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With another NFL Draft in the books, we're taking a closer look back at the entire weekend, and which teams made unexpected moves that could drive changes and conversations in the months and years ahead.
5) Get ready for young quarterback derby in the AFC East. With Buffalo holding down the division title in just the third year for quarterback Josh Allen, the rest of the division has plenty to catch up for. Right on cue, here comes the pack: Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should improve significantly in year two, New England just drafted his teammate (and former backup) Mac Jones at pick No. 15, and the Jets will hope Zach Wilson lives up to all the Patrick Mahomes-like hype that followed his draft workouts. Obviously, with Allen already established as an MVP candidate the other three have plenty to live up to, but watching their development should make the AFC arguably football's most fascinating division across the next 4-5 years.
4) When in doubt, trust the helmet logo. The NFL Draft thrives on objectively collected centralized data. This year it had none. As a result, some of the more typical picks from "risky" profiles (i.e., smaller, less prestigious institutions) took a back seat to the traditional power programs. In some cases, they didn't come at all. Perhaps it was no surprise that Alabama and Ohio State led the way with 10 picks each, given their spots in the CFP National Championship game. They both landed 10 players with teams via the draft. Notre Dame and Georgia with nine, Michigan with eight and LSU with seven? Predictable. In fact, the heavy skew toward the strongest traditional programs was utterly predictable given the difficulties in getting individual face time with prospects and attending every Pro Day across the country. A few surprises from the Draft? That UCF, Pitt and Kentucky each landed six players certainly qualifies. given their combined 16-15 overall record.
3) The FCS still produced its annual five NFL Draft prospects. Actually, make it six if you count LSU linebacker Jabril Cox, who transferred from FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. That number tracks exactly with the 2020 FCS haul, with Division III Wisconsin Whitewater OL Quinn Meinerz landing in Denver in 2020, just as Division II Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger was picked by New England in 2020. The point? Despite the big boys taking the largest share of the draft picks, the minnows still landed their requisite contributions, none more significant than new 49ers quarterback Trey Lance.
2) All hail the smokescreens. It's almost impossible to know precisely how effective all the teen smokescreens were precisely because they were so pervasive that we can't tell which picks were intentionally misled by obfuscation, and which were just poor prognostication. This much we know: If the 49ers were always focused on Lance, they did a hell of a job convincing all those in the know that they were really focused on Mac Jones. We're also relatively certain that this is true: The Patriots almost certainly were focused on Mac Jones ahead of the other quarterbacks not named Trevor Lawrence, both because of his accuracy and decision making, and the fact that they downplayed him at every turn in an effort to make it seem like they weren't interested, all while apparently leaking their deep desire for Justin Fields (if they wanted Fields so badly, they much more easily could have moved up to select him rather than the Bears). Combined, the two acts of subterfuge were masterclasses in sleight of hand, with both teams eventually landing their signal caller of the future, albeit at vastly different costs of draft capital.
1) The worst of the NFL Draft prop bad beats came via an incredible run at the end of the first round. Entering Thursday night, the over/under on defensive players picked in the first round was 13.5. The final number was 14 ... thanks to a wild run that saw the final five picks of the round all come on the defensive side of the ball. Given the preponderance of offensive talent in the draft, and perceived offensive needs from at least a couple of the five teams casting those picks, having the final five picks all go to defense is a bit like a team leading by 13 in a game in which they're favored by 6.5 ... only for the opposing team to block a punt in the final minute and return it for a touchdown. We just hope you weren't one of the bettors to lose their shirt leaning heavy into the under.