The NFL draft is a strange and fascinating beast. By delaying the event to nearly three months after the Super Bowl, the NFL invites and even encourages rampant speculation and obvious over-thinking. The draft is one of the greatest TV spectacles in sports — and nothing happens except for young men in fancy suits shaking an older man’s hand. The draft is a gymnasium of hot takes, but no one can actually make sense of what they just saw until three years in the future.
Remove yourself from the hype, though, and the draft is a fascinating study into the truth of the modern state of football. The draft is the ultimate arbiter of football talent — at the highest level of the game, what players does the market value? What schools, what states, what conferences produce the most good players? What positions does the league value?
Rotoworld writer Rich Hribar charted each pick over the past five drafts by position and by team, and the result is a fascinating study into modern professional football. For instance, more cornerbacks (179) were taken in the past five drafts than linebackers (163). Nearly as many wide receivers (160) heard their names called as tackles and guards combined (173).
Overall, slightly more defensive players (639) were drafted than their offensive counterparts (614), which makes sense given that one offensive position generally does not rotate snaps. Five teams — the Falcons, Saints, Cowboys, Steelers and Eagles — showed extreme favorability to defense over offense, all taking at least 10 more defenders than offensive players, while the Rams (24 to 16) and the Bucs (19 to 12) most emphasized offense.
Finally, this chart shows the fullback position is all but dead at the NFL level. Only 13 teams (the Bucs took two) bothered to use even a seventh-round flier on a position that was once an every-down staple within your lifetime.
This second chart is most useful to the 16-year-old dreamer in your life. A grand total of 1,272 players were taken in the NFL draft over the past five years — consider that there are roughly 11,050 scholarship players… in FBS alone… right now — but hearing your name called in the draft is hardly a meal ticket for life. Those 1,272 players made a total of 16,078 starts for the teams who drafted them, good for an average of 12.6 starts per player. That’s barely three quarters of one season.
Now consider that, unless in you’re in the elite of the elite, the NFL collective bargaining agreement requires a player survive in the league until his second contract until the real, generational wealth arrives.
That’s why they say the NFL really stands for Not For Long.
Get your education, kids.