According to ProFootballTalk, the boost from Fox and ABC networks made the 2018 draft the most watched in league history. While the 11.2 million viewers of the first round were still heavily outpaced by the 32 million who tuned in for 2014, the three day event amassed an average of 5.5 million viewers. 2.9 million viewers on Saturday was a record high for the last day of the draft.
Brian McCarthy, a public relations representative for the league office, reported a total audience of 45.4 million, with ratings up 25 percent versus last year.
Just how big has the #NFLDraft become? Total audience for '18 was 45.4 MILLION. W/ a combined 3.57 HH rating & 5.5M viewers over the three days, '18 Draft is highest-rated & most-watched Draft ever. Rating & viewership up by 25%, 20% respectively vs. '17— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) April 30, 2018
The league can thank the Ravens for keeping the first round interesting up until the final selection, when Baltimore traded up to snag their quarterback of the future in Lamar Jackson. Whether it was the first round “slide” of Josh Rosen, the pre-draft drama surrounding Josh Allen or the inspiring day three story of UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin joining his twin brother in Seattle, the draft featured enough intrigue throughout to keep viewers engaged, ultimately resulting in the viewership the NFL was desperate to regain.
With Power 5 names set to make an immediate impact on all 32 rosters, the league will hope to carry the momentum from the draft into the fall. The NFL will strive to replicate the draft rebound in the regular season, as televisions ratings where down by 9.7 percent last year according to Nielsen, continuing the 8 percent decline of 2016. While the 2018 draft class cannot mend the political fracturing taking place in both locker rooms and fans’ homes, the parade of new faces drafted at quarterback may help to overshadow the narrative and mask the divide.
The allure of a changing of guard that could shift the competitive landscape leads football deprived fans to find perhaps false hope or continued skepticism in the future of their favored franchise. While this rookie class has yet to play a down of professional football, the idea that one draft day steal or spot-on evaluation could change the entire tide will hold people’s attention until the preseason gives way to reality.