I'd like to see us get one (as would half of the people on MHR who took the survey last week). So with that in mind and now with combine data in our grasp lets look at the tale of the tape for the top 6 DTs in this years draft along with some of the college stats. Then let's compare their data to the top 5 DTs drafted in 2011 and pair that with what those 5 DTs were able to do as rookies in the NFL.
The NFL is now, has been and ever shall be, a copy-cat league. With the recent success of the Giants resting heavily on the strength of their front 4, many teams are going to be looking to stock their cupboards with versatile athletic defensive lineman who can stop the run and generate a pass rush without needing to blitz LBs. There were 5 DTs taken in the first round last year with 3 more being taken in the second and another 5 being taken in the third. Last year was supposed to be a bumper crop of defensive lineman (there were 11 DEs taken in the first three rounds as well). This year might not be as deep, but we'll see. Mike Mayock is now saying that this year is also quite deep with DL talent. The top six DTs in the draft this year are shown below with their "tale of the tape" from the combine (click on the table and it will be more easy to read).
None of these guys is a sure bet for NFL success, but then no draft pick ever is. Brockers only started one year at LSU and is reminiscent of Nick Fairly in that way since he only had one season at Auburn where he shined. Still has a history of injury and there are doubts about his ability to effectively generate a pass rush at the NFL level. Poe has the physical tools to demolish the competition in C-USA, yet he didn't make first team all-conference - that honor was given to 4 guys, 3 of whom will most likely never play in the NFL. Cox is probably the safest bet, but he may have already reached his ceiling, unlike Brockers and Poe - who have plenty of room for their games to mature. Reyes is questionable in his ability to get to the QB at the NFL level and he faced only slightly stronger competition that Poe while he played at UConn (Big East).
So how do these guys compare to the 5 DTs taken in the first round last year? see below (click on the table and it will be more easy to read)
Cox is very comparable to Fairley, although Fairley had/has a stronger lower body (vertical and broad jump). Reyes also compares favorably to Fairley, particularly with his sick vertical of 34.5 inches. Poe is most comparable to Phil Taylor although Poe appears to be stronger and faster from the combine results. Worthy looks very comparable to Luiget.
So how did the top six DTs in this draft perform in their final year of college ball in terms of TFL and sacks?
Poe - 12 games, 8 TFL, 1 sack, 33 tackles, 3 PD, 1 FF, 5 QB hurries (playing against fairly weak competition in CUSA). His lone sack came against SMU. His best games were against Marshall (8 tackles) and Arkansas St. (2.5 TFL)
Brockers - 14 games, 10.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 54 tackles, 2 PD, 1FF, 1 INT, 4 QB hurries. His best games were against Miss St. (3 TFL, 1 sack, 4 tackles) and Alabama in the BS championship game (0.5 TFL, 7 tackles).
Still - 13 games, 17.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 1 PD, 1FF, 2 hurries. His best games were against Illinois (3.5 TFL, 10 tackles, 1 sack) and Alabama (1.0 TFL, 7 tackles).
Cox - 12 games, 14.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 56 tackles, 1 FF, 3 hurries, 2 blocked kicks. His best games were against USC (4.0 TFL, 6 tackles, 2.0 sacks) and Kentucky (3.5 TFL, 7 tackles, 2.0 sacks).
Worthy - 14 games, 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 31 tackles, 1 PD, 3 hurries, 2 blocked kicks. His best games were against Notre Dame (4 tackles) and Georgia (2.0 TFL, 5 tackles). Looking at his numbers he would seem to disappear in many games - 3 games with 1 tackle (Fla Atl, Central Michigan and Iowa). I guess this is how he got the rep for taking plays (or games) off.
Reyes - 12 games, 13.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 46 tackles, 4 PD, 3 hurries. His best games were against WMU (3.0 TFL, 4 tackles, 2.0 sacks) and Syracuse (0.5 TFL, 7 tackles, 0.5 sacks). Reyes, like Poe, played against weaker competition than the other 4 guys.
Now lets compare these numbers to the top 5 DTs in the 2011 draft in their final college seasons -
Dareus (Alabama) - 11 games, 11.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks
Fairley (Auburn)- 14 games, 24.0 TFL, 11.5 sacks
Liuget (Illinois)- 13 games, 12.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks
Taylor (Baylor)- 13 games, 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Wilkerson (Temple) - 12 games, 13.0 TFL, 9.5 sacks
The 2012 guys numbers are comparable if not slightly better than the guys from 2011. So how did the 2011 guys do as NFL rookies
Dareus - 16 games, 43 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 PD
Fairley - 10 games, 15 tackles, 1.0 sacks (hurt for a good portion of the year). 0 starts.
Liuget - 13 games, 19 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FF
Taylor - 16 games 59 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF
Wilkerson - 16 games, 49 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 safety
So Dareus, Taylor and Wilkerson provided their respective teams what the Broncos are currently looking for, a DT who can collapse the pocket and generate some pass rush. Taylor was taken with the 21st pick and Wilkerson with the 30th. Wilkerson was able to do so even though he played at Temple, so we should not be too quick to dismiss Reyes or Poe simply because they played against lesser competition.
I would also like to point out that there were some mid-round DTs drafted last year who also were able to generate pass rush as rookies (there were 22 DTs taken in the draft in 2011).
Jurrell Casey (3rd round) - 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF
Karl Klug (5th round) - 20 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 2 FF
Chris Neild (7th round) - 10 tackles, 2.0 sacks
Arm yourself with knowledge so that you can either rejoice or weep at what our Broncos do with the 25th pick.