The draft gives us a good look at the future of the NFL each year, but it also tells us something about the current state of college football.
So, what did we learn about the college game this time around? Here are some of my observations:
It's a pitch-and-catch game
We hear plenty about the NFL being a passing league, but college football is a pitch-and-catch game, too. Given that reality, you have to start having defensive answers for the pitchers and catchers. The most popular position in the draft was cornerback -- 35 were selected. There were nine defensive backs (five CBs and four safeties) in the first round alone. Not surprisingly, wide receiver was the second-most popular position in the draft, with 33 getting picked.
College football is producing lighter, quicker players, and the NFL is hungry for back-end defenders that can keep up with the skill-position talent.
Big rushing numbers no longer enough for college RBs
The first running back in the draft didn't come off the board until the second round at pick No. 54, when the Titans took Bishop Sankey, marking the longest wait at the position in NFL history. Now, it's not news that the position has been devalued, but we know last year, when no running back was selected in the first round for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger, was no fluke.
It's not enough to rack up huge yards anymore if you're a college rusher. Ka'Deem Carey put up huge rushing numbers his last two seasons at Arizona State (he made just 77 catches in three seasons), and he lasted until the fourth round.
You have to be able to catch the ball and be solid in pass protection in order to really get noticed by the pros if you're a college running back, and I think young college running backs that are asked to consider a position change will be more open to the move than ever.
Pass rushers reign supreme
Defensively, you better be able to get to the quarterback if you're a front-seven defender in college. The hot commodities coming up the ranks are players who can rush the passer -- no matter what position they play in the front seven. Edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr were all picked in the top 10, Dee Ford went earlier than some expected (No. 23) and the Cowboys traded up to snag Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence with the second pick of the second round.
Interior D-linemen that went in the first round -- Aaron Donald and Dominique Easley -- are much more upfield penetrators than lane stuffers. The pluggers of the world -- big, interior D-linemen -- they aren't in high demand. DT Louis Nix fell to third round, and DT Timmy Jernigan lasted until the middle of the second.
NFL embracing college-style offense more than ever
Both sides are copying each other, but college football, stylistically, is infiltrating the pros much more now and you can see it on the field and in the way NFL teams are building through the draft. In the past, it was always colleges taking schematic elements from the pros and the pros not really adopting what colleges would do. In recent years, we've seen the pros taking on college-style offensive schemes much more frequently. Pro quarterbacks are getting outside a little bit more to make plays on the perimeter. There has been more use of the spread offense and hurry-up pace. The pros aren't just turning their noses up at the prevailing offenses in college football anymore.