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NFL Draft prepares for its red carpet close-up

The biggest stars at this year's NFL draft won't be the prospects themselves.

With the first round being held in prime time Thursday night, the league has upped the "Hollywood" factor for its live presentation from New York City. Among the celebrities scheduled to walk the red carpet into Radio City Music Hall are actresses Whoopi Goldberg and Alyssa Milano, who is featured in an NFL marketing campaign. The league also has invited some of its own legends to help commemorate the draft's 75th anniversary. Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Barry Sanders will be among those in attendance.

"We started meeting earlier than ever before in terms of planning all the different ideas and concepts to try and build the biggest draft of all time," said Charles Coplin, the NFL's vice president of programming and planning.

This will be the NFL's biggest draft in terms of exposure. With the selection process being spread over three days -- including two nights in prime time -- the league is expected to eclipse the 39 million viewers who watched last April's two-day weekend draft coverage.

But the NFL also is aware that the final two days could use some bells and whistles to help keep casual fans interested. To that end, the league has invited a record 16 prospects to New York City expecting that some will last until Friday night's second and third rounds. A few more players may still be added.

The draft's third day (rounds four to seven) will feature something new. Rather than the fourth-round picks being announced from the podium, the choices will be made by retired players seated at their team's Radio City Music Hall draft table. Mark Bavaro (New York Giants) and Tony Boselli (Jacksonville) will be among those participating Saturday.

Coplin believes the buzz after Thursday night's picks will help fuel interest heading into Friday night.

"You'll have the post mortem on the Thursday decisions and the implications of what it means for the Friday selections," Coplin said. "There will be a frenzy on websites, Twitter and from all the people covering the draft. All this activity will really be unprecedented."

Trades may give fans and media even more to talk about. Because of the format change, there will now be an 18-hour window between the first and second rounds. The extra time could lead to more player movement among teams that weren't able to address a need on Thursday.

"By having more time, you're going to come up with more ideas and it will lead to more conversation," New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis said. "Now, whether that leads to more deals, who knows? I'm anxious to see how it works.

"At the end of the day, you still have your (draft) board and you're going to follow it. You may tweak it overnight like you might not have done otherwise. But you do too much work in the months leading up to the draft to let 24 hours make that much of a difference to you."

CAUSE AND EFFECT Miami trades wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to San Francisco for a 2010 fifth-round pick.

THE CAUSE: Rather than wait until the draft to find a returner, the 49ers took advantage of Ginn's availability. Ginn paced a 2009 victory over the New York Jets with two touchdowns on kickoffs but he became expendable after Miami traded with Denver for Brandon Marshall. Despite his blazing speed and young age (25), the Dolphins grew tired of Ginn's frequent drops and penchant to shy from contact. Ginn will likely be competing for snaps as San Francisco's third wide receiver behind starters Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan.

THE EFFECT: The first-round draft class of 2007 takes yet another blow. Of the 32 selections, only five -- Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Carolina linebacker Jon Beason -- are elite players at their respective positions. There are nine outright busts (at least so far): Ginn and fellow wide receiver Craig Davis, defensive tackles Justin Harrell and Adam Carriker, quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, and defensive ends Jamaal Anderson, Jarvis Moss and the late Gaines Adams. Keep this in mind when hearing all the hyperbole surrounding this year's draft class.

THE BUZZ St. Louis is playing with fire by drafting University of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford at No. 1 without having him under contract first. The last time a team tried that was Oakland in 2007 with Russell. Rough contract negotiations led to Russell missing training camp, ruining his rookie season and setting the stage for his current struggles. Quinn's holdout that same year cost him a shot at starting in Cleveland. Quinn's agent was Tom Condon, who also represents Bradford ...

Washington tight end Fred Davis likes Jim Zorn, but he admits there is a difference with Mike Shanahan now coaching the Redskins. "There is more discipline and attention to little details," Davis said Sunday after completing his first Redskins minicamp under Shanahan. "Every coach wants that, but he demands more than others. There's more of a level of respect." ...

Miami running back Patrick Cobbs said he has a "long way to go" before returning from the torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Week 5 of last season. Entering his fifth NFL season, Cobbs had proven valuable in Miami's Wildcat offensive packages. He now may be pressed for a roster spot by Lex Hilliard playing behind Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ...

Even though he missed the entire 2008 season because of academic problems, University of Virginia defensive back Chris Cook is no dummy. He scored a 23 on Wonderlic testing at the combine, which is actually one point better than what Florida quarterback Tim Tebow posted. Cook admits he didn't always apply himself and struggled at times with UVA's difficult curriculum. Cook, though, worked diligently to get back into school and was reinstated for what became a strong 2009 campaign. "I had spent three years at Virginia and didn't want to play anywhere else," Cook said. At 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, Cook blazed a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Although he only posted seven repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, Cook could slip into the late first round as either a cornerback or safety ...

Another celebrity attending Thursday's draft is Dan Lauria of "Wonder Years" fame. Lauria will be playing the lead in an upcoming Broadway play based on legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi.

WEEK IN REVIEW Big winner: Los Angeles. The prospects of an NFL return now seem greater than ever before. The Los Angeles Times reported that influential businessmen Casey Wasserman and Tim Leiweke are researching the development of a domed stadium that could house a franchise and major events like the Super Bowl. Such a facility could be appealing to the San Diego Chargers, which have gotten nowhere with local officials in attempts to build a new facility. Another curious development comes from St. Louis, where minority owner Stan Kroenke plans to exercise an option to purchase the remaining 60 percent of the Rams. Kroenke is a member of the NFL's Los Angeles stadium development committee. The Rams' lease with the outdated Edward Jones Dome expires at the end of the 2014 season. Hmmm ...

Big loser: The Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers received a paltry fifth-round pick when trading their best wide receiver (Santonio Holmes) and were further embarrassed after police details emerged about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's alleged sexual assault against a 20-year-old college coed. Incidentally, Roethlisberger stands to lose $473,529.41 for each week that he is suspended.

Under-the-radar move: The Redskins are relocating the late Sean Taylor's locker from team headquarters to Fed-Ex Field. This allows the new Redskins regime to move on from Taylor's 2007 murder while also continuing to show respect for one of the best defenders in franchise history. Although game-day viewing will be reserved for club-level ticket holders, fans will have the chance to visit the locker on stadium tours.

Alex Marvez interviewed Davis, Cobbs and Cook on Sunday with co-host Jim Miller on Sirius NFL Radio.