For the first time in 50 years, the NFL will host its draft outside of New York. From April 30–May 1, each of the league's 32 teams will head to Chicago to select their next class of concussion patients.
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ESPN's Darren Rovell spoke with Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's senior vice president of events, and reported on the plans for the weekend.
Here's what he discovered:
The Auditorium Theatre will be the primary host: ESPN and NFL Network will both have sets inside the theater, and about 3,000 seats will be made available for fans. Outside, there will be another 3,000 seats in an area called "Selection Square." There is not yet an established plan for how those tickets will be distributed, but they will be free.
Grant Park will turn into a meathead bonanza: Chicago's front lawn will become "Draft-Town" over the weekend, with a "small chalet" for each of the league's 32 teams. Here, attendees will be able to run a 40-yard dash and get autographs from players. ESPN and NFL Network will also have sets in the park, which is sure to lure hundreds of sign-bearing fans desperately trying to be on TV for a few seconds. After doing their required interviews with each network inside the theater, each draftee will come outside for an interview for the crowd in the park.
Buckingham Fountain will be lit up in the colors of the team on the clock: It's going to be blasphemous to see Chicago's most famous fountain glowing with Packers colors, but it's good to know Buckingham's lights can glow with such a variety of colors. The lighting will only take place during the draft's first two rounds April 30–May 1.
Each team's draft table will be outside: Chicago's springtime weather is notoriously erratic, so one has to wonder why the NFL plans to have each team's group of draft strategists set up at tables in Grant Park. It's unclear whether the league has a backup plan in case of an April shower, but the idea of 100 soaked football scouts sounds hilarious.