Draft Day is a 2014 American sports-drama film starring Kevin Costner and directed by Ivan Reitman. It is an entirely fictional story focusing on the heavily scrutinized and criticized General Manager of the Cleveland Browns Football Team whose personal and professional life collides as he struggles to live in the shadow of his late father even as the future 2014 season of the Browns rests on his decisions on this momentous day.
American Football is dominated by numerous battles between players and teams. But what most don't even realize is that before the Superbowl starts, before the Playoffs, even before the first kick off of the season; there is another mighty contention that takes place. Off the field. And that is Draft Day.
This is the day where the NFL's 32 General Managers square off to pick, make backroom deals and trades, and decide on their new blood and talent for the forthcoming season. This is the day that will make ... or break each team's future prospects.
Seattle Seahawks' General Manager Tom Michaels has the number one draft pick for the 2014 season and a budget problem. He can't afford the number one draft pick, the fair haired Bo Callahan; the most lauded and talented quarterback seen for the past few years. So Michaels decides to turn his weakness to an advantage. He'll just trade his draft slot to somebody. Somebody desperate or stupid enough.
Sonny Weaver Jr. is the General Manager for the Cleveland Browns. And he's not having such a good year. He's being brutally criticized for firing his legendary father, former Browns Coach Sonny Weaver Senior by the local media. Worse still is that his father has just passed away a week ago with the pair very much estranged over the controversial decision. His mother is busy making funeral plans and driving him out of his mind. He has a new head coach, Vince Penn whose abilities he questions. His secret girlfriend Ali Parker whom he works with has just announced that she is pregnant. And he has the number seventh draft pick slot which means that all of the best recruits will be snatched up for this season.
Michaels contacts him offering to trade his number one round pick for the draft in exchange for their seventh slot plus the Browns' number one round picks for the next two years and a third round pick the year after that. Sonny is neither stupid or desperate enough and refuses the offer. But soon afterwards, the Browns' owner and his boss, Anthony Molina informs him that he is worried about the team's financial viability. Molina wants Sonny to ensure that they make a good "splash" for Draft Day for some good publicity ... or he'll fire Sonny.
Sonny calls back Michaels to agree to the deal only for the crafty GM sensing Sonny's weaker position; 'changes' his mind and claims that the previous deal is no longer valid. Instead he now demands the Browns' first round picks for the next three years and the seventh slot for the Seahawks' first choice slot this year. Against his better judgment, Sonny agrees. Instantly, the rumors start flying fast and furious that a trade has been made and the Browns now have the number one pick and everyone assumes that Callahan is going to be the new QB for the Browns. Molina is overjoyed and congratulates Sonny for his "splash", announcing that he intends to personally welcome Callahan to the Browns at the Draft Day ceremony.
Sonny soon finds that even though most of his own staff are enthusiastic about acquiring the top ranked quarterback, they all feel that Sonny gave away too much and that while Callahan is worth a lot ... neither is he worth three years' worth of future number one picks.
But not everyone is ambivalent over the deal. Some are outright disgusted. Such as Head Coach Vince Penn who is dismayed that all of his suggestions for draft picks are being ignored and has been pushing for a good running back, Ray Jennings to be considered. Penn is also not thrilled about having to break in a rookie quarterback.
The Browns themselves are leery as they are loyal to their current QB Brian Drew, a veteran who has just completed a long and arduous physical rehabilitation and is in better physical shape than ever before. Drew is dismayed to learn that his recovery is apparently for naught and is infuriated by growing rumors that Callahan is his intended replacement and that he is apparently to be either let go or traded by Sonny.
Another disgruntled individual is Vontae Mack, a promising linebacker who was originally Sonny's first preference for this season and is now worried that with Callahan taking his slot, he is in danger of slipping down to the second round NFL draft picks. With the recent death of his sister, Mack is now responsible for his two nephews and the salary caps for the second rounders will place increased financial hardships on him and his extended family. Mack angrily asserts that he is a better player than Bo who is not as great a player that everyone seems to think; suggesting that Sonny watch a particular game.
