Bryce Young Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after he was drafted first overall by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft had a familiar feeling to it, at least when it came to the schools of the players selected.

All 31 of the players selected came from a college in one of the Power Five conferences.

The SEC and Big Ten led the way, producing nine players each. Behind them were the Big 12 (6), ACC (4) and Pac-12 (3).

For comparison’s sake, the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft had four players from non-Power Five schools with two coming from the American Athletic Conference and one each from the Missouri Valley and Southern Conferences. That doesn’t even include Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame, which is generally associated with the Power Five schools though remains Independent.

But the complete lack of non-Power Five first-rounders in 2023 doesn’t just come in sharp contrast with a year ago. It’s unlike any draft we’ve seen for more than 25 years, since the formation of the Big 12.

The coming years will see a dramatic shift in conferences. Some high-profile programs like USC and UCLA are going from one power conference to another. But even looking at 2022’s Group of Five selections, one of those schools Cincinnati (Sauce Gardner), will no longer be a non-Power 5 school in 2023.

Additionally, NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) favors the bigger budget schools, which are essentially exclusive to the power conferences. That will likely make it harder for the Group of Five conferences to recruit top-tier talent out of high school.

Finally, even when this does happen, if any of the best college players in the country do end up on a non-Power Five team, the transfer portal makes it significantly easier for them to transfer.

So, while the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft might have been the first of its kind, don’t expect it to be the last.

[Brett McMurphy, OptaStats]

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