How to watch the NFL Draft online for free—and without cable

After a year in which stadiums were largely empty, the NFL—and its fans—hope to see a return to normal this fall. And the first step in that journey kicks off Thursday with the NFL Draft.

After having to swap last year’s plans for a glitzy production from the Las Vegas Strip with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the first-round picks from his basement, the league aims to bring back a bit more razzle-dazzle in 2021.

Last year’s draft saw nearly 55 million viewers tune in, a number that will be hard to top. But the reintroduction of fans and live reactions of prospects could make it must-see TV.

We’re not quite as homebound as we were a year ago, so if you’re looking to keep up with the draft while you’re out and about—or have cut the cable cord in the past few months—there are still plenty of ways to watch.

When does the 2021 NFL Draft take place?

This year’s NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 29 and run through Saturday, May 1. Round one picks will be announced Thursday. Rounds two and three are announced Friday. And Saturday will air the final four rounds.

What time does the 2021 NFL Draft begin?

That depends on which day you’re watching.

Thursday’s coverage will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Friday’s coverage will start at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Saturday’s coverage will begin at 12:00 p.m. ET.

Which network or networks are airing the 2021 NFL Draft?

Several. ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network will each air all of the 2021 NFL Draft.

How can I watch the NFL Draft for free?

The best way to watch any sort of network programming for free on a big screen is with a good HD antenna. And with ABC airing the draft, you’ll be able to watch even if you don’t have a cable subscription. To ensure you’re getting the most reliable signal, be sure to test the antenna in multiple locations in your home.

Can I watch the 2021 NFL Draft online?

You can—in a variety of ways. If you’re not near a TV, you can log on to the WatchESPN app or the NFL app.

Prefer another option? Here are a few alternatives.

This free service lets you watch local broadcast channels with no monthly fees or contracts. The hiccup is that it only services select parts of the country.

Hulu + Live TV

You can try the service free for a week; you’ll then pay $65 per month.

YouTube TV

After a two-week trial, you can expect monthly charges of $65.

Sling TV

Dish Network’s Sling offers a lower-tier Orange plan that will run you $35 a month. A more comprehensive Blue plan bumps the cost to $50 per month. (Both have ABC.) You’ll have a seven-day free trial first—and right now, the cord-cutting service is dropping the first month’s bill to $10.


Formerly known as DirecTV Now and AT&T TVNow, AT&T’s streaming service will run you $70 per month and up. There is no longer a free trial option.


Disney’s bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ can be enjoyed for free for seven days, after which you’ll pay $12.99 per month for all three combined.

Fubo TV

This sports-focused cord-cutting service carries CBS in most markets. There’s a seven-day free trial, followed by monthly charges of $65 to $80, depending on the channels you choose.

Does the NFL offer any service for me to watch the 2021 NFL Draft?

Kind of.


The NFL App will let you stream games that are being broadcast locally in your market on Sundays. If you want to watch an “out of market” game, you’ve got two choices.

NFL Game Pass

There are couple of hitches with this service. You can’t use it to watch live games, but you can watch anything once its main broadcast ends. There’s a seven-day free trial, after which you’re looking at a $100 charge per season.

NFL Sunday Ticket

DirecTV customers have access to this service, but if you’re not a subscriber and live in an area where it’s not available, you can watch any NFL game live, online, or on TV for $73.49 per month or $293.36 for the entire season.

Can I watch the 2021 NFL Draft on Amazon?

Sadly, no. While Amazon will exclusively begin airing NFL Thursday night games in 2023, it has not yet secured any broadcast rights to the draft.

What’s the draft order for selections in 2021?

The order will vary by round, but here’s how things are shaping up for round one:
1. Jacksonville
2. NY Jets
3. San Francisco
4. Atlanta
5. Cincinnati
6. Miami
7. Detroit
8. Carolina
9. Denver
10. Dallas
11. NY Giants
12. Philadelphia
13. L.A.
14. Minnesota
15. New England
16. Arizona
17. Las Vegas
18. Miami
19. Washington
20. Chicago
21. Indianapolis
22. Tennessee
23. NY Jets
24. Pittsburgh
25. Jacksonville
26. Cleveland
27. Baltimore
28. New Orleans
29. Green Bay
30. Buffalo
31. Baltimore
32. Tampa Bay

Which players are first-round favorites in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Part of the thrill of the NFL Draft is how quickly things can change, but there’s little doubt about who will go first this year. Here are the expected top few draws:

  • Trevor Lawrence, Clemson – Often heralded as the best quarterback to enter the draft in 10 years, Lawrence is almost certain to be grabbed by Jacksonville on Thursday.
  • Zach Wilson, BYU – Any other year, Wilson would certainly be the first pick. The Jets have hardly made it a secret that they want him.
  • Justin Fields, Ohio State – The 49ers made a lot of deals to get the No. 3 pick this year, and they need to line up a replacement for Jimmy Garoppolo. Fields could fill that role.
  • Mac Jones, Alabama – It is, obviously, a banner year for quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide QB led his team to a National Championship in 2020.
  • Kyle Pitts, Florida – An All-American tight end by unanimous vote and winner of the 2020 John Mackey Award, he won’t last long in this year’s draft.

After the draft, what’s next?

The next milestone for the NFL is the release of the 2021 schedule on May 12 at 8 p.m. ET. The season will begin on Thursday, Sept. 9 and conclude in February 2022 with Super Bowl LVI.

This is going to be a slightly different NFL season, as the league has already said it plans to add a 17th game, which will be an interconference match-up. So, for example, the Jets will play the Eagles, the Steelers will take on the Seahawks, and the Chiefs will play the Packers.

Team policies on fan attendance—and stadium capacity limits—will be announced closer to the start of the season.

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