NFL Draft 2012: Where to Watch and Where to go Online for Information

The phenomenon that is the NFL Draft starts this Thursday, a prime time extravaganza that makes experts out of casual fans and stars or bums out of the legions of ‘experts’ that not only predict teams picks but also how well that player will fit in and perform for his new employer.

Who will be this year’s great picks, the Peyton Manning and Wes Welker of the draft and who will be this year’s Ryan Leaf and Charles Rogers? Hard to say but just about everybody with a keyboard and an Internet connection seems to have an opinion.

It is probably impossible to list all of the options available to fans to gather information prior to the draft and then assess it after, but we here at Mobile Sports Report thought we would put out a list of some of the more popular and/or interesting places to go for your viewing and information pleasure. We will try and only mention each site or app once, since most cover the gamut of activities that will be occurring this week.

The Usual Suspects
Of course first and foremost is the NFL Network– which since the NFL owns it, will have a solid show on the draft and has been talking about the event for some time. The web site for the network features a counter until the draft starts, a Mock Draft page, Mike Mayock’s predictions, a draft tracker and a contest to predict the picks with the possibility of going to the Super Bowl, and that is just naming some of the information available.

Of course rivaling the NFL Network is ESPN, which is almost All-NFL all the time these days. Aside from broadcasting the draft as well a wide assortment of pages dedicated to the draft on its web site including Mel Kiper’s latest, Todd McShay’s latest and a number of other tidbits. It should be noted that a number of ESPN’s offerings are for subscribers to its Insider service only.

Fox, one of the NFL’s broadcasting partners does not have a national show for the draft, at least one I could find, and its web page is significantly more subdued in its coverage of the draft, although it does provide a good deal of information, just not to the level of ESPN or NFL Network.

The Focused Few
As most any but the most casual fan knows, there is an increasingly large body of sites that follow the NFL full time. The fall everywhere from sites run by major organizations such as Yahoo! to very well done amateur sites. We will cover a few in both areas.

Might as well start with Yahoo! Sports, one of the most popular sports sites on the Internet, if not the most popular. In all areas it has been poaching top talent, but has always had a solid football footing. It allows customization by users so that you can follow your team and has a section on the draft, as well as recent transactions so you can see who is retiring or traded.

Another up and comer is USA Today Sports Media Group, an amalgamation of a number of properties. The USA Today site of course has long been one of the best day after game sections for important stats, both print and online. One of its properties, The Big Lead is worthwhile both for Jason Lisk’s football coverage and analysis but also for the very spirited, and usually informed, conversations that accompany its articles.

The National Football Post strength in my opinion has been its columns, but it has strong NFL connections and follows the sport quite well. To fill out the rest of the top online players there is NBC Sports and as part of it the popular Pro Football Talk site. Other good sites include CBS Sports and SB Nation.

Alternative sources
One area that it makes sense to remember is sites that specialize in Fantasy Football. They need to know how valuable the players available for the draft are expected to be, so that they can (hopefully) make informed recommendations to users of their sites. Head over to someplace such as The Huddle where they have already broken down the draft by position

Over at Fantasy Knuckleheads the site has full mock drafts teams as well as projected round drafts. An interesting feature was a piece on breaking down ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s mock draft. I think that I may revisit it after the draft and so see how both Kiper and the author did in the draft.

How can you not want to look at a site called NFL Draft Geek? Breakdowns on the top skill positions are already up and more are slated to be posted prior to the draft. They obviously have strong opinions on issues and have Baylor’s Robert Griffin III as the #4 best player in the draft, for instance.

I enjoy a good retrospective piece on past season’s drafts. The trouble is often that they often just focus on the past year and it often takes several before you can really get a feel for how a draft works out. Over at Football Outsiders they look back six years, and as always from this site the piece are fact driven.

As a bonus you can see its breakdown on a variety of last year’s statistics and so get a solid feel for what teams need, or what appeared to be weaknesses last year. Another of the more cerebral sites is SmartFootball, and while its impact in following the draft is minimal in some senses, its focus on trends in the NFL helps put drafted players into a larger perspective.

