If one thing was clear from the TV broadcasts of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it was that Philadelphia was ready to celebrate. The draft area was packed as the first 32 prospects of 2017 went off the board. The Broncos' Director of Corporate Partnerships Derek Thomas was where all the action happened – at the table where the Broncos' pick is written and turned in. We caught up with Thomas about the evening, first-round pick Garett Bolles and when the draft may head to Denver.
Aric DiLalla: What was the atmosphere like last night in Philadelphia as we kicked off the draft?
Derek Thomas: I don't know if you saw, but we're a little removed. Normally selection square is kind of right in the heart of draft central. But this year, we're at the opposite end. We're in The Franklin Institute … [which] is on one far side of the draft experience. And then the stage is on the absolute farthest end away from selection square. Everything else is outside. To my knowledge, we're one of the few components of the draft that's actually inside.
It's a museum of nature and science – the Franklin Institute. There's a probably 30-foot tall marble statue of Ben Franklin overlooking all of the team tables. It's a pretty impressive room.
AD:How did this draft experience compare to ones in the past?**
DT: This is the 15th year that I've helped work the team table at the NFL Draft, and we've seen a little bit of everything. The first couple years, we were at Madison Square Garden. And then we were at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, and then it went to Radio City Music Hall, and Radio City was pretty incredible just because it's such a historic building. And then the last two years in Chicago, and this year in Philly.
This one definitely has more of a Super Bowl feel, if you will. The NFL is a marketing genius, and the last two years they've really ramped things up in Chicago to see what the fan turnout would be. This is easily the biggest footprint I've seen since I've been working NFL Drafts.
AD: You got the chance to interact with some fans. What was the contingent like in Philadelphia?
DT: We're used to having a lot of fans around us cheering, booing, whatever the case may be. When you're out back out, there's a little more indifference to the Broncos. At least we're not the Dallas Cowboys team table. They were taking some heckling. We saw a handful of Broncos fanS. We're in the last row in selection square, so fans can come behind us. They came by, took some pictures with our Super Bowl rings, we let them hold the Broncos helmet. It's always fun to engage with Broncos fans.
AD:What was the reaction to taking Garett Bolles?**
DT: Good. I think everybody knows it's one of the areas on our team that needs to be addressed. We had a few comments from Broncos fans that addressing the offensive line is what needed to be done. I'm in the middle of the draft area right now. One of our partners, Verizon, has an activation here so I'm going to go check out their activation, but it's probably 1 p.m. ET, and the place is at least a third full of fans. We're five or six hours away from Round 2 starting, so the City of Brotherly Love is definitely showing their love for football.
AD: And what created the biggest stir in the hall during the draft?
DT: That's a pretty obvious one. The Bears moving up a pick to take [Mitchell] Trubisky drew some gasps and wows. It made for an interesting night.
AD: You watched this the same way anybody else did. How surprised were you the way the top 10 shook out?
DT: I was surprised. Obviously I knew Trubisky's connections to Ohio. You hear rumors and stories all the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, but when it actually comes down to draft time, when you see a move like that, especially that early in the draft for a one-spot move, it was surprising.
AD:Does this showing in Philadelphia make you hopeful that Denver is someday able to host this event?**
DT: Absolutely. We will. I'm very hopeful that the city of Denver, the state of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain region [gets to experience that]. They deserve it. We've got the best fans in the country, and our fans, our city, our state and region all deserve to host an NFL event of this magnitude.
AD:* What's on the docket for the rest of the day for you, and how ready are you to get back to The Franklin Institute?*
DT: I'm probably unique. I'm probably one of the few team table representatives that works on the business side. Kirk Dyer's our director of ticket operations, and Kirk and I have been doing this for 15 years. But most of the people that man team tables are probably either on the equipment staff or training staff. … Having a business side, it's good because I also represent and manage a lot of our NFL accounts. So I work with Bridgestone and FedEx and Verizon. We've got a lot of other NFL partners. So it gives me another a business opportunity to be out here and spend some time with a lot of our team partners who are also league partners.
We'll kick off Round 2 tonight. We're currently scheduled to have three picks in Rounds 2 and 3, so we're excited to pick up some new Broncos.
Photo credit: Perry Knotts