CLEVELAND — The 2021 NFL Draft, held in Cleveland, is just a few weeks away and amid the increased vaccinations and in-depth protocols being implemented across the city, there will be a little sense of normalcy this year.
Scheduled from April 29-May 1, the 86th annual NFL Draft will take place across several iconic locations in Cleveland, including FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Things to do
There were worries that the NFL Draft in Cleveland would be a shell of itself due to COVID-19 concerns, but the NFL working with state and local leaders, as well as medical experts, has outlined events and activities for fans to attend in a safe environment with a sense of normalcy.
Using the protocols and information obtained from the Super Bowl experience in February, the NFL will be bringing the NFL Draft Experience—the league’s interactive football theme park—to Cleveland.
The park will be free to attend and is open to the public around FirstEnergy Stadium during all three days of the Draft. To manage the capacity, those looking to attend the theme park will have to make a reservation on the NFL OnePass app, which will be available to download the week of March 29.
One of the events at the Draft will allow fans to take the field at FirstEnergy Stadium to kick field goals (or at least attempt to).
At the NFL Draft Main Stage, set against the backdrop of Lake Erie, headline acts will perform each day to channel the spirit of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. While the stage will have a zone for guests, only those invited will be able to attend that area and in the exclusive “Inner Circle” section; all fans selected to attend must be fully vaccinated. The league said these special guests might consist of frontline workers, educators and health care workers, among others.
Fans in the “Inner Circle” are chosen by each of the 32 clubs to serve as their Draft ambassadors.
As for fans not in the selected few, the NFL said an exact number of fans able to participate in Draft activities will be in the "tens of thousands."
The league said that they are working with restaurants around the city to create a "Taste of Cleveland" that ties into the Draft for those looking for a bite to eat during the three days of the event. The goal is to incorporate the entire downtown area into the Draft experience, providing safe outdoor spaces to watch the draft, eat and drink—making the city an massive extension of the Draft.
NFL Legends and current players will be at the Draft on the second day of the draft. On the third day, NFL clubs will be shown in their draft rooms making decisions and then making the draft selection from those rooms, announced by owners and general managers.
Who can attend
As mentioned, only invited guests and selected fans will be able to sit in the viewing zone for the Main Stage, but the public is able to attend the NFL Draft Experience theme park.
Those looking to attend the Draft will be required to wear face masks or coverings and follow the social distancing guidelines and other safety protocols implemented around the city for the three-day event. Masks will be provided to those who need them. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up around the event.
A select number of Draft prospects will take the stage in Cleveland, and fans, media and crews will be on-site during the selection of the new rookie class. Other prospects not in attendance will participate in the Draft experience virtually from their homes.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be on stage for the Draft, so fans can prepare the appropriate reactions now. Goodell is "excited to get out of the basement," where he spent the Draft last year, and interact with fans and players in person while also touring the city and all it has to offer.
"We are looking forward to officially being on the clock in Cleveland for what has become one of the most-anticipated sports and entertainment events of the year," said David Gilbert, President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, in a press release. "While we know this event will look different than in the past, we are thrilled about what the NFL Draft will mean to our community coming out of this pandemic. It will showcase Cleveland's beauty and resilience to a large audience, both safely in-person and worldwide."
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said he is looking forward to showcasing the city to visitors and residents who attend the event.
"Cleveland welcomes the 2021 NFL Draft to our city," Jackson said in a press release. "Residents and visitors from around the world will experience Cleveland's hospitality and see why our city continues to be a destination of choice for large-scale events. We look forward to working with the Cleveland Browns, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the NFL and our other partners to execute a safe, successful event in accordance with health and safety guidelines."
Gilbert said they are excited to have a "large, safe and in-person" Draft this year in Cleveland.
Where it’s located
The main stage of the NFL Draft will be located right in front of Lake Erie, nestled between FirstEnergy Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center.
Under the dome of the stage will be the Draft Theatre, the seating area for invited guests, and the Inner Circle for selected fans.
Check out renderings below:
"We are thrilled for Cleveland to host this year's NFL Draft and celebrate the hard-working and inspiring new Draft prospects, football's great history, and our fans. It is even more special as we commemorate our 75th anniversary and have the opportunity to showcase the wonderful city of Cleveland to an international audience and to a responsible number of fans and visitors during the weekend," said Cleveland Browns co-owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam in a news release. "We greatly appreciate the continued collaboration by the NFL, local and state government officials and medical experts who are all focused on creating a memorable and safe experience and we are also extremely encouraged by the state of Ohio's vaccination rates and advancements that are allowing us to make the progress needed to return to a safe and more normal environment."
To register to receive updates and details about accessing the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland, click here.
Once registered, fans will be notified via email on the forthcoming information, including seating opportunities, parking, food, activities and more.