2021 draft by the numbers … One of the question surrounding this year’s virtual draft was whether NFL teams, which couldn’t work out or interview players as extensively as they had in the past because of limitations imposed of the pandemic, would play it safe and stick with the major programs when making their picks. And the answer appears to be ‘YES.’ This year, for example, fully 78% of all players selected at last weekend’s draft were from Power 5 conferences, up from 75% last year and closer to 70% in the pre-covid era.
In contrast, just 10 players from either FCS or DII or III programs were selected at some point in the 7 rounds, which is actually up one from last year, but only about half what is normal. In 2019, for example, 17 players from the lower ranks were selected, a figure that was pretty stable over the course of the decade.
Somewhat surprisingly, the big losers this year were actually the non-Power 5 FBS conferences. Indeed, just 29 players – 11% of the total – from the AAC, Mountain West, MAC, CUSA and Sun Belt leagues were taken in one of this weekend’s 7 rounds, down from 46, or 18%, a year ago. For the record, the AAC – the American Athletic Conference – had almost half the total number of players selected from the non-Power 5 FBS leagues. Indeed, the AAC actually had just 5 fewer players taken this weekend than the Big XII.
To no one’s surprise, though, the SEC lead the way among the Power-5 conferences with a record 65 players selected. I fact, this was the 15th straight year in which the SEC had the most players selected of any conference. For the record, the Big Ten was second with 44 picks, followed by the ACC with 42, the Pac-12 with 28 and the Big XII with 22.
Interestingly, Ohio State ended up tying Alabama, the reigning national champions, for the most picks by a single program with 10 each. That was after Alabama dominated the early part of the draft with a record-tying 6 players selected in the opening round, and a record breaking 8 taken within the first 50 picks. At the same time, Georgia and Notre Dame had 9 players selected each, while Florida and Michigan had 8 apiece and LSU 7.