After holding a virtual edition of the NFL Draft in 2020, the NFL will be returning to an in-person format for 2021, complete with both players and fans in attendance for the three-day event.
The league announced on March 22 that the event will span multiple locations in downtown Cleveland from April 29 through May 1, including FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center.
While some prospects will be joining the 2021 NFL Draft virtually, the league confirmed that a select number of players will be in Cleveland for the event, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and “other special guests” announcing picks from the NFL Draft Main Stage.
Joining players and league representatives in Ohio for the three-day stretch will be a select group of fans, dubbed the “Inner Circle” by the NFL. Those fans, who will be chosen by the league’s 32 teams and will need to be fully vaccinated, will be seated at the NFL Draft Main Stage to voice their opinions about their franchise’s picks.
“The league will continue to partner with public officials at the state and local levels to help better ensure a safe and successful Draft,” the league wrote in their announcement. “Fans attending Draft activities will be required to wear face coverings and adhere to appropriate physical distancing.”
The league will also have the “NFL Draft Experience,” the league’s “interactive football theme park,” for fans to enjoy in Cleveland, and the NFL said they will be “utilizing learnings and protocols from Super Bowl fan experiences in Tampa” throughout the weekend.
The news of the in-person draft comes after the league informed teams that they could have representatives in their respective “war rooms” for this year’s draft, after coaches and front office members were forced to operate remotely in 2020.
The league also announced that it will also be bringing back its “Draft-A-Thon” concept, a virtual fundraiser which was created to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts in 2020.
The entire draft will be broadcast on the NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, with primetime coverage for the first two nights of the event.