The NFL Draft rivals even the Super Bowl for the most highly-anticipated night in football, and this year it was held in Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time.
Months of sports pundit speculation and mock drafts came to life on Thursday night as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell uttered the words: “And with the number one pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select …”
As you should know by now, that honor (and massive paycheck) went to Kyler Murray, the quarterback out of Oklahoma.
The Walt Disney Company had blanket coverage of the entire three-day NFL Draft, with both ESPN and ABC airing distinct telecasts for Rounds 1-3 in prime time.
From reaction to the Arizona Cardinals’ first pick to drama inside the green room, opening night is always filled with surprises and TheWrap had a prime seat inside the action — here’s what you didn’t see on TV.
All day party
Long before Murray was called to the stage to don a Cardinals cap, thousands of fans spent the day drinking on Nashville’s famous party street, Broadway. With bands playing in countless venues and alcohol allowed in sectioned off areas, Nashvegas lived up to its name. NFL Network host Rich Eisen later announced that over 150,000 had come out for the big night.
The NFL Draft certainly brings out a wild crowd, with elaborate fan costumes rivaling that of the WWE Superstars. The best dressed of the bunch got a coveted spot on the inner stage and wouldn’t look outside of place in the ring at Wrestlemania. Note to future attendees: spiked shoulder pads are a liability when carrying two pints of beer through a crowd.
Everyone hates a winner
While representatives from every 32 NFL team filled the huge space adjacent to Nissan Stadium, most of them were united by one thing: a hatred of the New England Patriots and their six Super Bowl rings. Boos rang out when the Pats were mentioned in the preshow, hours before their number 32 pick was called.
Taylor Swift is always a good pick
One person who will never get booed is Nashville resident Taylor Swift, who was a fan favorite when she took to the stage with host Robin Roberts. Diehard Swifties had figured out that the singer was making a surprise appearance and infiltrated NFL fanatics as Taylor announced she was dropping a video for her new track “ME!” at midnights.
Don’t rain on Kyler’s parade
Just moments before Goodell read out Murray’s name, the anticipated rain storm hit Nashville and the skies opened. The media and lucky fans on the stage were fine … but the thousands in the bleachers and crowding the streets were instantly drenched. Rain and face paint do not mix well.
Most beloved announcer
Kacey Reynolds, a 19-year-old from Maysville, Georgia, who is battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was given the honor of reading out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first round pick thanks to Make-a-Wish. Even the Bucs pirate above was impressed with how professionally Reynolds announced LSU linebacker Devin White’s name.
Giants fans can’t believe it… pic.twitter.com/0ycB2hs4HS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 26, 2019
The Giants did what???
The New York Giants sparked the first “WTF?” moment of the night with their choice of Daniel Jones, quarterback out of Duke, with the number six pick. Now that’s how you stun an entire stadium into silence — and move Eli Manning to start updating his resume. Ironically, Duke’s head coach David Cutcliffe also molded both Peyton Manning and Eli at Tennessee and Ole Miss. Jones had been ranked as the 59th-best prospect by ESPN ahead of the Draft — yes, Duke is known as an elite basketball school, not a football college.
It is a good job that the NFL has relaxed its rules on excessive celebrations because Christian Wilkins of Clemson literally dove into Goodell’s arms when he took to the stage after being named the 13th overall pick by the Miami Dolphins. The giant DT almost knocked the league commissioner off his feet in the most exciting Draft entrance we’ve seen since Rob Gronkowski was drafted in 2010.
Tips from Draft veterans
Earlier in the day, Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota (above right) and Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs (above middle) offered up words of wisdom at Courtyard by Marriott’s pre-event about their experiences hearing their names called at 2015 Draft.
“Just excitement and blessed to have the opportunity to further your career,” Mariota said, who spent the pivotal night with his family in Hawaii. “We jumped on a flight from Hawaii … it was such a blur for 12 hours, then I got to just take a deep breath.
“When it comes down to it, just continue to work and enjoy the process, and never forget that it took so many people to get you there. Soak it all up, enjoy it and see where it takes you,” he said in a message to the 2019 Draft class.
Meanwhile, Diggs told new draftees: “Stop worrying so much … have trust in the higher power that he’ll get you where you need to be and it’ll all work out.”