Few were more interested in last week's NFL draft than college football coaches.
They have coached those whose names were called in Las Vegas and game-planned against them. They have seen players rise from the high school ranks to the highest level of the sport. College coaches ultimately aren't making decisions on draft weekend, but they have a distinct viewpoint on good picks, bad picks, surprises, sleepers, trends and how players project with certain teams.
After launching draft confidential last year, I reached out to more than 25 college coaches for their thoughts on the 2022 NFL draft. I spoke to head coaches in every Power 5 conference, as well as coordinators and position coaches who followed the draft like the rest of us, but could analyze players, position groups and team fits from direct experience.
Most coaches spoke anonymously, but Cincinnati's Luke Fickell and Kentucky's Mark Stoops also discussed the impressive draft performances by their respective programs. The 2022 draft seemed to diverge from those of previous years. Quarterback picks were delayed, Georgia had arguably the greatest draft output ever and teams prioritized wide receivers, cornerbacks and pass rushers, while backing off on running backs, tight ends and some linebackers.
"It was a terrible draft," a Power 5 coach said. "Is this not the least-hyped draft in the history of the NFL? Not a great year for top-end guys."
Another Power 5 coach noted that NFL teams displayed more patience than in other years, especially with certain positions.
"I don't think teams are taking reaches, drafting guys because of positions, as much as letting them go to where they fall," the coach said. "They're trying to work through different options of what they're willing to give to get the right guy, and if there's not, they're not going to overselect or overpay."
Here's an evaluation of the 2022 NFL draft through the eyes of college coaches. (Note: Coaches are identified by the roles they held during the 2021 season.)