After the Super Bowl the members of MFANS gathered to participate in a 4 round NFL redraft. with the following rules:
- Drafting for a 5 year window
- 4 round snake draft
- Contracts/Salaries are ignored
- The draft pool consisted of all players on NFL rosters at the time of the draft. So players drafted in the 2021 NFL draft were not eligible to be selected
- Each team could draft no more than 1 QB
- Outside of each teams’ 4 picks, we know nothing about the quality of the other players
- If a GM took too long to draft, the auto draft pick would be Jeremy Sprinkle.
Rule 7 was not needed. Sorry Jeremy. After the draft some members teamed up to analyze how it went. Credit to Arjun Menon, Joey DiCresce, Tej Seth, Bradley Goldstein, and Larry Lu for contributing to this article.
The article is broken up into the following sections
- The Draft
- Divisional Analysis
- Panel Questions
There were a couple of noticeable trends that occurred over the course of the draft.
First off, round 1 consisted of mostly QBs which is expected. Given that good QB play is vital to a team’s success, most teams took QBs in round 1 to make sure that position is taken care of. The first break in this trend was in pick 12, where the Lions took Aaron Donald. Given that Donald has been the most dominant player of the last decade, this might not be a bad pick over unproven guys like Tua and Daniel Jones, or older guys like Matt Ryan and Derek Carr. After the small break, the run on QBs continued onto pick 27 where the Cardinals took Davante Adams, who was clearly the best WR in the league in 2021. The first round ended with 4 non-QB players, including Derwin James who was the first secondary player off the board.
One very interesting trend in the middle to end of round 2 was the huge run on WR that took place. From pick 47-63, there were 13 WRs taken. This could be due to the fact that having an elite WR1 can be very beneficial to an offense’s success. One very interesting pick that was made was Terry McLaurn being the 4th WR taken off the board, ahead of elite guys like Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen, and Michael Thomas. If you were to rank the top 10 WR in the league right now, all 3 of the guys listed would be in there, but McLaurin is one of those guys that sits on the border.
Rounds 3 and 4 didn’t really have any noticeable trends. In round 3, the most picked position was OT/IOL as those 2 positions combined to be 8/32 picks made that round. These picks were made to keep the QBs happy and not create a situation like Russell Wilson in Seattle. In Round 4, the most picked position was WR once again, and in fact, some teams picked a 2nd WR to build an elite offense. Of course, this came at the price of the defense, but having an elite offense is more important than having a top defense.
QB and WR were the most drafted positions with 28 and 31 players drafted respectively. The next tier would be OT, CB, and EDGE with 14, 12, and 11 players drafted. The GMs seemed to focus on drafting positions that affect passing offense and defenses the most. Some may disagree with WR being the most drafted position but I think with the rules we set there is an advantage to drafting a top WR rather than say an OT or DB. Because we must assume nothing about our team outside of our own picks, a WR gives more certainty in building a good passing attack rather than an OL, because a single elite WR is more valuable than a single elite OT. The success of the offensive line is much more based on the weakest link compared to the receiving corps or other positional groups. However OTs, DBs, and EDGE are still very valuable positions and I think our draft patterns reflect that. (Except for the single RB selection).
Lions: With interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, defensive tackle Vita Vea and defensive end, the Lions will feature the best defensive line in the league and will worry about the other positions later. This draft was all about building in the trenches and making sure the other team’s quarterback was as uncomfortable as possible.
Bears: The Bears took quarterback Jameis Winston, cornerback Tre’davious White, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and wide receiver Deebo Samuel. The focus of this draft was on the premium positions. Jameis Winston was productive in Tampa Bay and could be in Matt Nagy’s offense with a strong left tackle in Decker and the shifty YAC God in Deebo Samuel.
Vikings: The Vikings picked running back Derrick Henry, wide receiver De’Andre Hopkins, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Derrick Henry was the only running back taken in this draft as the rest of the analytics zigged towards the passing game, the Vikings zagged and took arguably the best running back in the NFL. With a lot of the good quarterbacks gone by pick 31 this seemed like the right choice. The hope is Trubisky will develop more now that he has a good run game and a great receiver in Hopkins to throw to.
Packers: The Packers went all in on defense taking defensive end Myles Garrett, cornerback Jaire Alexander, linebacker Devin Bush and safety Jessie Bates. One could argue the Packers have a top-5 edge rusher, top-5 cornerback and top-5 safety along with an athletic linebacker. It will be tough to score against this Packers team but offense will have to be found elsewhere.
