If there was ever any doubt as to how popular football is in America, the fact that a feature-length film has been made about the NFL Draft—an annual event when the league’s 32 teams select new players—should settle things once and for all.
“Draft Day” is a fictionalized account of the 2014 NFL Draft, an event that has grown so much in size and importance as to warrant prime-time coverage over the course of its three days.
I use the term “fictionalized” because although “Draft Day” follows an actual event and uses the names of real NFL teams, the general managers of those teams and the players who are the focus of the movie, are made up. After viewing the movie, those familiar with the NFL draft process, and the history of the Cleveland Browns, would probably say major plots points in the film would never happen in real life.
Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver, Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. His love interest is played by Jennifer Garner. Denis Leary has a supporting role as the Browns head coach; Ellen Burstyn plays Sonny’s mom; and Frank Langella has a juicy role as the Browns owner. Real NFL players also have cameos throughout the movie.
“Draft Day,” directed by Ivan Reitman, from a script by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph, doesn’t provide much in terms of education for those unfamiliar with the NFL and the draft process.
The story dives right into draft day action and it may all sound like Greek at first as players, stats and strategies are bandied about like everyday speech. If football isn’t spoken in your house just sit tight, things will start to make sense.
If nothing else, “Draft Day” illuminates just how much goes into the draft process and how much maneuvering and strategizing takes place. It can make one’s head spin just thinking about it. The fans love it because they get to see their favorite college players play for the major leagues and the element of surprise–whose name is going to be picked—adds to the entertainment.
At times the movie can feel like one big commercial for ESPN’s coverage of the draft, but luckily it’s not too distracting. Usually a sports movie culminates in a big game, but “Draft Day” has actual minimal sports action. There is some footage of football, but it’s not the main thrust of the plot.
The real drama happens off the field, which is a refreshing change. Writers Rothman and Joseph found a way to use the NFL Draft as a backdrop for the different struggles going on in Sonny Weaver Jr.’s private life.
He’s just found out his girlfriend is pregnant; his head coach questions his judgement; his boss is pushing him to choose players that may not be the best choice for the team; and he has to deal with everyone in Cleveland judging his every decision.
With 12 hours left until the NFL Draft begins, Sonny must decide who he will pick in the first round of the draft (the team with the worst record at the end of the previous season is given the first pick of the first round; there are seven rounds total). While Sonny’s decision doesn’t come as a complete surprise, it’s entertaining to watch what happens on his way to making that final decision.
Costner does an excellent job as the weary Sonny Jr. It’s a low key, relaxed performance that takes advantage of his comedic timing. It helps that everyone in the supporting cast also performs well. It’s always fun to see Leary on the big screen. He should be in more movies. “Draft Day” is rated PG-13, mostly for language, which is pretty tame.