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A Fan's Guide to Enhancing Your 2009 NFL Draft Experience

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2009

Things are tough all over.

But that’s not to say you cannot have a tremendous experience in the comfort of your own home for the 2009 NFL Draft.

Here are a few ways you can maximize your draft pleasure this weekend.

Bring the Party Home

No need to sit at home alone, right? Most things are just more fun in a group, and cheering or complaining about a pick is definitely more enjoyable if you just aren’t shouting at the TV and Mel Kiper’s hair.

If you’re into the Draft, chances are you’ve been talking about it and know plenty of people interested in at least Saturday’s happenings. Make a party of it.

Heck, invite family. Plenty of significant others might be in need of distraction as well. Maybe having a bouncer for the kids or another TV—far away from the main one—with Top Chef or something on it could help smooth the inevitable early onset of Football Widow syndrome.

Food and Drink

Whether you’re scoring at home or even if you’re alone, food and drink is paramount to the enjoyment of football. And really, that’s all this is—a very early, very weird football game. The atmosphere, the anticipation—it can be very similar.

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And what is a game without great food? For some, that means Cheetos, hot wings, pizza, and beer. For others, it might be steak on the grill, a couple of Cokes, and a tray of Ding-Dongs.

Whatever it is, you treat it like Super Bowl Sunday and get the food you will enjoy. Don’t worry about placement because with 10 minutes between picks (seven for the second round), you can easily get up, pop something in the oven, grab a tray of wings, or restock the beer in the fridge before the next team goes.

TV Time! or "Do I Need to See the Pores in Matthew Stafford’s Face?"

Quality of the television is all to taste, but make sure it’s big enough for whoever is coming to your place to see from wherever they choose to sit. Now, don’t bother getting a new TV just for the Draft, but make sure the thing works and has a clear picture before you plan to stare at it all day.

High Def or giant screens are not necessary, but if you’re going to be watching hour after hour of the same images on the screen, then you want something that will not destroy your eyes. So make sure the image is bearable.

Preparation is the Key

Now, most people know a ton about the sexy positions—quarterback, running back, wide receiver—but not everyone who wants to watch the Draft is going to know offensive linemen, defensive tackles, and the odd tight end.

For that matter, not everyone reading this knows too much about the players aside from their names.

If you’re one of those souls, or if you know one (and don’t want to spend the weekend explaining who everyone is), here are a few places I suggest going that will enhance your draft knowledge.

And best of all, many of these are free.

ESPN.com

Unfortunately, a bunch of their stuff is marked as Insider (read: not free), but overall it’s a good basic place to go. You can see ScoutInc’s top 35 players, catch snippets of Todd McShay or Mel Kiper’s mocks, and read various news stories and profiles on players.

Again, a big portion of it is not free, but it’s not a bad place to start your search for info.

NFL.com

It can be a bit hard to navigate, but it’s still a solid source of info. You can roll back through Gil Brandt’s Pro Day logs, check out the latest news feeds, and scan mock drafts from the Path to the Draft gang.

While their player breakdowns don’t cover as many players as some other sites, it’s stuff from NFLDraftscout.com, and what they cover is pretty thorough. Draftscout’s stuff is also on CBSSportsline.com and will fold into that site completely next season.

To top it all off, they are streaming the draft online for the second year in a row. I’ll touch on the various draft-watching choices in a minute, but if you’re trapped at work, here’s a choice that may save your sanity.

Draftcountdown.com

Scott Wright has been breaking down players for many years, and he’s very good at what he does. That’s why Draftcountdown is one of the biggest Draft sites around. I don’t always agree with Scott’s takes, but his logic is solid and his instincts are sharp.

Among the many things Wright does are player breakdowns by position and team needs; he also does mock drafts and has a very active forum community.

He’s pretty responsive to readers as well, both in the forum and via chat and email. He’s a guy who watches a ton of tape and puts countless hours into the process. He also has a show on iTunes you can check out.

Plus you can get a head start on 2010, as he’s already looking ahead.

Draftguys.com/DraftguysTV 

The site is only a few years old, and the content (some of which I will admit I have written) isn’t as all-consuming as some other sites, but there is some unique content here.

While you can find team interest articles all over, the Team Interest feature at Draftguys is one of the most thorough, and when I write it, I also endeavor to add sources. So you know it’s backed by research and can repeat that if you want.

Cecil Lammey’s What If Mock Drafts are fun to read, as he has been throwing monkey wrenches into his mock drafts for about a month. If you want to know what would happen if team A traded with team B or Mark Sanchez dropped—well, Lammey might have what you want.

