The NFL draft has, somewhat inexplicably, become one of the premier sports events on the American calendar.
Despite it being little more than a group of talking heads projecting the careers of players who are selected by teams on slips of paper, the sports-loving public in this country has fallen in love with the NFL draft to the point that it is now a destination event for fans.
This means that the draft is one of those sports events that cities actually compete to gain the rights to host. This competition is a relatively recent development, with the draft having been held in New York City from the date of the first draft in 1965 through to the 50th-anniversary edition in 2015.
Since then, the NFL has held the draft in cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas, with the 2019 NFL Draft emanating from Nashville, Tennessee.
There are several reasons why the NFL draft has become one of the most significant sports events of the spring. First, the event is perfectly positioned at the point where we start to miss football and crave it back in our sporting lives. Sure, the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, but the MLB season is still 100 games away from being over and, importantly, college basketball just wrapped up with the fantastic sports event that is March Madness.
Football, however, has been over for a couple of months by the middle of April. While new leagues seem to come and disappear in the spring every couple of years, millions of people across the globe still miss the NFL. That is why an event such as this has grown from a bunch of team executives in a musical hall picking in private to a full-on production that is watched worldwide.
The other main reason that the NFL draft has become one of the most significant sports events is that it manages to hit right down the middle of the football fan demographic. While the divide between college fans and pro fans is not what it once was, there are still large sections of the country, especially in college football heartlands such as the south, where the NFL game is barely followed, but where college football is almost its own religion.
The NFL draft ignites both sets of fans, with college football guys getting to see how high their favorite player is drafted (ideally ahead of the first player taken from the rival school) while NFL fans get to find out about and research a new crop of talent coming in from the college ranks. The NBA draft (at two rounds) is too short. The MLB draft (at 40 rounds) is way, way too long. The NHL draft simply features too many players that you have to be an absolute hockey diehard to have ever heard about most of them.
The NFL draft, however, hits the sweet spot and that is why it is the only draft that is truly event viewing.
Article by Steve Wright