A football realist’s review of Draft Day

Jeff Gross

Draft day in the NFL is one of the most unpredictable and exciting days of the year all across the league. How does Hollywood's version stack up to the real thing?

As many of our long-time regular commenters already know, in addition to my immense fandom of the Cleveland Browns, I’m also somewhat of a film buff. Among the top of my favorite pastimes include those two very things. Second only to watching football is watching movies. So it would seem a film that combines the two should suit me perfectly, right?

While it remains possible, it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. Being that familiar with them both also means that I walked into this film with two proverbial hats on, distinct from one another. The film buff hat and the die-hard football fan hat. A movie combining both of those worlds is now tasked with getting it right on both of those levels.

We here at DBN, readers and writers alike, follow the NFL more than just every once and a while. For us, it’s 365 days a year. And hand-down, the single most important of those days is the real draft day. It’s the embodiment of hope in the sports world. It’s one of the few days a year that Browns fans can consistently cling to and embrace for all it’s worth.

It’s also unpredictable and exciting for that reason. Surprisingly enough, the imaginary Draft Day actually does manage to capture an element of that, but only to a certain extent. This is where the movie begins to unravel for someone like me.

One of the most crucial things the film has going for it is its ability to translate to film that raw edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting suspense that hardcore football fans experience during the real draft day. But alas, this film wasn’t made strictly for the hardcore fans. It’s written to appeal to a wider audience.

So, in order to explain the many intricacies of an NFL general manager’s job on draft day to the more casual moviegoer, the hardcore football fan is treated to what might just be over 90 minutes of ham-fisted exposition.

I hope you like watching cell phone conversations. Brought to you in stunning high-definition, side-scrolling, picture-in-picture!

Finally, right when the film hangs up the endless string of smart phones and the action of the draft begins... is exactly when it becomes the most predictable. Whether it was the football fan or the film buff in me, by the time the clock started ticking down for the first overall pick, I found it incredibly easy to see the most important "surprises" coming from a mile away.

SPOILER WARNING:

Let’s put suspension of disbelief aside for a second.

Three first-round picks for a linebacker he could have had at No. 7 anyway? Ok, ok... he makes up for that one because of this absurd notion that the team who just traded away the rights to the questionable star QB prospect for that king’s ransom would turn around a trade it all back just to get him slightly cheaper on the rookie salary scale?

The first official trade of the movie makes sense (up until we learn what Sonny had written down, which is a whole other can of worms), but every deal that follows appears to break all bounds of reason.

In addition, these fictional Browns effectively traded away three second-round picks for a running back. Have we learned nothing? I can’t even begin to imagine what the DBN live threads would like on that draft day in this fictional world. The film underestimates the rabid fans gnarling outside these teams’ headquarters.

< / end spoilers >

I understand that the movie is dramatized for effect by Hollywood, but I think draftniks will find the absurdity stretched to the point of being distracting.

I couldn’t help but think an actual documentary based around this same premise would be far more interesting. But in the hyper-competitive world of the NFL, is there a team willing to let a camera crew in the war room document all the secrets to their success or failure?

One of the closest things we have to it at the moment is ESPN’s 30 for 30 film titled "Elway to Marino", a real inside look at the 1983 NFL Draft. You won’t get the novelty of seeing your Cleveland Browns be the centerpiece on the big screen, but you’ll get a much better film.

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