Cowboys: The Cowboys had the most balanced draft among all the NFC East teams, drafting two offensive and two defensive players. Not only did they have a balanced draft, but they got above average if not better players with each pick. Dak Prescott with the 5th pick was an interesting pick given that he is coming off a major injury in a compound fracture in his ankle and the fact that there were better QBs in my opinion taken after him such as Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Aaron Rodgers. Dak was performing at a high level before his injury and in 2019 so the hope is he can return to that level of play with star receiver Kenny Golladay. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys got a budding star and borderline top-5 safety in Justin Simmons combined with a steal of a pick in cornerback Byron Jones in the 4th round, who is a very solid corner and tremendous value in the last round of the draft.
Eagles: The Eagles took a similar approach to the Cowboys in going QB and WR with their first two picks but opted for protection in an OT with their third pick before going to the defensive side of the ball with their last pick. The Eagles draft was very solid; however, the most questionable pick was Joe Burrow, given that he only played 10 games in the 2020 season before getting injured. Also with better and more established quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers still available, why take the risk with Joe Burrow? Maybe Joe Burrow does continue to develop and quickly becomes a star given the talent he is surrounded with in Keenan Allen, an elite but injury prone receiver, and PFF’s number one rated tackle in Trent Williams, or maybe he never reaches his potential. I would fall more on the optimistic side with Burrow, but I still question not opting for the better, but older QBs. With their last pick, the Eagles addressed defense, going for second team All-Pro Roquan Smith, a very solid pick in my opinion with great value and upside.
Giants: The Giants went all out on offense, going for Lamar Jackson with their first pick, which is a great pick as he can basically be the running game on offense and if he can continue to improve as a passer with the elite WR tandem of Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson, this offense will be scary. Allen Robinson has to be my honorable mention for steal of the draft given the value in the third round and somehow being picked after other wideouts like Will Fuller V and DJ Moore. Allen Robinson is a borderline top 10 wideout in my opinion and giving him an elite QB in Lamar Jackson and another elite WR opposite of him to take away attention will greatly benefit him and the offense. The only knock on this pick is whether or not doubling up on receiver was the right decision given the need for defense. Finally, the Giants got Lamar some protection with Mekhi Becton, a second year tackle who performed admirably in his rookie year and will continue to improve. The Giants draft had value at every pick but the lack of defense is the one true flaw.
Football Team: The Football Team did not have the greatest of drafts, getting two O-linemen in OT Ronnie Stanley and OG Wyatt Teller but no QB for them to protect. Granted Ronnie Stanley is one of the best tackles in the league and is young, but the value doesn’t align with a first round pick. Wyatt Teller was a second team All-Pro in 2020, but again the positional need is not really there when they already had one O-lineman and could have used this pick to go after a different position of need. Marlon Humphrey in the second round is perhaps the only truly good pick, given his youth and already elite corner skills, but is he better than Jalen Ramsey, who was taken one pick after him? He very much could be in a couple years. Marlon Humphrey only had one INT in 2020, but made up for the lack of INTs with 8, yes 8, forced fumbles, leading the league. The Football Team ended their draft again going with youth, a common theme in their draft, in IDL Jefferey Simmons, who took a huge leap in year 2 and could potentially keep improving, but there were greater positions to address like QB, which could have been Drew Lock of Jalen Hurts, WR like Juju Smith-Schuster or Courtland Sutton, or even EDGE, like Montez Sweat or Bradley Chubb.
Rams: The Rams took Justin Herbert in the 1st round ahead of more established QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, and Matthew Stafford. This is quite the gamble to take on a player with only one year of tape, yet it could pay off tremendously as Herbert has flashed the accuracy, talent, and mobility to be a star for a long time. However there certainly is the potential that he regresses, in his rookie season Herbert was much better in unstable categories.
Chart and data from Eric Eager https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-los-angeles-chargers-justin-herbert-mvp-odds-2021
Pairing offensive rookie of the year Herbert with his runner up Justin Jefferson was a great value and will make for an offense which should impress in year one but has the potential to be top of the league down the road. Romeo Okwara in the fourth round in my opinion may be the worst pick of the draft. Okwara was cut by the Giants after his second season however in his fifth season he broke out with the Lions and recorded 10 sacks. Okwara is still young at 25, however I’m slow to believe that he will continue to improve or even repeat his play from the past season and certainly would rather go with a more established player such as DeMarcus Lawrence, Lavonte David, or Byron Jones.
