CLEVELAND — (AP) — After a successful virtual, stay-at-home experience this year, the NFL plans to hold its draft outdoors in downtown Cleveland next year from April 29 to May 1.
The dates were announced Tuesday, three days after the completion of a unique draft that went smoothly despite logistical obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TV ratings soared over the weekend as fans soaked in every moment of a rare live sporting event held in recent months. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced this year's selections for the first three rounds from his basement in the New York City suburbs, and viewers got to see players react and celebrate at home with loved ones.
“We successfully brought to life the first virtual NFL draft last week, and we are now very excited to work with Cleveland to incorporate some of the innovations and special access from 2020 into our planning for 2021,” said Peter O’Reilly, the league’s vice president of club business and league events. “We look forward to partnering with the Browns, the city of Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland to create a memorable celebration of football for such a passionate fan base and community.”
The NFL officially awarded Cleveland the 2021 NFL draft last year. The Browns will be celebrating their 75th anniversary next year.
Details are still being finalized, but the Cleveland draft will be held at locations around FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“It’s such a great football town, with a huge number of draft fans,” O'Reilly said. “It was right there in the top three in market ratings this year, and they are very passionate about football. There are some unique things we can do with the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and with the stadium. There’s an opportunity to bring in music and great artists into that environment and kind of 'rock the clock.’”
AP Pro Football writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.