NEW YORK — If the NFL needs proof of the popularity of a May draft, it has 32 million reasons.
Thursday's first-round coverage on ESPN and the NFL Network drew a combined viewership of 32 million, based on at least one minute of viewing, making it the most-viewed Round 1, the Nielsen Co. said. The 32 million is up from 2013's 25 million.
Thursday's combined ESPN and NFL Network coverage averaged a record 12.4 million viewers, topping the 8.3 million in 2010. It was the most-watched program on cable TV and second-most-watched overall.
Because Radio City Music Hall was not available for the draft's usual late April slot, the league moved the date.
Sam disappointed: Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted, said he should have been picked earlier than late in Round 7 by St. Louis. "From last season alone, I should've been in the first three rounds," he told the Rams' website. "SEC defensive player of the year, All-American."
Dolphins: The team fined cornerback Don Jones an undisclosed amount and ordered him to undergo educational training for his Saturday Twitter posts about Sam. Jones posted "omg" when TV showed Sam kissing his boyfriend after being drafted. Jones replied "horrible" to a Twitter follower asking if he was referring to the kiss. Jones apologized Sunday.
Bears: Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013, signed as a running back. FSU linebacker Christian Jones signed.
Chargers: Auburn cornerback Chris Davis, who returned a missed field goal for the winning touchdown against Alabama last season, signed.
Colts: Erik Swoope, who played only basketball at Miami, signed.
Eagles: Florida tight end Trey Burton signed, as did Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who will be a receiver or defensive back.
Vikings: Quarterback Kain Colter, who played a leading role in Northwestern players exploring forming a union, signed. He will play receiver.