As you know, we look at the work of seven established draft services periodically over the year leading to draft weekend, and we’ve done this since the 2018 NFL Draft. Today, we posted our usual pre-combine mock draft snapshot, and I thought it would be fun to see how close the mock drafters got to reality on some of their pre-combine projections over the last three years. Here’s what I found.
- Unlike many previous drafts, there’s a lot of solidarity on who the first-rounders are this year, especially this early. Twenty players are rated as Day 1 picks by all seven services. By way of comparison, at this stage, there were 17 last year (only Notre Dame OB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fell to Day 2), just 15 in 2020 (all 15 went in the first 32 picks) and 16 in 2019 (Florida OT Jawaan Taylor, LSU DC Greedy Williams, Florida DE Jachai Polite and Washington DC Byron Murphy all fell to Day 2).
- At this stage in 2021, all seven draft services correctly predicted that Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence would be the top pick (duh). The same was true in 2020 (LSU’s Joe Burrow), another year when there was a clear blue-chip QB prospect. However, in 2019, the draft services said Ohio State DE Nick Bosa would be the top pick (six of seven services had him at No. 1), and the only outlier, PFN’s Tony Pauline, had Alabama DT Quinnen Williams first overall. As you know, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray ultimately went first; at the time, however, he was No. 14 on average. Matt Miller, then with Bleacher Report, had him highest at No. 7, while Sports Illustrated was least-sold on Murray at the time, placing him at 27.
- The players that narrowly missed being unanimous first-rounders mostly wound up in the first round anyway — in 2021. Last year, Georgia OB Azeez Ojulari, Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater, USC OG Alijah Vera-Tucker and Miami (FL) DE Jaelan Phillips were on just six boards, but only Ojulari got snubbed. However, lack of unanimity was telling in 2020. That year, the just-missed group included LSU DC Kristian Fulton, Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa, Louisville OT Mekhi Becton, Clemson WO Tee Higgins, Alabama WO Henry Ruggs and LSU DE K’Lavon Chaisson. Fulton, Epenesa and Higgins all had to wait ’til Friday to hear their names called.
- Hats off to ESPN’s Todd McShay and The Draft Scout’s Miller who each had Washington DE Joe Tryon at the end of the first round entering the draft last year; he wound up going No. 32 to Tampa Bay. In 2020, only Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline had Ohio St. DC Damon Arnette in the first round at this stage; Pauline slotted him at 25, very close to his selection at 19 by the Raiders. Kudos also go out to McShay for being the only prognosticator to have Auburn DC Noah Igbinoghene in the first 32 (he went No. 30 to the Dolphins), and Walter Football for placing TCU WO Jalen Reagor at 22, the only service to have him on Day 1. He went 21 to the Eagles. Walter also nailed Mississippi St. FS Jonathan Abram with a direct hit in the first round in 2019; no other service had Abram on Day 1, but he went 27 to the Raiders.
We’ve got plenty more to say about what the draft services say about this year’s draft. Join us for today’s Friday Wrap, which comes out at 7:30 p.m. ET, to dig into the first 32 projected picks even more. If you haven’t already, register for the Wrap here. You can also check out the entire grid featuring all seven services and their picks for the first round pre-combine at the mother ship.