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The NFL Draft Comes to Cleveland, and It's No Longer the Browns' Super Bowl

Browns helmet draft.jpg
Gabe Wasylko
Cleveland takes center stage in this weekend's NFL Draft, as the long-dismal Browns have their sights set on sustained success.

Cleveland is at the center of the NFL Draft this weekend, but it’s not about what the Browns will do with the top pick. The city is hosting the big event, and the Browns will select near the bottom of the first round after their most successful season in about 25 years.

WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says it's a different narrative for Cleveland.

Cleveland's Super Bowl
When the NFL announced that the 2021 Draft would be held in Cleveland two years ago, most teams and football fans likely anticipated that Commissioner Roger Goodell would be on that big lakefront stage announcing a top-five pick for the league's former laughingstock.

"The draft has been the Super Bowl to Browns fans because when your team stinks, you look towards the draft," Pluto said.

But this is a new era for the Browns. They finished 11-5 last season with a playoff berth. They went on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and narrowly lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

So, instead of searching for a quarterback, they won't pick until 26th in the draft this year.

Pluto believes that when the NFL picked Cleveland to host the event, the emphasis would be on storylines of a long-suffering fan base and "these dismal Browns in this Rust Belt city."

"This is a resilient area, and it always has been. And for once the Browns are resilient, so you've got to like that."
Terry Pluto

The shift
The Browns' success is attributed to players like Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and quarterback Baker Mayfield.

"At the very least, Baker Mayfield is a good NFL quarterback. [The Browns] felt so good about him, they immediately picked up his [contract] option so he's under contract for two more years," Pluto said.

A stable front office
It wasn't long ago that the turnstiles in the front office kept churning. But now, the team has a rising star in coach Kevin Stefanski; the youngest GM in NFL history, Andrew Berry at 32; and Paul DePodesta of "Money Ball" fame.

"Jimmy Haslam had taken his shots as an owner and now is riding this ship up," Pluto said.

What about the pick?
A year ago, the Browns were drafting in the top-ten and trying to fix a glaring need for a left tackle. Now, Pluto says the 26th pick is an afterthought. He believes they'll select a defensive back.

But Pluto says there's really no pressure because there's no position they're in dire need of getting. "That's an oddity for me when it comes to covering the draft," Pluto said.

A celebration
And Pluto says as the dark days of the franchise appear to be brightening, the team and city can focus on showing what Cleveland has to offer during NFL Draft weekend.

And Pluto says he's not even dreading the clips of "The Drive" and "The Fumble" that the NFL will likely show this weekend.

"It won't have the same sting as it would have if the Browns had been 3-13 again and looking for a quarterback. This is a resilient area, and it always has been. And for once the Browns are resilient, so you've got to like that," he said.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.
Sean Fitzgerald is a senior journalism major at Kent State University. Sean has been with Black Squirrel Radio, Kent State's student-run radio station since the spring of 2018 as a sports show host and co-host, a web article contributor and now serves as the sports department director for the station. Sean hopes to pursue a career in sports journalism once he finishes school.