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Will NFL Draft Coverage Give Us a Peek at the Future of ESPN's Football Coverage?

By Stephen Douglas
Kirk Erbstreit and Chris Fowler
Kirk Erbstreit and Chris Fowler / Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
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The NFL Draft is fast approaching and ESPN continues to pin down their various coverage plans. Front Office Sports says that Kirk Herbstreit will "headline" ABC's draft coverage this year, which he has done for years. He will again be joined by the rest of the College GameDay crew, but does this mean there is a continued push to associate Herbie with the NFL?

ABC has been searching for a permanent Monday Night Football broadcast team since the end of the Mike Tirico-Jon Gruden pairing following the 2015 season. Sean McDonough, Joe Tessitore and Steve Levy have all had a shot at filling Tirico's shoes while even more color guys have tried to fill the This Guy-shaped hole left by Gruden in 2017.

If ESPN really wants Herbstreit to end up working Monday nights, pushing him during the draft is a smart move. The NFL Draft is one of ESPN's premiere non-football season NFL broadcasts and the ABC version of the evening is very friendly to the casual fan because it leans on the human interest stories.

In the past the heavy lifting in that portion of the show was handled by Tom Rinaldi who just left for FOX Sports. So who will step into his tear-soaked shoes? Front Office Sports name-dropped Jeremy Schaap, Gene Wojciechowski, Jen Lada, and Wright Thompson. All capable journalists, but will ESPN be able to find anyone that hits just the right note as often as Rinaldi? Whoever gets to try on draft night will certainly have a big vote of confidence going forward.

Meanwhile, Mike Greenberg will host the more X- and O-focused broadcast on ESPN. This should cement Greenberg as the network's ultimate studio host. If there are aimless commentators in need of wrangling, ESPN knows they can drop Greenberg on set as cameras start to roll and have an organized broadcast.

So the 2021 NFL Draft should provide a good look at how the network hopes to move forward. Greenberg wherever they need him. Herbstreit hopefully more involved in the NFL. And maybe a new Tom Rinaldi.

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