Draft Day is finally here. For the NFL’s top prospects, the past three months have been the longest, most heavily scrutinized job interview of their lives. These athletes have spent every day on display — performing at the Combine, in team interviews, and speaking with media — all with hopes to improve their draft stock.

The process also provides a window of opportunity for these athletes to build their brands beyond the field. Following the Super Bowl, the top prospects are the focal point of NFL media. Many players spend this period carefully protecting their image against scrutiny.

Others take advantage of the pre-draft process. They leverage the once-in-a-lifetime platform to plant their flag in the ground, setting the foundation of their brand for years to come.

As athlete branding expert Jeremy Darlow says:

Last night, Baker Mayfield took a page out of Darlow’s book and did his best to “stop the internet.” Alongside his family and marketing team at Waterhouse Hayes, Mayfield shared a recreation of one of the most iconic images in NFL Draft history.

“We knew how iconic that photo was, and given his relationship with Brett, thought it would be a great way to pay tribute to him and continue to show the uniqueness that is Baker Mayfield,” said Patrick Hayes of Waterhouse Hayes. — Read the full story at Front Office Sports. 

Activations like this and the athlete-driven Behind Baker series have positioned Mayfield as one of the brand winners of the pre-draft process, but he’s hardly alone. We measured performance — activity, engagement, audience size, and growth — on Instagram and Twitter to find the strongest athlete brands in the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

Instagram

While Baker and Saquon Barkley have the most impressive audiences, Shaquem Griffin may be the biggest winner from the pre-draft process.

Griffin’s audience has grown by more than 500% on social.

Since wrapping up his college career at UCF with a perfect season, Griffin has shared his inspiring story everywhere from the Today Show to E:60. But Griffin’s media tour and draft prep haven’t deterred from building his personal channels. Griffin frequently shares content from his workouts, pre-draft opportunities, and his alma mater. Following the Peach Bowl, Griffin’s audience has grown by more than 500% on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Twitter

While the lineup looks similar to Instagram, Lamar Jackson takes the top spot on Twitter. With daily posting habits, Jackson keeps his audience constantly engaged and growing, adding more than 80 thousand followers since January 1, 2018. His brand is built around speed, and he often shares that highlights of that speed in Throwback Thursday videos from high school and retweets of Louisville content.
As the Draft begins tonight, we’ll see the players’ audiences explode with an influx of new fans who can’t wait to follow their team’s newest star.  Follow @opendorse to see how the athletes grow and who steals show at the 2018 NFL Draft.