2021 NFL Draft: Looking back at where the 1st round was projected in the spring of 2020

1 Jacksonville Jaguars:  QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson – Everyone had him as a # 1 pick in the spring of 2020 and even before that. Most people thought he was going to be the #1 pick when they saw him as a true freshman at Clemson spring game before his freshman year even started.

2 New York Jets:  QB Zach Wilson, BYU – No one had Wilson as a 1st round pick in the spring of 2020 and even BYU did not know if he was even going to start.

3 San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State – Lance was a hot QB coming off his 2019 season, and many thought he was a 1st round QB but not a Top 5 player.

4 Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida – In the spring of 2020 many had Pitts as a 1st round pick, just not a top 5 player.

5 Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU – Because of Chase great 2019 season many had him as a Top 5 player in the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020 and end up going there.

6 Miami Dolphins: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama – Waddle was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

7 Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon – Sewell was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

8 Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina – In the spring of 2020 no one was talking about Horn as a 1st round pick, he was coming off a decent season in 2019, but no one thought he was a 1st rounder, let alone a top 10 pick.

9 Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama – Surtain was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

10 Philadelphia Eagles:  WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama – Smith was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

11 Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State – Fields was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020, and some even had him as high as projected as the #2 overall player and 2nd QB drafted. 

12 Dallas Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State – Parson was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

13 Los Angeles Chargers:  OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern – Slater had one of the higher grades in the spring by the NFL scouting services and was projected as a 1st round grade and end up opting out of the 2020 season.

14 New York Jets: OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC – In the spring of 2020 Vera-Tucker was coming off a particularly good sophomore season in 2019 playing at left guard, but was not projected as a 1st round pick, but showed versatility playing left tackle in 2020 and that help him move up team boards.

15 New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama – Jones started at the end the 2019 season but there was no guarantee he would be the starter in 2020 and no one had him as a 1st round graded player.  His outstanding 2020 season but him in places to be in the 1st round.  

16 Arizona Cardinals: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa – In the spring of 2020 no one had Collins as 1st round grade, he was coming off a nice 2019 season but blew up in 2020 winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik award, and was the Lombardi Award winner.  

17 Las Vegas Raiders:  OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama – No one projected Leatherwood to be a 1st round pick in the spring of 2020 or even in the spring of 2020, in fact many teams had him as a 3rd round prospect in the spring of 2020.

18 Miami Dolphins: DE Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL) – In the spring of 2020 many people did not think Phillips would be even playing college football, yet alone be a 1st round draft pick.

19 Washington Football Team: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky – In the spring of 2020 no one thought Davis would be a 1st round, even after declaring after the 2020 season many people had him projected as a 3rd round pick.

20 New York Giants: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida – Many scouts in the spring of 2020 had Toney with a 5th round grade but had an outstanding 2020 season pushing him up teams’ boards. 

21 Indianapolis Colts: DE Kwity Paye, Michigan – Paye in the spring of 2020 was thought of as a high 2nd round prospect.

22 Tennessee Titans:  CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech – Farley was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

23 Minnesota Vikings: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech – In the spring of 2020 Darrisaw was not projected as a 1st round pick but was coming off an exceptionally good sophomore season and many had him projected as most likely a top 100 prospect. 

24 Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama – Harris in the the spring of 2020 was thought of as a high 2nd round prospect.

25 Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson – Etienne was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

26 Cleveland Browns: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern – In the spring of 2020 Newsome was not projected as a 1st round pick.  His sophomore season was good where he ranked 2nd in the Big 10 in pass break-ups but had an outstanding 2020 season to help make him a 1st round pick.

27 Baltimore Ravens:  WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota – Bateman was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020, and some had him as high as a top 10 pick. 

28 New Orleans Saints: DE Payton Turner, Houston – Turner in the spring of 2020 was graded by many scouts as an undrafted free-agent. His outstanding 2020 season along with him play at the Senior Bowl helped him be a 1st round pick.

29 Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia – In the spring of 2020 was not projected as a 1st round pick and even many mock drafts right before the 2021 NFL Draft no one had him projected to get drafted in the 1st round.  He did a have an exceptionally good 2020 season and during the pre-draft process tested very well.

30 Buffalo Bills: DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL) – Rousseau was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020, and many had him as a top 10 pick. 

31 Baltimore Ravens: DE Odafe Oweh, Penn State – In the spring of 2020 Oweh was not projected as a 1st round pick, and even had more production on the field in 2019 vs 2020 but him Pro Day he tested very well and showed he had elite traits and that help make him a 1st round pick.

32Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Joe Tryon, Washington – In the spring of 2020 Tryon was not projected a 1st round pick. He showed enough in 2019 season that was on the radar and many people had him projected as being a Top 100 prospect and was able to move in the first round as scouts went and review the 2019 season and his pre-draft process. 

2021 NFL Draft: Non-Power 5 Conference Report

A lot of people believe that the NFL Draft is made up of the Power 5 college football conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC & Pac-12) in college football but that is not totally the case.  If we take a look at the past 5 NFL Draft we see that there are a good amount of draft picks that come from other levels of college football.

2021 NFL Draft (259 picks):

49 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (18.9%)

4 of those 49 Non-FBS

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson, BYU – 1st round 2nd overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Denver Broncos C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater (D3)- 3rd round 98th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2020 NFL Draft (255 picks):

58 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (22.7%)

9 of those 53 Non-FBS

Green Bay Packers QB Jordan Love, Utah State – 1st round 26th overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

New England Patriots Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne- 2nd round 37th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2019 NFL Draft (254 picks):

53 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (20.8%)

16 of those 53 Non-FBS

Buffalo Bills DT Ed Oliver, Houston – 1st round 9th overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Houston Texans OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State- 1st round 23rd overall was earlies Non-FBS pick.

2018 NFL Draft (256 picks):

63 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (24.6%)

22 of those 63 Non-FBS

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen, Wyoming – 1st round 7th overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert – 2nd round 49th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2017 NFL Draft (253 picks):

43 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (16.9%)

15 of those 43 Non-FBS

Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan – 1st round 5thoverall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Chicago Bears TE Adam Shaheen, Ashland – 2nd round 45th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2016 NFL Draft (253 picks):

57 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (22.5%)

20 of those 57 Non-FBS

Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State -1st round 2nd overall was earliest Non-Power 5 and Non-FBS pick.

So just remember if you are in a Power 5 conference there are other guys looking to get drafted just as high as you are and if you are not in a Power 5 conference it doesn’t matter if you can play football the NFL will find you

2021 NFL Draft: Conference Breakdown

Overall Picks:

SEC: 65
Big Ten: 44
ACC: 42
Pac-12: 28
Big 12: 22
American: 19
Independent FBS: 15
C-USA: 4
Sun Belt: 4
MAC: 4
MVFC: 4
Mount West: 3
MEC: 1
MIAA: 1
NSIC: 1
Southland: 1
WIAC: 1

By 1st round picks:

SEC: 12
Big 10: 7
ACC: 6
Pac-12: 3
The American: 2
Independent: 1
MVFC: 1

NFL Draft: 5 Year Draft Averages by Position (2021-2017)

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books here is the average amount of players drafted at each position over the past 5 years (2016-2020) and the highs and lows.

QB – Average amount drafted – 11.4 – High amount drafted 13 (2020, 2018) Low amount drafted 10 (2021, 2017)

RB– Average amount drafted – 21.2 – High amount drafted 26 (2017) Low amount drafted 18 (2021, 2020)

FB – Average amount drafted – 1.2 – High amount drafted 2 (2017, 2018) Low amount drafted 0 (2020)

WR – Average amount drafted – 32.8 – High amount drafted 36 (2021) Low amount drafted 28 (2019)

TE – Average amount drafted – 13.4 – High amount drafted 16 (2019) Low amount drafted 11 (2021)

OT – Average amount drafted – 20.8 – High amount drafted 25 (2021) Low amount drafted 16 (2017)

OG – Average amount drafted – 13 – High amount drafted 18 (2020) Low amount drafted 10 (2018)

C – Average amount drafted – 7 – High amount drafted 9 (2020) Low amount drafted 5 (2019)

DE – Average amount drafted – 25.4 – High amount drafted 34 (2021) Low amount drafted 18 (2020)

DT – Average amount drafted – 20.2 – High amount drafted 21 (2019, 2017) Low amount drafted 19 (2021)

LB – Average amount drafted – 31.4 – High amount drafted 39 (2018) Low amount drafted 21 (2021)

CB – Average amount drafted – 32 – High amount drafted 38 (2021) Low amount drafted 27 (2020)

S – Average amount drafted – 20.4 – High amount drafted 23 (2017) Low amount drafted 18 (2018)

K – Average amount drafted – 2.2– High amount drafted 3 (2017, 2020) Low amount drafted 1 (2021)

P – Average amount drafted – 1.8 – High amount drafted 4 (2018) Low amount drafted 0 (2017)

East-West Shrine Bowl Canceled – What that means for 2021 NFL Draft Prospects

Yesterday the East-West Shrine Bowl canceled their 2021 all-star game, because of Covid-19 concerns. 

