On one hand, the NFL draft is merely evidence of football’s domination of the American sports landscape. Other evidence (as if it is needed): national signing day for high schoolers is televised, as is the selection show for college football's postseason Bowl Championship Series. Need we even mention the Super Bowl? This year, it (again) set the record for the most-watched television program in American history with 111.3 million viewers.
Suffice it to say, Americans will watch just about anything pigskin-related. Add to that ESPN's ability to turn even poker into gripping television, and you have a ratings winner. Host Chris Berman, ever infectious, provides the soundtrack, backed by endless experts. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has become a cult figure, providing exhaustive context even for seventh-round punters from San Diego State.
“ESPN's coverage of yesterday's National Football League draft proved one thing: that a record-length near-five-hour first round replete with talking heads need not be a sleepathon,” Richard Sandomir wrote for The New York Times in 1991, and little has changed.
The thoroughness of the coverage raises the stakes and makes the entire draft seem only slightly less important than the Oslo Accords.