseason without first-round picks to celebrate or criticize?
“We’re actually doing a live show anyway,” said Darren McKee, co-host of The Drive on 104.3 The Fan in Denver. “These shows are sold well in advance. We are committed to it, but it is very unusual for us. I think I’ve been doing NFL Draft coverage for The Fan for 15 years, something like that. A year ago they dropped out of the first round, but we thought they had a first-round pick all day, and then they dropped out and went with Derek Wolfe. It was disappointing, but this time we know what happens in advance. For us, in all honesty, it was about the buildup and not the night.
“Generally we have the biggest and best event in the world,” Golden said. “I always say that about our draft night coverage. It’s in a concert hall. It’s full of people and we’re on stage doing our show. There’s screaming everywhere. We’re doing it. as it should be. This year, we don’t do anything on Thursdays. There’s nothing there. I think when the Browns traded their first-round pick for Odell Beckham, the turnout was still okay, but not like previous years. We’re the home of the Browns, so we’ll let the Cleveland Browns Radio Network take care of things. And then on Fridays, we’re not on site anywhere, but all of our hosts will be there until late In the evening.
NFL Draft coverage isn’t limited to the first night. The hosts will begin previews several days in advance to help listeners become familiar with the options that might arise when Roger Goodell approaches the podium to read the name on the card.
So what does the content look like without a first-round pick to discuss? Golden has the luxury of talking about Watson and Mayfield, so he doesn’t necessarily need preliminary coverage to fuel his content, but that’s not the case for the other seven cities with no picks on Thursday night.
“The most important thing we’ve done is bring up names that we wouldn’t normally talk about. We dug deep,” McKee said. “For example, we have Cecil Lammey, who is our local drawing expert. We have a bit with Cecil where we say, tell us why a guy is important. And we have NFL music and all the excitement. Believe me, these are names that no one really talks about, but we think it’s important to get those names out there. Tyler Polumbus, who played in the NFL for eight years, will give us his top three names we should be looking for in the second round. So we play the game because the second round is just as important as the first round. We recognize that the draft still matters.
“We’ve done screenings of other picks that happened at 64, like DK Metcalf and we’re looking at any angle to build the hype,” McKee continued. “For example, Trey McBride went to Colorado State and he was, at one point, a first-round projection, and we saw a simulation where he was taken to 64. So we had him on the phone for an interview.”
“Each year on the Mully and Haugh Show, we do one position a day and we’ll break that position down in terms of overall strengths,” Haugh said. “We’ll do what the Bears need, which is our preferred pick, and talk about how their approach influenced this year’s draft. We do this with each position and run through them day by day and take a 20 minute segment. We started this 10 days before the draft to get through every position.
“When Thursday rolls around, even if the Bears don’t have a draft pick that night, they could go to the first round and we’ll treat it like, frankly, every city in the NFL should treat the draft, which is the one of the biggest days of the year.
Of course, if there’s nothing else, you can always watch what the division rivals do with their first-round picks.
“Sport is like politics, everything is local,” Haugh said. “We’ll talk about picking the Bears in the second round, but as we talked about today, by the time they pick, there will have been six players who will have entered the division. You certainly look at who the Lions pick and see if Aidan Hutchinson drops to Detroit at 2 and then what that means for the Bears’ tackle position as they are unstable at left and right tackle. You’re curious if the Packers are going to get their wide receiver that’s going to fit right in with Aaron Rodgers. Absolutely, you are first concerned about what the Bears are doing, second priority is what the Division is doing. And then you take an image-based approach. In this order.”