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Final 2021 Mock Draft

Ohio State Buckeyes QB Justin Fields
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Guest column by Benjamin Robinson

We made it, everyone! It's officially NFL draft week (or the week before the draft since that's when I'm technically writing this article). Through the twists and turns of a college football season that almost didn't happen to not having a combine, this has been another unprecedented draft process. I don't have much else to say, except: may the NFL draft odds ever be in my favor here and in The Huddle Report Mock Draft Contest.

A quick reminder on the ground rules I'm using for this mock draft. I'm not projecting any trades and I only take these things into account when formulating where I think a player is going to be selected and by whom:

  • the player's Expected Draft Position;
  • the drafting team's most mocked players and positions;
  • the drafting team's history of selecting players earlier or later than expectation.

For reference, here is the mock draft we did before free agency.

Here we go!

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Do I need to say anything here? Trevor Lawrence has been the No. 1 pick in 99% of the 1,000-plus mock drafts I have collected this draft season. Crown him!

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

This pick seems as written in stone as the Trevor Lawrence selection at this point, albeit for much less time. The draft starts at Pick 3 or Pick 4 depending on your opinion.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami via Houston): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The Mac Jones hype train has been a sight to behold this draft season. I recognize that there is some well-documented cognitive dissonance from 49ers fans and the general draftnik community around the idea of Jones being drafted with the third overall pick. It is just hard to ignore that some of the sharpest mock drafters in the industry are leaning this way; we should take them at their word.

Image 1

4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Here are the exact words that I wrote in my Pre-Free Agency Mock Draft last month:

Justin Fields had been QB2 for most of the draft process until Zach Wilson passed him early on this year. At 7.5 Pythagorean wins, the Falcons underperformed their expected record in 2020 given their fundamentals, and with regression next year they likely won't be picking in the range where they could draft a top-of-the-line quarterback prospect such as Fields. And when you have that opportunity with an aging quarterback, like the Chargers did last year, you pretty much have to take it.

These words still hold for me.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Since my last mock draft, there has been an increase in support among some Bengals fans for the team to address another need for the Joe Burrow-led offense: wide receiver. With that being said, the combination of offensive tackle as a position and Penei Sewell as the player to the Bengals is hard to ignore, so my pick stays with Sewell (although Ja'Marr Chase received ample consideration as well). The Bengals will then most likely look to improve their wide receiver room on Day 2 of the draft.

6. Miami (from Philadelphia): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

The Dolphins shocked the NFL world by trading down with the 49ers and then surprised us again by trading up with the Eagles to acquire this pick. Picking at six versus picking at 12 positions the team well to draft a high-impact player in the receiving game, and they get that in Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who is viewed by many analysts as the top non-quarterback in the draft class and the best tight end prospect since Vernon Davis.

Image 2

7. Detroit Lions: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

When the Lions decided to let Kenny Golladay declare for free agency, they created a glaring hole on their team. Trading down could help net more picks to fill the multitude of deficiencies in the roster, but I'm not projecting any trades in this mock. Chase has been the top-rated wide receiver throughout the majority of this draft process and would offer Jared Goff an elite receiving prospect to help kick off the rebuild of the Lions franchise in style.

8. Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Outside of the quarterback position, which the Panthers "addressed" (see what I did there) with the acquisition of 2018 Expected Draft Position QB1 Sam Darnold, offensive tackle is the position most selected by draftniks for the Panthers. After a 2020 NFL draft where the team selected only defensive players, taking Northwestern's Rashawn Slater, the top-rated offensive lineman left on the board by Expected Draft Position, is a step in the right direction toward evening out the Panthers' draft allocation on offense.

9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

While Trey Lance has a solid chance of being the third or even the fourth pick overall, I think it's more likely, given the emergence of Mac Jones as a top-five pick, that he falls a little bit but not out of the top 10. One of the toughest evaluations of any player in this draft class (given his one season of starting experience in the FCS and a limited number of passing attempts), Lance offers the Broncos the possibility of an upgrade at the position that is likely holding them back the most from competing in the AFC West.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

Patrick Surtain's Expected Draft Position has held solidly around this 10th overall selection for quite some time, so this selection makes a ton of sense. The Cowboys had a multitude of problems in 2020 that led to them underperforming preseason expectations and one of them was their defense, which ranked in the lower half of the league in DVOA. In the 2020 draft, the Cowboys acquired Surtain's Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs; in the 2021 draft, they pair him with Surtain himself in new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's new-look secondary.

11. New York Giants: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

It has mostly been a fool's errand, outside of the selection of running back Saquon Barkley in the 2018 NFL draft, to match a player to the Giants using Expected Draft Position alone. Investing the team's first-round pick on defense may seem counterintuitive, but the Giants' defense has a stronger reputation in league circles than their advanced statistics show: DVOA had them as a middle-of-the-pack defense in 2020. Selecting Michigan's Kwity Paye, who is ranked more than a few slots below their pick in Expected Draft Position, would continue David Gettleman's trend of picking players earlier than expected ... unless he decides to pull a fast one and trade down.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from San Francisco via Miami): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The Eagles look like an organization on the edge of a rebuild (perhaps at this time next year I'll be mocking Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler to the Eagles in the top 10?), and just like in the leadup to the 2020 NFL draft, wide receiver is the position most mocked to them by draftniks. Instead of going against the grain as they did in 2020 when they drafted TCU's Jalen Reagor, they stick to Expected Draft Position and select Alabama speedster Jaylen Waddle, who will eclipse his Heisman Trophy-winning teammate DeVonta Smith on draft night.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

The Chargers did not surprise outside observers by drafting Oregon's Justin Herbert at pick No. 6 overall in 2020. However, they did surprise analysts by trading back into the first round to select Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. This year they don't surprise draftniks with their first-round pick by drafting Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, the player most mocked to them. With this selection, Herbert can hopefully sleep a little bit easier after Night 1 of the draft.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

The Vikings are one of my favorite teams when it comes to the draft, and it's mostly because without fail general manager Rick Spielman always turns into "Trader Rick" and wheels and deals his way into having many more draft picks than he started with. In this scenario, with no trades to be had, Trader Rick will have to settle with improving the Vikings' defensive line. Phillips has dealt with concussion issues in the past that may cause him to fall in the draft but it's very hard to say how much.

15. New England Patriots: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

No team was more impacted by the combination of injuries and COVID-19 opt-outs than the 2020 Patriots per Football Outsiders' own Adjusted Games Lost metric. Bill Belichick's best Patriots defenses have been built with a focus on the secondary, and with an aging Stephon Gilmore, he could use an infusion of youth and talent. The Patriots have also been a notoriously difficult team to project using Expected Draft Position, but could the departure of Nick Caserio to the Texans signal a return to more value-based drafting? The selection of Jaycee Horn says this could be the case.

16. Arizona Cardinals: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

With Jaycee Horn coming off the board a pick earlier, the Cardinals lose out on their most-mocked player. The Cardinals are one of the best value-seeking teams in the NFL when it comes to drafting players later than their expectation, and they continue this trend by drafting Alabama's DeVonta Smith. The 2020 Heisman Trophy-winner who lit up the National Championship Game would add another threat for Kyler Murray to throw to and free up coverage from DeAndre Hopkins in Kliff Kingsbury's offense.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

With the run of picks the Raiders received from the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade at an end, it is now more paramount than ever for the Raiders to get their draft selections right. In 2019 and 2020, they simultaneously surprised draftniks with a selection while also selecting players around expectation. In 2021, I have the Silver and Black targeting Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins to protect Derek Carr and add a player with a heck of a mean streak (just ask Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai).

