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Coverage will offer different perspectives.

Byline: Associated Press

George Grande had no idea what ESPN was about to create when he anchored the first telecast of the NFL draft in 1980.

"We didn't know who or how many people would be watching," Grande said. "For us it gave us a link to the NFL, it helped our coverage of college football and we had fun doing it."

ESPN's coverage that first year went eight-plus hours on a Tuesday with Grande on site from the ballroom of the New York Sheraton.

So much has changed since then. All three days of this year's draft, which begins Thursday, will be carried on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network and the event itself has become a traveling road show, with Nashville hosting this time.

Last year's coverage averaged 5.5 million viewers at any given time over the three days. The first round on ESPN, NFL Network and Fox averaged 11.2 million.

The growth of the draft can largely be credited to ESPN. Mel Kiper Jr., who has been a part of the network's coverage since 1984, has gone from working the first two rounds to being on set all three days.

"To see every pick televised and talked about nonstop is incredibly amazing," Kiper said. "I thought when I started it could be popular but not at the level it is right now. It's almost a national holiday."

Grande, who anchored ESPN's coverage from 1980 to 1985, said there is still a sense of accomplishment for those who worked that first draft. He will tune in on Thursday as ESPN will televise its 40th draft, sit back and smile.

A look at what the networks are planning for this year's draft:

Roberts return:

Robin Roberts was an integral part of ESPN's draft coverage before going to ABC's "Good Morning America." She will host ABC's first-round coverage, which will have a different approach from ESPN's.

While ESPN will focus on the pick and where he fits into a team's plans, the ABC telecast will focus on the player and his family's journey.

ESPN's "College GameDay" crew also will be part of the coverage for the first two days along with "American Idol" judge Luke Bryan and mentor Bobby Bones.

ABC will simulcast ESPN's coverage on Saturday for the second straight year.

EPSN plans:

ESPN had one remote production truck for that first year at the Sheraton. They will have seven production trucks on hand in Nashville. Trey Wingo hosts all seven rounds for the third straight year and will be joined by Kiper, Todd McShay, Lewis Riddick and Booger McFarland.

Even with multiple networks airing the draft last year, ESPN still led the way during the first round with an average of 5.473 million viewers.

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Title Annotation:Sports_
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Apr 25, 2019
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