In 2012, Greg Gabriel postulated an interesting hypothesis that teams use historical draft data to predict how many players at a certain position will get drafted. I did this analysis in 2012 based on the draft board and draft selection of the Packers back then and thought it was a pretty interesting exercise. Basically, a quarterback (regardless of the specific player) is more likely to be drafted in the 1st round than say a kicker is. Extrapolating that further, every draft can expect to see 2-3 quarterbacks drafted in the first round and expect 0 kickers to be drafted in the 1st round. To narrow that down even further, the Packers can expect to see around 2 quarterbacks selected before pick 21 this year and hence if they were interested in drafting a quarterback, they could predict that the 3rd best quarterback will be available for them when they pick (assuming they don’t trade the pick of course).
Naturally, the Packers aren’t likely to pick a quarterback in the 1st round, but this hypothesis can be applied to any position. Below is the number of players picked at their respective positions up to the 21st pick from 2005 (the first year of Ted Thompson’s tenure as the Packers GM) to last year. Also note no punters or kickers have been picked in the top 21 selections so I’ve dropped those positions from the list.
I wouldn’t say the data is all that surprising, quarterbacks, defensive ends (i.e. pass rushers) and wide receivers are the most highly drafted players in the top 21 picks while centers, guards and tight end almost never get drafted in the 1st round. There’s also a very striking decline in the number of running backs drafted in the 1st 21 picks, with last year being only the 2nd time in 9 years that a running back wasn’t selected.
The following list is composed of the top players from their respective positions based on current rankings from CBS Sports’ NFL draft page. One of the biggest caveats is choosing which big board to go off of, I personally like CBS Sport’s because their rankings have been the closest to the actual draft compared to other large media draft rankings. Players names which are italicized are likely to have already been selected by pick 21 and players with their names in brackets meaning that position typically won’t be picked again by the 21st round (for instance, only 1 tight end has been picked higher than 21st in a single draft so the Packers would be breaking the trend a little by drafting a second tight end in the top 21 picks.
- QB: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr
- RB: Tre Mason, Carlos Hyde, Bishop Sankey
- WR: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Brandon Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr.
- TE: Eric Ebron, (Jace Amaro)
- OC: Weston Richburg, (Marcus Martin)
- OG: Xavier Su’a-Filo, David Yankey, Gabe Jackson
- OT: Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Cyrus Kouandijo, Morgan Moses
- DT: Aaron Donald, Timmy Jerrigan, Louis Nix, RaShede Hageman
- DE: Jadeveon Clowney, Kony Ealy, Dee Ford, Scott Crichton, (Kareem Martin)
- LB: Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, CJ Mosely, Ryan Shazier, Kyle Van Noy
- DB: Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, Hasean Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett
Keep in mind there is a lot of variability in the draft; it’s highly likely that all the quarterbacks listed will be drafted before the Packers get to pick and its also likely that none of the running backs will be with the continued devaluation of the position as well as the general lack of talent this year at the position.
Overall, I would say it’s a pretty good year to draft a tight end; since 2005, only 1 tight end has been drafted in the 1st 21 picks, so presumably the Packers could pick from anyone outside of Eric Ebron. Wide receiver is also another position where the Packers will have a lot of choice, with any receiver outside of Watkins and Evans likely available for the Packers to choose from. Guard and tackle also would be favorable choices for the Packers as both have a lot of depth, which means some blue chip players should still be available. On the other side, defensive tackle and linebacker are probably two positions where most of the top tier players will already be selected by the time the Packers pick.
Either way, this is a pretty interesting experiment that shows likely what kind of players are likely to be available and not available for the Packers at pick 21. Of course, this hypothesis isn’t all that predictive; for instance, Aaron Rodgers would not made the list back in 2005 nor would Clay Matthews shown up at all.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.