18. Miami Dolphins: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, OLB, Notre Dame

The Dolphins have stacked up quite an arsenal of draft picks and use this selection to add a versatile defender to their borderline top-10 defensive unit (by the wonderful DVOA). Owusu-Koramoah follows in the tradition of versatile defensive players such as Derwin James and Isaiah Simmons, the types of players defensive coordinators covet as the NFL shifts more and more towards "positionless" football: great at coverage and stout in run support.

19. Washington Football Team: Micah Parsons, OLB, Penn State

A well-documented off-field issue at Penn State, an opt-out year, and playing a non-premium position such as off-ball linebacker all contribute to Parsons falling a tad here, but Washington isn't one to complain. The new administration took WFT to the playoffs last season in a down NFC East where they relied on a top-five DVOA defense. In his time with the Panthers, Ron Rivera coveted an athletic linebacker patrolling the line of scrimmage. He gets that in Parsons who excelled as a pass rusher too.

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20. Chicago Bears: Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC

The Bears are truly in draft purgatory: too low to trade up and draft a franchise quarterback that they desperately need and also the owner of a roster with plenty of holes. In this mock draft, I have the Bears selecting the first interior offensive lineman to come off the board, USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker. Although he excelled at offensive tackle in his final college season, many draftniks project him to play guard in the NFL as his arms are a bit short relative to the thresholds teams like tackles to have.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

At one point, Caleb Farley was in a battle with Alabama's Patrick Surtain to be the first cornerback drafted. Then the announcement of a surgical procedure on his back (his second) along with a torn ACL earlier in his career have pushed him down in mock drafts to later in the first round. Not as much of a value pick at this point, Chris Ballard and company can add Farley to a Colts' defense that ranked near the top in DVOA as Carson Wentz takes the reins of the offense from a retiring Philip Rivers.

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22. Tennessee Titans: Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia

Azeez Ojulari is everything the Titans like in a first-round draft pick: he played in the Southeastern Conference at an elite level. Just because last year's first-round selection Isaiah Wilson has already seemingly flamed out of the NFL doesn't mean they don't go back to Georgia for Ojulari, who has the opportunity to help improve the Titans' near-the-bottom-of-the-NFL pass defense by DVOA, where Jadeveon Clowney failed to make much of an impact in 2020.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle): Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa

This is the first of the draft picks traded by the Seahawks to the Jets in the Jamal Adams deal, and general manager Joe Douglas uses it to select the 2020 Bronko Nagurski award winner: Tulsa's Zaven Collins. Another "tweener" player, stuck between an edge rusher and an off-ball linebacker, Collins figures to add a dynamic element to Robert Salah's new-look Jets defense. The first running back could come off the board here but the 49ers scheme that Salah brought with him to the Jets can succeed with undrafted free agents, so why spend a high draft pick on one?

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

The Steelers have telegraphed their interest in Alabama's Najee Harris pretty hard. Harris hopes to continue in the line of productive Alabama running backs such as Derrick Henry and Josh Jacobs making an early impact in the NFL. The Steelers bring back an experienced quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and a dynamic wide receiver room but lack the cohesive offensive line that helped pave the way for Le'Veon Bell. They seemingly put the cart before the horse here, so to speak, but can select an offensive lineman in the later rounds as it's one of the deepest position groups in the 2021 NFL draft.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams): Trevon Moehrig, SS, TCU

This is the second of two first-round picks traded by the Rams to the Jaguars as part of the Jalen Ramsey swap in 2019. The Jaguars used the first pick from the trade on LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson in 2020, but with a new regime in town led by Urban Meyer, they draft an athletic strong safety to shore up their secondary alongside the newly acquired Rayshawn Jenkins. With five picks in the top 100, the Jaguars have the draft capital to fill many of their other needs such as tight end, offensive line, or wide receiver—AKA the rest of their offense.

26. Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern

Andrew Berry was once quoted in a press conference as saying "You can never have enough corners." I will take him at his word. The second Northwestern Wildcats player to be drafted in the first round in 2021 (which is a huge achievement for any program but especially for a program such as Northwestern), Greg Newsome had a pretty wild NFL draft process starting with a highly productive 2020 campaign and culminating with an elite pro day workout that helped to cement his first-round status as the CB4 by Expected Draft Position.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

The Ravens were primed to regress from their awesome 2019 offense that was fueled by Lamar Jackson taking the team to new heights with both his legs and his arm. One thing that was missing from the 2020 edition of their offense was a go-to X-receiver. Minnesota's Rashod Bateman would add that capability for Lamar Jackson, providing him with a receiving outlet other than Mark Andrews as 2019 first-round selection Marquise Brown has underwhelmed in his first two NFL seasons.

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28. New Orleans Saints: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

Another player who opted out of the 2020 college football season goes in the first round (along with Penei Sewell, Ja'Marr Chase, Rashawn Slater, Micah Parsons, and Caleb Farley). Rousseau flashes potential and would contribute to the Saints' attempt at reloading their top-five defense by DVOA as they move into a future that will be characterized by the absence of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and massive salary cap issues. A strong defense could go a long way in helping the Saints maintain their current level of play as they figure out what's next with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill battling it out for snaps at the quarterback position.

29. Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

The Packers surprised draftniks (and their fans, to be honest) by taking Utah State's Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL draft. Not only did Love not play a snap as a rookie, but Aaron Rodgers won the NFL MVP award, further muddying the quarterback waters in Green Bay. Unsurprisingly, the Packers were mocked wide receivers most often in 2020, and that is unchanged in 2021. I'm banking that the Packers do not break that tendency on Day 1 of the draft and instead decide to add another cornerback to their secondary. Even with the re-signing of the oft-maligned Kevin King, adding Georgia's Eric Stokes gives the Packers and new defensive coordinator Joe Barry a speedy option at corner.

30. Buffalo Bills: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

Many talent evaluators have said that this is the worst defensive tackle class in a long time. Because of that, I only have one defensive tackle going in the first round: Alabama's Christian Barmore. The Bills have been one of the best value-seeking teams in the draft since 2018, reaping the rewards of drafting key contributors such as Ed Oliver and Tremaine Edmunds much later than their Expected Draft Position, and they continue that trend by drafting Barmore to pair with A.J. Epenesa on the interior.

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31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City): Asante Samuel, CB, Florida State

Similar to Jaycee Horn, who I mocked to the Patriots, Florida State's Asante Samuel is the son of a former NFL great. I will once again repeat the Andrew Berry mantra: "You can never have enough corners." This still applies!

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State

With the final pick in the first round, the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs select Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh. With pretty much their entire core of their team returning for a chance to run it back, the Bucs are one of the few teams that can draft using the veritable "best player available" approach. Oweh, despite having famously had zero college sacks in his final season at Penn State, flashed impressive athletic traits and potential as an elite pass-rusher. Plus, having Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul as mentors for an up-and-coming rookie edge rusher can't hurt.

I'll be entering using this mock draft in The Huddle Report's Mock Draft Contest. If my mock this year is anything like my mock from last year, I'll be solidly in the top 15 or 20 mocks (fingers crossed).

One last thing! I'm taking part in Football Outsiders' Round 1 Recap Stream on April 29 starting at 11:30 p.m. on Twitch. FO head honcho Aaron Schatz will host the conversation with special guests Mike Tanier, Derrik Klassen, Scott Spratt, and yours truly. The stream will overview the entire first round including analysis from me about the biggest positive and negative Draft Surplus Value picks (selections made earlier or later than expectation) among other topics such as fantasy football, FO's flagship projection metrics like QBASE and Playmaker Score, and football charting data among other things. It should be a really fun time so come out and hang with us. See you all then!

