My approach going into this draft has been based on the idea that we can't have any more whiffs like Willie Middlebrooks, Ashley Lelie, George Foster and Jarvis Moss. We don't need to end up with best player in the draft, we just need to end up with a very good consistent starter, and that means that the floor is more important than the ceiling. In my mind, the "safe" positions seem like the linemen on both offense and defense, and this has led me to believe that we should be drafting a DT with our first pick. I am now questioning that approach. Follow me after the jump to find out why.
The four-letter website has an interesting article with a statistical analysis of first round draft picks since 2002 based on their longevity, their productivity and their effect on their team's success. Here's the link:
I know someone will comment that this should be a fanshot and not a fanpost. I apologize if I'm fouling up the etiquette, but no on reads the fanshots and I also wanted to include more analysis than the typical fanshot so I'm doing a fanpost instead.
According to ESPN's analysis, the "safest" picks are LB, DE, TE and DB in that order. This is not what I would have expected. I don't think of linebackers as being particularly safe picks, and I definitely wouldn't have thought that tight ends were highly likely to be long-term starters. I usually think of the glamour positions like RB and WR. If I had to guess, I would say that part of the reason for the "safeness" of picking LB's and TE's is that the guys who have the frame to play these positions are going to be adequate at worst, so that means they are going to be able to stay on the field. These positions don't require the skill set of a left tackle, running back, wide receiver or quarterback. They require big, strong tough guys who can work in the trenches. It is probably easier to scout these traits in college than some of the other positions.
But this is only half of ESPN's analysis. The other half is concerned with how good these guys turn out to be, not just how many snaps they get per game and how many years they play. And this is the part that I found really fascinating. To assess a player's impact, ESPN also assigned a value to first round picks based on their individual success and their contribution to the team's success using All Pro voting, Super Bowl appearances, and Pro Bowl appearances. According to this analysis, LB's, DB's and TE's were most likely to be the high-impact players you are looking for in the first round. Again, this was surprising to me, particularly the LB's and TE's. We don't think of many LB's in the same way we think about the best WR's, RB's or even DB's in the game. And we certainly don't talk about tight ends as being dominant players. Tight ends are usually considered role players. Sure Dallas Clark and Antonio Gates are important to their teams, but look what those teams have been able to do with backups when the starters get hurt. You can't replace a key RB or WR the way the Colts replaced Clark, right? But according to ESPN's analysis, a linebacker or tight end is more likely to be a high impact player than a WR or RB.
Based on this analysis, I have to say I'm reconsidering my opposition to drafting Von Miller or Patrick Peterson with the #2 pick. I still think #2 is too high for these players, but the reality is that the #2 pick is too high for any player in this draft. At #2 you have to end up with a long-term stud. If you believe in playing the odds, your best bet is to gamble on a LB or DB. At least according to the four-letter network.