Blog network blankets NFL draft

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be one of ESPN.com’s NFL Blog Network reporters?

These guys have to have ears to the ground nearly 24/7 to add insight and analysis to news on their beats. And because these bloggers cover divisions, they each have four teams they must track.

Draft day puts their work in the spotlight. I can tell you from working with them for the previous four years, they are great at what they do.

What’s it like to be them as the 2011 NFL draft unfolds over the next three days, starting with the first round tonight at 8 on ESPN? They’ve shared a few thoughts here. [Note: The NFC East does not have a regular blogger at this time].

James Walker, AFC North

It’s different, but in a good way. I enjoy the variety of covering four teams because you get the good, the bad and the ugly of the NFL.

For example, Pittsburgh is coming off a Super Bowl appearance this offseason and quarterback Carson Palmer is threatening retirement in Cincinnati. That’s probably as big a spectrum as you can have with two teams — and both are in the AFC North.

The same goes for the draft. Usually there are teams at the top and bottom of the draft board, which provides a good range of potential storylines.

One division team might land Cam Newton or Patrick Peterson, but another could get a sleeper at the bottom of the first round that few people know about. I believe all of these angles are interesting.

Pat Yasinskas, NFC South

The draft always is fast-paced and challenging for any writer. I’m in a unique spot this year because I cover the NFC South and the Carolina Panthers are in the division and hold the No. 1 pick in the draft.

I’ve been covering NFL drafts since 1993 and this will be the first time I’ve ever covered a team with the No. 1 overall pick. The closest I came before this was in 2002 when I was covering the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. The Panthers had the No. 2 overall pick, who turned out to be Julius Peppers.

I’ll be in Charlotte because that’s the center of the draft universe, as far as I’m concerned.

The Panthers will sort out the draft for everyone else and all indications are they’ll be taking Auburn’s Cam Newton. He’s a quarterback and, when you throw that position into the mix, it just intensifies everything.

Newton and the Panthers obviously will be my focus. But I’m also responsible for analyzing what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons do. They’re all scheduled to pick from No. 20 on down in the first round Thursday night.

Mike Sando, NFC West

Covering four teams is much more exciting than covering just one team because there’s always something happening.

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on one team’s latest pick, another team does something unexpected — a trade, usually — to throw things into turmoil. You’re constantly battling the clock and trying to keep things straight in your mind while remembering to focus not just on what happens, but what it means.

It’s chaotic, but after covering these teams every day for multiple seasons, we’re conditioned to produce analysis quickly. The draft is like our combine — a chance to go all out, all the time, for all to see.

There’s no other time of year like it. I love it, and also love when it’s over and there’s finally time to take a look at the bigger picture.

Bill Williamson, AFC West

The most difficult part of the job is when multiple teams make news one after the other. Thus, game days are crunch time.

However, the draft offers unique challenges because it occurs at such a rapid pace.

Last year in the first round, the AFC West was involved in an on-the-clock draft trade on three consecutive picks (No. 11-13).

This happened moments after the Kansas City Chiefs took Eric Berry and Oakland Raiders took Rolando McClain with top-eight picks. The trades set up the AFC West arrivals of big-name players Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers) and Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos). I felt like I was trailing 28-0 in the first quarter.

It can be system overload because of our responsibilities to break down each move in almost real-time.

I was toast when I finished covering last year’s three-day event. But the experience is gratifying.

Bring on the 2011 draft.

Tim Graham, AFC East

This will be my third time covering four teams in the draft, and I’m 0-2 in assuming how it will turn out.

The first two go-rounds, I figured the pace would be perfect for blogging: a pick, an interval to write about it and then another pick. But unless there are 10 slots in between — like I have with my first two picks from the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins — the tempo is too furious.

You’ll begin writing about one prospect and how he’ll fit in with that team, and before you’re done, another one of your teams has traded up and made a pick. Now you’re behind and it’s time to scramble.

The Patriots always make things interesting because they own so many picks and make so many trades back. Last year, there was a moment I thought I’d caught up and the Patriots were my next upcoming pick to worry about.

Then another team made the pick in the Patriots’ slot. Come to find out the Patriots had traded back not once, but twice.

Paul Kuharsky AFC South

Covering four teams through three days of the draft requires some major juggling.

I’ll be set up in the Tennessee Titans’ press room, with too many browser screens open on my lap top and too many preview guides and prospect write-ups spread out around me.

I’ll regularly pop into our NFL Nation Live chat, and once the Titans go on the clock for No. 8, the pace quickens. The AFC South is expected to make three selections in a nine-pick span.

There won’t be a lot of time to come up for air between those. I’ll write immediate reaction posts, then later a column. I’ll be interviewed on radio, exchange texts with insiders and fellow bloggers.

Friday will look a lot like Thursday, and I’ll spend a good share of Saturday chipping away at a divisional wrap up file.

Is it all as remarkable as you expected?

Kevin Seifert, NFC North
The big thing to remember is that you can only be in one place at a time.

Obviously I do my best to keep track of each team’s picks, but each year I’m based in a city that I think offers the most interesting storylines and will appeal to the broadest audiences.

That team will get more coverage during draft weekend, and there will be plenty of time to circle back on the other teams in the days and weeks thereafter.

It gets pretty hectic on Friday night, when big names are going off the board in the second round at a pretty hefty pace.

But I think it’s better to provide sane and thoughtful analysis on a smaller level and then find pockets of time elsewhere to hit the other stories.