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New, fan-friendly events planned for 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago

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The days of the NFL draft as you know it are over.

There will still be plenty of future NFL stars strolling across a stage to hug the commissioner, to be sure, but the entire process leading up to and following that seminal moment is being completely revamped this year.

As a result, the 2015 NFL Draft will not only be leaving the familiar location of the Big Apple for Chicago, but everything about it will be transformed into an entertainment experience for fans both in the city and at home.

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"When we decided to move the draft out of New York for the first time in 51 years, it really gave us a chance to re-imagine what the draft could be," Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's senior vice president of events, told CFB 24/7. "Every year we can't really satisfy the demand for fans that want to be inside the theater, so now we're creating this Draft Town in Grant Park, just across from the Auditorium Theatre, in order to allow more fans to experience the excitement of the draft."

Many of the familiar components of the draft will be housed in the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, while the aptly named Draft-Town will take much of the fun outside and among the fans who are hanging on each pick.

For the first time ever, teams will make their picks in tents along Michigan Avenue in "Selection Square." Next to their familiar team tables, all 32 NFL clubs will be represented with a distinct space that celebrates the culture of their franchise and the fans that root the team on. In addition to the nuts and bolts of the draft going on at the two sites, fans will be free to explore many of the numerous other activities going on in Grant Park and the adjoining Congress Plaza from April 30-May 2.

"We'll have a team area that's customized where fans of that team can gather, and we'll even have a combine-type setup where fans can run the 40 and pick a number of players to run against them on a screen alongside them," O'Reilly said. "Plus a lot of those great elements from the Super Bowl will be out there, as well, whether it be kicking a field goal or taking your picture with the Lombardi Trophy, or seeing the 49 Super Bowl rings. We'll have autographs with current players, and legends will be doing the same thing. And it's all free, which is great as a free and open experience that is family-friendly.

"It really is our goal to take over the town and be a presence."

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NFL Network and ESPN will once again broadcast the draft. Each network will feature two sets this year -- one inside the theater and another in Grant Park. The sets on the Grant Park site will be surrounded by 32 team tables, where officials from each club will be seated and relaying their picks across the red carpet on Michigan Avenue and back into the Auditorium Theatre to be announced.

The players invited to the draft will be heavily involved in a number of activities from Tuesday right up until they board a plane headed to their new team's city. Thirty-two legends for each franchise will also be at the draft involved in various activities and will interact with their franchise's newly drafted players.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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