How Champions Draft

Every year around draft season, especially after the Combine, everyone gets ga-ga over wide receiver 40 times and running back 3 cone drills. Fantasy football has conditioned people to look at skill positions first.

But reality is never the same as fantasy.

Let’s take cues from those who have been most successful and look at what positions the Super Bowl champions (the teams you want to be like) have drafted in the 1st round (their premium choices) in the five years preceding their title (the window for first contracts).

Here are their total results from 2012 through the 2021 Super Bowl Champion Rams:

  • 9 Defensive Linemen
  • 8 Edge / Outside Linebacker
  • 8 Trade Downs (out of the first round)
  • 6 Offensive Linemen
  • 6 Traded Away (either for a veteran or to move up)
  • 5 Cornerbacks
  • 3 Quarterbacks
  • 1 Safety
  • 1 Running Back
  • 1 Wide Receiver
  • 1 Tight End
  • 1 Inside Linebackers

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Conclusions

  • It’s a passing league, but championship teams didn’t frequently use their most valuable draft capital on wide receivers or tight ends – when they didn’t, the results weren’t very impactful:
    • The only tight end chosen under these circumstances (OJ Howard) was on IR for the playoffs when his team won the Super Bowl.
    • The only wide receiver chosen under these circumstances was Nelson Agholor, who’s career high is 896 receiving yards – he only had 167 total yards and 0 touchdowns in 3 playoff games during his team’s Super Bowl run. 
  • Defending the pass is a much bigger priority than skill position players for these teams, with box attackers and defensive backs accounting for over 2/3rds of the players chosen
  • The only inside linebacker chosen was Devin White, a top 5 pick who became in All Pro on one of the most stacked defenses in recent memory 
  • The game is won and lost in the trenches – offensive and defensive lineman are two of the three most heavily drafted positions
  • There’s a lot of value to be had in trading down – after defensive linemen and outside rushers, trading down was a very close third option
  • The only running back chosen in the 1st round for this timeframe was Sony Michel – when he went to the Super Bowl, he scored the only touchdown in the game 

I’ve written in the past about Why Skill Players Are A Dime A Dozen and this draft pattern reinforces that in practice. Keep it in mind when the Packers are on the clock.

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Want to learn more!?

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Check out Packers Draft Central for all our latest NFL Draft coverage!

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