Handicapping where the 2018 NFL draft will be | Bob Ford

NFL Draft Football
Tennessee's Derek Barnett arrives for 2017 NFL football draft in Philadelphia, where he was selected 14th by the Eagles.

A ccording to NFL commissioner and Philadelphia stage favorite Roger Goodell, roughly half of the NFL's 32 cities sent representatives to the Ben Franklin Parkway for the draft last week, with all of them eyeing the spectacle and imagining it in their own backyards.

"When we left New York, we really found out that this was a great opportunity to engage more fans," Goodell said. "And now I think we're going to continue to move it around."

For 50 years, this never occurred to the league, which is a long time to be complacent, even by NFL standards. Starting with the 1965 draft and continuing through 2014, the draft was inside, and it was in New York City, usually at Radio City Music Hall. Apparently, given the uptick that took place for two years in Chicago and then the roaring street fair this year in Philadelphia, the home of the Rockettes was also the home of the Rockheads.

Maybe the league snoozed for a long time, but it is fully awake now. There is attention to be had and, more important, there is money to be made. For decades, no other city considered a bid to host the draft. Now, getting the rights to the draft will cost plenty, and there is a long line of applicants. From this point on, the NFL won't just get an event for every draft. It will get a revenue stream, too. Is this a great country or what?

"We are evaluating and making sure we grow this in the right way," Peter O'Reilly, the league's senior vice president of events, told the Associated Press.

For now, that means an annual free-for-all of bidding for the draft. Unlike the Super Bowl, the sites of which are set through 2021, the location of the 2018 draft is still to be determined. It took nearly 10 months of planning and preparation for the draft in Philadelphia, so the league is hoping to award the next site by July 1.

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Many of the prospective host cities are scrambling to present a vision similar to what was on display here, an open festival atmosphere that blends local color with a grand architectural setting of civic significance. Look for iconic to be a popular word in the presentations.

"We can blend an iconic facility, which reflects our iconic bridges and river, built within a football setting," Jacksonville Jaguars president Mark Lamping told the AP.

Listen, I've seen the bridges and the river there and, to be honest, on a scale of "a way to get across water" and "iconic," I'll take the Whitman and Ben Franklin any time. Heck, give me the Tacony-Palmyra on a good day.

So, yes, there's going to be a lot of we-can-do-that-too going on, not just because imitation is the sincerest form of not having your own idea but because Philly truly did make the thing into a spectacle of bacchanalian proportions.

After studying the candidates, imagining the settings, and rating the field from the league's point of view, here's a handy handicapper's guide to which team will host the 2018 NFL draft. And, no, you're not going to like it.

Dallas, 3-1: Money talks and the draft walks to Frisco, Texas, where the Cowboys have constructed the Star, a 91-acre training facility that has a hotel, an entertainment district, and a 12,000-seat indoor stadium. Jerry Jones envisioned the "campus" as a tourist attraction, and what better promotional event than a three-day nationally televised advertisement? You can call it a bid package or you can call it a bribe, but someone had better keep an eye on the money that might change hands here.

Philadelphia, 4-1: Hey, it worked here, unless you happened to live in or regularly drive through Fairmount. As a reward, and to give other locales time to line up for their chance, the NFL could well bring it back. The booing of everything not Philadelphia was a hoot, but it will wear off after a couple of years. Still, one more run is more than possible.

Green Bay, Pittsburgh, 6-1: Not as picturesque (although Pittsburgh's got Jacksonville beat on bridges, that's for sure), but a harking to the league's roots and a pair of cities that don't mind a party. Stage the draft on the riverfront in Pittsburgh, or in the parking lot of Lambeau Field with a bunch of folks dressed in camouflage eating venison jerky.

Denver, Miami, Washington, 8-1: The Rocky Mountains, South Beach, the National Mall. If it's all about setting, these places have a decent shot.

New York, Chicago, 10-1: The draft will be back to both of these cities, but not this soon.

Kansas City, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Houston, Las Vegas, 15-1: Get in line and find your checkbook. Las Vegas is a bit of a wild card here. The league can't decide if it is happy or horrified that the Raiders will finally relocate to their natural habitat, but who wouldn't vote for a week-long junket to the land where yesterday never happened.

That's the way it looks right now. Philly produced a grabber of an event, and now everyone wants to grab it for themselves, especially the grabbiest guy of all. Brace yourself for a little disappointment, and start figuring who should play Philadelphia's version of Drew Pearson next year in Frisco. Probably has to be Dawk.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports