What Did We Learn From Trying To Mock Round 1 Of The 2021 NFL Draft?

For those of us who attempt to forecast the NFL draft, it’s helpful to look back on the first round to see where we were right and wrong—or more importantly, why we were right or wrong. I’ll highlight a few things that stand out to me from my mock draft in comparison to how the first round actually played out on Thursday night.

Conservative Drafting

During our Twitter Spaces chat with other Sharp Football analysts last week, I stated a belief this would be a more predictable draft than usual, based on the understanding teams would be more conservative with less information on these prospects. 

According to The Huddle Report, which has been tracking the most accurate mock drafts for 20 years, the average score based on their grading scale is 37.6. This year, the average score tied a record at 41 points. 

This knowledge probably doesn’t help us in the future, since the past two drafts were (hopefully) unique in ways we’ll never see again. But maybe we can use this to our advantage in 2022, knowing we should expect a little more chaos. 


Another unique aspect of this draft was the lack of information on injuries. Many of my mistakes were related to these players. 

For example, I projected new Tennessee Titans CB Caleb Farley and Miami Dolphins EDGE Jaelan Phillips to fall out of the first round because of injuries. But then I projected Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari to sneak into the first round despite injuries. 

It’s hard to learn too much from this. There’s just no way for us to guess which team’s doctors might give them the thumbs up on which prospects. 

Although, it is worth noting this is the second time Titans GM Jon Robinson has rolled the dice on an injured prospect. He also drafted Jeffery Simmons in 2019, who had just torn his ACL while training for the draft. 

Drafting for Size vs Speed

One of the strategies I used for placing players in the first round was finding ways to squeeze the best athletes into the mock draft. I thought I was on the right track when the New York Giants drafted Kadarius Toney—although I got the team wrong, I was among the few who projected him to go in the top 20. 

However, we then saw WR Elijah Moore, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and WR Rondale Moore (another long-shot pick I made) fall out of the first round altogether. 

Although the league is definitely trending towards being dominated by speed, maybe teams are starting to realize speed isn’t that rare. Whereas elite size and length is harder to find—like Payton Turner (New Orleans Saints) and Greg Rousseau (Buffalo Bills). 

Maybe we’ll learn in the days to come of other reasons these players fell, so I’m not willing to call it a trend, but it’s something to keep in mind for next year.