The first set of numbers are in, and the 2020 NFL Draft was a bigger hit than even the most optimistic forecasters expected.
The unusual video format, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, drew a Thursday audience of 15.6 millions viewers, up 37 percent from the 2019 viewership of 11.4 million for the first round. Friday’s second round saw a 40 percent rise in the ratings, climbing to 8.2 million.
In a nation hungering for live sports of any kind, the colossus that is the NFL put the ball in the end zone. The live look-ins to draftee homes, and to team officials as well, was warmly received, if the majority of internet and national media can be believed. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had fun at his own expense and showed a human side new to many observers.
The SEC once again absolutely dominated the action, having 63 players taken in the 255-member seven-round affair. The Big 10 was second with 48 draftees, with the PAC 12 having 32 players selected, the ACC 27 and the Big 12 21.
The SEC had 64 players taken in 2018 and 63 in 2019 as well. Even more impressive was the first three rounds, in which 40 of the 108 players were from SEC schools. LSU had 14 total draftees, Alabama nine, and Florida and Georgia nine each. Ohio State and Michigan each did well, with both schools landed 10 gridders on NFL lists.
Iowa had five players taken, with Tampa Bay scoring a coup by landing monster right tackle Tristan Wirfs at #13, doubtless generating a huge smile from Tom Brady. Buffalo snatched defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa at #54, a drop for the Hawk standout likely attributable to lackluster results in some games his senior year.
I thought there were three real head-scratchers in round one. The first came at number four, where the Giants passed on Isaiah Simmons, the Clemson jack-of-all-trades considered probably the best defender in the draft. Instead they went for UGA left tackle Andrew Thomas, who most had as the fourth or fifth best o-lineman. Arizona than happily snared Simmons with the eighth pick.
What the hell Green Bay was doing drafting Jordan “INT” Love is a mystery, unless they just wanted to rattle Aaron Rodgers’ cage. The Packers cemented a disastrous draft by not taking a single WR despite this being the most receiver-friendly group in a decade.
The final head shaker was Kansas City capping round one with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU. He is a fine talent, but with Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Ohio State back J.K. Dobbins available this was a reach.
I join the minority in thinking Philadelphia did well to latch onto Jalen Hurts in the second round. Starting QB Carson Wentz has a history of injury, and Hurts is the perfect backup for the Eagles. Head coach Doug Pederson, who is considered an offensive guru, could not stop smiling over grabbing Hurts. Who knows what the birds have planned?
The pick I think could be very sneaky good came from Pittsburgh at #102 when the Steelers turned to Charlotte and snared edge rusher Alex Highsmith. You will, I suspect, be hearing his name quite often.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley was thought by some to possibly be a fourth rounder when last season started, but he fell all the way to #244, when Minnesota picked him up. Two picks later Miami drafted Navy QB Malcolm Perry, who will try and see the field as a receiver or special teams player.
Do not sleep on anyone who makes the final roster of any NFL team. The league minimum salary for 2020 is expected to be $495,000, or 17 paychecks at nearly $30,000 (before taxes). Not a bad living, eh?
And those men who are relegated to the practice squad? Each is guaranteed $8,000 a week for each week they are retained. Not exactly chopped liver.
I, for one, enjoyed the new format. Next year the draft will be in Vegas, as it was scheduled to be this year. We can expect overblown bling and show-dog crap out the yang, which is too bad.
The way it was handled this year added class and an unique perspective, in my opinion. It made all involved seem more human and less remote.
Yes, I could have done without Trey Wingo’s ghastly suit Thursday and his incessant banter (shuddup!) that was clearly him reading off notes the research department handed him. He offered, in my view, little genuine insight, most of which came from Luis Riddick.
And ESPN went over the top with the sentimentality. Every player, it seemed, had overcome inhuman obstacles and faced personal hurdles unheard of. Yawn. They are all multi-millionaires now.
All of that said, was it not nice to experience live sports for a change? Oh how we as a nation miss our sports. The modern day Romans are longing for their bread and circuses. The sooner they return, the better.