The 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland will be like no other.
The 86th annual NFL Draft marks the first time Cleveland will host the event. The NFL confirmed its 2021 draft location in May 2019 when commissioner Roger Goodell praised Cleveland for its “passionate fan base” and “iconic locations and attractions.”
When the NFL announced Cleveland as its 2021 draft location, the city’s mayor Frank G. Jackson foreshadowed what a Cleveland-based draft would look like.
“Visitors will find Cleveland has an unmatched ability to provide Midwestern warmth and hospitality coupled with the amenities found in other major cities,” Jackson said. “We look forward to hosting the Draft and once again showcasing Cleveland’s ability to organize successful, world-class events.”
And the draft being held in-person is another return to normalcy after Goodell was giving air hugs from his basement a year ago.
The 2020 NFL Draft was initially scheduled for Las Vegas — however, that was around the same time when the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States. At the time, all 32 league and club facilities were closed indefinitely for health and safety protocols.
Now, one year later, Goodell will shake hands, hug, or whatever he comes up with on stage. The NFL confirmed ahead of the draft that the commissioner is fully vaccinated.
While the draft will look somewhat normal, only about a dozen prospects will be in attendance.
Which prospects will be in-person at the Draft Experience?
Top quarterback prospects including Zach Wilson (BYU), the presumed No. 2 pick to the Jets, Mac Jones (Alabama), the projected No. 3 pick to the 49ers, and buzzed-about Trey Lance (North Dakota State) will be in attendance at the draft.
Other prospects who will take the stage in-person include: Alabama WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle, LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase, Florida TE Kyle Pitts, Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater, Alabama DL Christian Barmore, Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Penn State LB Micah Parsons. and Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II.
Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley will no longer attend the draft after testing positive for COVID-19, he confirmed on Wednesday.
Former Clemson quarterback, Trevor Lawrence — the projected No. 1 pick to the Jaguars — will be watching the draft at home as he’s still recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder after undergoing surgery on Feb. 16. Lawrence is also enjoying his first days as a married man after tying the knot with longtime girlfriend, Marissa Mowry in South Carolina earlier this month.
Ohio State alum, quarterback Justin Fields will not be in Northeast Ohio for the draft, either. Fields was the presumed No. 2 pick behind Lawrence in January, though he’s fallen down the draft boards recently.
What can fans do in downtown Cleveland during the NFL Draft?
The “Rock the Clock End Zones” is a cool experience where fans can enjoy live music from local DJs with provided seating. At the same time, the draft will be broadcast from three locations: Playhouse Square at US Bank Plaza, Old River Road in Flats East Bank and on Mall C, where COVID-19 protocols will be in place. Each location is a first-come, first-serve basis and capacity will be limited.
The NFL Draft Concert Series will feature a live musical performance from the main draft stage with a lineup that includes: Kings of Leon (April 29 at 7:40 p.m.), Black Pumas (April 30 at 11 p.m) and Machine Gun Kelly (May 1, 6:30 p.m.). The performances will be broadcast live on television and will air at the NFL Draft Experience and “Rock the Clock End Zones.”
The star power in the musical performers is likely to attract more celebrities to Northeast Ohio this weekend, including MGK’s girlfriend actress Megan Fox.
What is the NFL Draft Experience?
The event is a free three-day football festival that will give fans the chance to participate in games and clinics on the field. There will be virtual autograph sessions with NFL players and a 40-yard dash and vertical jump against NFL players on LED screens. Other features include personalized digital photos, exclusive merchandise at the NFL Shop, a Super Bowl rings display and photo opportunities with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The weekend will include special appearances from current Cleveland Browns players Rashard Higgins, Denzel Ward and Harrison Bryant, as well as Browns legend Bernie Kosar. Additionally, fans can enjoy cuisine from local Cleveland food vendors, including: Ohio City BBQ, Irie Jamaican Kitchen, Cocky’s Bagels, Der Braumeister Restaurant, Mallorca Restaurant, Ninja City Kitchen and Bar, Sauce the City Food Hall, Anna in the Raw and more, according to Cleveland Magazine.
How do I access free tickets to the NFL Draft Experience?
To enter the Draft Experience fans must have reservations, which can be obtained through the NFL OnePass app. Once activated in the app, fans can use NFL OnePass to play games, receive digital content and enter to win exclusive prizes. Session registration will be limited to one session over the three-day period for two adults.
What are Draft Experience hours?
Thursday, April 29: 12 PM – 10 PM (or end of Round 1)
Friday, April 30: 12 PM – 10 PM (or end of Round 3)
Saturday, May 1: 9 AM – 6 PM (or end of Round 7)
What COVID-19 guidelines are in place at the Draft Experience?
Each day is expected to bring in an estimated 50,000 fans, therefore masks and temperature checks will be required for entry, and there will be a clear-bag policy. Though, there are exceptions for medically necessary items after thorough inspection at the entry screening site. Fans will be required to maintain physical distance from others.
Additionally, fans can enter the Draft Experience with an empty reusable water bottle. And despite the lengthy list of prohibited items that excludes alcohol, fans 21+ can enjoy the on-site Bud Light Legends Bar.
Where can fans watch prospects be selected?
Prospects will take the stage at the Draft Theater — a temporary amphitheater built next to FirstEnergy Stadium — where the draft process will take place. Fans in attendance can also view what’s going on at the Draft Theater on multiple screens throughout the event site.
The “Vaccinated Fan Zone” is a standing-only room at the Draft Theater for invited fans who are vaccinated.
How can I watch the 2021 NFL Draft if I’m not in Cleveland?
All three days of the NFL Draft will be broadcast on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, including two nights of primetime coverage on Thursday and Friday.
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