Between it all, Sonny tries to juggle his estranged mother who criticizes his trade for Bo and trying to find a few private moments with Ali to discuss her pregnancy and the future of their relationship ... if they even have one. Sonny confesses to Ali that he fired his father not because he couldn't live up to being in the old man's shadow as some claim; but because the doctors were worried about the pressures of coaching were having on him and believed that Sonny Senior wouldn't live another year unless he retired and took it easy. In a vain attempt to prolong his father's life, Sonny fired him only to have Sonny Senior to abruptly pass away without being able to heal the rift between father and guilt-ridden son.
Finally rewatching Mack's suggested game footage, Sonny realizes that despite his prodigious talents and skills as a quarterback, Bo gets easily flustered after Mack consecutively sacked him four times. Rattled, Bo only narrowly won the game thanks to Mack getting ejected by a minor foul. It is an unforeseen flaw ... but is it a fatal one or one that Bo will overcome with training and experience?
When the final minutes counting down for the deadline, Sonny makes the call and shockingly chooses Vontae Mack as his number one pick, throwing the entire selection process into chaos as everybody had been expecting Bo Callahan as the 'sure thing'. Infuriated, Molina immediately departs the ceremony to confront Sonny in person.
Meanwhile the chaos over Sonny's pick ripples through the other Team GMs who are unsure why Bo wasn't selected. All of the sudden, the 'sure thing' isn't looking so bright and brilliant anymore. Why else would Sonny throw him over for Mack? The confused GM's scramble, some sticking to their own pre-selected recruits while others proffered the chance to snap Bo up―pass him over. But with the Seahawks' draft slot coming up in the seventh round, Sonny senses opportunity in this chaos and quickly contacts the Jacksonville Jaguars' GM who holds the sixth draft slot to proffer a trade: the Browns' second-round draft picks for the next three years for their sixth draft slot this year.
Worried and fearful of some hidden weakness in Bo Callahan and with all of his prior and backup draft picks having already been snatched up by the other teams, the Jaguars' GM decides that he needs time to reorganize and have things settle down―agrees to the deal rather than forfeit their slot for nothing. And now Sonny has control over the next pick ... right before the Seahawks.
Penn discovers that Sonny has effectively blown through three years of first and second draft picks and goes berserk, claiming that Sonny has just destroyed the Browns' future and that he refuses to work under these conditions and intends to quit. Molina arrives as well, mad as hell and about to fire Sonny but for Sonny to demand that they all shut up for five minutes. And watch.
Contacting Michaels, Sonny reveals that he made a trade and now controls the sixth draft slot. He announces that he intends to pick Callahan ... unless Michaels gives him a better deal. Sonny demands his first year draft slots for the next three years back and in exchange, he'll trade the sixth draft slot to Michaels for his seventh slot. With this, Michaels can grab his chosen quarterback Bo Callahan and at $7 million dollars less―not to mention that Sonny has been reading up on all of the Seahawks' fan boards and has noticed that all of them have been calling for Michaels' head for trading up Callahan. Michaels hesitates, realizing that Bo with a cheaper $7 million dollar price tag will work in his strained budget. Not to mention get the rabid fans off his back.
But then Sonny claims to be going with Callahan causing Michaels to demand him to wait a second before agreeing to the deal. Sonny counters that the deal is no longer valid and has 'changed' his mind. He now demands his first year draft slots for the next three years, trading the sixth draft slot for the seventh ... and he'll take the Seahawks' punt returner in exchange for Bo. Just 'cause he feels like it.
Michaels grudgingly agrees and Sonny snaps up Ray Jennings as a peace offering to the irate Coach Penn for their seventh slot pick. Penn agrees to stick around and coach the team that Sonny has put together. A calmer Molina is impressed with Sonny's wheeling dealin' and is appeased; allowing Sonny to keep his job. Afterwards, Sonny makes peace with his mother and girlfriend Ali by revealing her pregnancy to the future grandmother and that he no longer intends to keep their relationship a secret anymore.
At the 2014 season kickoff, veteran and still QB Brian Drew leads the Cleveland Browns into the stadium with Vontae Mack and Ray Jennings at his side. Sonny and his visibly pregnant girlfriend Ali watch bemused in the owners' box while Molina is being congratulated by several rival owners for his brilliant draft day picks which Molina not-so humbly accepts.
- Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver, Jr.
