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NFL draft draws an astonishing amount of viewers and more than 300,000 fans in person

The NFL could probably turn its draft into a month-long event and nobody would mind.

It has slowly expanded. When the NFL broke off the first round into its own separate night, turning the draft into a three-day affair, there was some cynicism over it. But not from fans.

The total television viewing audience tells the story. The NFL announced it had 54.4 million viewers over the three-day event. There was an average audience of six million viewers across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and digital channels, the NFL said. That's up 12% from last year.

All to hear the commissioner and others read names of college players off of cards.

There was also some cynicism when the NFL decided to move the draft to different cities each year. It had been held in New York City for many years before a scheduling conflict with Radio City Music Hall in 2014 got the league thinking about making it an event with rotating host cities. That has been a great success too. The NFL said 312,000 fans attended the draft in Kansas City.

In terms of viewers and attendance, the NFL draft has become as big on the sports calendar as playoff games for other leagues and even plenty of NFL regular-season games. The question isn't whether the NFL made the right moves expanding the draft to three days or moving it around. It's whether the NFL feels it can make the event even bigger in the future.

Fans cheer during the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
Fans cheer during the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)