Mock Draft Results (EDP Data as of 4/22/2021)
Pick Team
(* Denotes Trade)
Player POS School EDP Rank
(Pos Rank)
1 JAX Trevor Lawrence QB CLEM 1 (QB1)
2 NYJ Zach Wilson QB BYU 2 (QB2)
3 SF* Mac Jones QB ALA 6 (QB4)
4 ATL Justin Fields QB OHIO ST 5 (QB3)
5 CIN Penei Sewell OT ORE 7 (OT1)
6 MIA* Kyle Pitts TE FLA 3 (TE1)
7 DET Ja'Marr Chase WR LSU 4 (WR1)
8 CAR Rashawn Slater OT NW 10 (OT2)
9 DEN Trey Lance QB NDSU 8 (QB5)
10 DAL Patrick Surtain CB ALA 11 (CB1)
11 NYG Kwity Paye DE MICH 17 (DE1)
12 PHI* Jaylen Waddle WR ALA 9 (WR2)
13 LAC Christian Darrisaw OT VT 15 (OT3)
14 MIN Jaelan Phillips DE MIA 21 (DE2)
15 NE Jaycee Horn CB SCAR 14 (CB2)
16 ARI DeVonta Smith WR ALA 12 (WR3)
17 LV Teven Jenkins OT OKST 20 (OT4)
18 MIA Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah OLB ND 18 (OLB2)
19 WAS Micah Parsons OLB PSU 19 (OLB1)
20 CHI Alijah Vera-Tucker G USC 16 (G1)
21 IND Caleb Farley CB VT 19 (CB3)
22 TEN Azeez Ojulari OLB UGA 22 (OLB3)
23 NYJ* Zaven Collins OLB Tulsa 23 (OLB4)
24 PIT Najee Harris RB ALA 24 (RB1)
25 JAX Trevon Moehrig SS TCU 27 (SS1)
26 CLE Greg Newsome CB NW 25 (CB4)
27 BAL Rashod Bateman WR MINN 28 (WR4)
28 NO Gregory Rousseau DE MIA 42 (DE3)
29 GB Eric Stokes CB UGA 49 (CB7)
30 BUF Christian Barmore DT ALA 26 (DT1)
31 BAL* Asante Samuel CB FSU 44 (CB6)
32 TB Jayson Oweh DE PSU 35 (DE4)

Benjamin Robinson is a data scientist living in Washington, D.C., and the creator of Grinding the Mocks, a project that tracks how NFL prospects fare in mock drafts. You can follow him on Twitter @benj_robinson and find the Grinding the Mocks project at grindingthemocks.com.

Comments

77 comments, Last at 05 May 2021, 10:30pm

1 DE1?

Paye and Phillips are both listed as DE1.      Yet Paye is ranked 17 overall and Phillips 21.

So are they tied or is Phillips DE2?   I don't see another DE until DE3...

2 Fixed!

In reply to by andrew

Fixed! Phillips is DE2.

3 CB3?

Who is CB3?

5 Oops!

In reply to by EDVINSON

Benjamin clearly had some other things on his mind! Farley is CB3. I'll fix that.

4 I find the theoretical…

I find the theoretical debate between LT and WR fascinating. 

Assuming Chase and Sewel are equally rated players; I get a sense that there are four things to consider

1) LT is seen as more bust resistant

2) Lt's last longer than receivers do( at least peak value)

3) Elite Wide receivers impact the game more than LTs

4) Offensive line is mostly about the weak links than the strengths

Me personally, I'd go the receiver but I can understand the debate

17 Protect your asset

I would go with the tackle if I were the Bungles. The points above are all reasonable ones, but in terms of durability the real issue here is their franchise (and potential superstar) QB. If they ruin his health and/or his development by not keeping him upright and giving him time in the pocket, you could have Jerry Rice and Randy Moss running around downfield and it wouldn't really help.

Plus I think (4) is only half right. It's true that you need to worry about the weak links, but having a really good LT allows you to protect those weak links schematically and numerically.

I would add a (5) which is that adequate pass catchers are more easily found in free agency or later rounds than adequate LTs, and are more rotatable. So drafting the LT high and then paying a couple of mid-market FAs seems more likely to produce a better result than taking WR high and looking in mid-market FA for a LT.

 

18 I think this is a very…

I think this is a very complicated question and I am not sure there's an easy way to get at the truth.

I would say, left tackle is the most important of the offensive linemen, but I still mantain, having 1 all pro and a bunch of bad offensive linemen is not going change much. Your qb is still going to get killed. So in that sense, I don't think they can just take the tackle and call it a day. Whereas you really just need 1 awesome receiver and the rest of your core can be average. 

I would also argue; you can get away with average receivers IF your qb is some hall of fame level player. If he isn't, then the effects are more dramatic. Look at Josh Allen with Diggs or Prescott pre Amari Cooper. 

 

I can see going in either direction, but I personally lean receiver. 

20 One all-pro LT and a group…

One all-pro LT and a group of average linemen, though, is a different proposition than one all-pro LT and a bunch of bad lineman, just as one awesome receiver and a group of average pass catchers is a different proposition than one awesome receiver and a group of bad pass catchers.

Saddled with below average unit-mates, I think one really good LT is going to struggle to make a difference, but the same is true of a receiver who is constantly double-teamed because the D can single-cover everybody else.

If the rest of the unit is average, both a really good LT and a really good WR can improve an O in ways that aren't easily tied to their personal contributions.  With the LT, QBs get more time, RBs get more room to run; with a WR, the rest of the receiving corp gets more single coverage, and the whole defensive scheme can be altered.

I'd love to see a robust method of putting numbers to all of the above, though.

24 Yea I would do. A lot of…

Yea I would do. A lot of this for me is anecdotal but I consider a lot of the best offenses out there. While a great Qb is a hard requirement, I do think all of these record setting offenses had great receivers without ever necessarily having great offensive linemen. 

Plus you kind of see the turbo boosting a receiver can bring. Diggs and Randy Moss to an extreme.

 

 

27 Protect the asset!!

I'd also be interested to see if you could assess this numerically. But where you can't, there still seem to be strong grounds for erring towards protection over weapons.

Burrow should be a very long-term asset for the Bengals. He should be - and they want him to be - their QB for 10 years+ at a high level. That has a few consequences:

1. They aren't SB contenders yet. So the objective is not, particuarly, to maximise passing game production in the next year or two. The next couple of years are more about development that performance.

2. It is a massive priority to protect his health (esp after one serious injury).

3. It is also a priority to give him time and space in the pocket to learn - and not become gun-shy/skittish a la David Carr.

Put another way, it seems much better for the next two years to have invested in the OL and have Burrow learning his trade in a well-protected environment where he is safe and has time to throw, even if that is to mediocre receivers which limits the explosiveness/productivity of the passing game; than to be stronger at WR but weak on the OL, driving him to a high-risk gunslinging style and putting his health at risk.

I can see the calculus might be different for an established QB in a win-now team.

 

 

37 Let's look at the real NFL examples

So let's look at the teams of the 4 greatest QB's of the last decade--Brady, Brees, Manning, and Rodgers (alphabetical order--let's not get picky). Three of their teams prioritized OL over WR, whereas Manning's Colts did the opposite. It isn't as if both aren't important, or that their team's didn't spend draft picks there--it's just that the other was slightly more important. 

Now, I saw a comment that mentions how sack rate is much more QB dependent--and any regular FO reader has seen the data to back that up. IMO, that's why the Manning Colts emphasized pass catchers more. On the flip side, I think the data also would show that if you need a LT, you most likely need to pick him high. If you need a WR1, he is just as likely to be found there as throughout the draft. So, I think really the decision boils down to: which do you need more; which is the more talented player; and what players are available later? Regarding the last of the 3, in team X's talent grading for the draft, by the time they pick again, is there likely to be someone there at the other position that is similarly rated?

