By Will Ober, Alex Hanono, and Matt Fleming [Header image credit: Canva]
With viewership up during the 2021 NFL season, a strong Super Bowl in Los Angeles, and an off-season filled with intrigue, the 2022 NFL Draft is riding a wave of interest in the league. The draft starts Thursday night with the first round, and continues through the weekend. Here are the storylines to watch.
After a virtual 2020 draft and a hybrid 2021 draft in Cleveland, the in-person draft in Las Vegas gives brands the opportunity to shift back to on-the-ground executions and fan experience. Twenty-one of the top prospects are expected to attend. It will be interesting, however, to see how much the online activity of the past two years still persists.
Ratings are expected to rise, despite a lack of quarterback star power compared to recent years. Last year there was no doubt the #1 pick would be QB Trevor Lawrence. This year, quarterbacks take a backseat to other positions like wide receiver and non-skill positions – a stark contrast from years past, in which the top five selections have often included 2-3 QBs.
This draft is also something of an anomaly in that there is no consensus #1 overall pick. This could add an element of excitement and buzz both on the ground and on television as fans, attendees and viewers wait to see who the Jacksonville Jaguars select as the first overall. The Jags have this privilege for the second consecutive year.
The NFL has already had one of its most unpredictable off-seasons with an explosive free agency period that has seen more movement of established veteran talent than arguably any other off-season. All of that movement in free agency has changed teams’ needs and approach to the draft, setting it up to unfold in an entertaining, twisty way. We could see surprising trades right before and mid-draft.
Players with great commercial appeal going into the draft:
- Sauce Gardner
- Kyle Hamilton
- Aidan Hutchinson
- Drake London
- Chris Olave
- Kenny Pickett
- Kayvon Thibodeaux
- Malik Willis
- Garrett Wilson
This year’s draft will be the first in which eligible players have had the ability to leverage their own name, image and likeness for commercial purposes through the NCAA’s loosening of its amateurism rules in 2021. It will be interesting to see if players with previous experience working with brands are the most commercially appealing as they turn professional. Although the majority of collegiate NIL deals have been regional or local, and not as big or far-reaching as deals with pros, brands may start to see the student-athlete partnerships as important proving grounds.
Several high-profile prospects have already worked with brands through NIL deals. Will brands and players continue relationships begun in college, or will they take this moment to hit reset?
Will Ober (New York), Alex Hanono (Los Angeles), and Matt Fleming (Dallas) are experts in procuring talent deals with celebrities, influencers and athletes. TMA is the number one brand-side agency in the business of procuring talent and IP.