2014 NFL Draft: 1st round draws highest ratings ever

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Fans apparently didn't mind the wait, tuning into the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft in record numbers Thursday.

SB Nation 2014 NFL Draft

The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was a big success for the league, drawing record-high overnight television ratings. According to ESPN's Bill Hofheimer, ESPN drew a 6.8 rating for its live coverage Thursday night. Per NFL.com's Brian McCarthy, the NFL Network combined with ESPN to draw an 8.64 rating, which represents a 50 percent increase from 2013 figures.

That ratings grew shouldn't come as a shock. The NFL Draft has seemingly become a bigger spectacle every year, and this year's first-round class was particularly deep. Players like Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater were talented yet controversial prospects who likely helped draw eyeballs to TV screens. Case in point: Hofheimer reports that Cleveland led all markets with a 13-share, followed by Houston (11.6) and Austin (11.3), Texas.

The big question is how the NFL interprets the numbers. Roger Goodell has said that he is considering moving the draft back to May permanently, to the chagrin of fans weary from the extended draft process. This year's ratings boost seemingly supports moving the date, though that argument ignores the impact of this year's talent-rich cast and a slew of draft-day trades.

The NFL is not above tinkering with its products, perhaps because it knows it can't do much wrong. The 2014 Pro Bowl suffered a slight ratings drop despite a drastic overhaul of the format, though it competed against the Grammys. This past season's Super Bowl was still incredibly lucrative despite a lopsided outcome.

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