41 My hypothetical assumed they…

My hypothetical assumed they were equivalently rated players and the circumstances for both units were the same coming in, ie both empty cupboards.

Pat makes a fair argument about long-term value. I can't disagree with him there and then there's also a sense that the year to year variability in performance is more consistent with left tackles although that is anecdotal as well.

As a thought experiment ask yourself which hamstrings an offense more, the loss of a dominant left tackle or a dominant wide receiver. Think about the Saints losing Michael Thomas or Terron Armstead. Not quite the same example but someone like George kittle versus Trent Williams. In general, I get the sense that the past catcher impacts an offense more than the left tackle in part because you can scheme around the loss of a left tackle the way you quite can't with a dominant wide receiver.

45 Green Bay and Linemen vs WR

So it's a bit of a narrative that GB doesn't draft WR but does draft linemen for Rodgers. I understand where it comes from, but it doesn't quite hold. At least not with the perceived intent when you look at where players were drafted.

So initially I did a quick COUNTIFS function on draft data going back to 2008, the first draft that would have been all about Rodgers as a starter. Then I realized they didn't trade Favre until Aug of 2008 so how much of the 08 draft was about Rodgers is debatable as well but my memories as a fan were that the intentions to stop dealing with the I'm retired, I'm not retired, I'm retired, I'm not retired crap was that they were moving on in 08 no matter what. And yes that whole retired/not retired from Favre was one of the few ways he had to try and generate leverage because he wasn't happy about things either. But there were retirement rumors BEFORE they drafted Rodgers (https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-02-02-0502020297-story.html).

So I'll run a few different quick sets. 05 - 20, 08 - 20, and 05 - 07.

Some highlights.
In the early years 05-08 when the Favre/Rodgers thing wasn't settled they leaned a bit more on WR than OL with the earliest picks but they took both positions several times in the first 3 rounds and got long term starters at WR and OL from them.

The 05-08 years were loaded with WR (and TE) that have been favorite targets of Rodgers, and another 2nd round pick who suffered a horrible injury. That injury pick was in Rodger's draft year of 05, Terrence Murphy, who suffered spinal damage from a helmet to helmet hit on a kick return. But it also say Greg Jennings with the 52nd pick in 06, James Jones with the 78th pick in 07, and then that 36th pick for Jordy Nelson in 08.They grabbed Finley at TE in the 3rd in 08 too.

To be fair they got a lot starts from linemen Daryn Colledge (06 - 47th), Jason Spitz (06 - 75th) and some spot starts from Tony Moll (06 - 165th) and Allen Barbre (07 - 119th). Though Barbre also almost go Rodgers kill in 09.

The 09-11 drafts were a bit more OL heavy, but when you have Driver, Jones, Jennings, Nelson, and Finley on the team already do you need more pass catchers? Well yeah they picked up Cobb in the 2nd in 11 too. So the only first round OL happening in that stretch makes sense.

Drafts from 2012 onwards have been really aimed at trying to get Rodgers a defense. 2012 itself the frist 6 picks were defensive players. Their first pick in the draft from 2013 - 2019 were also defensive. It wasn't until the Jordan Love pick in 2020 that they took offense first (followed by AJ Dilon in the 2nd). You've got 2014's 53rd pick of Davante Adams to go back to the 2nd round receiver well that they used a ton in transition years.

The Packers used their first pick in the draft to take a lineman twice between 05 and 20. In 2010 they took Bryan Bulaga with the 23rd pick and in 2011 they took Derek Sherrod with the 32nd pick. They took Randall Cobb with their 2nd pick in 2011. They used their first pick to take a WR once. That was in 2008 with Jordy Nelson, he was a 2nd round pick, they traded out of the first, from 30th to 36th, and took him with their first pick in the 2nd.

So that's it for "help for Rodgers" in the first round / with first pick. I consider Nelson as basically the same level of intent as Bulaga and Sherrrod. They were very confident he (or maybe another WR they liked) would be there so they picked up an additional 4th round pick to get him.

Sweet spot rounds, OL in the 4th WR in the 2nd. They get a lot of starts from 4th round OL too. Josh Sitton, TJ Lang, David Bakhtiari, and JC Tretter were all 4th round picks. But that doesn't match the 2nd WR hauls with Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, Adams.

So first pick in draft is Linemen 2, WR 1. Later rounds (4th-7th) they take about as many fliers on WR and OL.

Does the 2nd round change things?
Not really.
From 05 - 20 it is 5 WR in the 1st/2nd round, and it's 4 T and 1 C. So that's 5 WR 1st/2nd and 5 OL in the 1st/2nd. 
From 08 - 20 it is 3 WR and 4 OL. So those uncertain years were a bit more WR heavy.

Alright let's go to the 3rd!
Well now we start to see a clear bias.
From 05 - 20 we see 2 WR and 4 TE in the 3rd round. We see 1 G. That's it 6 pass catchers. 1 OL
From 08 - 20 we see 1 WR and 4 TE and NO OL at all.

Back half of the draft
08 to 20 we get
4th: 2 WR, 5 T (so evens out that 3rd round a bit)
5th: 4 WR, 2 TE, 2 T, 2 G, 1 C (6 vs 5)
6th: 1 WR, 1 TE, 3 T, 1 G, 2 C (2 vs 6)
7th: 5 WR, 2 TE (7 v 0)
 

Basic Summary Data (No idea how it will actually format)
05 - 20    WR    TE    T    G    C
1             0         0      2     0    0
2             5         0      2     0    1
3             2         4      0     1    0
4             2         0      5     0    0
5             5         2      3     3    1
6             2         1      3     1    2
7             5         2      0     1    0
Totals    21        9     15     6    4
                   
                    
08 - 20     WR    TE    T    G    C
1              0         0      2     0    0
2              3         0      1     0    1
3              1         4      0     0    0
4              1         0      4     0    0
5              4         2      2     2    1
6              1         1      3     1    2
7              5         1      0     0    0
Totals     15         8    12     3    4
                    
                    
05 - 07    WR    TE    T    G    C
1             0         0      0     0    0
2             2         0      1     0    0
3             1         0      0     1    0
4             1         0      1     0    0
5             1         0      1     1    0
6             1         0      0     0    0
7             0         1      0     1    0
Totals     6          1     3     3    0

55 Interesting

I would not have expected this. Although, one thing we need to remember about the drafting part is that you are replacing either "bad" or "missing" players. For example, most teams drafting a QB in the first round need one b/c their current one stinks. In other words, if a team is constantly cycling through players at position X b/c they leave town or don't grow into good players, they will draft more of them. "The 09-11 drafts were a bit more OL heavy, but when you have Driver, Jones, Jennings, Nelson, and Finley on the team already do you need more pass catchers? Well yeah they picked up Cobb in the 2nd in 11 too. So the only first round OL happening in that stretch makes sense." Of course you acknowledge that, but seeing the draft numbers does shed some light on whether the "narrative" is true or not.

19 Re #4 - There’s a cascading…

Re #4 - There’s a cascading effect to drafting a premium LT, because even a below-average tackle can kick inside and become a serviceable guard (e.g. Erick Flowers). Not every coach adheres to the “best five guys” philosophy of building an o-line, but you actually can (at least theoretically) upgrade the entire line by bringing in one top talent. 

22 Roboblocker, as a pass…

Roboblocker, as a pass blocker, neutralizes the pass rusher across from him. Maybe roboblocker & the guy he's blocking both get stuck to the ground as soon as they make contact and stay there for the whole play. So he basically turns the play into 10 vs 10. He's useful, but not outrageously valuable (especially since the defense can just put its best pass rusher on the other side of the formation).

