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NFL Draft: Worthy of Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS | Few players will be able to claim one day that they celebrated their arrival in the NFL by taking a red carpet leading to a stage erected on the famous site of the Bellagio fountains, in front of the mythical Strip crowded for the occasion. Las Vegas once again shows all its extravagance, for the draft.

• Read also: NFL Draft: The First-Pick Debate

The 2022 vintage of hopes is not the most spectacular, but when the NFL and Las Vegas join forces, the atmosphere promises to be extremely festive. Just take the iconic central artery of Las Vegas in the last hours to be convinced.

Many visitors arrive in town for the first round which is presented on Thursday evening, but also for the following rounds which take place tomorrow evening and Saturday. The last draft without any health restrictions, in April 2019 before the pandemic, had attracted 600,000 people during the three days of festivities, on boiling Broadway Street, in Nashville.

This year, Las Vegas estimates that it will benefit from spinoffs in the order of $135 million. Traders have reported to local media that they are back to about 85% of pre-pandemic revenue and the draft will see them take another leap.

two scenes

For the occasion, a portion of the Strip will be closed to traffic, to allow the public to walk freely between the Bellagio site and the draft theater, 1.5 km away, near the big wheel, near the Linq Hotel.

It is in this sector that elected officials will climb the stage for the traditional hug to Commissioner Roger
Goodell, a man they’ll hate in a few months…

Considering this is the full-back-to-normal draft, the party in Vegas should be of epic proportions.

“Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. There’s always a bunch of events here, they know how to do something big. We were in cities where the organization of the repechage posed a challenge. Here, Las Vegas understands that we want to do things big, “said NFL event operations director Eric Finkelstein.

full view

Teams have been working since the beginning of April for the construction of the two temporary stages. In front of the Bellagio, it was even necessary to involve six divers to erect the foundations.

Since yesterday, 300 drones have been used twice a night for shows during which they take the form of the logos of the 32 teams. Aerial images of Las Vegas should also be deployed in large numbers for TV production.

Once introduced, players will be shuttled to the theater where the main draft activities will take place.

no boat

Initially, it had even been planned that the hopefuls would come to the Bellagio stage by boat, but the strong winds expected on Thursday evening thwarted the plans for this other madness.

Avid fans will take their place in a one million square foot space behind the Linq for a party like no other. To think that until 2014, the NFL presented the draft in theaters and hotels in New York, before interest in the event exploded.

“The draft has evolved. It went from a small seated event to a concert vibe. It’s much more of a celebration for fans than it used to be,” noted events director Heather Nanberg.

A celebration for the NFL too, which seized another perfect opportunity to print wads of handsome dollars.

Thibodeaux takes responsibility

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux’s talent pierces every pore of his skin, but throughout the draft process, rumors about his commitment to football and his strong personality have tarnished his reputation. Thibodeaux did not hide yesterday that it is time for the experiment to come to an end. “I love playing football, but I hated the whole draft process. It’s the longest job interview ever! I know that sometimes I will offend people. I’m not here to please. I’m not a used car salesman, I have to keep it real. I’m proud of who I am,” he said.

The year of revenge

Last year, no less than five quarterbacks were chosen from the first 15 selections. Since 2009, it has happened only three times that players playing in positions other than quarterback have been elected at the very top. This year, quarterbacks aren’t in the spotlight for once, and defensive players are getting more attention. Talented safety Kyle Hamilton couldn’t hold back a big smile when he mentioned this rather rare situation. “We’re kind of the villains in history because fans like to see touchdowns and we’re here to stop them. I think there are more talented quarterbacks than people say and they’re going to come out in the first round, but that’s cool to get some attention.”

Few elected officials in sight

The Canadian players had done well last year with four of them being selected in the draft. You never know, but everything indicates that it will not be the case this time. Three players in the country seem to have legitimate chances, receiver John Metchie III (Alabama), as well as defensive linemen Jesse Luketa (Penn State) and Luiji Vilain (Wake Forest). “Metchie is going out in the second round. I’ve identified him as a third-round prospect, but everyone in the league I talk to tells me he’s going out first. He is a very good player, he excels on his tracks. Luketa is more of a fourth or fifth round pick. I think his versatility will help him,” said analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

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