From Humble Roots to a Multi-Day Televised Event: NFL Drafts by the Numbers

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From Humble Roots to a Multi-Day Televised Event: NFL Drafts by the Numbers

The lobby of the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton, this is not.
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Draft season feels like it’s own football season with the amount of coverage the media gives it and the prospects. The draft gives fans much promise for their team, but do these promised heroes pan out? Looking at drafts in the 21st Century, we analyzed what the numbers have to say about the draft and how the players go on to perform. Here’s what we found.

First Overall Pick

Team Player College Position Year Drafted
CLE Baker Mayfield* Oklahoma QB 2018
CLE Myles Garrett* Texas A&M QB 2017
LAR Jared Goff* California QB 2016
TAM Jameis Winston* Florida St. QB 2015
HOU Jadeveon Clowney* South Carolina DE 2014
KAN Eric Fisher* Central Michigan OT 2013
IND Andrew Luck* Stanford QB 2012
CAR Cam Newton* Auburn QB 2011
STL Sam Bradford* Oklahoma QB 2010
DET Matthew Stafford* Georgia QB 2009
MIA Jake Long Michigan OT 2008
OAK JaMarcus Russell LSU QB 2007
HOU Mario Williams North Carolina St. DE 2006
SFO Alex Smith* Utah QB 2005
SDG Eli Manning* Mississippi QB 2004
CIN Carson Palmer USC QB 2003
HOU David Carr Fresno St. QB 2002
ATL Michael Vick Virginia Tech QB 2001
CLE Courtney Brown Penn St. DE 2000

*indicate active players

Usually awarded to the highest graded player, the first pick of the draft is usually tasked with turning the fortunes of a franchise. Because of this, quarterbacks are usually given this honour. Since 2000, 13 quarterbacks have been chosen with this prestigious pick. In fact, only three positions have ever been selected with the first pick: quarterbacks, defensive ends, and offensive tackles. Keyshawn Johnson was the last number one pick that didn’t play any of the positions listed, and that was 1996.

However, not all number one picks become successful. In fact, excluding the latest number one pick, four of them have never made a Pro Bowl. Also, only two of the first overall picks have won a super bowl: Eli Manning and David Carr.

First Round

Being drafted in the first round holds a lot of meaning to players. Not only is it the round that is broadcast primetime, but it usually means that player is that team’s top choice for the year. The expectations are much higher—as is the paycheque.

Almost every position has been selected in the first round, including a kicker, but the most common position selected in the first round is defensive back, including its various iterations (cornerback and safety).

The school that produced the most first rounders is the University of Miami. However, recently the school has not been able to produce the same quality of talent. In 2018, they did not have a player selected in the first round. Alabama, regarded as one of the best college teams, have the third most first rounders, but their success is more recent.

There have been 53 quarterbacks selected in the first round, so 25 percent of quarterbacks selected in the first round are number one picks. Of the 53 selected in the first round, four have come from The University of Southern California, but ironically, none of them are listed as starting QB’s and played a combined five games between the three of them, in 2018.

Of the 53 quarterbacks taken in the first round, 32 of them never made a Pro Bowl. There were also two first round quarterbacks to have never been the number one QB on their team, Paxton Lynch and Johnny Manziel.

Late Round Gems

The first round may be where all the big names are, but on Sundays, the names called on day three will be the better known. The last rounds of the draft are long and not fun to watch, but some of the NFL’s best were picked here.

Looking at the Pro Bowl roster from this past year, most of them were first round selections, however notable names, like Tyreek Hill, Antonio Brown, Adam Thielen, and Alvin Kamara were not first day selections. About 42% of the roster were not first round selections.

*Excludes kickers, punters, long snappers, and special teamer.

In fact, of the players drafted that have never made a Pro Bowl, eight per cent of them were drafted in the first round.

The most successful players do come from the first round of the NFL draft, but it is unfair to rule out anyone else draft in the later rounds.

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