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Column: Las Vegas will one-up everyone as host of NFL draft

Maybe we can still have that glorious moment. Maybe the only difference is Joe Burrow being replaced by Sam Howell.

Maybe it will be a North Carolina quarterback instead of one from Louisiana State who disembarks a boat onto the red carpet area of the NFL draft, then sprints a few feet forward and jumps straight into the Fountains of Bellagio.

Let it be. Let football fans everywhere enjoy such a spectacle.

What was going to be a reality in 2020 is now set for 2022. The draft is on its way to Las Vegas after being scratched here last year because of COVID-19.

It’s better this way. You can’t properly describe how incomprehensibly awful the pandemic has proven to be for so many. That a pause was brought to the sports world isn’t near the most significant occurrence of the last year. Not in the same stratosphere.

But the mere idea that a severely toned-down version of the draft — without fans, no less — would have been staged in Las Vegas last year is laughable. In the end, the league didn’t have a choice. It had to hold last year’s draft virtually.

Good for Las Vegas. We don’t do things halfway.

You say, I say

Drafts are as much about atmosphere as they are players selected, and Las Vegas again has the opportunity to outshine even the most energized of such recent events.

You say Draft Town at Grant Park and Congress Plaza in Chicago. I say the potential for a Bellagio cannonball.

You say the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia. I say a Draft Experience near Caesars Forum and the Linq.

You say the guy dressed as Jesus and sitting in a tree praying for a drunk-and-passed-out Eagles fan below him. I say one Elvis sitting atop the shoulders of another Elvis and praying for the drunk-and-passed-out Elvis below him.

You say Lower Broadway in Nashville. I say the Strip.

You say a television shot of weird Bill Belichick’s dog sitting at a dining table prepared to make New England’s next pick. I say … OK, so we can’t top that.

But if things trend in a positive direction with COVID-19 as more and more folks are vaccinated, if the NFL deems it safe to again host traditional sized crowds for a draft, there’s no telling how big an event it could prove to be next year.

Even with protocols in place, this could be historic on countless levels.

You could be talking about hundreds of thousands of fans from all 32 teams, decked in their favorite jerseys, partying and drinking three days away.

In other words, what we refer to as Tuesday afternoon.

Traffic nightmare?

A potential downside: Two years might have passed by the time Commissioner Roger Goodell is first loudly booed here, but hosting the draft still has every chance to be a logistical nightmare.

There will be transportation issues as sure as there are Marc-Andre Fleury sweaters seen inside T-Mobile Arena on game night.

Good news is, we seem to do well managing such chaos. Hello, every New Year’s Eve.

There just aren’t many disadvantages to hosting the draft. You want the ideal dress rehearsal for landing a Super Bowl? This is it — which is why the NFL should discover some way to incorporate Allegiant Stadium into its 2022 draft plans.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said. “But, again, it’s one of those ancillary benefits of bringing the Raiders and the NFL to Las Vegas. Those are the things a lot of people didn’t understand. We weren’t bringing just a football team. We were bringing an army.

“I’m excited as heck about it. I saw the plans last time, and it would have been an outrageous weekend. This city knows how to put on an event. There is nothing like it.”

Fasten your seat belts, Las Vegas. Here comes the NFL draft.

Hopefully, someone will hand Sam Howell a towel to dry off.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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