The NFL used to hate us. Now it's holding football prom here. Here are 32 things to know about the upcoming NFL draft

Jon Gruden; Joe Burrow, Roger GoodellA few years ago, you’d have thought humans would colonize Mars before the NFL deigned to stage one of its marquee events in the sports betting capital of the universe. And yet it’s actually happening: The league that used to be so anti-Vegas that it rejected a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl spot from the LVCVA is gearing up for a 72-hour takeover of our town.

Las Vegas will be the center of the sports universe April 23-25 as it hosts the 2020 NFL Draft, the league’s second-biggest annual showcase behind only the Super Bowl. Just what is the draft, why is it a big deal, and how will it benefit the city? We have the answers in our 32-point NFL Draft primer! (Why 32? It’s the number of NFL franchises and the number of selections that will be made in the first round on April 23.)

32  Some history: Looking to improve parity among its then-nine franchises, the NFL in 1936 instituted an annual player-selection process in which the team with the worst record from the previous season would get the first pick in each round, while the second-worst team would get the second pick, and so on. The inaugural draft, held in Philadelphia, lasted

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nine rounds.

 31  With the first-ever pick, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Jay Berwanger, a halfback who won the very first Heisman Trophy … and who never played a snap in the NFL, as he and the Eagles (and later Chicago Bears) failed to agree on a contract.

 30  The draft grew from nine to 10 rounds in 1937, increased to 20 rounds in 1939 and peaked at 32 rounds in 1943. By 1977, the draft was reduced to 12 rounds, then eight in 1993 and seven (the current number) the following year.

 29  For the first three decades, the draft bounced between various U.S. cities, mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest. But starting with the  1965 draft (held in 1964), New York City began a 50-year run as draft host, with the last nine staged at Radio City Music Hall.

 28  Sensing an economic opportunity, the NFL abandoned New York after the 2014 draft and began rotating the event among its member cities. Since then, the draft has been held in Chicago (2015-16), Philadelphia (2017), Dallas (2018) and Nashville (2019). Las Vegas becomes just the 10th host city in the draft’s 85-year history.

 27  Why is it a big deal to host the NFL Draft? Money. After the 2019 draft, Nashville reported an economic impact of $224 million, including $133 million in direct spending. Both figures represented a 79 percent increase from the previous year in Dallas.

 26  Last year’s draft attracted a live crowd of 600,000 over three days, was broadcast in 115 countries, and drew a record 47.5 million TV viewers (up 5 percent from 2018).

 25  Projections vary, but we’re expected to welcome 350,000 visitors specifically for the draft. (New Year’s Eve attracts about 300,000.)

 24  Naturally, tourism officials are shifting into full VEGAS! mode. Players invited to attend the draft will be ferried across Bellagio’s lake to a red-carpet stage. From there, the focus moves to the NFL Draft Main Stage, which will be built adjacent to the new Caesars Forum conference center.

 23  A third component: the NFL Draft Experience, which will take over Flamingo Road from the Strip to Koval Lane and feature live entertainment, NFL player appearances, exhibits, and more.

 22  The three-day spectacle is free and open to all.

 21  What about traffic? The Strip on and around Flamingo Road is going to be a mess, starting with lane restrictions near Bellagio in early April. The Strip from Flamingo Road to Paris and Flamingo to Koval will be periodically shut down in both directions starting April 22.

 20  What’s all this gonna cost? In a January news conference, LVCVA chief Steve Hill estimated it would be in the “$2.5 million range.”

 19  Rest assured, officials will justify that expenditure as a drop in the bucket compared with exposure that comes with hosting the draft.

 18  A total of 255 players will be selected in this year’s draft.

 17  While a significant number of the 255 draftees will come from marquee colleges (think Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, USC), dozens of lesser-known players from little-known schools are selected each year.

 16  To wit: Jerry Rice, regarded as the greatest wide receiver of all time, was drafted 16th overall in 1985 out of Mississippi Valley State.

 15  Not exactly a football factory, UNLV has produced 46 draftees. The first: defensive end Dan Orlich (8th round, 1949). The most recent: offensive lineman Joe Hawley (4th round, 2010). The highest pick: running back Ickey Woods (taken 31st in 1988). The most famous: quarterback Randall Cunningham (2nd round, 37th overall, 1985).

 14  The draft epitomizes the term “inexact science.” Numerous first-round picks have famously flopped, while 198 players in the 2000 draft were taken ahead of a doughy quarterback named Tom Brady, he of the six Super Bowl rings.

 13  Indeed, today’s sports media landscape is littered with “draft experts,” but nobody really knows which players will be selected. Even team officials often wait until the last second to decide.

12  That said, there will be zero drama at the outset of this draft. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strides to the podium to reveal the first pick, you can be certain of two things: He will be booed loudly, and he will announce the selection of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.

 11  The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Burrow will go to the Cincinnati Bengals — unless the Bengals go Bengals and trade down.

 10  There will be dozens of trades throughout the three-day draft as some teams move up to ensure they get a player they want, and others move down and stockpile future picks.

 9  Our Raiders have posted a 17-31 over the past three seasons and have just one winning season (and one playoff appearance and zero playoff wins) since reaching the 2002 Super Bowl. Translation: Our new franchise needs a lot of help.

 8  In good news, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has seven selections this year, including two of the first 20 (picks No. 12 and 19). The Raiders also have three third-round picks, and one each in the fourth and seventh rounds — although that could change depending on trades.

 7  Since returning to the Raiders after the 2017 season, Gruden has made 18 selections: 11 defensive players, six offensive players, one punter. He has yet to draft a quarterback.

 6  Expect that to change in April because his current quarterback, Derek Carr, isn’t the long-term answer.

 5  Might Gruden use one of those first-round picks to nab one of the top-rated quarterbacks not named Burrow?
He’d be an instant hero in his new city. But the smart money says Gruden will use one of his third-rounders (or trade up into the second round) to get his signal-caller.

 4  There will be watch parties at bars and restaurants all over the valley, particularly for the first round.

 3  Do not, under any circumstances, engage in any drinking game tied to the mention of Joe Burrow’s name. You’ll be passed out before the Raiders are on the clock with that 12th pick.

 2  If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “on the clock,” Google it. Also learn terms like “high motor,” “gap sound,” “edge rusher,” “plug and play” and “north/south runner.”

 1  Forget about the economic impact and the media exposure and the traffic fiasco and the history that comes with being just the 10th city to host the one of sports grandest annual events. More important than all of that, the NFL’s decision to firmly plant its flag in Las Vegas — on the heels of the Vegas Golden Knights’ arrival — means we’ve officially graduated from small town to big city.

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