Advanced Trends in the NFL Draft: 2004-Present

By Tyler Oberly
April 25, 2013

TSV's Tyler Oberly created one of the largest draft databases from 2004-present. Studying the data, he found several trends you should watch for in tonight's NFL Draft.

The Sideline View set out to find any trending data that may provide baselines of what NFL scouts look for the in draft. In doing so, we compiled one of the largest draft/combine databases ever created. Through the process of breaking down and analyzing this data, we have found several trends that may give us a hint towards who will be selected where in tonight's NFL Draft.

Running Backs

  • All 1,000 yard rushers drafted in the first round since 2004 ran sub-4.5 40-yard-dash times.
  • Notable picks from the first round with 40-yard-dash times slower than 4.5 and have not ran for 1,000 yards in a season include Mark Ingram, Lawrence Maroney, and Chris Perry.
  • Jonathan Franklin is the only sub 4.5 rusher predicted to be selected in the first two rounds in this 2013 draft.

Wide Receivers

  • The average size and speed for receivers drafted in the top 15 since 2004 have been:  6-2, 215 lbs. with a 4.5 40-yard-dash.
  • Most notably: Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones
  • Will Tavon Austin’s playmaking ability be enough to break the mold?


  • Six pro bowl offensive tackles have been selected in the first round since 2004. The average size of these pro bowlers are 6-6, 309 lbs.
  • Other notable traits on these top tackles include:
    • Minimum 34” arm length
    • 5.25 40-yard time or faster
    • Minimum 24 bench reps
  • Based on these tendencies, Luke Joekel, Eric Fisher, and Lane Johnson all pass the test.


One of the hottest topics coming into the draft this year is when is the earliest to select a guard? Since 2004, nine offensive guards have been selected in the first round, with the earliest pick at #15 in the draft.

  • Those drafted early in the first round were versatile guards who had the ability to play multiple positions (Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey).
  • The remaining guards who were drafted late in the first round were drafted to be either a specific power blocker, or zone-read based guard.

Tight Ends

  • Among all tight ends drafted since 2004, Rob Gronkowski has the largest recorded hand size (10-7/8”).
  • All pro bowl tight ends drafted since that time have had a minimum 34” arm length.

Quarterbacks and Centers

  • There were no tendencies found among quarterbacks and centers

Defensive Ends

  • When reviewing 3-4 scheme defensive ends drafted since 2004 who became all-pro players, the following tendencies stood out:
    • Minimum 33” arm length
    • Minimum 24 bench reps
    • Minimum 30” vertical
  • Bjoern Warner, Datone Jones, and Margus Hunt fall within these parameters for this draft class.
  • When reviewing 4-3 scheme defensive ends drafted since 2004 who became all-pro players, the following tendencies stood out:
    • Sub 4.8 40-yard-dash
    • Minimum 34.5” arm length
  • Ezekiel Ansah, Cornelius Washington, and Corey Lemenier fall in these parameters for this draft class.

Defensive Tackle

  • Elite defensive tackles (like B.J. Raji, Ndamokung Suh, and Halodi Ngata) all had a shuttle under 4.7 seconds and had over 30 bench reps when entering the draft.
  • The only defensive tackles in this draft class who exceeded 30 bench reps was Josh Boyd.
  • Sheldon Richardson, Bennie Logan, and Chris Jones all had 30 bench reps.

Outside Linebacker

  • 3-4 scheme outside linebackers drafted in the first round that went on to become all-pro players showed the following tendencies:
    • Sub 4.65 40-yard-dash
    • Minimum 33” arm length
    • Minimum 120” broad jump
  • Barkevious Mingo and Dion Jordan both fall in these parameters in this draft class.
  • 4-3 scheme outside linebackers that have had great success in their careers by being versatile linebackers had sub 4.7 40-yard-dash times and a 20-yard shuttle time at 4.2 seconds. (Notable: DeMeco Ryans and A.J. Hawk.)
  • John Bostic and Khaseem Green are the only two outside linebacker in the draft class with these parameters.


  • No cornerback shorter than 5-10 has been drafted in the first round of the draft.
  • Furthermore, the average parameters of the top cornerbacks drafted are: 5-11, 195 lbs with a 4.4 40.


Much like the offensive guard discussion, many do not believe a safety should be drafted in the top 10. In this year’s draft, many believe three safeties will be drafted in the first round. In review of safeties drafted towards the top half of the first round, the following parameters stood out:

  • Broad Jump greater than 120”
  • Sub 4.6 40-yard-dash time
  • Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, and Phillip Thomas are three of the top safeties with these parameters