Cleveland is demanding our attention. From the Republican National Convention to the Cavaliers’ NBA championship, the Indians’ recent dominance to a surprising tech scene, we’re thinking about the city more than ever. This week, The Ringer is exploring why Cleveland matters.
Draft Day is a movie about Kevin Costner trying to SAVE FOOTBALL IN CLEVELAND. He plays Sonny Weaver, the GM of the Browns, who own the seventh pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He’s looking at Vontae Mack, a linebacker out of Ohio State who has a big mouth on Twitter, and Ray Jennings, a running back out of Florida State who, in a first for any athlete ever, tells his dad, “I just want to be a Brown.” But the Browns’ owner (a how-did-I-get-here Frank Langella) wants Weaver to make a splash in the draft, and he’s infatuated with Bo Callahan, a quarterback widely expected to go no. 1 overall. And why wouldn’t he want him? A linebacker or a running back can’t SAVE FOOTBALL IN CLEVELAND. So when Seahawks GM Tom Michaels (Patrick St. Esprit) lays out a deal that would give Cleveland the no. 1 pick, it’s Weaver’s chance to … you guessed it: SAVE FOOTBALL IN CLEVELAND. By the end of the movie, Weaver’s made three deals and numerous other decisions. But did he SAVE FOOTBALL IN CLEVELAND? Let’s grade every major draft-related decision in the movie to find out:
The Browns Send Pick No. 7 and Two Future Firsts to the Seahawks for the First Overall Pick
Fifteen minutes into the movie, Weaver makes this deal from his SUV without consulting anyone, which is how I’d like to think every draft-shattering trade is made. What’s more, he had a chance to get the top pick just an hour before in a deal that included a 2016 third-rounder instead of a 2016 first, but now he’s in a bind and has a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the Seahawks GM. So Weaver gives up a huge haul — the movie explicitly references Washington’s predraft trade that allowed it to pick Robert Griffin III for a comparison. And just like that trade was for the team in D.C., this (fictional) deal is a (fictional) rip-off for (fictional) Cleveland.
We can use Chase Stuart’s NFL Draft Pick Value Calculator to estimate the value of each pick traded, and it doesn’t look great for the Browns. The exact numbers will depend on where the Browns’ future first-round picks fall, but even if we assume that they rack up a couple of Super Bowls and pick at no. 32 in the next two drafts, the Seahawks still gain the equivalent value of a late first-rounder. If we’re a little more reasonable — but, considering it’s the Browns, this is still optimistic — and we assume that the team is about league-average, the difference becomes that of a top-10 pick. And it could turn out even worse — just ask the Redskins, who handed over the no. 2 pick to the Rams in 2014 as part of that RG3 trade.
But if you are getting your franchise QB, maybe you’re OK with taking a huge loss in theoretical draft value — we know that no position impacts the game as much as quarterback. If Bo Callahan is the real deal, Cleveland can totally win this trade. But it’s a huge, huge risk.
Browns: C. More of an incomplete, really. It all depends on if Bo Callahan, the team’s presumptive pick, is good at football or not — a question the movie, which ends with a scene from the opening of the 2014 season, never definitively answers.
Seahawks: A. Great future value. With this deal bolstering their roster, the Seahawks should be well out of the top 10 by the time we get a Draft Day sequel.
Sonny Weaver: D. He got totally fleeced, considering the deal he could have had. And by the time this trade goes through, he’s pissed off virtually everyone in the Browns front office.
Roger Goodell Opens the Draft to Cheers
Easily the most offensive and unrealistic part of the movie.
Roger Goodell: F. You’re a villain. Just own it.
Radio City Music Hall Audience: F. You had one job!
Cleveland Drafts Vontae Mack
Wait, the Browns don’t even draft Bo?????????
Nothing is more insane than when, just minutes after trading away Cleveland’s future for the no. 1 pick, Weaver says to his scouting department, “We’re still gonna have to take another look at this kid.” You mean you haven’t already dissected every throw Bo Callahan has ever made?!? What the hell do the Browns pay you for? Come to think of it, these are probably the exact words former Browns GM Ray Farmer used immediately after selecting Johnny Manziel in the real-life 2014 NFL draft.
So they look at the tape, and it’s basically perfect. But then Weaver finds out that — oh no — no one attended Bo Callahan’s 21st birthday party. This is a league that doesn’t think twice about taking Jameis freaking Winston with the top pick, but suddenly we’re expected to believe that Cleveland’s future hangs in the balance because a college kid might not have friends?
Ultimately they take Mack, a linebacker who’s shown to be a pretty good player, but nowhere close to the top talent in the draft. But they find a play on tape in which Mack hands over a football to his cute nephews, and Weaver sneaks off to make the pick in secret like some kind of rogue CTU agent on 24. If character issues meant half as much to the NFL as they do in this movie, the league would fold tomorrow.
Browns: F. Now you have to pay Mack more than if you’d just grabbed him at seven.
