Jamaal Rich of MoreThanStats, who analyzes the intersection of fashion and sports, gave NBC Sports his thoughts of who strutted the best looks of the night.
“It’s their moment to really show who they are and it’s become a big thing in general. You’ve got to make your fashion statement that night. It’s become part of the game now in sports in general,” said Rich.
Rich believes fashion statements complement players off the field, just like football complements the athletes on the field. “They are really trying to express who they are and give us a look into them as an individual because we see them as part of a team,” he added.
“Players today are very creative at expressing their background and various messages in interior layers of their suit jackets,” Rich explained in reference to players like former Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal whose suit featured Lake Okeechobee, where he is originally from in Florida.
Liberty quarterback Malik Willis and former Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner both went with the Christain Louboutin “Studs” for footwear. “They’re definitely keeping up with their fashion and high end designers,” said Rich. “I definitely like the baby blue. I see Sauce has the ‘ice’ out so he definitely wanted to showcase his jewelry collection.”
Similarly, former NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu strutted some pieces from his jewelry collection. “If you want to stand out, you definitely go for a look like that – something out of the box. He did a good job in doing that.”
“The watch is amazing,” said Rich, in reference to Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson, who showed off a black and gold satin suit and velvet shoes. “They have their best accessories out today.”
Rich went on to talk about how Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean’s hat game and crisp white sneakers made him stand out. Meanwhile, former Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson showed off his high-end combat look with Prada black boots.
Rich did not exactly approve of former Mississippi offensive tackle Charlie Cross’ fashion decision to strut blue Nike sneakers with a gray patterned suit. “He didn't need the sneakers with that. It would have looked better with a nice solid shoe.”
Former Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux impressed Rich with his unique and unconventional suit jacket look. “This was different. I don’t recall seeing something like that. I feel like he pulled it off,” said Rich. Thibodeaux’s ruby red-studded lapels paired with a clean pair of sunglasses really contributed to his character that night. “Definitely one of my favorite looks of the night I would say,” added Rich.
At the end of the day, whether you’re a man who’s into fashion or not, the draft is your opportunity to showcase your character as an athlete and a person.
“For draft night, you have to put on some of your freshest attire and come out and try to do something,” said Rich.
Athletes have strutted their skills on the field for decades, but fashion has become more of a recent affair.
“I really like how the NFL is embracing it. Now it looks like a runway where guys ride the red carpet,” said Rich. “Every year it gets more interesting as far as what is implemented there to showcase what these guys are wearing."