- Jennifer Garner as Ali Parker
- Frank Langella as Anthony Molina
- Tom Welling as Brian Drew
- Chadwick Boseman as Vontae Mack
- Jordan Harris as Vontae's Nephew
- Zachary Littlejohn (as Zachary Littleton) as Vontae's Nephew
- Rosanna Arquette as Angie
- Terry Crews as Earl Jennings
- Arian Foster as Ray Jennings
- Denis Leary as Vince Penn
- Ellen Burstyn as Barb Weaver
- Griffin Newman as Rick the Intern
- Patrick St. Esprit as Tom Michaels
- Chi McBride as Walt Gordon
- W. Earl Brown as Ralph Mowry
- Kevin Dunn as Marvin
- Sean Combs as Chris Crawford
- Josh Pence as Bo Callahan
- Wallace Langham as Pete Begler
- Sam Elliott as Coach Moore
- Christopher Cousins as Max Stone
- Patrick Breen as Bill Zotti
- Pat Healy as Jeff Carson
- Russ Brandon as himself
- Roger Goodell as himself
- Jon Gruden as himself
- Jim Brown as himself
- Bernie Kosar as himself
- Chris Berman as himself
- David Ramsey as Thompson
- Wade Williams as O'Reilly
- Rich Eisen as himself
- Ray Lewis as himself
Reputedly, Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman who were both friends and graduates from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts decided to write a screenplay about the NFL Draft Day when a friend of Rajiv made a comment that she didn't like football, but she loved watching the draft to his confusion as even though he considered himself a huge football fan, even he didn't bother watching the draft. Her explanation that she loved the ticking clock and huge stakes led Rajiv to realize that she loved the drama of the event and good drama made for a good story. They eventually wrote up a screenplay in 2010 which was subsequently picked up by Ivan Reitman in 2012 for Paramount Pictures. However Paramount Pictures were hesitant over the project and demanded a rewrite of the screenplay. Shortly afterwards, the screenplay appeared in Franklin Leonard's 2012 The Black List of the hottest unmade movie screenplays which resurrected interest in the project which began filming in 2013.
Draft Day had a special premiere on April 7, 2014 in Los Angeles and would make its official debut on April 11, 2014 in 2,781 theaters nationwide and grossed $9,783,603 on its opening weekend run but only rose to the 4th most popular movie slot failing to dislodge the front running Captain America: The Winter Soldier which had debuted a week earlier; nor was it able to surpass Rio 2 or Oculus which also debuted that weekend as well.
Draft Day would play for an additional 10 weeks and quickly dropped in popularity and ticket sales; already dropping to the 12th most popular movie by the third weekend and successively dropped in rankings, struggling to maintain itself in the top 20 after the sixth week before ending in the bottom 50 by its closing weekend.
In total, Draft Day earned $28,842,237 domestically in the United States and an additional $619,809 in the foreign markets. Thus, it earned back its production budget costs but did not perform spectacularly or earn a great profit.
Draft Day received mixed reviews who cited it as "implausible" and "mostly for sports fans". Professional NFL managers also criticized it as being "not a true depiction of how the real NFL operates leading up to and during the draft". However others have remarked that certain events that the film dramatized while rare, have actually taken place in real life at prior NFL Draft Days such as the trading of several years worth of future picks and favored players not getting selected and dropping in rankings albeit not as dramatically. Overall, it received a "59% rating" on Rotten Tomatoes website and Metacritic gave it an average score of "54 out of 100".
Ironically enough, on the 2014 Draft Day; the Cleveland Browns would make a huge "splash" themselves by trading up to select the highly acclaimed rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel and trading away their fourth pick for their ninth pick of that year and their 2015 first round pick. They also traded up for the eighth pick to draft cornerback Justin Gilbert. Sportscaster Chris Berman (who also starred as himself in the film) would comment that the real life 2014 Draft Day was better than the movie.
Draft Day would be released commercially on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital HD.
- Arian Foster, the actor who portrays Ray Jennings, was an actual All-Pro Running Back in real life. He played college football at Tennessee and ironically, was not drafted and instead accepted a position as a free agent.
- A number of actors and actresses in Draft Day have had major and minor roles in various comic book based movies and series; Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent (Man of Steel); Jennifer Garner as Elektra (Daredevil & Elektra); Tom Welling as Clark Kent (Smallville); Frank Langella as Perry White (Superman Returns); Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy (The Amazing Spider-Man & The Amazing Spider-Man 2); David Ramsey as John Diggle (Arrow & Flash); and Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther (Captain America: Civil War & Black Panther)