In 2012, Greg Gabriel postulated an interesting hypothesis that teams use historical draft data to predict how many players at a certain position will get drafted. I did this analysis in 2012 based on the draft board and draft selection of the Packers back then and thought it was a pretty interesting exercise. Basically, a quarterback (regardless of the specific player) is more likely to be drafted in the 1st round than say a kicker is. Extrapolating that further, every draft can expect to see 2-3 quarterbacks drafted in the first round and expect 0 kickers to be drafted in the 1st round. To narrow that down even further, the Packers can expect to see around 2 quarterbacks selected before pick 21 this year and hence if they were interested in drafting a quarterback, they could predict that the 3rd best quarterback will be available for them when they pick (assuming they don’t trade the pick of course).
Naturally, the Packers aren’t likely to pick a quarterback in the 1st round, but this hypothesis can be applied to any position. Below is the number of players picked at their respective positions up to the 21st pick from 2005 (the first year of Ted Thompson’s tenure as the Packers GM) to last year. Also note no punters or kickers have been picked in the top 21 selections so I’ve dropped those positions from the list.
I wouldn’t say the data is all that surprising, quarterbacks, defensive ends (i.e. pass rushers) and wide receivers are the most highly drafted players in the top 21 picks while centers, guards and tight end almost never get drafted in the 1st round. There’s also a very striking decline in the number of running backs drafted in the 1st 21 picks, with last year being only the 2nd time in 9 years that a running back wasn’t selected.
The following list is composed of the top players from their respective positions based on current rankings from CBS Sports’ NFL draft page. One of the biggest caveats is choosing which big board to go off of, I personally like CBS Sport’s because their rankings have been the closest to the actual draft compared to other large media draft rankings. Players names which are italicized are likely to have already been selected by pick 21 and players with their names in brackets meaning that position typically won’t be picked again by the 21st round (for instance, only 1 tight end has been picked higher than 21st in a single draft so the Packers would be breaking the trend a little by drafting a second tight end in the top 21 picks.