Cleveland plans to host 2021 NFL Draft

Akhil Medarametla, Contributing Reporter

Two weeks ago, Super Bowl LV marked the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season. Fans are now already gearing up for next season and are looking towards the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, which will be hosted by Cleveland in late April. 

The NFL and the city of Cleveland currently plan to hold the event in-person, contrary to last year’s fully virtual draft which received many mixed reviews from fans. According to David Gilbert, the President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission (GCSC), “It’s full steam ahead” for the draft.

Currently, the most immediate concern of hosting the in-person draft is managing it amid the ongoing pandemic. The GCSC is learning from the methods that Tampa employed while hosting the Super Bowl. 

Tampa hosted around 22,000 fans at their stadium out of their total seating of 65,890. The prevalent fear in Tampa was that gathering so many fans would transform the Super Bowl into a coronavirus superspreader event. This concern gained traction because there was widespread inconsistency among fans adhering to the mask mandate. 

In consideration of how Tampa handled fans, Gilbert is prioritizing the safety and health of the fans, planning to find a way to properly enforce a mask mandate in the crowd, while also adding similar measures and precautions used in the NBA’s Disney World bubble over the past summer.  

According to the GCSC, so long as all safety measures and precautions are taken, the City of Cleveland and the NFL also plan to hold the NFL Draft Experience simultaneously with the draft. The event is a free football festival where fans can participate in exhibits, games, autograph sessions with individuals from all teams, giveaways and more.

I spoke with current Case Western Reserve University first-year Yash Purohit, a huge NFL fan, on his thoughts about the NFL Draft coming to Cleveland. 

Q: “What are your thoughts about the NFL Draft being in-person in Cleveland this year?”

A: “With the NFL draft being such an astonishing event no matter where it is, and me being able to see a draft being held in Chicago—granted it was the NBA draft a couple years—I think that it’s quite good and quite astonishing that the NFL has had a decent amount of success while dealing with COVID-19. 

“They’re able to have the draft in person this year, so to be honest, I’m a pretty big fan of them actually holding the draft in-person this year. I am very optimistic that it could go through without too many hitches, and I’m also pretty astonished by the fact that the NFL has been pretty good with this. With COVID-19, dealing with the draft in general, especially since last year, they were pretty ahead of the curve and they were one of the first major events that had to go virtual. I remember last April when they had a draft it was all done online. I remember there being genuinely good feedback at least with the first round of the draft.”

Q: “If Cleveland was to implement the right COVID-19 safety measures, would you consider attending the NFL Draft and its events in the spring?”

A: “As a massive Chicago Bears fan, I would totally be ready to go and watch the NFL draft in person in the spring in Cleveland. I think it’s one of the best events to go see the promising future of our franchise and I would be overly excited to go if that opportunity was presented to me.”

The 86th NFL Draft is set to take place between April 29 and May 1 in Downtown Cleveland. Additional events and celebrations will take place on the shore of Lake Erie near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and FirstEnergy Stadium, where the city recently tore down two warehouses, creating additional space for current and future Cleveland Browns events.