The annual college football all-star game, the oldest event of its kind which goes back to 1925 was scheduled to be played on January 23 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  From last season’s game there is 98 players on NFL rosters who played on it. 

Because of this there will be one less post-season all-star game for prospects to go to and there is rumors that the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will not be played either.  The Senior Bowl has said they are still planning on going forward with their event, but it will be something to watch.

All-Star games are especially important for prospects in many ways – Here are some:

  1. Small School or Non-Power 5 prospects get to show NFL scouts that they can play against the best level of competition.
  2. NFL Scouts get to see the prospects go one-on-one and can use this as particularly good evaluation tool.  
  3. NFL Scouts get true measurements (Height/Weight) on a prospect if were allowed to get the spring before Senior season.
  4. NFL Scouts get more time to interview and interact with prospect to help with the overall evaluation.

Countless amount of prospect has raised their draft stock at all-star games or even got on NFL scouts’ radar at an All-Star event, so it is an especially important part of the process that this year could not be happing. 

This could be another factor why some prospects use the NCAA extra year of eligibility and plan to be in the 2022 NFL Draft not the 2021 NFL Draft cycle. 

How Covid-19 is Impacting the 2021 NFL Draft Post-Season Process

Because of Covid-19 the NCAA has given each player this year another year of eligibility, which on the surface sounds great but it does come with some complications with the NFL Draft process, unless the NFL changes it rules. 

  1. All players will have college eligibility left, because of that any player that wants to be included in the 2021 NFL Draft must declare for the draft by the declare deadline (which normally is around January 15th)
  2. Because all players will have to declare and NFL scouts can’t interact with “underclassmen” (or players with NCAA eligibility left) until after the declare date.  All-Star games like the College Gridiron Showcase, Tropical Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all normally being before the declare date so no scouts would be able to attended until after the declare date unless the NFL changes their rules for this year.
  3. NFL Combine Invites normally sent out to Senior prospects after the teams bowl game will not be sent out because the NFL Combine won’t for sure know who is not going back to school so they will have to wait until after the declare date to send out invites.
  4. What will be the Covid-19 protocols with the All-Star games, NFL Combine, and Pro Days.  Because of possible protocol issues these events could be different. 
  5. With the FCS Spring Schedule being released now anyone that would play in that full schedule and not declare for the draft they would not be eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft unless the NFL changes the rules.
  6. Now all college players will have to decide to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft or play in the 2021 College Football season when everyone hopes we are back to normal and be in the 2022 NFL Draft.  

How COVID-19 is affecting the 2021 NFL Draft

One thing that goes on in the spring that NFL fans don’t pay to much attention to is NFL scouts from the two NFL scouting services, BLETSO and National Football Scouting go on college campuses and doing what is called “junior days”.   “Junior Days” are where scouts will get the players height, weight, some schools will allow guys to run 40s and the scouts will grade the film of the players that will be Seniors in the fall and give them what is called a “Spring Grade”.   

Then around Memorial Day the two Scouting Services and all the NFL scouts that subscribed to either of those services will get together for a long weekend normally in Florida and read the spring reports and go over the “Spring Grades”.  These grades become the road map of the scouts in the summer and fall to evaluate the next class of NFL prospects for the following spring draft. 

Because of what is going on with the COVID-19 pandemic, many “juniors days” won’t happen so scouts won’t have information on those prospects leaving information need to make up “spring grades” unavailable. 

Talking with multiple scouts the “Spring Grades” for the 2021 NFL Draft will either just not happen or be delayed and it will affect how the NFL teams do their business this upcoming fall and leading into next years NFL Draft.  The reason why “Spring Grades” play such a big role is because of the two scouting services that the NFL uses, National Football Scouting (NFS) is the company that actually runs the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.  They take their “spring grades” as the starting point for the invites to the NFL Combine that following January. 

Even though “spring grades” are not made public and are suppose to remain proprietary the grades get out and agents, trainers, financial advisors, all-star games all try to get their hands on them to be able to make best decision on who to go after. 

Yes the COVID-19 pandemic is going to effect the 2020 NFL Draft with Pro Days, Top-30 Visits and work-outs canceled but is already effecting the 2021 Draft as well.

True, there is much bigger problems with the COVID-19 pandemic but just something else that it is impacting.