NFL DRAFT 1st ROUND
1. Cleveland Browns: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield
2. New York Giants: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley
3. New York Jets: USC quarterback Sam Darnold
4. Cleveland Browns: Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward
5. Denver Broncos: North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb
6. Indianapolis Colts: Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson
7. Buffalo Bills: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen
Whether it was the intrigue over which quarterback the Cleveland Browns would select first overall, or simply the fact that two New York teams had top-four picks, the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night enjoyed a ratings spike.
That’s significant because the NFL’s regular-season audience fell for the second consecutive year in 2017.
Thursday’s coverage from Dallas garnered an 8.4 Nielsen rating, according to the Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp, which is to say that an estimated 8.4 percent of households watched on either ESPN, Fox Sports, or the NFL Network.
The NFL has not responded to a request for confirmation.
That’s the draft’s best showing since 2014, when ESPN and NFL Network combined for an 8.7 rating, and a solid improvement over last year, when the same two networks managed only a 6.7.
The first round was moved to its own night for the first time in 2013, when it drew a 5.8. The previous year, when the first three rounds occurred on a Saturday, yielded only a 4.9, so the league was wise to break it up as it has.
The Giants and Jets probably deserve a lot of the credit for Thursday’s success. The former picked Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second selection while the latter added USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
USC’s Sam Darnold takes a selfie as he poses with fans after being elected by the Jets
Bronx-native and new father Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked second overall by the New York Giants
Whether it was the intrigue over which quarterback the Cleveland Browns would select first overall, or simply the fact that two New York teams had top-four picks, the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night enjoyed a ratings spike, finishing with an 8.4 overnight
Fans responded immediately to the pics, helping Barkley’s jersey generate more sales than any other first-round pick on Thursday, according to Fanatics.
Exact figures have not been released, but Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. predicted Barkley would be popular.
‘Btw 26 in the big blue jersey WILLL be the number one sellin Jersey in America next year,’ Beckham wrote on Twitter, referring to Barkley’s number with the Nittany Lions. ‘Takin all bets!!!? @saquon can’t wait Lil brudda.’
The official sales figures won’t be recorded until the players pick their numbers, according to ESPN.
NFL DRAFT 1st ROUND
8. Chicago Bears: Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith
9. San Fracisco 49ers: Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey
10. Arizona Cardinals: UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen
11. Miami Dolphins: Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea
13. Washington Redskins: Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne
14. New Orleans Saints: UT-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport
Another reason for the ratings boost may have been the situation atop the draft, where the Cleveland Browns selected Heisman Trophy winner and former Oklahoma Sooners star Baker Mayfield.
Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had been in consideration for the top pick, according to several reports, but he was passed over on Thursday after tweets he had written as a high schooler in 2013 emerged in which he used racial epithets.
According to Yahoo Sports, Allen repeatedly used the n-word in the tweets, and in one response to the question ‘Why are you so white?’, he replied: ‘If it ain’t white, it ain’t right!’
Allen’s response in this case seems to be a reference to the sit-com ‘Modern Family.’ Some of the other tweets, he explained to ESPN, either came from rap lyrics and there is a possibility that other tweets were actually written by his friends.
Whether or not the Browns passed on Allen because of the situation with the tweets is up for debate, but what is certain is that Mayfield will enjoy a more lucrative rookie contract because he was picked first.
Because rookie contracts are determined by draft position, Mayfield’s deal will be valued at about $32 million over four years, while will earn an estimated $21 million over his first four seasons, according to Spotrac.com.
Mayfield will have a cap figure in 2018 of $5.9 million, whereas the second-overall pick, Barkley, will earn $5.6 million in as a rookie. The 32nd and final pick in the first round will have a 2018 base salary of $1.7 million.
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. predicts his young teammate will sell a lot of jerseys
Beckham Jr. (pictured) hopes rookie Saquon Barkley can pull some defensive attention away from the All-Pro wide receiver, who happens to be coming off a season-ending injury
Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the podium after the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield as their pick during the first round of the NFL football draft
Despite falling to seventh overall, Josh Allen was all smiles after being drafted by Buffalo
The ratings uptick comes at good time for a league that lost some of its audience for the second consecutive season.
The average audience was 14.9 million viewers per game, down 9.7 percent from 16.5 million viewers in the 2016 regular season, according to Nielsen. The 2016 viewership was down eight percent from the previous year.
NFL DRAFT 1st ROUND
15. Oakland Raiders: UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller
16. Buffalo Bills: Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Florida State safety Derwin James
18. Green Bay Packers: Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander
19. Dallas Cowboys: Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
20. Detroit Lions: Arkansas center Frank Ragnow
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Ohio State center Billy Price
22. Tennessee Titans: Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans
23. New England Patriots: Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn
Beginning with now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2016 NFL preseason, many players generated nationwide controversy peacefully protesting inequality and police violence against minorities by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
The NFLPA, however, does not believe that Kaepernick caused NFL ratings to fall.
