Live From the NFL Draft: NFL Digital Media Huddles Up in Social Media Command Center

For the second consecutive year, NFL Digital Media has a home of its own at the NFL Draft in Chicago – The Huddle Social Media Command Center in Grant Park. This year, however, the octagon-shaped structure is significantly larger and, for the first time, houses an on-site studio set for NFL Now Live Presented by Courtyard.   

NFL Digital Media operations and the NFL Now Live studio are located here at The Huddle Social Media Command Center near Selection Square

NFL Digital Media operations and the NFL Now Live studio are located at The Huddle Social Media Command Center, near Selection Square.

“We try to distinguish NFL Now Live from our partners at the NFL Network and we’re always trying to create a fun vibe on NFL Now,” says Mark Brady, coordinating producer, NFL Digital Media. “This year, for the first time, we have a host and analyst here in The Huddle after having the desk in Culver last year. We really wanted to capture more of the energy of Draft Town with hundreds of thousands of people here. We’re excited about getting that visual and having all of our talent here in Chicago.”

NFL Now Live is streaming every pick of the Draft live from Rounds 1-7 and can be accessed through NFL Mobile from Verizon, the NFL app on connected TV devices, and on desktop and tablet devices.

NFL Digital Media is equipped with five cameras – a wired SteadiCam, two wired handhelds, and two roving RF handhelds – and can take isolated camera feeds from the NFL Network trucks. Similar to last year at the Draft, all camera feeds are being home-runned back to NFL Media’s broadcast center in Culver City, CA, where two control rooms have been dedicated to producing NFL Now Live and other digital content and have full comms with the team in Chicago.

During the first round on Thursday, anchor Matt “Money” Smith and analyst Bucky Brooks hosted NFL Now Live in The Huddle studio, while Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor interviewed first round selections backstage.

NFL Digital Media Coordinating Producer Mark Brady at the NFL Now Live desk inside The Huddle

NFL Digital Media Coordinating Producer Mark Brady at the NFL Now Live desk inside The Huddle

“Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor have been excellent additions to our team,” says Brady. “Obviously, they’re very shortly removed from actually playing in the NFL. We took them on the road for Super Bowl and our Combine coverage and they have really helped to add to that fun atmosphere that we’re trying to create.”

In addition to the primary NFL Now Live set, hosts Colleen Wolfe and Marc Istook have a separate area outfitted with a touchscreen LED display (provided by Reality Check Systems) to visually illustrate and analyze social trends as the Draft progresses.

“Incorporating social media segments throughout our show on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is a key component to our show,” says Brady. “The goal is to capture, in real time, social media trends that are happening throughout the Draft. While the network will certainly be incorporating quality social media messaging throughout their show, we make it an even bigger part of our show.”

In addition, senior fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano is providing immediate fantasy analysis of the picks as they happen from the NFL Network newsroom in Culver City.

“We are trying to provide real time fantasy updates as players get drafted by various teams,” says Brady. “For example, how does Jared Goff going to the Rams first overall impact [running back] Todd Gurley or other players and teams?”

On Saturday, all fourth and fifth round picks will be made from teams’ facilities across the country, as well as a handful of unique locations picked by the teams. While NFL Network and ESPN will periodically show these announcements live, NFL Now Live will be the only way to watch every pick made in Rounds 4-7. Lance Zierlein will provide further analysis during these later rounds. Dave Dameshek will also be roaming throughout Draft Town all three days with an RF camera crew providing the sights and sounds at Grant Park.

“Another area that we’re trying to distinguish ourselves from is capturing more of the flavor of Draft Town and the fans,” says Brady. “So you may see Dave Dameshek on the Ferris Wheel or mingling with fans at the Vince Lombardi Trophy, but the main goal is getting outside and capturing what the NFL has helped to create here in Chicago over the last two years.”