The 2018 NFL Draft official kicked off on Thursday, April 26 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. With the first overall pick, the Cleveland Browns rolled the dice on Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield out of Oklahoma. There was plenty of intrigue leading up to the start of this year’s draft — thanks to the confusion over which quarterback the Browns would ever turn to — and that was directly reflected by the early TV ratings that are being reported.
According to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily, the combined overnight rating for the first round on Thursday night was a whopping 8.3.
Last year, the combined overnight rating was 6.7.
Thursday night’s overnight number is the highest recorded since 2014, when the draft scored an 8.7 rating as the Houston Texans took Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 pick. The draft also featured Johnny Manziel and made history when Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to ever be drafted.
To be fair, the TV ratings this year benefitted from the addition of FOX nationally broadcasting the draft along with ESPN and the NFL Network. It was the first time ever that the NFL Draft aired on broadcast television.
A full breakdown of the television ratings dating back to 2013 — when the Kansas City Chiefs selected Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick.
NFL Draft combined overnight ratings: 1st round last few years:
2018: ESPN, Fox, NFL Net: 8.3
2017: ESPN, NFLN: 6.7
2016: ESPN, NFLN: 6.3
2015: ESPN, NFLN: 6.5
2014: ESPN, NFLN: 8.7
2013: ESPN, NFLN: 5.8
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) April 27, 2018
The 2018 NFL Draft resumes on Friday night for Day 2 which features the second and third rounds. The draft will then conclude on Saturday afternoon with Rounds 4-7 wrapping up the 83rd annual player selection.