More than 6.6 million people watched the first-round NFL draft coverage on ESPN last year. Buzz about Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and others will likely draw many more viewers this year, experts predict, as the National Football League’s 2014 draft runs Thursday night through Saturday, spanning more than 50 hours of live coverage.

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A clean UI helps Fantasy Football users better decide whom to play based on real-time big data analytics of the SAP Player Comparison Tool and decades’ worth of NFL data.

“Both ESPN and NFL Network suits have been looking forward to this draft for some time,” Sports Illustrated stated this week. “The NFL Network’s first-round coverage last year averaged 1.5 million viewers, up 7 percent over 2012.”

That’s about 8 million people watching — not a game — but the draft, seeing which teams pick which players. As for the games, about 200 million television viewers watched the 2012 regular season, which accounts for 80 percent of U.S. television households.

“Domestically, there are 188 million self-identified fans,” Vishal Shah, NFL vice president of Digital Media Business Development, told SAP TV. “Producing media offerings and technology solutions that service them is something that we find to be both a challenge and a privilege.”

One of those offerings is Fantasy Football, which pits online users against each other as general managers of teams that draft real NFL players and compete in virtual games. Users can get an edge in their draft with the SAP Player Comparison Tool, an SAP HANA-based, SAP Lumira cloud-driven tool that offers real-time insights.

The tool also contains data from every play that has ever happened in an NFL game.

“There’s a massive amount of data coming from many different directions,” Cory Mummery, NFL senior director of Fantasy Football & Product Media, told SAP TV. “We also wanted to build a very simple user interface on top of that.”

The tool helps users cut through the clutter of superfluous data, using real-time and archived information to evaluate NFL players in terms of performance, consistency and other factors. The technology and clean UI enable Fantasy Football users to better decide whom to play.

“Having someone with a technological scale and know-how, such as SAP, to deliver on that tool gives us the confidence to know that the fan is going to have a great experience,” Brian Rolapp, COO of NFL Media, told SAP TV.

About 32 million people played fantasy sports in North America in 2010. Through the SAP Comparison Tool and SAP Services, SAP enhances the NFL’s ability to build its fan base, business and user trust from the first-round draft to the Super Bowl and beyond.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

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