Philadelphia Sets New Bar For NFL Draft As 70,000 Fans Create "Crazy" Atmosphere
Philadelphia provided an "absolutely electric atmosphere" for the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, as more than 70,000 fans packed the Ben Franklin Parkway for the event, according to ESPN's Trey Wingo. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium to make his opening remarks, Wingo said to his on-set partners Louis Riddick, Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper Jr., "I'm sure all three of you said some really important things. Didn't hear a word of it. The crowd is ready to roll." Later, when the Eagles were on the clock to make the 14th pick of the night, Wingo noted the crowd was "absolutely going crazy," and the fans "just kicked it up a notch" prior to Goodell announcing the team selected Tennessee DE Derek Barnett ("NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/27). Wingo prior to the start of the Draft noted Philadelphia residents "showed out in droves," as the Ben Franklin Parkway and the Philadelphia Museum of Art had been "transformed into the center of the NFL universe." Wingo during a conversation with Goodell noted this is the third year since the Draft had become a "traveling circus," and the event "seems to have grown every time we've taken it somewhere different." Wingo: "The fans certainly enjoy it. They're enjoying it a lot, if you know what I mean" (ESPN, 4/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote the Draft should "never again ... be held indoors" after Thursday night. This was the first outdoor Draft, and "standing there amidst the throngs as ... Goodell took to the microphone and was met with a chorus of boos, you knew this was just about perfect." It has been rumored that the Cowboys will host next year's Draft at the 12,000-seat Ford Center at the Star, and that venue "may be a wonder but isn't right for this event, not anymore." Wetzel: "If they can do 70K in Philly, they can do six figures in Buffalo or Cleveland or Cincinnati or Baltimore or Green Bay or places like that" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/27).
LET'S DO THIS AGAIN: NBCSN's Mike Florio called Philadelphia's hosting job a "rousing success" and said it looked like a "gigantic open-air concert with people everywhere." Florio: "We've never had a scene like that at a Draft. That was amazing, and the way it fit perfectly with Philadelphia." He predicted that the Draft is "going to be back in Philly" in the coming years. Florio: "It's going to go on the road and it’s going to go city to city. But it's going to be back in Philadelphia. You just hope that the weather is cooperative like it was last night in Philadelphia” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 4/28). NFL Network's Gregg Rosenthal lists Philadelphia among his Draft winners and writes, "The crowd and the setting Thursday set a new draft-night standard. The NFL might have to run this back" (NFL.com, 4/28).
WHERE TO NEXT? Goodell said the league will make a decision about the host of the '18 Draft "probably in the next couple months." There were reps from 14 cities in attendance Thursday night "that are all interested in hosting the Draft, and we’re probably going to sit with all of them and try to understand what it is they’re proposing" (ESPN, 4/27). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes despite the success of this year's event, it is likely the Draft will be "staged at another site next year, with the NFL having succeeded in developing into a major marketing event that attracts bidding cities as it does for Super Bowls." Goodell: "The intention is to move it around" (USA TODAY, 4/28). Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said he likes the "practice of moving the draft around to the cities in the NFL and letting our cities and fans participate in this aspect of the thing." Jones: "I'd love tangibly for our fans to get to participate in that by having the draft here in the Dallas area" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/28).
LEAVING ITS MARK: In Philadelphia, Nark, Farr & Schaefer in a front-page piece report the Draft and accompanying NFL Draft Experience was "unlike anything the city had ever seen," as there was a "diverse mix of gear from almost every team in the league in one spot." Attendees were "greeted by the largest fan festival the league has ever created, about 25 football fields long." There was something for "most everyone, as long as it had to do with football: giant team helmets, replica Super Bowl rings, ziplines, physical challenges for kids, the occasional celebrity and lots of beer." There was "so much to do at the NFL Draft Experience and so much to see, it was easy to forget the reason it was all happening" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/28). USA TODAY's Bell wrote the pre-draft pageantry represented on the carpet "illustrated all that you need to know about what the NFL Draft has become, at least for the promoters and consumers of pro football." It is "one grand, made-for-TV event, a reality show with no shortage of characters." It felt like the "buzz of gameday, four months before the regular-season kicks off" (USA TODAY, 4/28).
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE: In Atlantic City, James Clark reports Goodell was "booed lustily" by the fans in attendance when he "came on stage ... to greet and welcome the crowd" before the start of the Draft (PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY, 4/28). NFL Network's Rich Eisen noted when Goodell's image appeared on the screen just before the start of the event, fans were booing him "on tape from last year." Eisen: "That'll give you an idea what to expect" ("NFL Draft," NFL Network, 4/27). Goodell on Friday took the booing in stride, saying, "It's part of the Draft. It is part of the experience and it's fun. We want the fans to come have a good time" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 4/28).