49ers and Seahawks: The 49ers and Seahawks had similar drafts, they are talented where it matters with good pass-catchers, defensive backs, and pass-rushers. These two teams fate’s will be in the hands of their middling QBs. I think Derek Carr certainly has 5 years of average to above average play ahead of him. Using data from rbdsm.com out of qualifying QBs from 2016-2020 Derek Carr ranks 21st out of 53 QBs and Cam Newton ranks 36th. At 32 years old, I think we’ve seen enough of Newton to know that while his rushing does provide a valuable floor, his durability and passing likely limit him to an average QB at best. I think Newton was a reach at 17 with QBs like Daniel Jones, Ryan Tannehill, and Kirk Cousins still available.
Cardinals: The Cardinals are a team built to win now in the newly drafted NFL. Davante Adams was the second to Aaron Donald as the first non-QB drafted. Adams is 28 and played like the best WR in the NFL last season, so pairing him with second round pick and ageless wonder Tom Brady will be a dangerous combination. Both players are masters of precision and accuracy and I think this pair could be the best QB-WR duo in the league for 1-2 seasons, but who knows? Brady might play until he’s 47. 30 year old Stephon Gilmore fell to the third round yet I believe he still has 1-2 seasons left of elite play. I think the Cardinals may be the best team in the NFL year 1, but they could certainly fall off quick with the possibility of Brady’s retirement and Gilmore’s regression. I expect the Rams to eventually take over as the kings of this division once Herbert and Jefferson improve and Brady retires.
Saints: The Saints got the first pick in the draft, and they went with the obvious choice Patrick Mahomes. Then, with the final pick of the second round, they took Quenton Nelson to give them a plug-and-play option at LG that they will never have to worry about. Khalil Mack was the first pick of the third round for the Saints, and he helps their defense by giving a menacing edge rusher to wreak havoc in the backfield. Finally, giving Mahomes a weapon was a necessity so taking the best WR on the board, Courtland Sutton, rounded out the draft.
Panthers: The theme for the Panthers draft was offense. All 4 picks were used on offensive players. However, it seems like the Packers are going all in for the next 2-3 years. Taking the reigning MVP in Aaron Rodgers started the draft for the Panthers at 11 overall. Then, Carolina took Stefon Diggs who is coming off an elite season with the Bills. Julio was the next pick and this pick represents the all-in approach for the Panthers. If he stays healthy, this would be a value pick in the third round. Reuniting Rodgers with Linsley finished the draft for the Panthers.
Buccaneers: The Bucs made sure to take a QB in the later part of the first round, and took Two-Gloved Teddy with the 21st overall pick. They then took George Kittle in the second round to give Teddy a reliable target over the middle and in the flats with tons of YAC ability. The Bucs made sure to address their defense by taking Shaquill Barrett in the third round to try and strengthen their pass rush. In the fourth round, the Bucs took Jerry Jeudy to give Bridgewater more weapons to throw to.
Falcons: The Falcons snagged Kirk Cousins at 23 overall in the first round, who hopefully can show some consistency throughout an entire season. A surprising pick for the Falcons in the second round was Terry McLaurin who was taken before WRs like Michael Thomas and Stefon Diggs. “Blitz Boy” Adams was snagged in the third round to give the Falcons defense a versatile chess piece on the back end. Finally, Jonnu Smith was taken in the final round to add to the athleticism that McLaurin possesses.
Chiefs: The Chiefs started off very well taking Deshaun Watson who has continuously gotten better while his team around him has dissolved thanks to the Texans’s front office. They then paired him up with his teammate from Houston in Will Fuller who gives Watson a legitimate deep threat on the outside. The focus then turned to the defensive side of the ball and Chris Jones was picked to be an interior force that would be able to rush the passer from the inside. The Chiefs’s draft was rounded out by selecting Corey Davis who had a breakout year in 2020 and seems to be entering his prime.
Broncos: The Broncos are taking a chance on Tua with the hopes that he plays at an elite level like he did in Alabama. Tua ranked 27th in EPA/Play + CPOE composite in 2020, and got benched multiple times for Ryan Fitzpatrick. DK Metcalf was the 2nd round pick, and he gives Tua a legitimate #1 WR option on the outside that can win jump balls and be a deep threat as well. Reuniting Tua with Jedrick Wills was the next move for the Broncos and he has LT/RT flexibility should they choose to put him on Tua’s “blindside” where he played at Alabama. Deion Jones finished the Broncos draft and gives them an alpha middle LB to control their defense.
Chargers: The Chargers are betting that “Danny Dimes” can be a franchise QB, and that his PFF grade (78.4, ranked 18th), is a better indicator of his performance than his EPA/Play + CPOE rank where he is 28th. Michael Thomas was the second pick for the Chargers and he provides Jones with a reliable target over the middle that can go for 100+ catches in any given season. Then, Fred Warner was scooped up in the 3rd round which gives the defense one of the best coverage LBs in the league. Finally, Terron Armstead was picked to protect Jones’s blindside.
