The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft drew 12.6 million viewers, the second largest audience ever

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces Kwity Paye as the Indianapolis Colts’ 21st selection during the first round of the 2021 NFL draft at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

Gregory Shamus | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

The National Football League’s opening night for its annual draft event drew an average of 12.6 million viewers across three networks, including ESPN and ABC.

It didn’t beat last year’s all-time high of 15.5 million viewers, but it’s up 11 percent from the 2019 draft (11.4 million). Before last year, the all-time high in 2014 was 12.4 million viewers. The 2020 NFL Draft was a purely virtual event due to Covid-19.

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted ex-Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick of 2021, followed by the New York Jets who took BYU’s Zach Wilson. A total of five quarterbacks and 18 offensive players were selected in the first round. It is the highest since teams drafted 19 offensive players in 2009.

Ja’Marr Chase, Trey Lance, Kyle Pitts and Rashawn Slater stand on stage ahead of the start of the first round of the 2021 NFL draft at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Gregory Shamus | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

This year’s draft reverted to a live event format for public reasons in Cleveland. A vaccinated Roger Gooddell hugged players who were drafted, and the NFL commissioner was also accompanied by a fan on stage for each selection.

Las Vegas is selected to host the NFL draft in 2022. The draft of the event was originally scheduled in the city last April but has been canceled due to the pandemic.

The draft for 2021 continues on Friday with rounds two and three. The remaining rounds (four to seven) are planned for Saturday. The draft will air on Disney Homes ABC and ESPN, as well as the league’s NFL network.

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