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Having the NFL Draft in Philadelphia is a reminder that the NFL is an unstoppable juggernaut.
Calling the NFL huge doesn’t do the league’s power justice. Not even ginormous, which is now an official word, adequately describes the NFL’s power.
Consider the NFL Draft. Believe it or not, there was a time when the NFL Draft seemed to be merely filler for ESPN, which was desperate for programming.
But then a funny thing happened. People started watching the draft. Lots of them. Mel Kiper Jr. (and his hair) became a star.
ESPN and the NFL caught on quickly to the popularity of the draft. The draft became a premier event. All seven rounds are now televised.
Today, just as the NFL stumbled onto the popularity of the draft, renovations at New York’s Radio City Music Hall may have caused the NFL to stumble on to another fantastic idea beyond its wildest imagination: taking the draft on the road.
Philadelphia is the second city to host the NFL Draft road show. The draft in Chicago was a big hit. Judging by the anticipation building in Philadelphia, this year’s draft might exceed the Chicago experience.
Even non-sports fans at a family gathering this week were asking me about the NFL Draft. Most of their questions centered on why the draft is such a major event that Philadelphia is willing to block off lanes for weeks for the construction of the massive NFL Draft set and close the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, one of the main arteries entering Center City, for the NFL Draft.
The answer defies explanation. There isn’t any real action at the NFL Draft. Every once in a while, a team representative has to run to get their draft card in before the time limit expires. Otherwise, the draft is a bunch of people sitting around and analyzing and debating the selections. But people watch it. Lots of them.
What’s the benefit for Philadelphia? Try to find a hotel room in Center City for the latter part of draft week. All of those guests will be eating at restaurants and shopping at stores – at least when they’re not studying their draft guides. In addition to the economic benefit, there will be a ton of free publicity for Philadelphia during the draft. There certainly will be lots of shots of the Philadelphia skyline, boathouse row and the Art Museum area during the national broadcasts.
The NFL Draft has outgrown Radio City Music Hall. It has become a prestigious event that attracts a lot of interest. The NFL should put the draft up for bids, as WWE does with WrestleMania. Hosting the NFL Draft would be considered a coup for the host city. The NFL could come back regularly to certain cities, like Philadelphia and Chicago, just it does with the Super Bowl, but fill in the other years with different cities.
Just as the NFL reached a new level when it began televising every round, it may have entered a new era by holding the draft outdoors in Chicago and Philadelphia.
MOCKING MOCK DRAFTS: Before you put too much stock in anyone’s mock draft, realize that mock drafts are a crapshoot (except, of course, for Gordon Glantz’s mock draft at PhillyPhanatics.com). The six “experts” at nfl.com have five different players going to the Eagles. The projected selections for the Eagles at No. 14 are Washington receiver John Ross, Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Gordon Glantz’s pick in his first two Eagles mock drafts), Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Mock drafts are fun and can be interesting, as long as the creators acknowledge that these are, at best, educated guesses.
CUP CRAZY: The Flyers missed the playoffs, but, hopefully, Flyers fans aren’t missing out on the Stanley Cup playoffs. The first round has been awesome, with many of the games going into overtime. Last Monday, all four games went overtime, and there’s nothing better in sports than overtime playoff hockey.
It also was rewarding to see Peter Laviolette finally avenge the Flyers’ Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Blackhawks in 2010. The Predators not only beat the Blackhawks, the top seeds in the Western Conference, but they swept them.
FEEL LIKE A NUMBER: The first round of the NBA playoffs has also featured its share of excitement. The defending-champion Cavaliers rallied from a 25-point halftime deficit to defeat the Pacers in game 3. That’s the largest halftime deficit overcome in NBA playoff history.
The key number during the first round seems to be 32. A number of stars have led their team with 32 points, with the latest examples being the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (who had 51 points in his previous game) and the Wizards’ John Wall.
UNION VS. VELASQUEZ: Union vs. Velasquez sounds like a court case. In this case, though, it’s a betting proposition. Who will register a win first, the Union or Phillies starter Vince Velasquez? The Union haven’t won since last August, a streak of 14 games. Velasquez hasn’t registered a win since last July.
BACK ON TRACK: It will be overshadowed by the NFL Draft, but the Penn Relays, which kicks off early in the week but hits its peak from Thursday-Saturday, the same days as the NFL Draft, takes place in and around Franklin Field. If you’re a sports fan, the Penn Relays is something you should experience at least once. If you’re a football fan, go on Thursday or Friday during the day. You’ll still have time to watch the NFL Draft at night.
SHRINKING LEAGUE: The Soul’s odds of repeating as Arena Football League champions seems pretty good. The folding of teams and the departure of perennial power Arizona and teams in Jacksonville and Orlando has left the AFL with only five teams, including two expansion teams (Washington and Baltimore).
You have to wonder if the Soul repeat at champions, will they also be the AFL’s last champions?
NEW BLOOD: There are some new names at the top of the NASCAR standings. Young guns Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are in first and second place, respectively. Larson has won one race and seems to be in contention every week. Elliott is frequently in contention, but has yet to record the victory that almost certainly would assure him of a place in the NASCAR playoffs.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, thinks the Eagles should take the best available cornerback at No. 14 – unless receiver Mike Williams is available.