Raiders: The Raiders got a steal in Ryan Tannehill at pick 19, as he has been one of the most efficient QBs over the last 2 years. They then went all-in on defense, selecting TJ Watt, Tyrann Mathieu, and Marshon Lattimore to give them playmakers on the front and back-end. There will definitely be some struggles to move the ball against this Raiders defense given that they have one of the best pass-rushers in the league, and 2 very physical defensive backs that can play any coverage.
Jets: The Jets had the #2 overall pick and took Kyler Murray followed by D.J. Moore, Denzel Ward and Juju Smith-Schuster. Kyler was an interesting choice at #2 overall with other quarterbacks like Watson, WIlson, Allen and Jackson still on the board but he is great for the future being young and mobile. D.J. Moore as WR1 and Juju as WR2 is a great receiver corps for him to throw to. Denzel Ward to stop the pass is a nice addition also.
Bills: The Bills took Russell Wilson 4th, then Tyler Lockett, Ryan Ramcyzk and Zack Martin. The theme of this draft was offense. Wilson is getting his favorite target from his real-life playing days, plus something he doesn’t think he has: a good offensive line. This team will try to win games by scoring 50 points before their opponent does.
Patriots: With the 6th overall pick, the Patriots selected Josh Allen followed by Calvin Ridley, Bobby Wagner and Marcus Peters. This was a great draft from a process standpoint as you give one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks one of the NFL’s best receivers. On the defensive end, you might only get a couple years out of Bobby Wagner but he’s still very good and has Peters to help him in coverage.
Dolphins: As the only AFC East team to have a late draft pick, the Dolphins settled and took Derwin James, Jalen Ramsey, Brian Burns and Marcus Williams. At every level of the defense, this team is stacked. Ramsey was a steal in the 2nd round considering he’s the NFL’s best cornerback and he gets paired with the NFL’s most athletic safety. Offense will have to be figured out later.
The new AFC South did not get the best luck with 3 of the teams having picks in the last 8, severely limiting their choices at QB. However, I do think it was smart of the teams to recognize that it is still worth taking a shot at these QBs rather than loading up elsewhere and rolling with a no name backup QB. Even though Wentz, Danrold, and Roethlisberger may not have the best outlook there is still some hope. Looking at how each of these QBs have performed over the past 3 seasons in terms of Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback the data aligns with the media/twitter narratives. Roethlisberger was solid for a long time yet the end of his 2020 season was quite terrible.
Roethlisberger was solid yet the end of his 2020 season was quite terrible. Stafford had a rough stretch at the end of 2018 but has been playing like a top 10 guy ever since even with a bad roster “led” by Matt Patricia in Detroit. We can also see the downfall of Carson Wentz, who never really played that great over the last 3 seasons but his 2020 in particular was so bad that he’s fallen to a negative cumulative EPA over the last 3 years. Finally we have Sam Darnold, yes the Jets were awful, but so was Sam Darnold. Sam was so awful that it is hard for me to have as much faith in him in a new setting as the general consensus. Over the past 3 seasons the only player to produce a worse cumulative EPA was fellow 2018 1st round pick Josh Rosen.
Jaguars: Diving into the other selections in this division the Jaguars went with 4 offensive players pairing Stafford with Amari Cooper, TJ Hockenson, and Taylor Moton. Taylor Moton in particular could be a very valuable selection for the Jaguars because the rest of the division all selected a star EDGE player. Stafford with good weapons gives the Jaguars a significantly better offense than the rest of the division which makes me think they would cruise to a division title.
Titans: The Titans selected one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Joey Bosa, in the 2nd round. Bosa is still only 25 and should provide great production from a valuable position for the entire 5 year window. WR CeeDee Lamb in the 3rd is somewhat of a gamble but he did put up 935 yards as a rookie even with Dak Prescott out. CeeDee was also a highly coveted prospect in a loaded WR draft class so there is certainly reason to be confident that his production will improve. TE Mark Andrews is one of the best young TEs in the league and Wentz targeted TEs frequently in Philadelphia.
Colts: The Colts didn’t pick up any weapons for Sam Darnold but they did give him possibly the best pass blocker in the NFL in David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari is 29 but elite OTs like Trent Williams and Andrew Whitworth to name a few have shown that tackles can keep up elite play in their 30s. 25 year old Buddha Baker and 24 year old Montez Sweat will be center pieces of the defense. However I’m skeptical that Sam Darnold will be able to lead an offense good enough to compete even with two young stars on defense.
