Draft specifics favor fans, outdoors

The NFL is using its departure from the Big Apple for the draft as a way to completely revamp the event.

A league official revealed on Monday the NFL's extensive indoor and outdoor plans for the three-day event in Chicago, the draft's first trip away from New York since the city became host 50 years ago.

Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's senior vice president of events, said that while the ESPN and NFL Network sets will be inside the Auditorium Theatre, both networks also will have second sets in Grant Park, where fans can be in the thick of the action thanks to the 32 team tables that will surround the sets. Teams will communicate with officials from those tables to relay their picks which, for the first two nights, will be communicated across the red carpet on Michigan Avenue to the theater on the other side of the street.

The third part of the event, O'Reilly said, is an immersive fan experience the league is calling "Draft-Town," where fans can test themselves against various players running the 40-yard dash, get autographs and congregate in one of 32 small chalets, one for each team.

"We'll have screens inside those areas that reflect what is going on specifically with that team, including the social media conversation," O'Reilly said. "Not only will a legend from each team give the pick, as they typically do in the second round, but they'll also make an appearance at the team chalet."

To help create a synergy between what is occurring inside and outside, Grant Park's famous Buckingham Fountain will be lit up in the colors of the team that is on the clock during the draft's first two nights, April 30 and May 1.

The draft's final five rounds take place on May 2. On that Saturday, the league will allow teams to make selections on their own from remote locations for the first time.

The league has not announced how tickets will be distributed, but says that the roughly 3,000 seats inside the theater and another 1,000 seats outside in front of what is being called "Selection Square" will be free. O'Reilly said any draft pick in attendance, after doing his required interviews with both networks inside the theater, will come outside to do an interview in Grant Park just for the crowd.