Roboreceiver I guess would get separation on every play and catch every pass in reach. That seems overpowered; he'd be MVP. Maybe Roboreceiver 1.0 only does that to single coverage, and gets shut down by double coverage. That is still pretty amazing - it basically turns the play into 10 vs 9.

30 You wouldn't even bother…

You wouldn't even bother sending somebody to pass rush against roboblocker. Just scheme around him. I suppose you'd need a sacrificial lamb in the run game though. 

On a more serious note, I've sometimes wondered about this effect with great pass-blocking tackles. To what degree did defenses simply stop sending their best pass rushers against e.g. Joe Thomas?

31 You can't just imagine a …

You can't just imagine a "perfect blocker" as "OK, eliminate guy on opposite side" though. That's not the way blocking works. I mean, it can be but that'd be an incredibly limited blocking scheme. Think about it: you say "OK, this guy will always win, so we won't line up someone against him." But what does that even mean? A tackle can routinely block what, like 5 different technique slots? Anywhere from the 3-technique between G/T and a wide 9 on the outside. As a defense you can't just abandon a third or more of the available attack surface. How would that even work? You overload the other side entirely... and so the QB just takes off and runs for 4-5 yards behind tackle every play.

And thinking of it like "OK, so now it's just 10 on 10" - yeah, no. That's like thinking "well, if we eliminate the quarterback on every play, it's just 10 on 10!" No, that means you won. The outside edge rushers have by far the best path to the QB because they can build up speed before engaging. If you can eliminate those that's a much bigger deal than, say, a guard or center that doesn't get beat.

32 If a team had Roboblocker,…

If a team had Roboblocker, the opposing team would need to throw more than one guy at him every play.  Because if they didn't, Team 1 would just run behind Roboblocker every play.  Passing is more efficient in the current NFL, but not if you can guarantee 5-10 yards every run.

35 Even if it was some weird…

Even if it was some weird thing like "only perfect in pass blocking" (dunno how that would work...) you'd still have to have guys rush. You can't leave a large portion of the line undefended.

As for the original question of WR vs LT, I don't think that's even particularly close. Economics-wise they're valued pretty equally (maybe a bit higher for WR, but practically in the noise) but LTs have longer careers, so it's a pretty clear choice.

36 I don't think this is an any…

I don't think this is an any and always situation. 

If my QB was Peyton Manning and I had the choice of say Orlando Pace or Marvin Harrison, is it a no brainer?
 

That's kind of the question you should ask when it comes to Burrow. Unlike others, the best person to preserve the health of Burrows is Burrows himself. Yes I realize you need an offensive linemen, but when you see the sack and pressure and hit numbers so heavily skewed to which qbs are playing, it makes me wonder if you are getting diminishing returns to some extent. 

59 Rookie contracts

Just because it's longer (source?) doesn't mean that's the way to go. For the most valuable position sure. But contracts are only 4/5 and if he's "worth it" you're paying them top quality which is something new entirely (usually worth it for QBs, maybe not so much for other positions). 

Never big fan of, "draft x and he's your z for 10-15 years!" At best teams should be planning for like 8 (1st round contract + 3 escalating tags/4 years + 1 more typical contract). Beyond that so many things can come up for non position not protected like QB. Focus on the rookie contract and cross the extension bridge when it comes up. 

68 Just Google average NFL…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Just Google average NFL starting career lengths by position or aging curves by position, there are plenty of sources out there. Pretty much the only one that shows "equal-ish" career lengths for WRs/OL are ones that try to deal with "infant mortality" by setting minimum standards way too high (like 5 years as a starter).

Your expectation for what I'm suggesting as a "long career" is way high. I totally agree teams should be planning for 8 at most! But most WRs who start don't make it that long, or if they do their value is down significantly. Typical peak production for a WR is like 2-3 years, whereas it's a fair amount longer than that for an OL. Again, aging curves by position (either by AV, which is obviously very limited, or contract value, which is again limited but less biased) bear that out pretty well.

Another way you can tell is to look at how long a given position signs new contracts for. For tackles, it's a bit longer than WRs.

Pretty much your entire "hit" expectation for a guy in the first round is that you should get a non-rookie contract out of him. A "push" would be a guy who starts for a good portion of his rookie contract but you let him go in free agency because he's not worth the non-rookie contract. So when I say "OT's more valuable because the career's longer" what I mean is "the OT justifies his value all the way through his first (real, non-rookie) contract more often.

As an example, Tyler Lockett got a short extension at the end of his rookie contract, which was a great negotiating tactic for him (hit the end of that contract right in his prime). Now he just got a second non-rookie contract from the Seahawks, and I'd bet there's less than a 25% chance he's worth that contract in 2 years. 

74 Is value solely based on career length?

What are the other positions like? Should we be playing this game at 5 overall? Do we think Chase and Sewell are typical or average? I'm saying we shouldn't have to look at the "first" "real" non rookie contract. That's not how they enter the league and anything beyond the first contract is...expensive, unless they're QBs. And just because they do pay for them doesn't mean their right to.

You don't Lockett will be worth it not solely because of the money (although, you know, that's what happens when teams think they're worth it beyond the rookie contract) but because of his position, otherwise you think <$24m cap hits every year is that bad? Going forward? (specifically in two years when his cap hit is 16.75m at 31? 63rd in the NFL, 10th for WRs).

Focus on the rookie contract and if they become worth you can always tag them if a deal cant get done. Same strategy for the 5th overall pick with Chase or Sewell. Yes, theyll likely have long careers, but lets cross that expensive bridge later and get value out of that rookie contract first. Of which the WR will get more of since they play a more valuable position (doesn't matter if they dont last as long...since it's just the rookie contract teams should be worried about first).

75 "Should we be playing this…

"Should we be playing this game at 5 overall?"

Yes. Why does this matter? The chance of a player becoming super high end falls slower than the chance of them becoming a viable starter. OL top 5, Pro Bowl chance: 55%. All-Pro chance: 11%. OL top 10 Pro Bowl chance: 40%. All-Pro chance: 21%. OL first round, Pro Bowl chance: 37%, All-Pro chance: 19%. Chance of being a Pro Bowl (i.e. viable starter) drops steadily through the first round. All-Pro barely budges at all.

The All-Pro/Hall of Fame guys come out of nowhere. You should never expect a draft pick to be one of them.

"I'm saying we shouldn't have to look at the "first" "real" non rookie contract. "

Most  positions don't reach anywhere near peak performance until ~3 years in, so relying on performance in rookie contracts is a waste of time - you've burnt through almost half the contract before you know what you've got. If you rely on draft picks to only provide value during their rookie contract, you're doomed as a team.

"and anything beyond the first contract is...expensive,"

You're focusing too much on high-end players.

"You don't Lockett will be worth it not solely because of the money (although, you know, that's what happens when teams think they're worth it beyond the rookie contract) but because of his position,"

Yup. Even if his cap hit was flat post 2023 I'd make that bet. I mean, I'm betting on a WR's performance declining after 30. This isn't rocket science.

"Focus on the rookie contract and if they become worth you can always tag them if a deal cant get done. "

I completely don't understand your point here? If they're worth tagging, they're worth a second contract. I mean, ideally for a WR if they're worth it you'd like to do rookie + 5th year option + tag (plus maybe tag again) but that's 1) expensive and 2) restrictive, as you only get 1 tag. If Seattle had let Lockett walk, it would've been smart on their part. I have no idea why they signed him to that contract.

34 Even in your "realistic"…

Even in your "realistic" example, though, they wouldn't stop throwing solid rushers at a guy just because he's a good tackle. Edge rushing on a blind side is just too valuable. You attack his brain/neighbor, not him physically. Twists, zone rushes, etc. Just flat out avoiding a guy is a huge concession.

