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Here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 NFL draft

A view of the 2021 NFL draft logo onstage in Cleveland
The 2021 NFL draft will be held Thursday through Saturday in Cleveland.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

The 2021 NFL draft is going to be quite different from last year’s edition.

That is, this year’s draft is returning to normal ... or at least much closer to normal than the 2020 safer-at-home (or in Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ case, safer-inside-a-$250-million-yacht) version of the annual event.

Sure, it was fun to peek into New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s kitchen and see whatever it was the teenagers at Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s house were up to during last year’s remote draft.

But there were no festivities. No war rooms. No opportunities for fans to boo Roger Goodell (the commissioner performed his duties from the friendly confines of his own basement).

All of that is returning this year, although with certain COVID-19 protocols still in place, as the NFL takes its biggest offseason event to Cleveland.

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Here’s everything you need to know to watch and enjoy the 2021 NFL draft.

Beneath its polished exterior, the NFL draft can often be a confusing time for team executives and players. Here are some amusing stories from past drafts.

When is the 2021 NFL draft?

It’s this week!

Thursday: First round, 5 p.m. PDT

Friday: Second and third rounds, 4 p.m. PDT

Saturday: Fourth through seventh rounds, 9 a.m. PDT

NFL Network broadcaster Rich Eisen turned what was once a joke into a major philanthropic event with “Run Rich Run.” This year, he’s giving it a new twist.

How can I watch?

The event will be broadcast on NFL Network, ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes. It will be streamed on the NFL and ESPN apps and on fubo TV. It also can be streamed with a 7-day free trial of Hulu + Live TV, or by using TV Everywhere credentials within the ESPN and NFL apps.

If you can’t watch, or if you want to enhance your viewing experience, you can follow the first round of the draft with our live blog at https://www.latimes.com/sports. Our Pro Football Hall of Fame honoree Sam Farmer will provide instant analysis for every pick.

NFL draft signs hang near First Energy Stadium in Cleveland.
NFL draft signs add to the fan experience area near First Energy Stadium in Cleveland.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

Where is the draft taking place?

All over Cleveland. Goodell and others will announce the picks, with several of those soon-to-be NFL players on hand, at Draft Theater, which the league constructed next to FirstEnergy Stadium (home of the Browns) on the shore of Lake Erie. A slew of other draft-related festivities are being held throughout the downtown area.

Fans pose for a photo with a large Cleveland Browns helmet outside FirstEnergy Stadium
Fans pose for a photo with a large Cleveland Browns helmet Tuesday outside FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

Festivities, you say?

Things are a bit safer this year and Cleveland has slightly more room than Goodell’s basement, so, yes, bring on the festivities (with plenty of safety measures in place, of course).

The NFL Draft Experience, described by the league as an “interactive football theme park,” will be in full swing all three days in the FirstEnergy Stadium parking lots. All kinds of fun activities are planned, including sports competitions, a gigantic tailgate party and photo opportunities with the Lombardi Trophy (insert your own joke about the Super Bowl prize finally finding its way to Cleveland here).

Draft Theater will host concerts each day — Kings of Leon on Thursday (pre-draft), Black Pumas on Friday (post-draft) and Machine Gun Kelly on Saturday (post-draft). Sorry, no mosh pits (actually, that’s just a guess — it’s 2021, after all).

A look inside the NFL Draft Theater as a few workers prep it
Workers prepare the NFL Draft Theater in Cleveland.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

Will fans be allowed to attend the actual draft?

A limited number of invited guests will be able to watch from the self-explanatory Vaccinated Fan Zone viewing area at the Draft Theater.

After returning to USC for one final season, Alijah Vera-Tucker solidified his status as a consensus first-round pick in this week’s NFL draft.

What is the draft order?

Jacksonville Jaguars fans get the honor of booing Goodell first. The commissioner will then be razzed by fans of the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals to round out the top five picks. See the draft order for all seven rounds here.

The Rams do not have a first-round pick for the fifth consecutive year. They are scheduled to pick at No. 57 in the second round, No. 88 and No. 103 in the third, 141 in the fourth, 209 in the sixth and 252 in the seventh. Much more Rams draft analysis here.

The Chargers have a whopping nine picks at their disposal — No. 13 in the first round, No. 47 in the second round, No. 77 and No. 97 in the third round, No. 118 in the fourth round, No. 159 in the fifth round, No. 185 and No. 194 in the sixth round and No. 241 in the seventh round. Much more Chargers draft analysis here.

UCLA’s Demetric Felton and Osa Odighizuwa are small for their positions but can pin their draft chances on athleticism that could translate well in the NFL.

Who will be the top pick?

Well, now, isn’t that the million-dollar question? Honestly, there’s really no way of kno...TREVOR LAWRENCE!!! IT WILL BE TREVOR LAWRENCE, OK??? Nothing is official, of course, but come on — we’ve known Clemson’s star quarterback would be the first player selected in 2021 for the better part of a decade now (give or take).

In case you want a second opinion, here is Farmer’s most recent mock draft. And if that somehow still isn’t enough, here’s another mock draft with beat reporters who cover each team projecting each organization’s picks.

Interested in prop bets?

While the NFL draft isn’t the Super Bowl or NCAA tournament in terms of sports betting buzz, there are plenty of value bets out there to make from a growing number of bookmakers.

Will Mac Jones go No. 3 overall? Will Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith be the first wide receiver off the board?

VSiN’s experts — Danny Burke, Kelly Bydlon, Adam Candee, Paul Howard, Brady Kannon, Tim Murray, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans — offer readers their best bets here on the multitude of prop bets available at U.S. sportsbooks.


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