But the best part of this site is the Draftguys TV feature. The second season of the video has covered 51 players at about three to five minutes a pop. And while they covered Rey Maualuga and B.J. Raji, they also let you know about lesser known (or lesser publicized) guys who could have an impact like Jarron Gilbert from San Jose State or Stephen McGee from Texas.

It combines solid analysis with footage culled from practices at Texas vs. the Nation, the Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl and player interviews.

Draft Daddy.com

Flat-out the best Draft-related news feed on the planet. Draft Daddy constantly updates stories from all over, covering rumors and analysis from pretty much every newspaper, website, and source they can find, and it’s all money.

At any given moment, you can find a link to Gil Brandt’s Pro Day column, a Mike Lombardi article on the National Football Post, and a news story at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

You can also easily catch up on the most recent news or look backwards to track how a player climbed out of obscurity.

NFLDraftbible.com 

Again, a site that costs a little money for some features, and again a site I have worked for. If you haven’t seen my Pro Day articles and want to catch up, they’re in the archives. Player news is fed on the main page and free.

Some player tracking news, player interviews both transcribed and audio, and team needs are also there and free, so even if you don’t shell out cash this close to the draft, you can get some great info.

Other sites worth a look for research: SportingNews.com (The Warroom is excellent year round and worth the money), Yahoo.com, and many team fan sites and blogs.

Also, many of these sites have work by a writer named Josh Buchanan. If there is a better source of info on small school players, I don’t know who it is. Anything he writes on the subject is well worth your time.

Do You Prefer the Hair or the Company Team?

Now you have your food and party planned, and you know your players (or where to log on to find them)—the question is, who do you get your live info from?

I myself prefer the NFL network. I used to watch the ESPN coverage, but between Chris Berman screaming the pick like he was guessing before the Commissioner read it out and the tragic number of talking heads who aren’t worth the air time (Keyshawn Johnson, I am looking at you), I just can’t do it anymore.

I don’t mind McShay and Kiper, although Kiper is a little too arrogant for his own good. And at times on Day Two, the ESPN coverage is just the two of them, and while NFLN is replaying footage from Day One and discussing the top three picks yet again, Kiper/McShay are talking about the late picks.

NFLN takes itself more seriously for the most part and has a lot less ridiculous showmanship than ESPN. Last year, they did lapse into a bit of silliness with Adam Shefter's "breaking news" that was either not quite news or a little too reminiscent of the Berman "look I know the pick" garbage.

This year you will likely not get any Shefter, which I think is going to be a bit of a detriment. Shefter is embroiled with some sort of contract issue with the NFLN and hasn’t been on the network in at least a month.

I don’t expect that to change this weekend, and that’s too bad. Shefter has good news sources, even if sometimes he can be a bit much, and I haven’t seen a replacement yet.

I plan on flipping quite a bit myself. Sometimes one thing breaks on ESPN but not NFLN, and sometimes the analysis is better on NFLN.

But you may lack the ability to flip, as many cable providers don’t carry the NFL Network. It could appear at first glance you are trapped.

So what to do if you can’t stand Kiper but have no NFLN?

Well, as mentioned before, NFL.com will be streaming the draft. Also, ESPN Radio will be covering most of the first day and probably parts of the second. I like John Clayton and he’ll be a part of that coverage, and I am sure they’ll have analysis from Kiper and McShay during the show.

Beyond them, you can follow any number of news sources, sites, and players via Twitter, including some of the sites I listed above.

I myself will be a part of all-day coverage on the Fantasy Sports Channel on BlogTalkRadio.com. Starting at 10 am Eastern and rolling until midnight, there will be live podcasts, chat rooms, and plenty of football talk from both a fantasy football and regular fan point of view. You can listen via iTunes radio, the Blogtalk site itself, or even on your iPhone.

If you are interested, I’ll be doing my show from 3 pm until 5—covering the news right before the draft and a chunk of round one. I will also have my chat room open most of the day and will likely be doing a bunch of podcast and radio spots all day, so check my twitterfeed on the day of and I’ll keep you apprised of my appearances and any breaking news I come across during the day.

I am sure there are many fan sites doing chats, keeping people updated via threads in their forums or live blogs.

So while it may appear you don’t have any choice but ESPN, if you aren’t a fan of the broadcast team—I can understand why—you do have other options. Nothing better than watching one feed, but listening to another.

Lord knows I do that many Monday nights.

The NFL Draft has grown in popularity and size over the past years, and more and more people await it in anticipation and watch it with rapt attention. Everyone has their own way of doing their Draft watching, and by no means is my way the only way.

But if you use this guide as a template, I think you’ll find your experience a solid one.

Up until your team takes that kicker with the first round selection.

At that point, you’re on your own.

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