6 The second Northwestern…

The second Northwestern Wildcats player to be drafted in the first round in 2021 (which is a huge achievement for any program but especially for a program such as Northwestern),

 

And by "a program such as Northwestern," you mean one with a fairly lengthy track record of consistent success? The Wildcats have been in the Big 10 Championship Game two of the past three years, and they've won a bowl game four of the past five years.

23 The way that comment is…

The way that comment is worded does kind of suggest that Northwestern's program is underrated, but given their success over the last 10-15 years it's kind of surprising how little NFL talent they produce. As of last fall they had the fewest alumni on NFL rosters of all of the Big 10 teams. Even if you look at schools which have neither won many games nor brought in much talent over the last 10 years, like Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers, Maryland, and until recently Minnesota and Indiana, they've all managed to place more players on NFL rosters than Northwestern.

Here's my source: https://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/2020-09-07/nfl-players-college-2020-rosters

7 honestly, just curious

I understand the appeal of NCAA tournament brackets, why 50+ year-old ladies in my programming department enjoyed entering those work contests, filling out a bracket made up of 63 teams of which they'd never seen a second of play. A bracket is just aesthetically appealing, in the same sense that bingo is. Come the results you get to check them off one at a time, see how you're doing compared to every one of your coworkers who entered a bracket.

As a person who doesn't see much of value in mock anything - I mean, 'mock' - I've always been puzzled by these things. You many people who so enjoy these things. How so? Honestly, I'm curious as to what attraction there is in this. What makes it enjoyable?

11 As someone who occasionally…

As someone who occasionally writes these things for fun, it's like putting together a puzzle -- trying to match up prospects and team needs, trying to understand the headspace of more, erm, esoteric general managers, trying to separate wheat from chaff when it comes to rumors and anonymous scout lines.

Ideally, that's what fans get out of reading them, too, though there's a large helping of "yelling about my favorite team/prospects" as well.  Heck, we all need something to do in the offseason, right?

13 As a non-expert fan, they're…

As a non-expert fan, they're a great way to learn more about the top college prospects and about what teams' perceived needs are - I mean let's face it, even the most hardcore fans will be hard-pressed to know off the top of their head if the Broncos have a greater need at linebacker or on the interior offensive line. 

Plus, they're really fun to look at in retrospect, to see how much the mockers got wrong. 

 

21 :-)

Thanks, Bryan and Boots. Yes, the puzzle aesthetic makes sense now you've pointed it to me.

Think I'll go with one part that and five parts "yelling", tho'. :-) And toss in another part about the 'Free Money!!!' aspect of the draft, where my team filled so many holes and every guy they drafted was the absolute top guy on our board. And pay no attention whatsoever to how that's exactly what every one of My Team's 17 opponents this coming season did, too. Then one more 'New Kid in Town' aspect, what improvement my Mighty Pack's '20 and '19 draftees show this coming season will much more determine what happens this year to my Mighty Pack than what fuzzy-cheeked 20-year-olds this draft brings in. But the shiny new toys are so much more interesting!

50 I kinda wish people doing…

I kinda wish people doing mock drafts would clarify whether they're mocking what they think will happen versus what they think should happen. In most cases I'd like to see people's consensus opinions on the players in the draft and their evaluation of a team's needs, rather than how well they can anticipate a GM. I mean, I already know certain GMs are wacko.

26 From a making point if view…

From a making point if view I kind of get the appeal. But that is basically combining (self made) scout reports with team needs.

But as for reading them, all I can respond is "ok, we will see on Thursday".

8 "Lance offers the Broncos…

"Lance offers the Broncos the possibility of an upgrade at the position that is likely holding them back the most from competing in the NFC West."

I think it's probably the conference alignment that holds them back from competing in the NFC West. :)

12 I thought Parsons was the…

I thought Parsons was the clear consensus #1 LB in the draft. Why would the Dolphins choose Owusu before him? Is that a Miami tendency to grab players earlier in action?

14 Oh, I love the Eagles pick…

Oh, I love the Eagles pick. It just checks all the boxes.

1. Stupid attempt to fix a prior-year mistake instead of dealing with the most pressing fundamental issues: check.

2. Still managing to flub that fix by picking some guy you're super-impressed with while ignoring injury concerns: check.

 

 

15 I hope

I'm happy if Miami's draft falls that way.

25 I can't fathom why the Colts…

I can't fathom why the Colts would pick a CB in the first round. Their glaring needs are LT and someone who can rush the QB, preferably at DE. But, if they can't get one of those, they will trade down, or if they don't trade down, then I am worried. That means no one wanted the pick, including the Colts. I get that CB is also a need, but not nearly as glaring as LT or pass rush.

29 Drafting a runningback would…

Drafting a runningback would be a very stupid move by the Steelers.
They need linemen and better play-calling.
The second they think they fixed by getting a new OC.

Without linemen, Ben will continue his predictable 'fastest release' dink-n-dunk game - which was exposed at the end of last season.
Also, if the line isn't fixed, then it doesn't matter what running back they run into the back of the middle of the line. But that's the Steelers way.

Tomlin is going to Tomlin I'm afraid.

57 It’s also the only possible scenario...

It’s the only possible scenario in which the Pace can trade up into the top 10 to snag a QB.  
 

Assuming SF takes Jones, there’s 60-70% chance (each) that Fields or Lance is available at pick 6 per ESPNs draft day predictor (Brian Burke’s old Bayesian draft model).   Those odds fall to 25% by pick 8 / 9.

Pace will prob try and trade 2 1sts and a blue chip player with a decent cap hit (Hicks, Mack).

40 Devonta

I can't see how Devonta Smith could fall out of the top 15 with multiple WR needy teams picking there after what might have been the best season ever by a college WR. Hopefully Chase and Waddle end up as solid players too, but I could see this order looking really silly a few years from now.

42 Yes Devonta

In reply to by jgov

Devonta Smith has the smell of a possible future HOFer.  He could be a Larry Fitzgerald.  Or a rich mans  (don't laugh) Doug Baldwin, a great weapon but probably not quite HOF but a very valuable part of your offense for years.

This makes me want to jump into the LT vs WR debate above.  I can't think of a really, really good LT that went undrafted.  Doug Baldwin did!

 

43 Yeah I lean towards the…

In reply to by Sixknots

Yeah I lean towards the tackle in that debate. The lowest drafted high quality LT I can think of is David Bahktiari in the 4th round. But the vast majority are 1st or 2nd round picks. The same cannot be said of the top WRs. Of course many high picks are good, but it is not nearly as hard to find a top tier WR late in the draft as it is LT.

46 OT vrs WR

ChrisLong,

It is much the same with Rugby Union prop forwards. By the time they reach 20 or so they are in the 110 to 120 kg range, can move, and have good scrummaging technique. When you watch them they are usually a lot better than their peers.

Elite outside backs I think are much harder to calibrate for a variety of reasons and experience is one of them. Being a great prop is about size, power and skill. A great back needs arguably more tools which is hard to measure especially against inferior opposition.

S0 as you say the great OT's tend to stand out more (figuratively and literally).

 

44 Jason Peters went undrafted…

In reply to by Sixknots

Jason Peters went undrafted. Granted, he went undrafted in part because he was expected to switch to a position he had never played before, but I think that can also be instructive when determining whether you can find premier o-line talent late in the draft.

