Why Mike Greenberg was the perfect choice to host ESPN’s NFL Draft ‘party’



Mike Greenberg reportedly earns $6.5 million a year at ESPN. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

It’s understandable that ESPN put Mike Greenberg in the chair of the main host for their coverage of the NFL Draft last year. He’s prepared and affable, familiar and polite, like the ESPN anchor as ESPN anchors get.

But it’s not that he “fits the bill”, like Johnny Bravo. The costume and the role were tailor-made for him.

Heck, given Greenberg’s rise to the network in stature and salary (he’s reportedly earning $6.5 million a year), his draft role is more than understandable; it should have been considered inevitable long before he got the gig in 2021.

There’s another reason, evident over and over Thursday night, why this is Greenberg’s gig. He sells everything. The buzzword for the live scene in Las Vegas where the draft took place was “party,” and I lost count of how many times Greenberg said it in the opening minutes of the show. I half expected him to launch into a nasal rendition of “Party in the USA”

Greenberg sticks to hyperbole to the point that it’s hard to tell if he’s trying to be ironic. When the Lions took Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick, Greenberg noted that “America fell in love with his family” when he was a Wolverine. My apologies if I missed a great story along the way, but I had never seen the guy’s family until they lined up to kiss him in the green room.

And Greenberg introduced prospecting expert Mel Kiper Jr. — who was broadcasting from home because he is medically unvaccinated for COVID-19 — as “the man who invented the draft”. The first professional football draft took place in 1936. If it was Kiper’s brainchild, he is much older than his listed age of 61.

To his credit, Greenberg asked Roger Goodell about Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the league for racial discrimination, and also asked the commissioner about the status of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson as he faces 22 civil lawsuits l accusing him of sexual misconduct. Goodell, as usual, looked suitably concerned and spent many syllables saying nothing.

When I watch the draft coverage, I jump on the various networks, including the NFL Network (Rich Eisen, effortlessly in charge as usual, hosted for his 18th straight year) and the ABC version with his team focused on college football. But I tend to settle on ESPN because of, well, an old habit and the fact that Louis Riddick is my most trusted draft analyst, going back to his advocacy for the Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes ahead of the 2017 draft.

The banter between Kiper and Riddick was particularly interesting when the Patriots surprised and took Chattanooga guard Cole Strange with the No. 29 overall pick. Kiper noted that it was similar to the decision to take Logan Mankins in the first round of the 2005 draft. “Everyone shook their heads and said, ‘How could you do that? Kiper said, not acknowledging that no draft expert was more baffled and put off by the pick than he was.

While Kiper seemed to like the player but not where he was drafted, Riddick proved familiar with Strange and why the Patriots would view him as a fit. “Listen, I have to tell you this,” Riddick said. “You throw a Chattanooga strip against Kentucky, against an SEC defense. [Strange] whisk them for 60 minutes. He’s a guy who has a bar in the middle of his face mask, old school, no tape on his hands. I’m just telling you his tape was… I can see why Bill [Belichick] looked at that and said, “I want this guy.” ”

There were no real moments of extended drama or unintended comedy in the first round, not a single vignette we’ll see on the draft for years to come. Nothing quite like Aaron Rodgers’ extended stay in the green room (2005, where he presumably plotted revenge on the rest of the league), or the revelation of Laremy Tunsil – for lack of a better term – bong mask ( 2016), or CeeDee Lamb’s display of quick hands and an elite capture ray when a companion attempted to intercept her phone (2020).

The only moment that could prove so enduring, and for all the right reasons, came when 19-year-old Giants fan Sam Prince came out to announce the team’s No. 5 pick. Prince, who had a heart transplant, did the honors as part of the Make-A-Wish program, and his true fan enthusiasm was contagious. Prince pumped up the crowd like a veteran hype-man, announced the selection of Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, celebrated with the dancer when he took the stage, then posed with Goodell and Thibodeaux for the traditional photo holding the shirt. It was a sweet scene, and one Greenberg, for once, resisted overthinking.


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