The first ever virtual NFL Draft came and went over the last few days with little to no issues whatsoever and it couldn’t have happened at a better time with the current health crisis slowly but surely sucking all sports-specific thoughts and feelings out of the country.
Many people, including team executives from a number of the NFL clubs, actually admitted to preferring this type of draft as opposed to the traditional in-person event. Most coaches and general managers pointed to the increased time with their families as a huge benefit to this structure.
If the numbers are any indication of how the country felt about it, I’d say it might be here to stay. Obviously we must keep in mind everyone was stuck at home anyway, but NFL announced that this year’s draft was the most-watched in history, reaching more than 55 million viewers across the three-day event. The average audience numbers per day were up 35% over the 2019 draft. To add even more good news, the NFL also announced that the “Draft-A-Thon” raised more than $100 million for COVID-19 relief funds across the country.
Per the NFL’s memo:
“Each day of the 2020 NFL Draft established new highs as an average audience of over 15.6 million viewers watched Round 1 on Thursday (+37% vs. 2019), over 8.2 million viewers watched Rounds 2 & 3 on Friday (+40% vs. 2019), and over 4.2 million viewers watched Rounds 4-7 on Saturday (+32% vs. 2019).”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell became the center of attention throughout the first two days, and not because he was the only one reading off picks. By the end of the second day, Goodell looked so cozy sitting in his big leather chair that everyone thought he was going to fall asleep before the broadcast had finished.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts and collaboration of our clubs, league personnel, and our partners to conduct an efficient Draft and share an unforgettable experience with millions of fans during these uncertain times,” said Goodell.
“This Draft is the latest chapter in the NFL’s storied history of lifting the spirit of America and unifying people. In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of so many talented young men, we were pleased that this unique Draft helped shine a light on today’s true heroes – the healthcare workers, first responders, and countless others on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. We are also grateful to all those who contributed to the NFL family’s fundraising efforts.”