48 Yeah, forgot about him. But…

Yeah, forgot about him. But I guess the larger point is that, by and large tackles have to meet certain physical benchmarks to be good. There’s only so many of those guys each year, and even fewer that can actually play. Receivers have many different physical archetypes they can follow and still be very successful (quick slot guy, downfield burner, route runner extraordinaire, contested catch behemoth, hybrids of all of these, and then the all pros who are good at all of these) but tackles don’t really. If a tackle doesn’t have good footwork, good strength, or long enough arms, he’s almost certainly not going to make it as a tackle.

49 Yeah, the common example of…

Yeah, the common example of low-drafted tackles working out usually happens because of a position switch. As in, they've physically got the capability (although Peters isn't an ideal tackle candidate, his arms are short) but no experience. Similarly, Jordan Mailata (what is it with the Eagles and weird tackles) practically went undrafted, but again, no experience whatsoever.

But it's important to note there that saying "well Peters was a UDFA" isn't right. Jason Peters UDFA was only a left tackle for the Bills for 2.5 years. He was a special teams player in '04, and a right tackle in 05 and half of 06. So that's 2.5 years before he became a tackle. And similarly, even if Mailata becomes a starting tackle for the Eagles, it'd be a similar delay. In other words, you can't look at Peters and say "look, you can get tackles as a UDFA!" because the Bills didn't get "Jason Peters, Hall of Fame left tackle" as a UDFA. Whereas if you look at, say, Ogden, Baltimore did get "Jonathan Ogden, Hall of Fame tackle" in the draft. 

There's a difference between "guy you draft" and "guy the player becomes." You can't look at what a player eventually becomes and use that to determine whether or not a team should have drafted him. That player didn't exist at the draft.

51 What spawned from the LT vs…

What spawned from the LT vs WR debate was, which is more impactful over the lifespan of the player - an ALL pro LT or an ALL pro WR. This is a fundamentally different question than, "can I find reasonably competent receivers later in the draft versus reasonably competent tackles". 

 

52 What spawned from the LT vs…

What spawned from the LT vs WR debate was, which is more impactful over the lifespan of the player - an ALL pro LT or an ALL pro WR. This is a fundamentally different question than, "can I find reasonably competent receivers later in the draft versus reasonably competent tackles". 

 

53 Yes that is a fundamentally…

Yes that is a fundamentally different question, but since we're talking in the comments section of a mock draft article and your original debate was sparked by whether Sewell or Chase is theoretically more valuable, I find this conversation more insightful for the issue at hand. The question of "which highly rated prospect is more worth the pick" necessarily includes whether a player viewed as a middling prospect can develop into a very good player.

It's a derivative of positional value but one that takes into account what makes a good player to begin with. For OTs, it is primarily specific physical traits. For WRs, those traits are less specific; there is no Jaylen Waddle equivalent for OT prospects. You either are big enough, long enough, and strong enough or you are not a good tackle, either as a prospect or an established player. There isn't a Tyreek Hill of the OT world either.

This is why, in my view, you take the tackle prospect every time. You can mold your offense to a different type of receiver and mold your receiver to fit your offense, but no one can work around a left tackle that simply is not long enough to keep a defender out of his chest and therefore loses in pass protection way too often.

56 You can always just throw the ball

You can always mitigate OL play simply by getting ridding of the ball quickly. This is why Donovan Smith went from a being on a joke of a contract to a career year and earning an extension. Brady has made a living off getting the ball out quickly (while also being able to threaten teams deep). A majority of OL can hold for a second or two, they win  a majority of their reps after all, regardless of tier, since defensive lineman physically arent able to get there in 0.5 seconds regardless of their tier. Put another grown man there and it's gonna take 1+ sec every time just get past him and not even to the QB yet. 

(also there's really no difference, at least anymore, in left vs right tackle/guard)

At the end of the day though, appease your franchise QB. Draft OL if your Seattle and get Chase if you're CIN (Chase will also dictate coverage as you can't just single cover him, thus there will be less rushing Burrow) in these specific cases. But in a vacuum WR>OL, as a great QB can still see great passes dropped. 

63 I'm not sure I buy this. Per…

I'm not sure I buy this. Per Next Gen Stats, Brady was middle-of-the-pack to actually on the long side in time-to-throw 2016-2018, before speeding it up the last couple of seasons (ironically, this may be in part because his processing speed has gone down - needed to simplify the decision tree). And lots of successful QBs hold the ball longer than average, usually trying to make some magic happen - including Wilson and Mahomes, behind mediocre lines (or outright bad ones, for Wilson some years). Quick passing only works so long before a good defense figures out they can just jam everybody, and let the rushers feast while the QB tries to make something out of nothing (unless he is Mahomes - and even then, ask him about the Bucs...).

Meanwhile, I'd argue that a good QB and a competent coordinator can consistently scheme/throw mediocre-to-bad receivers open, because the receiver is always at an advantage: he knows when he will make his cut and the defender doesn't, and so timed right and executed well, that one move is all he needs to get a completion. But only if they've got time to actually execute the scheme. The blocker, on the other hand, is at the disadvantage in the same dynamic, so having someone who can consistently succeed despite it is more rare.

On the other hand, I take the point that even the best OT is just one of five guys. Pat makes a great point about the knock-on advantages, though: if the one OT (or any lineman really) can consistently win his matchup, with a blocking TE or back, they can then use two double-teams on a given down. With one other competent lineman, the standard pass-rush is neutralized, even if the individual players aren't too great. But that still means committing an extra blocker every passing down - better than committing two extra, but that's all.

Is that more valuable than a WR who always commands a double-team? I'm inclined to say yes; the safety often functions as a de facto double-team in coverage, so it's basically the equivalent of the default double-team the offensive line has in a standard down/scheme. That WR changes nothing.

I don't know, it's tricky - and it's telling that the NFL values top WR and top OT about the same.

There's another wrinkle too that's more team-specific, in that I'm not sure replacement level for receivers and linemen is quite the same. Because of the aforementioned advantage receivers have, in order for the team to function, a team needs "better" linemen (on some absolute scale) than it does receivers.

In other words, say a team has 5 replacement-level linemen. Their QB gets killed. Add the All-Pro OT though, and now they can use the knock-on numerical advantages to achieve functional protection.

Say a team has 5 replacement-level receivers. Add the All-Pro receiver, and now the defense just double-teams that guy and the others are still hopeless. Unless the QB and coordinator can get them open anyway, in which case the All-Pro wasn't necessary and confers little advantage.

But I'm not sure this dynamic persists once the units are average, since replacement level for the line is "higher". In other words, the top OT isn't as far above replacement as the top WR, so the relative advantage is diminished if the level of the unit as a whole rises.

Say a team has 5 average linemen. They can all win their one-on-one battle a reasonable percentage of the time. Add the All-Pro OT, and now they've still got 5 guys who win their battle a reasonable percentage of the time or better, plus a good sub. You'd rather have that than not, but the needle hasn't moved as much as adding the All-Pro to the replacement-level line; the knock-on advantages are lesser.

Say a team has 5 average receivers. Add the All-Pro, and he commands the double-team, and now every other guy gets to go one-on-one (generally against lesser opposing CBs to boot), and they're competent enough for it to matter, since they can beat that guy a reasonable percentage of the time independent of QB/scheme. And at least one guy's job got a lot easier, no longer facing the double-team.

Long story short, the All-Pro OT moves the needle further for a replacement level unit, but the All-Pro WR moves it further for an average one.

Obviously this is a hand-wavy thought experiment, but I think it tracks with experience (e.g., the Chargers' awful line got massively better whenever they had Bulaga last year, and he wasn't even an All-Pro type guy). And of course there are team- and scheme-specific elements that might move the valuation some (e.g., if no lineman needs help you might pull more often). But I find it helpful to think about it this way.

