2014 NFL Draft: What Drove the Most Conversation on Twitter?

  2014 NFL Draft header


The NFL Draft, the highlight of every football fan’s offseason, aired last week from Thursday, May 8, to Saturday, May 10.

Thursday night’s primetime event attracted the highest TV ratings ever for the NFL Draft and generated just over 7 million tweets.

This spike was due to a particularly talented pool of players and some engaging national story lines.

Which Players Were Discussed Most Frequently on Twitter?

The first round of the Draft usually receives the most engagement because it takes place during primetime and focuses on the most talented, well-known players. During this year’s draft, however, Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam each generated more conversation individually than the top 5 draft picks combined.

Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam

Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has attracted a ton of media attention for his actions off the field and has been a popular topic of conversation among NFL fans. Manziel slipped to the 22nd pick of the first round when he was selected by the Cleveland Browns. The organic hashtag #BeforeManzielGetsDrafted poked fun at the fact that Manziel was chosen later than expected. The hashtag, which trended nationally on Twitter on Thursday night, garnered more than 117,000 tweets within the first hour of the Draft.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted to the NFL, was selected on Saturday afternoon by the St. Louis Rams. Despite considerably lower Twitter engagement on Day 3 of the Draft, Sam was mentioned in more than 10% of total Draft-related posts. Of conversation about Michael Sam, 13% specifically referred to his celebratory kiss with his boyfriend after being drafted, and 4% described the moment he was drafted as “emotional” or “historic.”

Which Teams Were Discussed Most Frequently on Twitter?

Despite relatively small fanbases, the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns attracted more posts than any other teams because of Michael Sam and Johnny Manziel. After the top two teams, however, fanbase size became a significant driver of team conversation. The Houston Texans, who had the first overall selection in the Draft and play in the city with the fourth highest population in the US, generated slightly less conversation than the Browns. Other teams located in densely populated cities, like the New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys, finished within the top 10 for Twitter engagement.

Top Tweeted NFL Cities


How Much Did the Draft Impact Twitter Conversation?

This year’s Draft set TV viewership records, but as a social media analytics company, we are more interested in how that engagement translated to Twitter. Twitter conversation about the Draft skyrocketed during Round 1 on Thursday and remained high long after primetime television hours.

NFL Draft day 1 conversation


There was a much smaller bump during airtime on Day 2 (Friday), but we still saw still significant engagement about the Draft throughout the day.

NFL Draft day 2 Twitter Conversation


While Day 3 (Saturday) attracted the lowest Twitter engagement of any day, there was a noticeable bump immediately after Michael Sam was drafted.

Twitter conversation NFL Draft day 3


Twitter has given the league, the teams, and the fans a platform for open and direct dialogue both during the Draft and during games. As a live event that drew fans from every team, the NFL Draft was a goldmine for Twitter engagement. Many fans will break off into team-specific conversation as the season approaches, but we will continue to monitor emotional conversation surrounding these national headlines.

Source: Twitter • Total Posts: 12,637,665 • Dates: 5/8/2014 - 5/11/2014