The NFL draft is setting up shop in Dallas this week and it promises to be big, a veritable Jerrypalooza.

That’s because suddenly everyone wants to be in the draft business. With the first round of last year’s draft pulling in 6.7 million viewers on ESPN and 2.5 million more on NFL Network, can you blame them? As many as six quarterbacks could be off the market by the time Thursday night’s first round is over, another reason viewers are likely to flock to television for coverage that, for the first time on broadcast TV, will encompass all seven rounds of the three-day draft.

Six providers — two over-the-airwaves channels (Fox and ABC) — and four cable networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network) will handle the duties, with ABC simulcasting ESPN’s coverage of Rounds 4-7 on Saturday. Fox and NFL Network will simulcast the first three rounds with a joint broadcasting team.

And for the fourth straight year, the draft is hitting the road. After two years in Chicago and one in Philadelphia, it arrives this week in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, which means it will be outsized.

A free-admission festival on the land around the stadium (big enough to hold 26 football fields) will feature interactive exhibits, games and player autograph sessions and is expected to attract a record number of fans, surpassing the more than 250,000 fans who attended last year’s events in Philadelphia. Tickets are required for seats inside the NFL draft “theater,” the inside of the stadium, and the sweepstakes for those is closed. However, fans attending the NFL Draft Experience are eligible for standby tickets. All other events are free and no tickets are required.

Inside the stadium, the field will be divided into 32 sections, one for each team’s “inner circle” of fans. Fans who didn’t get tickets onto the field will be seated in the lower bowl.

Download the NFL Draft 2018 Fan Mobile Pass for the chance to receive standby tickets.

The nuts and bolts

When: Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28.

Times: 8 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday (all times Eastern).

Where: Inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex.; outside with fan events and the NFL Draft Experience on the surrounding plaza and parking lots.

Why it’s a good idea to follow on social media

Don’t expect reporters from Fox, ESPN and the NFL Network to report the picks, which they usually know from sources or from seeing a prospect answer his phone, a minute or two ahead of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement. Even if cameras show a player’s phone ringing, the NFL has insisted that reporters not share the news. So, look for outlets and reporters who aren’t bound by that agreement.

Draft overkill? There’s no such thing!

If this sounds like a lot of coverage, fear not. The NFL abides by the theory that more bloat is less and, according to a Sporting News report, it could bring CBS and NBC to the coverage table in the future:

If the league’s other broadcast partners eventually want the draft, they would likely have to televise it on their main broadcast channels, not their smaller sports cable networks. In other words, NBC Sports would have to show it on NBC, not NBCSN, and so forth. Fox is airing it this year on so-called “big Fox” rather than its FS1/FS2 cable channels.
The NFL declined to comment, but if you don’t believe the league has bigger and better media ambitions for its most dynamic offseason property, then you haven’t been tracking the explosive growth of the formerly sleepy event that began in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom in 1936. It’s not inconceivable the league dangles the draft as a juicy bargaining chip when negotiations begin on the next round of billion-dollar TV contracts.

Of course, that would, conveniently, be another way to require reporters not to tip draft picks before they are officially announced: leverage their employers.

A tradition unlike any other

Come for the draft picks, stay for the inevitable lusty booing of Goodell as he announces each of the first-round picks Thursday night.

Keep watching. If only for the parrot.

There are compelling reasons to stick with the draft through the third day because [drum roll, please] the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ picks Saturday will be announced by a parrot on board the team’s pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The draft order

The first round draft order is as follows:

1. Cleveland Browns
2. New York Giants
3. New York Jets from Indianapolis Colts
4. Cleveland Browns from Houston Texans
5. Denver Broncos
6. Indianapolis Colts from New York Jets
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Chicago Bears
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Miami Dolphins
12. Buffalo Bills from Cincinnati Bengals
13. Washington Redskins
14. Green Bay Packers
15. Arizona Cardinals
16. Baltimore Ravens
17. Los Angeles Chargers
18. Seattle Seahawks
19. Dallas Cowboys
20. Detroit Lions
21. Cincinnati Bengals from Buffalo Bills
22. Buffalo Bills from Kansas City Chiefs
23. New England Patriots from Los Angeles Rams
24. Carolina Panthers
25. Tennessee Titans
26. Atlanta Falcons
27. New Orleans Saints
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. New England Patriots
32. Philadelphia Eagles

The order for Rounds 2 through 7 can be found here.

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