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2021 NFL Draft hits second-highest Day 1 viewership ever

The 2021 NFL Draft kicked off with a bang on Thursday night, as viewership numbers for Day 1 were the second highest ever recorded at 12.6 million.

The 2021 NFL Draft was a raging success in terms of viewership on Day 1. According to an NFL press release, the draft’s first-round action live from Cleveland hit 12.6 million TV and digital viewers, which was the second-highest figure of all-time and marked an 11% increase from 2019.

One major factor that helped boost the viewership was the prevalence of AMA streaming, which saw a 54% surge from 2019’s numbers.

Between the multitude of viewing options on TV with the ESPN, ABC and NFL Network telecasts, the prevalence of streaming and the perpetually growing fanfare surrounding the NFL Draft, it’s hardly a surprise to see the numbers as high as they were.

Multiple unique factors drove high 2021 NFL Draft viewership

This was also a special year for the draft for a variety of reasons. It came on the heels of 2020’s all-virtual event, which is why the league compared the viewership numbers to 2019. This year’s proceedings also featured a ton of hype due to the number of star quarterback prospects.

Trevor Lawrence went first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, followed by Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers. That marked the first time three QBs went in succession to begin a draft since 1999.

Obviously, the quarterback position offers plenty of intrigue as the most vital and scrutinized position in major North American sports. Once the 49ers went on the clock, the suspense really began, because San Francisco chose Lance over Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones, who were all viewed as potential selections there.

Fields wound up going to the Chicago Bears, and the New England Patriots drafted Jones. Those two iconic franchises now have new quarterbacks to spearhead their next era.

With so many fun storylines around the 2021 NFL Draft and plenty of great players still available in the next six rounds, it’ll be fascinating to see how viewership shakes out for the remainder of the festivities.