Last year, 11 players at offensive skill positions—which I define as quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends—were selected in the first round. In 2010 and 2011, eight such players were selected.
I could go on, but I think you get the point—each year, the offensive skill positions account for a large proportion of all first-round picks.
Which is why it's so surprising that, in my latest mock draft, I have just four offensive players at skill positions being selecting in the first round. That's right, just four:
- Geno Smith to the Buffalo Bills at No. 8.
- Cordarrelle Patterson to the St. Louis Rams at No. 16.
- Tavon Austin to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23.
- Keenan Allen to the Houston Texans at No. 27.
Now, you could obviously make the argument that I'm ignoring several players here that could end up in the first round.
Quarterbacks Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley and possibly even E.J. Manuel could be snatched up early. A running back like Eddie Lacy, a wide receiver like Justin Hunter or a tight end like Tyler Eifert could go in the first round. It's possible more than four skill position players will go in Round 1.
But should they?
There is a lot of defensive talent in this draft, and I'm not sure any of the above players are worth taking in the first round when there are more talented players to be had and all could be around in the second round.
Just look at quarterback. Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders all addressed the position, at least for the short term, with Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn respectively. Those moves don't exactly scream, "Yeah, we're in love with this quarterback class," now do they?
(I only think the Bills will select Smith because he falls to them at No. 8. The team would be just as happy waiting until the second round to select a player at the position.)
The Jacksonville Jaguars will probably give Blaine Gabbert one more season to prove himself. The Philadelphia Eagles don't need to take a quarterback at No. 4 with Michael Vick and Nick Foles on the roster. The New York Jets are paying Mark Sanchez too much money to draft his successor in the first round.
At running back, there isn't a Trent Richardson in this class. Wide receiver has plenty of depth, but I would be surprised if more than three or four wide receivers are selected in the first round. Tight ends generally fall past the first round unless they are electrifying talents, and there aren't any this year.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of talent defensively. In need of a pass-rusher? This draft has some exciting talent in that area, especially at the top of the draft. Defensive tackle is loaded with solid prospects. Cornerback is weak at the top but, again, fills out with great depth.
Heck, even the amount of solid offensive linemen should limit the amount of skill position players that go in the first round. Everything points to a draft with a slew of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends slipping down the board.
It will buck the trends from years past, obviously, but teams shouldn't reach to fill those positions this season. There is too much value to be had elsewhere.