If you end the draft just wondering what ever happened to some player that you liked in school but lost track of in the pros, head over to Pre-Football Reference site to look them up. Among its features are areas that cover teams, years and individual starts.

Gannett Increasing Digital Sports Focus: Teams with MLB

Gannett is seeking to leverage the digital media explosion by translating it into solid revenue via a diversified approach that will cover everything from customized content to an enhanced position in sports.

The publisher, possibly best known for its flagship paper USA Today, said that it expects to reach between $75 million and 100 million in revenue from digital services division and that it expects to see strong revenue growth going forward, reaching an estimated $275 million to $350 million by 2015.

Company executives speaking at its annual Analyst Day have bullish vision for revenue growth and one of the components of that growth will be its sports USA Today Sports Media Group, which it will try and drive into becoming a top five sports media companies in the country with over $300 million in annual revenue by 2015.

Acquisitions and partnerships part of sports push

It has already taken a solid step in this direction with the announcement of a co-development deal with MLB Advanced Media, the interactive media and Internet branch of Major League Baseball today announced a joint venture to develop and produce new content and products for sports fans across all digital and mobile platforms.

It has already worked to enhance its digital sports position with the purchase of Fantasy Sports Ventures (FSV), an umbrella organization that features a number of on-line sports sites including, and and The Big Lead. The deal, which was announced, last month was for an undisclosed sum.

It gives Gannett instant relevance in the on-line advertising space, an area that it has straggled in, according to the Wall Street Journal. USA Today has been battling players such as Yahoo Sports and, which have significantly larger audiences.

FSV is the 5th largest online sports property with an average of 18.4 million unique visitors monthly, USA Today is ninth with 10 million unique visitors. Executives said that they will continue to look at additional acquisitions but has no plans currently for any large purchases.

Additionally it plans to do a major re-launch of its entire desktop, mobile and tablet products across the company within the next two years, starting with USA Today.

USA TODAY Poaches Former CBS Interactive Digital Exec

USA TODAY VP of Digital Mark Kortekaas

USA Today’s revamp of its Sports Media Group executive ranks continued this week, as it poached former BBC online technology group general manager and CBS Interactive senior vice president and CTO Mark Kortekaas.

At USA TODAY, Kortekaas will be senior vice president of digital.

USA TODAY Sports Media Group president Tom Buesse said in a statement:

“Mark has unique, battle-tested experience in developing platforms that provide a first-class digital offering for sports fans. He’s exactly the right person to help us build out a digital architecture that will present and deliver our content in the most engaging, user-friendly and relevant ways possible.”

The move continues the reshuffle of USA TODAY’s Sports Media Group.

In November, former Yahoo! executive Dave Morgan was named senior vice president and editor-in-chief, and former IMG Sports and Entertainment VP of sales Peter Lazarus was named senior vice president and head of multimedia sales, according to an earlier Mobile Sports Report article.

USA TODAY is expected to be a logical candidate to develop mobile applications that leverage its established brand, and provide consumers with advanced Fantasy Sports options, including the ability to switch players during games. In the gaming industry this is called “in-running,” and Mobile Sports Report has coined the name “In-running Fantasy Sports.”

Created in January, USA TODAY is a crucial element to the future of the media company. It manages the sports content of 81 daily media properties, 23 broadcast television stations, and, and

A laggard in recent years, USA Today’s new team faces the challenge of catching up to and then eclipsing the mounting competition. Such traditional competitors as ESPN, which is highly innovative in the mobile arena, and such upstarts as Bleacher Report and SBNation have outpaced the company in digital development.

However, there is a big market opportunity that nearly everyone in the industry is eyeing. Yahoo! Sports, which is still No. 1 in Fantasy Sports services, appears to be slipping with uncertainty in its executive ranks and the potential sale of parts of the company. If it begins to lose market share, USA Today and others could benefit.


USA Today Taps Yahoo! Sports Exec to Captain Sports Content

Dave Morgan

USA Today is setting sail in sports with a new captain. His name is Morgan.

Beginning Nov. 1, USA Today’s sports content, mobile sports applications and sports social media will be shaped by former Yahoo! executive Dave Morgan, who helped build the Yahoo! search engine and online portal into the No. 1 sports destination in the country.

