The NFL’s decision to move the draft back two weeks this season drew almost unanimous derision in a poll of PFT Planet and it wasn’t hard to find similar opinions being presented around the country recently.
People may not have liked the change, but it certainly didn’t stop them from watching the first round on Thursday night. ESPN announced in did a 6.8 overnight rating for the first round, the top rating for a first round in the network’s history and an almost 50 percent increase over viewership from last year. Adding NFL Network numbers makes for an 8.64 preliminary rating that also represents a steep increase over last year.
Those numbers will certainly be cited often by the league if they choose to keep the draft in the first week of May or push it even further into the month, although a deeper look suggests they may want to find a way to make Johnny Manziel eligible for the draft again in 2015. Cleveland was ESPN’s highest-rated market on the night while the highest rated 15 minutes of the night came when Dallas was on the clock with Manziel still available.
Manziel won’t be in the draft again next year whenever they choose to hold it, of course, and that might mean a lower rating. It isn’t going to mean a low rating, though, and the extended time may allow the league to find narratives each year that guarantee the extra waiting time doesn’t result in less interest.