Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 4/25/13
When the NFL added the expansion Houston Texans to its league in 2002, it brought the number of teams up to an even 32. In the eleven drafts since then, there have been 351 first round selections. Why not an even 352? I think Bill Belichick has the answer to that question. Anyway, something interesting to note about these 351 first round draft picks is that only 122 went on to reach at least one Pro Bowl, a rate of 34.8%. What does this mean? Nearly two thirds of first round picks since 2002 have failed to be considered as one of the top tier players at their position for any single year. Now, to expect a perfect success rate on draft picks is ridiculous. Another thing to keep in mind is that the more recent drafts will produce more Pro Bowlers in the coming years. But the fact that more than half fail to produce at least one statistically significant season should be somewhat alarming. I went back and broke down the numbers by position, and grouped players in the following positional categories: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. Some of the positions, such as quarterback, running back, offensive line, and cornerback produced numbers similar to the draft as a whole. However, the rest showed some statistical significance. Here’s a breakdown of what I found. Defensive Line Defensive linemen represented the largest number of first round draft picks from 2002 to 2012, making up 90 of the 351 selections. They also had the lowest percentage of Pro Bowlers at 22.2%, as only 20 of those 90 ever played in Hawaii (or that one year in Miami, for Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, and Mario Williams). So NFL teams love drafting defensive linemen with the first round choices, but only two out of every nine taken make the Pro Bowl. It should come as no surprise, then, that our Mock Draft 2.0 has eight defensive linemen going in the first round, more than any other position. Who, then, will live up to the hype? I think Dion Jordan and Shariff Floyd are the safest bets in the year’s class. To be fair, though, they aren’t the highest ranked prospects at their respective positions for nothing. What about potential busts? Perhaps Ezekiel Ansah’s lack of experience catches up to him, and he’s unable to handle the NFL game. But a more likely candidate is Bjoern Werner, who started playing football late as well, but also lacks athleticism, something that won’t drastically improve overnight. Linebacker More than half of the linebackers chosen in the first round since 2002 have a Pro Bowl to their name, as 15 of 29 have made at least one appearance. Our mock has four linebackers going in the first round: Jarvis Jones, Manti Te’o, Alec Ogletree, and Kevin Minter. Jones’ neck injury increases his bust potential, but otherwise he looks like the surefire Pro Bowler of the group. If Te’o can leave his off-field drama behind, he certainly has potential to be a solid NFL player. Ogletree, on the other hand, could see his off-field antics, which include theft and a DUI, catch up to him. If Minter falls to the Baltimore Ravens, as we have predicted, he has a chance to learn from a great group of defensive players, and could have a solid career despite arguably being the least talented of the four. Tight End/Safety These two positions are grouped together because they are statistically similar. Teams rarely draft tight ends or safeties in the first round, but the decision tends to pay dividends. Seven of the 13 tight ends and ten of the 15 safeties drafted in the first round have made Pro Bowl appearances. Why such a high success rate? It’s likely because teams are only willing to draft these positions if the guy is considered a sure thing, leading to only especially high quality players being taken in the first round. However, it’s also unnecessary to have a lot of depth at these two positions compared to the rest, which would obviously yield fewer picks. Our Mock Draft 1.0 had the New York Giants selecting tight Tyler Eifert with the 19th overall pick. However, our latest edition had Eifert falling out of the first round, leaving us with a grand total of zero tight ends. Teams would be wise to consider Eifert early, though, who plays like a taller Dallas Clark. The safeties in our mock are Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam, and Jonathan Cyprien. Elam and Cyprien are both solid, but Vaccaro is the star. He possesses similar size and speed to San Diego’s Eric Weddle, a smaller safety who can fly all over the field making plays. This weekend’s draft, just like any other, will have its gems and busts. Now you know where to find them. By: Joe Diglio Twitter: @Joe_Diglio
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