WINCHESTER, Calif. — Daniel Jeremiah spends most winter and spring nights in a dark corner room on the first floor of his two-story house in this Southern California suburb. The only light comes from two desk lamps. Diet Coke in a can and a box of Costco animal crackers by his side, the 36-year-old sits for hours staring at a screen, gripping a video game controller in his hands, stopping occasionally to communicate with strangers on the Internet well past midnight.
Kinda odd, right? And we haven’t even gotten to the 90s R&B music softly playing in the background, Boyz II Men promising to make love to you and Johnny Gill saying my, my, my, my, my, my.
But Jeremiah isn’t doing anything shady. The Internet strangers? Those are the 158,000 followers of his popular @MoveTheSticks Twitter account. The video game controller? He uses that like a remote to pilot through his vast digital library of college football video, research for his high-profile job as a draft analyst for NFL Network. The music? Okay, no excuse for that.
“Yeah, it’s weird, I know,” says Jeremiah, who often tweets out his late-night listens, much to the delight of his followers. “I just try to picture the people who are awake right now, and what they are doing. I picture a security guard in some building, bored out of his mind, who gets a kick out of me watching football and listening to LL Cool J and thinking, ‘This guy gets paid for this? Seriously?’”
Jeremiah has been getting paid to watch football for a while. Following a decade of work as a college scout for the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, he crossed over into media when the NFL Network hired him in 2012. The 2015 NFL Draft is next week, and it will be Jeremiah’s third in his current draft expert role.
Prepping for the draft is serious work. Jeremiah needs to be able to speak intelligently about 200-plus draft prospects on daily NFL Network shows, podcasts, website videos, as well as write articles for NFL.com. Jeremiah is a regular NFL analyst for most of the fall, and usually starts in earnest on the draft in December, watching tape on the top prospects and heading out to various bowl games to see them play in person. January is more tape and going to college all-star games like the East-West Shrine and the Senior Bowl. February is even more tape and the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. March is, you guessed it, tape and visiting college pro days around the country. April is wall-to-wall tape until the first prospect walks on stage to shake hands with Roger Goodell at the end of the month. “I’ll watch tape in my hotel room the night before the first round,” Jeremiah says.
Cramming in a year’s worth of work into five months is a grind and doesn’t allow much free time. Maybe that’s why Jeremiah enthusiastically said yes when a couple dads from his daughter’s volleyball team asked him to play pickup basketball with them in November, one last hurrah before draft prep started. Jeremiah bought new high tops and arrived to the local gym planning to “take it easy.” Then his team lost his first game.
“Things got competitive,” the former college quarterback said.
Jeremiah’s team proceeded to win the next two games. In the fourth game, Jeremiah saw an opportunity to backdoor the guy guarding him. When he went to cut, “I planted hard and it felt like someone kicked me in the back of my leg.” Nope, said a doctor playing in the game, squeezing Jeremiah’s calf to test reflex. Diagnosis: Torn right Achilles tendon.
An injury like that might not seem like a big deal to a guy who can do part of his job from a couch, but Jeremiah lives 98.6 miles from NFL Network’s studios in Culver City. He’s there 3-4 days a week September through January, then five days during prime draft season, February through April. The commute one way takes 100 minutes with no traffic. Jeremiah allows three hours when he’s driving during rush hour. And of course, he uses his right foot to depress the accelerator.
“I can’t drive,” Jeremiah said, when asked his first thought when he learned the Achilles was torn. “Our kids are in so much stuff and are so active, it’s going to kill my wife. And how am I going to get to work?”
The NFL Network accommodated Jeremiah’s injury by reducing his studio days and college bowl travel schedule, and getting him a car service to and from the studio. (How’d he spend his time in the backseat? Studying tape on his iPad.) After surgery, Jeremiah was in a cast and on crutches until early January. He can drive now but still has to wear soft-soled shoes while he rehabs. They’ve been the subject of much ribbing from his colleagues on set.
During the combine, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall served as a guest analyst for NFL Network. Hall tore his Achilles in late October, so he and Jeremiah commiserated about the recovery process. Though, as Jeremiah points out, it’s apples and oranges between how pro athletes rehab (multiple times every day) and regular guys like himself (three days a week, if he’s lucky).
“I’m a little over four months since tearing it, and I just started jogging two weeks ago,” Jeremiah said. “On Hall’s Twitter feed, there’s a picture of him doing a backflip with the caption, ‘Celebrating 5 months!’ So I told my wife, good news, I’m a month away from doing a backflip.”
Between the commute, the on-set work and family activities, Jeremiah has to get creative to find the time for film study. (He watches as many games as he can for the premier prospects, 3-4 games apiece for the Top 125 and 1-2 for the rest.) A “horrendous procrastinator” in high school and college, late-night studying is nothing new to Jeremiah and he finds he does his best work after dark.
“I wish I was able to do sporadic missions, but I can’t. I suck at it,” Jeremiah says. “Your kids need you, your phone’s ringing, it’s work, it’s email. At night, there are no distractions. No phone calls, unless it’s a guy from a team I get information from. I have 3-4 hours where I get locked in and can just fly. I get so much done.”
The solitude is essential, but personal interaction is sometimes necessary, especially when Jeremiah sees something on tape that wows him. “My wife laughs because I used to grab her and be like, ‘Come here, come here. You have to see this.’ And she just didn’t care,” Jeremiah says. “Now my oldest son is 11 and has played flag football for three years, and he loves it. ‘Let’s see it from the other angle, dad.’ So I finally have someone to share the replays with.”
Jeremiah’s kids are ages 13, 11, 9 and 7, and not wanting to take them out of school is one of the main reasons Jeremiah doen’t move closer to the NFL studios. He says the commute is tolerable and allows him to get work done in what he calls his mobile office, a black late model Lexus. Jeremiah sets up radio interviews during that time, and works the phone, reaching out to his sources for the latest information on prospects and what teams might do in the draft. He’s well connected, a benefit from his past life as a scout for teams, a job he says he doesn’t miss in the least.
“This is a million times better,” Jeremiah says. “I’m my own boss here, in terms of which players I want to watch and what I want to do.”
Back in his home office on a recent weeknight, it’s after 11 p.m. and Jeremiah cues up video of a Pac-12 defensive lineman. He’s short, stocky and slow; seventh-round material at best. Undeterred, Jeremiah watches play after play while answering questions for this story, when suddenly he stops talking and rewinds a play.
“Can you appreciate my fat little nose tackle here for a second?” he says. “Wow. He’s got strong hands.”
Jeremiah scribbles in his notebook and continues the conversation. The smallest details do not go unnoticed by the NFL Network draft analyst, a week away from the main event in Chicago. Thanks to his late-night prep work, Jeremiah will be ready.