I do think it means, though, that the valuation question is a trick, and that a team is better off spreading resources to achieve averageness-or-above across a unit, rather than counting on one star to move the needle by themself. But that in turn means consistently evaluating mid-tier talent correctly, and I suspect it's harder to gauge average talent than All-Pro (even Joe Shmoe in the stands can recognize that the one guy is bigger/stronger/faster than everyone else), so that's a trickier proposition than it seems like at first.

64 Ability

Brady is able to get the ball out and push the ball down the field unlike a Flacco or Keenum. Recognizing checkdowns (targets to James White) while still airing it out to Gronk, unlike Alex Smith. 

Other successful QBs do hold the ball but they also take a lot of sacks (Brady hasn't been below 103 Sack%+ since 01). Wilsons BEST season was 93 ('16 and '17). Jamming DK Metcalf doesn't really work though. And Brady started to decline when his guys couldn't while also being bad overall deep threats (even though the OL was still decent). No, not every pass needs to be out in under a second but a QB can always make that decision. 

That's the thing, mediocre to bad receivers aren't getting to their spots on time. They don't always run the route good/on time. I don't get how blockers are at a disadvantage though. Even bad ones are usually winning >50% (and 50% would be absolutely HORRIBLE) of the time, unless you're asking them to hold for more than 3+ seconds which is bad and just increases the chance of a sack.

If you want to talk replacement level...well. And it's follow up this year

It's funny you bring up the Chargers last year. Really funny because they were terrible (worse than what Burrow had)...yet...Herbert won ORTOY (was slightly more efficient than Burrow too, so not without merit, not just pure volume)? Hmm, maybe because Keenan, Henry, Williams, Ekeler are kinda good? Hmmm. Which was surprising because a lot were meh on Herbert pre-draft process...despite having (and frankly, because of) Sewell and one of the best OLs in college...but maybe because he wasnt throwing to anybody good! Meanwhile, what was better at LSU, the receivers or the OL? It was eventual top 6 overall pick Jamarr Chase, #22 overall pick Justin Jefferson (the real OROTY), 1st rounder CEH, and another possible 1st rounder in Terrace Marshall. First OL didn't go til the 3rd round. 

But yes you dont want a terrible OL but blocking for...what 2.5 seconds...is sufficient enough. Anything else is gravy and you're paying for decoration (and increasing the chance of a sack). Creep toward average as PFF Steve says. The Chargers should address OL early, but they also shouldn't ignore receiver depth (especially since Henry left).  

76 'Just double the star…

'Just double the star receiver to shut him down and make the mediocre guys beat you' isn't how things actually play out, as we've seen with Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Allen Robinson, etc. They've all had reasonably efficient high volume seasons in offenses that otherwise had limited receiving talent.

58 There's a huge difference…

There's a huge difference between "player whose performance peaks at All-Pro-ish for one year" and Hall of Fame level, which is "perennial All Pro or close."

Hall of Fame tackle vs WR is pretty much a push in terms of contract value. There was a study a long while ago looking at "decrease in win percentage after this position is injured" and OT way outdid WR there, but again, that was a long while ago. 

62 Well, the reason I pegged it…

Well, the reason I pegged it at HOF is because that's sort of how these prospects are being discussed. This isn't late first rounder debate(although even there I think its an interesting discussion).

The reason I keep coming back to the receiver over tackle is because your QB and scheme can mitigate the weakness of a left tackle such that its not quite the death sentence it appears to be. The same I don't think is quite true for hall of fame receiving production. There, they bring a gear you just can't replicate. 

However, I do recognize that one should take into account the fact that hall of fame caliber players are rarities and certainly perhaps not something you should go in expecting even if the hype they are getting suggests that. 

67 Hall of Fame isn't "early…

Hall of Fame isn't "early first round." Hall of Fame is like "negative-5th round."

Eric Fisher played 8 years for the Chiefs and was released. He was picked #1 overall. He made 2 Pro Bowls in his career. That was a very solid pick. The expectation for a high first isn't Hall of Fame, it's "starter."

You don't pick guys at the top of the draft with the expectation that they'll be Hall of Fame players. That's draftnik sports radio talk. 

70 I think I would look at "Pro…

I think I would look at "Pro Bowler" as the roughly breakeven point for a No. 1 overall draft choice. If your first overall pick never makes a Pro Bowl, - Jameis Winston, Sam Bradford - he's probably a disappointment 

72 I don't think that's…

I don't think that's actually very different - someone who you consider a viable starter by year 4 is probably gonna make at least 1 Pro Bowl in their career.  QBs are harder, though, as the bar's higher (career length). Basically, if you end up offering the guy an extension, he wasn't a disappointment.

But I think both definitions still hold - I don't think the league has ever really thought of Bradford or Winston as viable starters. I mean, with Bradford they kept throwing trade resources at him for potential, sure, but with a perennial knee injury no one would imagine him as a starter.

(But psst, Winston did actually make the Pro Bowl in year 1, frighteningly enough.)

65 There was a study a long…

There was a study a long while ago looking at "decrease in win percentage after this position is injured" and OT way outdid WR there, but again, that was a long while ago.

Can you find a link to that study? All of the articles I've seen on 'how much does the betting line move when a player is out?' (which is a similar question) have WR as the most valuable position after quarterback. Like this one from last year's playoffs.

66 It was a newspaper's study…

It was a newspaper's study in the early 2000s, a series uncreatively titled "Bloody Sundays" - I think it's been offline for a while. Couldn't find it last time I checked. Bit of a monster study for its time.

69 If Pitts ended up having a…

If Pitts ended up having a career similar to Vernon Davis, would he be viewed as a disappointment? I know my 49er friends were ultimately disappointed with Vernon because with so much draft hype, he was expected to be George Kittle.

Was Alex Smith viewed as a disappointment for the first overall pick? What about Stafford. And would Eli be also viewed that way if he lost 2 sbs or lost in the title round but had the same career statistics?

71 " I know my 49er friends…

" I know my 49er friends were ultimately disappointed with Vernon because with so much draft hype, he was expected to be George Kittle"

Your friends must be disappointed a lot. Davis was sooo far from a disappointment that statement's hilarious. Draft hype talk is for TV viewers, not for anyone sane.

"Was Alex Smith viewed as a disappointment for the first overall pick? What about Stafford. And would Eli be also viewed that way if he lost 2 sbs or lost in the title round but had the same career statistics?"

With Smith it depends on where you lay the blame. If Smith was the same player he was under Harbaugh, just with crap coaching and a crap team, he was a perfectly fine first overall pick (just wasted by crap team/coaching). If Smith was actually crap those years and just got better slowly, he was a disappointment.

My God, Stafford and Eli aren't disappointments as picks. How in the world could you be disappointed with a pick that performs average or above average for that pick position? That's extremely poorly calibrated expectations if you think that. I mean, jeez, you're just a few years after David Carr, Courtney Brown, JaMarcus Russell, Sam Bradford. The next guy picked after Eli was Robert Gallery.

"And would Eli be also viewed that way if he lost 2 sbs or lost in the title round but had the same career statistics?"

Yup. Absolutely. You're being way critical of Eli. Yeah, he was a mediocre-ish QB on average, but at his peak he was a totally reasonable starting NFL QB. I mean, in 2011 - when they won the Super Bowl, mind you - he was 8th in DYAR and DVOA, roughly where Wilson was in 13 and Brady in 14 when they won the Super Bowl (and way above Flacco, Roethlisberger x 2, and Manning's second when they did).

So in other words, he was a viable starting QB for years and peaked at a level where a good team could win a Super Bowl with him (and they did). What the heck do you expect from the #1 pick? You do realize there's one of them every year, right?

77 Got 6 exactly right.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
26. Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
29. Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia