A year after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced draft picks from his basement, the league announced on Monday that he will be returning to the stage as the 2021 NFL Draft will be held across three iconic locations in Cleveland, Ohio, from April 29 to May 2.
Goodell will be joined by a select number of prospects, fans and media as he announces the first round of the NFL Draft from the main stage with the backdrop of Lake Eerie that will serve as a central hub for all draft-related events. Goodell will continue the long-standing tradition of greeting draft picks in person again this year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to do so virtually in 2020. Additional prospects will also be joining remotely, setting up a kind of hybrid event this year.
The three locations in which festivities will be held are FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, all in downtown Cleveland. Attendees will be required to wear masks, adhere to physical distancing protocols and follow any state-imposed restrictions while participating in the various free events during draft weekend. Each of the 32 NFL clubs will also select fans for the "Inner Circle presented by Subway," in which invited guests will get seats inside the Draft Theatre to help serve as ambassadors for their team. Each fan selected must be fully vaccinated in order to be eligible to attend. The guideline is to help further the NFL's efforts in promoting the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 when available.
The NFL will also continue and aim to grow its Draft-a-Thon initiative that works to bring awareness to communities most affected by the pandemic. More details will be available in the coming weeks.
The league plans to utilize its learnings from Super Bowl LV right here in Tampa when executing its second league-wide live event since the pandemic began. The NFL Draft Experience, an interactive NFL theme park that took shape along the Tampa Riverwalk last month, will be free and open to the public around FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland during all three days of the draft. To manage capacity, reservations will be required through the NFL OnePass app. Fans can download it beginning March 29.
Speaking of Tampa, the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers hold the 32nd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after capturing the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LV over the Kansas City Chiefs, becoming the first team to play in, and subsequently win, a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Therefore, Bucs fans may have to wait awhile before their team is on the clock. I think it's a wait we're all willing to accept, though.
The 2021 NFL Draft will be broadcast on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, including two nights of primetime coverage beginning on April 29. Further details on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC's coverage of the 2021 NFL Draft will be announced at a later date. More information on this year's draft activities can be found at NFL.com/Draft.