Bigger is better when it comes to Las Vegas and NFL draft

Let this happen, please: That when Joe Burrow disembarks a boat for the red carpet area of the NFL draft here, the Louisiana State quarterback stops, runs a few feet forward and jumps straight into the Bellagio Fountains.

And then rips off his dress shirt to unveil a Cincinnati Bengals jersey while screaming and pounding his chest.

What, too much?

Not for Las Vegas, it seems.

The town that does everything big is going even more so come April 23-25, when the NFL draft arrives and the city that never sleeps will present a 72-hour caffeine buzz sure to equal or surpass any such event over its 85-year history.

“The first draft was a couple guys sitting around reading news clippings in a hotel room,” said Jon Barker, head of live event operations and productions for the NFL. “And now, it’s ‘Let’s get bigger, let’s get larger.’ The way to do that (has been) to take it outside.”

It’s where things should be.

The scene in Philadelphia three years ago was as wild and crazy as any previous draft, and that was before a guy dressed as Jesus sat in a tree and prayed for the drunk-and-passed-out Eagles fans below him.

History also played a part, as the famed “Rocky” steps served as a backdrop to the draft. There was also the Cowboys fan who mooned a camera, saying his was the city’s second most important crack next to the Liberty Bell.

Philadelphia was its typical, charming, certifiable self.

Then there was Nashville last year, a 65-foot-tall, 165-foot-wide draft stage adjacent to the Cumberland River. Lower Broadway and its honky-tonks were packed from one end to the next, an estimated 600,000 showing up to party over the three days and appearing to consume just as many bottles of beer.

It rained hard Opening Night throughout the first round.

Nobody cared or was sober enough to notice.

Guess what?

Las Vegas has a chance to eclipse it all.

The boat rides for draft prospects to the red carpet on the Bellagio Fountains. The main selection stage at Caesars Forum and next to The Linq Hotel, with loud boos greeting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as he readies to announce the next pick.

The daily live concerts.

The NFL Draft Experience for fans.

I was confused by a rendering of the main stage Tuesday because at its center was a picture of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

Didn’t they have one of Tom Brady to transpose?

“Being able to show the iconic features of Vegas was important and gives (fans) a sense of where they are while bringing an added level of excitement than to simply have (the draft) inside with four walls around,” said Steve Hill, chief executive 0fficer of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board. “There are no more iconic images than what the NFL selected here.”

Would he also prefer Burrow jump into the water?

“No, we want to keep Joe Burrow safe,” Hill said.

And here I thought the holiday beard Hill grew loosened him up a bit.

A traffic tsunami

Now, you need to understand the draft will be a logistical nightmare, a transportation tsunami from hell. A colleague smartly explained it as this: Think of it as three straight New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Strip.

You can’t shut down this much of Las Vegas Boulevard and surrounding areas for this long and not expect issues, not to mention some folks being hotter under the collar than a July afternoon.

Makes sense. Not everyone who works on the Strip or visiting at the time will have an ounce of curiosity about the draft.

But if there is a town that can handle potential transit chaos, it’s Las Vegas. It’s actually great at it and, with the potential of a Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on the horizon, needs to be even better.

The benefits of hosting a draft, of drawing thousands and thousands of tourists and integrating them into the community, can’t be overstated. It’s going to take work. A lot. But this will also prove the kind of walkable experience the NFL hasn’t seen with its draft.

No one does big like Las Vegas.

Come the dates of April 23-25, that theory will be tested like never before.

Come on. Someone jump in the dang fountain or at least push Goodell in.

Let’s put on a show the league and its fans really never will forget.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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