NFL Draft Attendance Record Set With More Than 700,000 Fans Attending Event In Detroit

Apr 27, 2024, 5:52 PM

2024 NFL Draft in Detroit attendance...

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - APRIL 26: General view during rounds two and three of the 2024 NFL draft at Campus Martius Park on April 26, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DETROIT (AP) — The NFL draft has a new attendance record after more than 700,000 fans flooded downtown Detroit for the three-day event.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer broke the news at Campus Martius Park during the third and final day of the draft.

“It has been a historic week here in the great city of Detroit,” Whitmer said Saturday. “We have shown the world what the Motor City is all about.”

While it will take years to know if this week’s picks delivered, there’s no doubt that Detroit made the most of an opportunity to host hundreds of thousands of fans and show 50-plus million viewers the new-look city.

Motown beat Music City’s three-day attendance record of 600,000 set in 2019, when fans filled Broadway in Nashville.

The NFL did not charge fans to attend the event in Detroit, though the visitors and area residents were expected to generate more than $160 million in economic impact at sold-out hotels, packed bars and restaurants, as well as retail stores in the heart of downtown.

Former Lions running back Billy Sims was enjoying brisk sales of barbecue from his restaurant under a tent on a sidewalk along Woodward Avenue on Saturday.

“Fans have been great, and business has been good,” said Sims, who was drafted by Detroit with the No. 1 overall pick in 1980. “To have the draft here is great for the entire state of Michigan.”

The NFL is engaged in some talks with 20-plus teams interested in hosting a future draft, which is of particular interest in colder-climate cities that probably can’t win a Super Bowl bid.

Green Bay will host the 2025 draft.

This year’s edition kicked off with a very Detroit opening on Thursday night that included rap icon Eminem on stage with Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, along with current Lions stars Jared Goff, Aidan Hutchinson and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

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Chicago, as expected, drafted Southern California’s Caleb Williams at No. 1 overall. The Bears took Iowa punter Tory Taylor on Saturday in the fourth round.

“Hey, you’re not going to punt too much here,” Taylor said Williams wrote to him in a text message.

Williams was the first of a record five quarterbacks picked among the top 10, including Atlanta’s surprising selection of Michael Penix Jr. a month after giving Kirk Cousins a big deal. With Denver drafting Bo Nix out of Oregon at No. 12, a mark was matched for signal-callers selected in the first round.

In all, a record-setting 23 offensive players were drafted in the opening round.

After Nix went to the Broncos, the New Orleans Saints were the next team to take a quarterback when they drafted Spencer Rattler of South Carolina in the fifth round with the 150th pick overall. The string of selections without a quarterback was the longest since 1967, surpassing the gap from the 1972 draft between Pat Sullivan at No. 40 and Jim Fassel at No. 167.

Teams started out by taking offensive players at a record rate in the first round — including a record-tying seven wide receivers — without a defensive player coming off the board until Indianapolis took UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu at No. 15 overall.

In a sign of the times, a running back wasn’t drafted until Carolina grabbed Jonathon Brooks of Texas with the 46th pick in what was the second-latest pick at the once-coveted position. There was a run of running backs in the fourth round with seven selected, starting with Miami taking Jaylen Wright of Tennessee at No. 120 overall.

Defense was definitely the focus on Day 2, with 20 players on that side of the ball coming off the board in the second round and 17 more in the third.

With the last pick of the fifth round, the New York Jets selected a prospect who didn’t have a snap of college football experience.

Qwan’tez Stiggers planned to play at Lane College in Tennessee in 2020, but returned home that fall due to the death of his father in an automobile accident and the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the season.

Stiggers played in a 7-on-7 indoor league in his hometown of Atlanta two years ago. Last season, the defensive back was the Canadian Football League’s most outstanding rookie after making a team-high five interceptions for the Toronto Argonauts.

Stiggers said he plans to make the teams who passed on him regret it.

“They’re going to have to pay all year,” he said.

The Los Angeles Chargers drafted Troy running back Kimani Vidal, a great nephew of Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, early in the sixth round.

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NFL Draft Attendance Record Set With More Than 700,000 Fans Attending Event In Detroit