By JAIME HERNANDEZ
The National Football League’s college amateur selection show, otherwise known as the NFL draft, has become a pop culture phenomenon over the past several years.
Last year, the first round alone drew more than 25.3 million viewers. It outdrew ABC, CBS and FOX combined for that time slot.
One main reason was the two players who headlined last year’s draft, quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The entire football world wondered who Indianapolis would select with the first pick.
In addition to those two, the country was curious about landing spots for plenty of other college superstars, such as quarterback Russell Wilson, running back LaMicheal James and cornerback Morris Claiborne.
This year’s rookies don’t carry the same type of star power. Geno Smith is the only quarterback worthy of a first-round selection, and he may not go in the top 10.
Most of the stars come from the defensive and offensive lines this year. You hear names like offensive tackle Luke Joeckel or defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. The only skill-position player who is even mentioned on the list of top 15 prospects is cornerback Dee Milliner.
The Pac-12 has just two major prospects in the top 25 of most draft boards: defensive end Dion Jordan from Oregon and defensive back Marcus Trufant from Washington.
Don’t worry, the NFL doesn’t mind at all. They know they have something the public desperately wants. For three hours on a Thursday night and for 22 weekend hours over the weekend, football will retake center stage.
The league knows that people in Arizona will be glued to their TVs to see if the Cardinals select a quarterback or an offensive lineman, for example.
And fans everywhere want to see how the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens plan on filling all the holes that free agency blew in their roster.
They also want to know how the 49ers will improve their team to make another Super Bowl run.
So even though there might not be a superstar player to drive up ratings, the NFL knows that in 32 cities across the country there will still be plenty of eyes glued to TV sets April 25-27.
With the draft comes hope for many NFL fans. And where there is hope, there are legions of fans willing to spend money to watch their teams play on Sundays.
At the end of the day, that is all the NFL cares about.