The NFL Draft is the unofficial start of the upcoming season. But Eric Weinberger knows it’s so much more.
The yearly ritual doesn’t just introduce a fresh crop of rookies into the league. Despite its humbling beginnings as a closed-door, owners-only meeting, the NFL Draft has evolved into a full-on spectacle. Filled with drama and intrigue, the event is less about sports and more about entertainment.
And Eric Weinberger is largely responsible for this transformation. For more than 20 years, the Los Angeles-based media executive has craved a niche by “event-isizing” non-game content. Using this unique ability, he was promoted as the NFL Network’s first-ever Executive Producer. Here, he was instrumental in launching the channel’s coverage of the NFL Draft, schedule releases, training camps, and other off-the-field content.
As he continues to develop innovative content for the Bleav Podcast Network, Eric Weinberger is constantly looking for new ways to bring the NFL Draft into fans’ living rooms. With this in mind, Eric Weinberger chronicles the NFL Draft and how it’s changed throughout the years.
1936: First draft held at a hotel
There’s no fury like an owner scorned.
Bert Bell, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, was irate when he missed out on a marquee free agent the previous year. So, he convinced the other owners to hold a draft. The team with the losing record would select first, and the other franchises would follow in reverse order. The format’s remained relatively unchanged since.
1980: ESPN televises the first draft
Tuning in wasn’t always a no-brainer.
A struggling start-up station called ESPN was desperate for a ratings win. The network’s then-president pitched an idea to televise the draft. It was initially met with skepticism from both sides. Undaunted, ESPN launched its first broadcast anyway. Now, Eric Weinberger and others have grown this into an entire year-round industry.
2006: NFL Network starts its own coverage
The on-air desk got a little more crowded.
The NFL Network shared the stage with its competitor. Despite covering the draft since its debut, the network began its own on-site coverage ahead of the 2006 season.
And Eric Weinberger was there leading the charge. For this one-night event, he remembers months of preparation, planning, and organizing of more than a hundred staff members.
2014: NFL begins rotating locations
The NFL Draft hits the road.
Due to a scheduling conflict in 2014, the league decided to explore other venues. It packed up operations in NYC and moved the draft to Chicago. It was an instant hit among fans. Since then, this has become the league’s newest annual tradition. This season’s draft is being held in Las Vegas.
2022: New technologies emerge
Eric Weinberger is still innovating.
Just like TV was once a novel idea, other digital platforms are leading the next wave. For the upcoming draft, he will partner with Bally Sports Ohio to air two Bleav in Bengals podcasts. Adam “Pacman” Jones and Solomon Wilcots will be joined by guests for multiple, 30-minute shows. The duo will discuss the draft, team-centric news, and offer an early season preview. Replays will be available to watch, stream, or download.