The NFL draft was back in person for 2021 after going virtual last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Cleveland hosted the event where we watch our favorite college football players make their NFL dreams come true.
You can read the draft notes for all 32 NFL teams here, but let’s examine the most compelling draft notes from a college football perspective:
The SEC dominated as usual
The SEC led college football with 65 players selected from a total of 259 picks in the NFL draft, most of them from a single conference in the joint draft era (since 1967).
The previous SEC record was 64 two years ago, which you probably could have guessed.
The NFL draft is complete and the SEC chaired all conferences in draft selection for the 15th consecutive year.
The 65 picks from the SEC in 2021 were most from a conference in a single draft in the Common Draft Era (since 1967). pic.twitter.com/JbqXoLFkVX
– ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2021
Among those picks were four broad recipients: Ja’Marr Chase from LSU, Jaylen Waddle from Alabama and DeVonta Smith, and Kadarius Toney from Florida. It is the first time in the joint drafting era that four broad recipients of the same conference have been selected in the first round of a single draft.
Behind the SEC was the ACC with 51 picks, including Notre Dame’s nine selections (the ACC only had 27 last year). It was followed by the Big Ten (44), the Pac-12 (28) and the Big 12 (22).
Bama’s historic day
The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide was one of the best college football teams we have ever seen, and that was evident on the draft weekend too.
Alabama had picked six players in the first round (Waddle, Patrick Surtain II, Smith, Mac Jones, Alex Leatherwood and Najee Harris) who tied Miami’s record for a single school in 2004. The tide had also taken eight in the first two laps, which was a record.
Alabama’s 8 players selected in the first two rounds are the most in the Common Draft Era (since 1967).
DT Christian Barmore is the 12th player drafted by Bill Belichick from a Nick Saban College team, the most of such an HC combo in the Common Draft Era. pic.twitter.com/HDDVOkXzt9
– ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 1, 2021
Alabama, which designed a QB, RB, and WR in the first round, was only the second time in the collaborative design era that a school took all three positions in the first round of the same design. The other happened last year with LSU (QB Joe Burrow, WR Justin Jefferson, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire).
There have been many great technological advances in the world such as your ability to read this from your computer, tablet, or phone. Hopefully one day we’ll be in a place where we can bring 2019 LSU and 2020 Alabama together on a soccer field, or at least the most accurate simulation.
With 10 picks in 2021, Alabama had 51 picks in the last five drafts, which ties USC (1973-77) for most NFL draft picks over a five-year period in the joint draft era.
One of Alabama’s 10 conscripts was offensive guard Deonte Brown, who went to the Panthers in the sixth round. That’s not a particularly notable choice, though it’s a reason to pull up one of the best images of the college football season to admire its size:
The Panthers took Deonte Brown with them in the sixth round, who is big enough to play both guard and duel at the same time. pic.twitter.com/x5BR8IfaKU
– Yates field (@FieldYates) May 1, 2021
The Big 12 and other Power 5 schools that were struggling
For the first time in history, the Big 12 did not make a selection in the first round. For the tenth year in a row, the conference (with 10 schools, the fewest from Power 5) had the lowest number of draft picks.
Along with the Big 12 problems, there were six more Power 5 schools in the 2021 NFL draft with no draft selection: Kansas, Utah, Washington State, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Virginia.
Most notable on this list is the state of Michigan, which previously drew 80 direct drafts with a selected player, the third longest streak in NFL drafting history. USC, Michigan, and Florida are now the only schools where a player has been selected in each draft of the joint drafting era.
BYU’s great show
Do you remember when BYU and Coastal Carolina gave us one of the best games of college football season? Well, it turns out the Cougars had a solid amount of NFL talent on their side of football, despite falling short in this game.
BYU, including Zach Wilson (# 2) for the New York Jets, had five picks on the 2021 draft, most since the Cougars in 2002.
BYU selected a total of five players between 2014 and 2020
One of the cooler trends in the NFL draft was reuniting old college buddies. It started with Chase finishing fifth overall with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he’ll play with Burrow, the quarterback who tossed him his final pass (because Chase pulled out of the 2020 season).
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bengals’ selection of Chase marked the first time in the collaborative design era for a team to use top 10 picks for a QB-WR duo playing together in college.
With the next election in the draft, the Dolphins Waddle took sixth overall and united him with Tua Tagovailoa, whom the Dolphins selected in the draft for 2020 as fifth overall.
The reunions became a trend 24 picks after the Jaguars picked Trevor Lawrence when they also picked up Clemson who ran back Travis Etienne.
– Travis Etienne Jr⁶ @ (@ swaggy_t1) April 30, 2021
You might not win a ton of games right away, but the Clemson Jaguars should be fun.
Quote of the design
Courtesy of former Clemson and current Green Bay Packers WR Amari Rodgers:
Amari Rodgers asked why he was going to Clemson instead of Tennessee. “Because I wanted to win.”
– Matt Connolly (@MattOnClemson) May 1, 2021
Other notable tidbits, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information
Duke had selected four players in the 2021 draft, most of them in a single draft for the Blue Devils, as three players were also selected in 1973.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette (now of the Minnesota Vikings) became only the second receiver in Iowa designed since 2002 and the first since Marvin McNutt was drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round in 2012.
A couple of Georgia that could have been brought in a row. DeVonta Smith, who served in Georgia during his junior high school season and eventually scored the game-winning touchdown against the Dawgs in the 2018 national championship for Alabama, was voted 10th overall by the Eagles. In 11th place, Justin Fields (who spent his first season in Georgia) was selected by the Chicago Bears.
Picking UMass versus Larnel Coleman, the Dolphins gave the school, for the first time since the Minutemen, a player inducted in seven direct drafts from 1970 to 1976, a player selected in three NFL direct drafts.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference (FCS) ended with more draft picks (four) than the FBS’s Mountain West Conference.