‘I think every bit of detailed analysis demonstrates that it is wrong,’ NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith told reporters ahead of Super Bowl LII in February. ‘There isn’t a television show, a news show that isn’t at least experiencing a double digit decline.
‘To try to pin declining ratings on any single thing is being intellectually dishonest.’
The NFL has also faced negative press over the ongoing issue with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – the long-term degenerative condition linked to head injuries that afflicted a number of deceased football stars. In August, a Boston University study diagnosed CTE in 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players as part of the biggest ever case series on the disease.
The danger of the sport has certainly affected mothers, 53 percent of whom would persuade their children to play another sport, up from 40 percent in 2014, according to the Journal.
Allen ultimately went seventh overall to Buffalo after the Bills traded their first-round pick, No. 12, and two second-round selections
Colin Kaepernick (No. 7) and his then-49ers teammates take a knee during the national anthem during the 2016 season. Many blame the peaceful protests for the league’s ratings decline
But despite the drop in viewership, 20 of the 30 highest-rated shows and 37 of 50 on television in 2017 were pro football games, and both NBC and ESPN had the most-watched shows every week of the season in terms of total audience and in all key male demographics.
The NFL’s Red Zone cable channel, which takes viewers to different games whenever there is a scoring opportunity, drew an estimated 1 million weekly viewers, although some have suggested that it hurt the league’s ratings overall by siphoning viewers away from the NFL’s network partners like CBS and Fox.
NFL DRAFT 1st ROUND
24. Carolina Panthers: Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore
25. Baltimore Ravens: South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst
26. Atlanta Falcons: Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley
27. Seattle Seahawks: San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan
30. Minnesota Vikings: Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes
31. New England Patriots: Georgia running back Sony Michel
32. Baltimore Ravens: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson
NBC’s ‘NFL Sunday Night Football’ was the most-watched program in prime time, with 18.2 million viewers this past season. That figure is down from 20.3 million viewers in 2016 and 22.5 million in 2015.
Furthermore, February Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that the league’s core audience is rapidly losing interest.
Among adults, the number of those who followed the sport closely dropped nine percent since 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal. What’s worse, only 51 percent of men between 18 and 49 say they follow the NFL closely, which is down from 75 percent only four years ago.
‘If I’m the NFL I’m freaking out about that a little bit,’ Republican pollster Micah Roberts told the Journal. ‘They are the very core of the football-viewing audience. If they’re retreating, then who’s left?’
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell defended the league’s ratings and earlier that month.
‘We always want ratings to go up, but we’re 37 of the top 50 shows, which is higher than ever,’ Goodell told reporters before the Jacksonville Jaguars’ playoff game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. ‘We’re likely to be the No. 1 show on Fox — excuse me, on all of television, the Fox Sunday afternoon game. Sunday night, prime time is for the seventh year in a row the No. 1 show. Thursday Night Football is No. 2.
‘I think dominance of the NFL in television is still very clear.’
MAYFIELD NAILS FAVRE DRAFT PIC
Baker Mayfield’s mother reportedly purchased wallpaper to match the wood paneling of Brett Favre’s childhood bedroom, and since they already had the jorts, all they needed was to decorate the space with pictures of Mayfield’s days in youth sports
Hours ahead of Thursday night’s NFL Draft, where he was picked first overall by the Cleveland Browns, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield took the time to precisely emulate his hero Brett Favre, right down to the trademark jorts.
Mayfield recreated the famous photo of Favre from 1991, when he learned he had been drafted out of Southern Mississippi by the Atlanta Falcons. Favre, who would go on to win a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, was seen laying down in his crowded bedroom with a cordless phone, a pair of jean shorts, and a wide grin – all of which Mayfield captured in his version on Wednesday night.
A native Texan, Mayfield has been likened to Favre for both his boisterous personality, southern roots (he’s from Texas), and reckless playing style
‘There are those people who are in your corner no matter what, you can’t do any wrong, even when you do wrong,’ Mayfield wrote in his Twitter post, quoting Favre. ‘And then there are those people that no matter what you do they’re going to dislike you and that’s not going to change.’
Favre seemed to enjoy the tweet and responded Thursday, ‘Good luck tonight….and remember to send my Jorts back tomorrow.’
A native Texan, Mayfield has been likened to Favre for both his boisterous personality, southern roots (he’s from Texas), and reckless playing style.
The Favre photo was originally taken by a local newspaper, but later spread to national magazines and television after Favre broke out as a member of the Packers.
According to ESPN, Mayfield’s mother purchased wallpaper to match the wood paneling of Favre’s childhood bedroom, and since Mayfield already had the jorts, all they needed was to decorate the space with pictures of the quarterback’s days in youth sports.
The entire project took roughly an hour, according to ESPN.
Brett Favre seemed to enjoy the tweet and responded Thursday morning