NFL draft tops the sports calendar in hype, but don’t expect anything to change

Over the last few decades fans have flocked to coverage of the annual draft and each one has become an expert capable of breaking down a mock draft. And the NFL has been reveling in it all.

So, when exactly did this happen?

How did the NFL draft segue from a sleepy endeavor conducted mostly incognito into the most overhyped, oversaturated and overwrought event on the sports calendar?

I have some theories, but suffice it to say that when the Seahawks finally, mercifully, make their selection on Thursday — barring a trade, of course — it will end months of feverish speculation, intense analysis and mostly inaccurate prognostication.

Well, not exactly end it, because after the final pick on Saturday comes the next phase of the thriving cottage industry that the NFL draft has become — instant grading of each team’s selections, conveniently ignoring the fact that it may take years before the success or failure reveals itself.

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It’s everything the NFL could have dreamed of, a bloodless coup in which they have managed to steal the spotlight from the NBA and NHL playoffs and the young MLB season without playing a single game. And if you think, as I do, that the whole thing has gotten out of hand, as unsightly (and unyielding) as Mel Kiper’s hairdo, well, guess what? Roger Goodell could care less.

Not when the TV ratings for the draft are through the roof (and quite robust for the underwear Olympics known as the NFL combine). Not when fans will jam the 3,000-seat, open-air theater that’s been constructed in Philadelphia at the Art Museum — near the famed Rocky steps, no less — for the first outdoor draft.

Not when the league has stumbled upon the perfect way to keep its sport at the forefront of the public’s consciousness at a time when they used to be in hibernation. When the first NFL draft took place on Feb. 8, 1936 — also in Philadelphia,…

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