The theatrics and "hoopla" of the NFL draft


The next generation of NFL stars will be on display Thursday night as the NFL holds its annual draft in Chicago for the first time in more than 50 years.

Last-minute technical checks are underway in anticipation of the fastest, strongest and potentially richest college prospects in the nation, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds. Among them are quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota who are leading the list.

"It's getting bigger and bigger every year," said Peter O'Reilly, vice president in charge of events for the league.

This is supposed to be the NFL's offseason, a time for fans to hibernate or maybe reconnect with their families.

But tell that to the 45 million or more viewers who are expected to tune in starting Thursday night for the three-day extravaganza.

"Our fans are no less passionate in the offseason," O'Reilly said.

While the Super Bowl is about two teams and two fan bases, the draft includes all 32 teams.

"Every fan has hope in April," O'Reilly said.

The earliest drafts were smoke-filled all-nighters conducted at hotels, nearly in secret. But when television took note 30 years ago, a niche went national.

There will be cameras everywhere, not just in Chicago, but also at a number of remotes across the country trained on potential draftees as well as the team officials making the final decisions.

It's what you might expect from the $10 billion business the NFL has become.

Outside the theater there's a massive tent called Selection Square where the respective teams will phone in their picks to the staff, who will then relay the word to the league within the strictly enforced 10-minutes time limit.

Farther to the east, on acres and acres of Grant Park, there's Draft Town, a kind of football festival.

It's where CBS News met 6-foot-5, 320-pound Brandon Scherff, an offensive lineman from Iowa who will probably go in the first round. He said he's more excited than nervous about the draft.

"It's a dream come true for me, so you know, whoever I end up with, I'll be happy and just gonna go in there and do my best," Scherff said.

For a club like the Chicago Bears who went 5-11 last year, the draft is critical. They have the seventh pick in the first round.

"After our disappointing finish last year, we want to make sure that we bring in some good football players and turn things around," Bears Chairman George McCaskey said.

He agrees the process is a bit theatrical, but it's more than that.

"It's a television event. There's a lot of hoopla. But each of the 32 teams' brain trust is at their headquarters," McCaskey said. "So for them, it is big business. Serious business."

Now in addition to all the world-class athletes and the reporters who cover them, the city of Chicago expects about 100,000 visitors to come here just to witness the draft spectacle. That, too, is serious business.