The first round of the 2022 NFL draft was one of the more chaotic in recent memory, with nine trades including All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Brown and former first-rounder Marquise Brown. It was also the league's least-watched first round in a half-decade, but there are several reasons for that.
The draft, located this year in Las Vegas, commenced on Thursday with the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Georgia defensive end Travon Walker.
Between its ABC, ESPN and NFL Network broadcasts, the first round was watched by 10.03 million people, a number that is good for most things, just not the NFL. The number was down 2.5 million viewers from last season and more than 5 million from the record-setting 2020 draft.
In fact, it was the league's lowest number since 2016:
2021: 12.6 million
2020: 15.6 million
2019: 11.1 million
2018: 11.2 million
2017: 12.4 million
2016: 7.0 million
Any decline in ratings is a surprise in the NFL these days, but if you take a closer look at the circumstances of this year's event, it makes enough sense that the league probably doesn't have much to worry about.
Why did the NFL draft's ratings go down?
Teams without first-round picks: It doesn't take a genius to understand why NFL fans watch the draft. They want to see which player their teams add. And if, say, a quarter of the league's teams don't have a first-round pick, it's not hard to imagine a large chunk of fans won't bother tuning in.
That was the truth of the 2022 NFL draft, in which eight teams — the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams — had already traded away their first-round picks entering draft night. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals also traded out of the round on Thursday.
That group includes some of the NFL's largest markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The draft no longer being the highlight of the season for Cleveland also probably didn't help.
No big-name quarterbacks: You don't need me to tell you quarterbacks typically dominate NFL draft coverage. The whole draft process usually sees a handful of college football's top passers broken down and over-analyzed, and those are the players who end up being known by casual fans.
This year's draft definitely had quarterbacks, but the consensus entering the draft is there was no Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow. Only one quarterback ended up being taken at all on Thursday: Pitt's Kenny Pickett going 20th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fact Pickett wasn't even one of the two quarterbacks on hand in Vegas underscores just how foggy this year's quarterback group was.
The NBA playoffs: The 2020 and 2021 NFL draft are the two most-watched drafts in league history. It probably isn't a coincidence they are also the first drafts since 2012 to not hold their first rounds during the NBA playoffs.
That last two NBA playoffs have been moved from their usual spot in the sports calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the league returned to its usual mid-April start date, leaving fans to choose between the draft and series-clinching games for the Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks.