Manziel’s Fall Triggers 48% Rise in ESPN’s Draft Ratings

The first round of the National Football League draft drew its highest major-market television rating ever on ESPN as Jadeveon Clowney became the No. 1 pick and quarterback Johnny Manziel dropped to No. 22.

Pushed back to May from April for the first time, the draft’s first round was seen in an average of 6.8 percent of U.S. homes in the top 56 television markets, the Walt Disney Co. television network said on Twitter. That’s a 48 percent rise from last year’s 4.6 major-market rating and the highest ever on ESPN, which has kept records since 1998.

Cleveland, with a 13.0 rating, led all markets as the Browns made three trades and drafted two players: cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 and Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, at No. 22.

Manziel, who played two seasons at Texas A&M University, confounded draft analysts, who projected that he would be selected anywhere from among the top five to the bottom of the first round. He waited 2 1/2 hours before being picked.

“I think it had a pretty big impact,” said Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media.

Neilsen calculates TV ratings by a combination of how many people are watching and how long they watch, Adgate said in a telephone interview.

“If he went in the top five, the viewership would be a lot lower than it was with him going No. 22,” Adgate said.

Houston, which took South Carolina defensive end Clowney with the top pick, had the second highest rating, an 11.6. Austin, Texas, was next highest at 11.3.

The draft also is broadcast simultaneously on the NFL Network.

“This year I’ve noticed more than ever an increase in coverage,” Adgate said of the leadup to the draft, which continues tonight and tomorrow. “It has really become a 12-month league.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at Jay Beberman

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