The History of the NFL Draft

A couple of weeks ago, in Las Vegas, the NFL held their 87th player draft. Players from all levels of college football anxiously waited for their name to be announced by commissioner Roger Goodell. The so-called draft experts all compile their mock drafts in the months leading up to draft day. As is always the case, as the draft unfolded, some team’s player picks were deemed “reaches” (selecting a player far higher in the draft than was expected) and others who were deemed “steals” (players drafted far lower than was expected). I decided to analyze the data from the past eighty-seven NFL drafts and tell the story of the history of the NFL draft. I grabbed the data from pro-football reference, and I built a Qlik Sense app. Here are some of the insights that I uncovered.

First-Round Picks by Position

This year’s first round was dominated by Offensive Linemen. Of the 32 first round picks, 9 were offensive linemen. That is 28.1% for those of you scoring at home. The last time that happened was the 2013 draft where 9 offensive linemen were drafted. Historically, defensive linemen are drafted at the highest rate in the first round at 18.8%. Followed by Running backs (17.5%), offensive linemen (16.9%), defensive backs (13.9%), linebackers (9.8%), wide receivers (9.8%), quarterbacks (8.8%), tight ends (4.4%), punters (<1%), and kickers (<1%).

Overall First Pick

For the first time since 2017, a quarterback was not selected as the overall #1 pick in the draft. As a matter of fact, this year’s draft saw only 1 quarterback drafted in the first round when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Pittsburgh Panther, Kenny Pickett, with pick #20. Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker was selected as the overall first pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the fifteenth time a defensive lineman was selected as the top pick.

First Round Picks by School

NCAA National Champion, Georgia Bulldogs, claimed the top spot in this year’s draft with 5 players drafted in the first round. Not surprisingly, all 5 were defensive players. Although that number is impressive, it is not a record. The record of 6 players drafted in the first round belongs to Alabama (2021) and Miami FL (2004). Overall, the Ohio State Buckeyes own the top spot for most players drafted in the first round with eighty-seven (46 offense, 41 defense).

Overall Draft Picks by School

Given the recent success of some of college football’s top teams, you might think that Alabama, or Ohio State, or Georgia would top the list with the most players drafted overall. You would be wrong. With 521 players drafted overall, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish top the list. The USC Trojans (512) are second on the list, followed by Ohio State (477), Oklahoma (409), and Michigan (395) to round out the Top 5.

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I was quite happy with the draft. I feel strongly that the Eagles drafted one of those “steals” when they drafted Nakobe Dean in the 3rd round (#83 pick overall). Take a look at the History of the NFL Draft app and see how successful your favorite team has been in the history of the draft. Happy Qlikking!


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