Texans: The Texans selected Nick Bosa before his older brother Joey in the second round. This means in our new NFL we get to see a fun sibling rivalry on the field twice a year for many years to come. Nick Bosa put up 14 sacks as a rookie in 2019 yet missed most of 2020 due to an ACL tear. Although both Bosas have played at elite level every season, I think Joey may have been a better pick due to him having 5 seasons of elite production rather than 1. I think Nick carries a lot more uncertainty with his injuries and only having 1 season of play to project with. With the Texans next two picks they doubled up on offensive weapons with WR Adam Thielen and TE Noah Fant. in 2020 Fant took the jump that many 2nd year TEs do and he projects like a top player at the position moving forward. Thielen has given nothing but great play for the past 4 seasons, but most 30+ year old WRs are like ticking time bombs that could implode in any season so taking him in the 3rd round certainly carries a lot of risk.
Bengals: The Bengals are grabbing a former league MVP on the tail end of his prime with Matt Ryan and giving him first round sophomore Tristan Wirfs, who graded well among his class of tackles and played on the Super Bowl squad. Joining the offense will be underrated receiver Robby Anderson who provides Matt Ryan a reliable target as he was targeted and received the 8th most among WRs in the 2020 season. Anchoring the defense will be arguably one of the best coverage safeties in the league, Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Browns: The Browns went all out on offense and picked up Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyreek Hill, Jack Conklin, and Tee Higgins. Hill and Higgins provide a very reliable 1-2 punch at WR that are both in their primes. Conklin has emerged as an elite tackle who is just entering his prime to protect Jimmy G. Admittedly, Jimmy G has shown to only be a subpar quarterback, but with a supporting cast as strong as this there is still hope he can improve. Defense will need to be addressed, but this offense could be relying on big plays to score fast leaning heavily on the WR duo.
Ravens: The most balanced draft out of the AFC North teams, the Ravens went two on offense and two on defense. They picked a foundational quarterback to lead the offense in Baker Mayfield with tremendous upside when playing well and a legitimate number one receiver with Mike Evans. Their defense will be led by the outstanding, young edge rusher Chase Young who still has some learning to do, but has already proven himself to be able to still produce when being double and even triple teamed by opposing offenses. JC Jackson has shown to be an interception machine and can hold his own in coverage, but lacks when on run defense.
Steelers: The Steelers have gone all in on offense by selecting two big receiving threats and an elite center to support Jared Goff and hopefully get him back to his MVP candidate season form. Travis Kelce and Chase Claypool are both large bodied receivers that can give Goff weapons underneath opposing defenses and over the top. Meanwhile, his center Frank Ragnow has established himself as an elite center. Goff, Claypool, and Ragnow are all still young and have time to develop more. Defense has obviously not been addressed, but this offense could do some damage in the division.
Our analysts were polled about the draft, here are some of the most common and interesting answers.
Best Team in Year 1
Best Draft Overall
- Football Team
- Jessie Bates (4th round)
- Tom Brady (2nd round)
- Aaron Rodgers (1st round)
- Khalil Mack (3rd round)
- Denzel Ward (3rd round)
- George Kittle (2nd round)
- Vita Vea (3rd round)
- TJ Hockenson (3rd round)
- Chris Jones (3rd round)
- Derrick Henry (1st round)
- Tua Tagovailoa (1st round)
- Will Fuller (2nd round)
- Romeo Okwara (1st round)
- Kyler Murray (1st round)
- Devin Bush (3rd round)
Each analyst gave division rankings, here are the average rankings for each division.
A team’s average rank is listed in parenthesis.
- Packers (2)
- Bears (2.2)
- Lions (2.6)
- Vikings (3.2)
- Saints (1)
- Panthers (2.4)
- Buccaneers (2.8)
- Falcons (3.6)
- Cowboys (1.8)
- Giants (1.8)
- Eagles (3.6)
- Football Team (3.8)
- Rams (1.8)
- Cardinals (2.4)
- 49ers (2.4)
- Seahawks (3.4)
- Ravens (1)
- Bengals (2.8)
- Browns (3)
- Steelers (3.2)
- Jaguars (1.6)
- Titans (2.2)
- Colts (2.6)
- Texans (3.6)
- Patriots (1.2)
- Bills (2)
- Jets (3.2)
- Dolphins (3.6)
- Chiefs (2)
- Raiders (2.2)
- Chargers (2.2)
- Broncos (3.6)
Thanks for reading, this exercise was a lot of fun! Please direct all complaints to @mfbanalytics on twitter.