Draft Day: Is Sonny Weaver Jr. Based on a Real NFL Manager?

The 2014 sports film ‘Draft Day’ presents a unique football story by taking the viewers behind the scenes of the NFL (National Football League) and charting the journey of a General Manager as he builds his team for the season. After Sonny Weaver Jr., GM of the Cleveland Browns, procures the draft’s first pick through a risky trade, he has 12 hours to strategize and secure the best team he can. However, alongside the monumental pressure from the Browns community, Sonny also finds himself dealing with personal complications, such as his late father’s will and an unexpected pregnancy.

With the future of the Cleveland Browns resting firmly on his shoulders, Sonny must make the play of his career. The film delves into an unexpectedly fascinating aspect of the sports world. As such, it provides a thrilling account of the decisions that go towards any NFL team’s fate even before the games begin. However, given the film’s close connection to the major football league, fans are bound to wonder if the protagonist, Sonny, actually holds a basis in a real-life GM.

Sonny Weaver: Cleveland Browns’ Fictional Manager

No, Sonny Weaver Jr. from ‘Draft Day’ is not based on a real NFL General Manager. The film presents a fictionalized take on the 2014 NFL draft, fabricating high-stakes and thrilling plot twists. By doing so, the narrative showcases the true potential of nail-biting drama that can unfold on draft day when NFL teams make their final player picks. However, the film’s events have no real connection to how the 2014 draft unraveled in real life weeks after the film’s release.

In real life, Ray Farmer, the former Eagles’ linebacker, held the Cleveland Browns’ General Manager post in 2014. Nevertheless, the man had no participation in Sonny Weaver’s character creation, with the two sharing little more than their professional careers in common. Still, Farmer only had good things to say when asked about the film. “It’s a good movie,” Farmer shared in conversation with USA Today. “They tried to be true to what really transpires— emotions, interactions. That’s probably one of the most engaging parts about it.”

Furthermore, Farmer also confirmed that the film’s creators— screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph were in contact with other industry professionals to ensure authenticity within Sonny’s tale. In fact, the writers managed to interview Mike Tannenbaum, a former GM for the New York Jets, to pick his brain about their story’s probability. Their conversation ended up lasting for an hour and a half, providing Rothman and Joseph with invaluable first-hand perspective.

“He [Tannenbaum] told us about how teams employ retired cops or secret service agents who look into the backgrounds of players,” shared Joseph. “We would’ve never come up with that, and it aligned with an important theme in the script — how do you evaluate the guy, not the player?”

Consequently, the writers were able to procure a realistic sense of what constituted an NFL General Manager’s life, specifically on NFL draft day, and how it intervenes with their personal lives. Therefore, even though Sonny isn’t entirely modeled after Tannenbaum and his real-life experiences, the latter certainly helped in shaping Kevin Costner’s on-screen persona, infusing his actions and decisions with a sense of realism.

Inversely, Sonny’s personal life, outside of his involvement with the NFL, also informs a significant aspect of his character. In creating ‘Draft Day,’ Rothman and Joseph wanted to pen a story that stood on its own and appealed even to people who weren’t sports fanatics. For the same reason, they needed Sonny’s narrative to strike a balance between the pressure that comes with being an NFL GM as well as universal complications.

In an interview, Rothman referenced the appeal of the same and said, “[Then,] The fun part for me also was thinking about this as a guy who was dealing with the death of his father on the same day he’s dealing with the news of himself becoming a father. That’s a giant dramatic quandary that you don’t even need the NFL draft to add it to, but luckily, this was like our subplot.”

Thus, through a combination of an authentic interpretation of Sonny’s professional life with the relatable threads of his personal relationships, ‘Draft Day’ presents his character as a realistic NFL Team Manager. Nonetheless, Sonny Weaver Jr. is not an actual person and shares no firm ties with a possible real-life counterpart.

Read More: Is Draft Day Based on a True Story?