Each May, National Football League general managers wheel and deal, trying to sign the best college players. So, when Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) of the Cleveland Browns gets a call from the Seattle Seahawks, offering to trade their star quarterback, he must decide whether he's willing to sacrifice his first, and perhaps only, chance to build his own dream team, for what looks like a "sure thing."
Sonny's in a bind. His fabled coach father died the week before and his spunky girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner), the team's salary-cap manager, just informed him that she's pregnant. Sonny really wants linebacker Vonte Mack (Chadwick Boseman), who will serve the team in the long run. Besides, the Browns already have a strong quarterback (Tom Welling), now fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him much of last season.
On the other hand, the head coach (Denis Leary) desperately wants running back Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), whose father (NFL vet Terry Crews) was also a Brown. And the team's owner (Frank Langella), tells him his job's on the line unless he picks a winner.
Written by Rejiv Joseph and Scott Rothman and directed by Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters," "Stripes," "Kindergarten Cop"), this sports dramedy is, basically, about having the courage of your convictions -- with split screens effectively heightening the tension. The pressure takes place behind closed doors in the executive offices, as opposed to the playing field, while statisticians observe that sometimes first-round picks turns out to be duds, while a sixth-rounder, like New England's Tom Brady, excels.
Costner ("Bull Durham," "Field of Dreams") is solid, as are Garner and Leary, with Ellen Burstyn as embattled Sonny's outspoken mother and Sean Combs as a slick agent. Cameos by real-life Browns, past and present, include legendary Jim Brown, plus sports figures Chris Berman, Mel Kiper, Jon Gruden, Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Draft Day" scores a shrewdly suspenseful 6. Not as good as "Jerry Maguire" or "Moneyball," but football fanatics undoubtedly will enjoy it.