Sonny Weaver: A+. It’s a bad pick, but the way Weaver pulls it off is a huge eff you to almost everyone in the draft room, the owner of the team, and basically everyone in the whole movie. Vontae Mack No Matter What.
The Browns Owner Flies Back to Cleveland
The Browns’ fictional owner, Anthony Molina, is in New York for the draft. When Weaver sends in the Mack pick, Molina flips his shit and bolts back to Cleveland. He bursts into the Browns’ draft room as Weaver is negotiating with Jacksonville for the sixth pick, so at roughly 10 minutes per selection that’s (pulls out calculator) like 40 minutes? Maybe 45, tops? I get that this movie has to ignore certain NFL realities in order to work, but does it have to do the same for the laws of physics?
Anthony Molina: A+. For inventing teleportation.
NFL Teams Start Passing on Bo Callahan
Seriously, you’re all scared off from Bo because the Browns didn’t take him? You’re terrified of what Cleveland knows that you don’t? Here’s an idea: Whatever the Browns do in the draft, do the opposite.
NFL: F. He’s a franchise QB falling because his teammates may or may not have been at his birthday party. Just take him.
The Browns Send No. 39 and Two Future Seconds to the Jaguars for No. 6
This trade is fairly reasonable — in a vacuum. Again, if we assume roughly a league-average finish for the Browns, then the Jags come out with about 7.9 points of surplus value, the equivalent of an early third-rounder. That’s not a terrible price for the Browns to pay to move all the way up to no. 6, and the Jags get plenty of value. But this trade didn’t happen in a vacuum — more on that in a minute.
Browns: C. The losers (technically).
Jaguars: B. The winners (technically).
The Browns send Pick No. 6 to the Seahawks for Pick No. 7, Two Future Firsts, and a Punt Returner
That’s right, the Browns are trading with the Seahawks again. And if you’re keeping track at home, this trade looks awfully similar to the first one (the future first-rounders involved are the same picks Cleveland sent away earlier), only the Seahawks are trading for no. 6, not the first pick, and they have to throw in David Putney, their star punt returner, just to make the deal happen!
The crux of this trade is that Seattle really, really wants Bo Callahan. Chase Stuart’s Draft Value Calculator shits all over this deal (the difference in value could easily be more than that of the no. 1 overall pick, depending on how good or bad Cleveland is in the coming years), but obviously this trade is more about Bo Callahan than it is the picks, and like, wow. Seattle could have just had Callahan. If the Seahawks think Bo is a franchise QB, why didn’t they take him at no. 1?
Meanwhile, the Jags could have tried to make this same trade while they were sitting at no. 6. Instead, they settled for a bunch of second-rounders. I guess that’s a very Jags thing to do.
Browns: A. This is a steal.
Seahawks: F. WTF are you doing, just keep the picks.
Jaguars: F. Why didn’t you even call up Seattle while you were talking with Cleveland for the sixth pick? You could have made the same deal! And why does your rookie GM run your draft room with all the confidence of a kid who just wet his pants?
Sonny Weaver: A+. “I want David goddamn Putney, just because I feel like it.”
Weaver Uses His Only F-Bomb on “Pancake-Eating Motherfucker”
I get that the movie had to be toned down to meet the NFL’s happy-go-lucky PR standards (originally rated R!), and I respect the decision to still include one f-bomb for a day that, in real life, probably includes more swearing than The Wolf of Wall Street. But the word really loses some weight when it’s in the same sentence as “pancake.”
Sonny Weaver: D. Pancake-eating motherfucker? Really? Who would shame another person for loving pancakes?
Cleveland Drafts Ray Jennings
The last time the Browns took a running back in the top 10 it was a disaster, but … maybe this time it will be different? Only running back is increasingly becoming a marginalized position — and it’s heavily implied in the movie that Jennings got into some kind of fight that was violent enough to hurt his hands. Plus he carries the biggest red flag of all: He wants to be a Brown.
Browns: C. Unless Jennings is the next Todd Gurley, history points to this being a bad pick.
Ray Jennings: A+. You get to play for the team you want to play for. You might be headed to Cleveland, but that was your dream, dude!
The Browns ended up trading three second-rounders for the no. 1 overall pick and a punt returner, which is really just an OK haul (they gained roughly the surplus of a fourth- or fifth-rounder, assuming those second-rounders end up somewhere in the middle of the round). But then you remember that they used their top pick on a linebacker who might be a second-round talent and their next pick on a running back whose biggest claim to fame is that his dad also played for the Browns. Actually, that sounds like the most Cleveland draft imaginable.
Browns: C. This is the grade they get before you realize that running back and punt returner matter less now than ever before in the NFL.
Seahawks: C. You had a treasure chest of assets and you gave it away.
Sonny Weaver: A. Unlike what the movie would have you believe, he didn’t SAVE FOOTBALL IN CLEVELAND. But he did give like three metaphorical middle fingers to all of his doubters in a 12-hour period, and that’s worth more to me than the future of the Browns.