On Monday, Morgan was named senior vice president and editor-in-chief of USA Today Sports Media Group.

In hiring Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group gains a charismatic leader. When he left Yahoo!, Morgan was so popular that several top writers changed their Twitter avatar to a photo of Morgan, according to a Mediabistro report.

Big Job

USA Today Sports Media Group President Tom Beusse made the announcement, and it is — indeed — a big job. USA Sports Media was created by Gannett Co. Inc. in January to shepherd not only the online efforts of the nationwide USA Today newspaper, but 82 daily newspapers, 23 broadcast televisions stations and the stand-alone portals and

Statements made in conjunction with the appointment, and Morgan’s pedigree, indicate USA Today Sports Media Group will push in new directions designed to capitalize on the sports social media boom.

Morgan’s Credentials

Previously, Morgan was executive editor of Yahoo! North American Audience, where he built Yahoo! Sports into the No. 1 online sports destination. Morgan left Yahoo! in May, underscoring the brain drain of executive talent from the company, according to a report in SportsBusiness Daily.

In recent comments to the TEDx Penn Quarter, former AOL Sports head Jimmy Lynn credited Yahoo! for remaining as the No. 1 sports destination by relying on fantasy sports, when it could have easily lost its focus as sports social media broadened.

In addition to a fantasy focus, Morgan has a news background, including setting a website record of 40 million unique visitors for coverage of the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver.

The unanswered question is whether Morgan has enough savvy in the development of mobile applications to drive USA Sports Media toward meaningful content for smartphones, iPhones and iPads, which is considered the wave of the future for sports fans and publishers alike.

Changing “Virtually Everything”

Without a doubt, Morgan will bring change to Gannett’s USA Today Sports Media Group. A former executive at the Los Angeles Times, Morgan told The Associated Press Sports Editors in 2008 the following:

“I was posed this question: what would I do differently if I went back to newspapers now that I have been in the web world?,” Morgan wrote.

“Virtually everything.”

Rising Competition

Morgan’s appointment comes during turbulent times in sports media. Rival new online media/sports social media properties are enjoying increased success, and seem to have little trouble raising millions in venture capital.

For example, SBNation and bleacher report have gone from start-ups to rank among the top 10 most-trafficked online sports destinations in the last three years. Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports and others are increasingly hard pressed to stay ahead of newfangled competitors.

Flat out, USA Today Sports Media is an also-ran among competitors, which Morgan will have to shore up to be taken seriously in the brave new world of mobile sports content.

USA Today Sports Media Group’s Beusse said Morgan will take responsibility for fully developing the potential of its sports business, including charting strategy.

Lazarus: A 2nd in Command with Connections

Along with Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group named Peter Lazarus as senior vice president and head of multimedia sales. Lazarus came from Univision Communications Inc., where he oversaw advertising operations for the Univision, TeleFutura and Galavision networks.

In naming a sales executive in the same announcement as Morgan, Gannett signals that it sees partnership as key to building a sports social media content powerhouse.

Prior to Univision, Lazarus was senior vice president of sales at the sports management agency IMG Sports and Entertainment. It is likely that Lazarus will use his IMG connections to forge alliances between USA Today Sports Media Group and athletes. For example, USA Today could use its newspapers to promote contests that encourage people to follow an athlete’s twitter account, where products the athlete uses are endorsed.

What to Watch

Creation of the Sports Media group in January is consistent with widespread consolidation underway at old-media stalwart Gannett, which is concentrating on shared national services as a means to make money with print newspapers. will be watching Morgan’s appointment closely to see whether Morgan and Lazarus can marshal the resources necessary to create a broad social media network that captivates national audiences, as well as meaningful corporate-sanctioned applications that allow individual newspapers and television stations to maintain market share in their local communities.

In addition, Morgan and Lazarus will need to re-invigorate a sports staff shaken by years of layoffs and weak leadership, and identify leaders on local newspaper sports desks ready to step up. In addition, it is likely some Yahoo! sports staffers will be anxious to rejoin their popular former leader at Gannett. With Gannett facing stiffer competition with each passing day, it is safe to say Morgan and Lazarus have their work cut out.