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Are Defensive Backs A Nickle A Dozen?

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From the way that the Denver Broncos draft DB's, you would think that the brain trust has been lazy, or just to cheep to spend the money on enough good scouts who could spend the time and effort to get to know more about this group. It almost seems like the concept is, "if we draft enough of them, we will eventually get one or two who are ok."

That was my first impression as I finished listing the # of DB's selected by our club each year, along with what happened to them. (I understand that the advances in the Net have improved everyone's ability to gather better information on college players, but that is no excuse for an NFL team who failed without it.)

From 1996 - 2007 (12 years), the NFL drafted a total of 3031 players and 562 (18.5%) of them were defensive backs. An interesting thing I found is that, on the average, the NFL drafts the same % of DB's each year as are normally on the field during each play. Four (18%) of the 22 players on the field on most plays (except when in the nickle) are two CB's and two Safeties.

Below is the list broken down into the rounds in which they were selected.

Round....# of selections

1st.................65
2nd................92
3rd................74
4th.................83
5th.................83
6th.................82
7th.................83

The second round is clearly the favorite round for drafting DB's, and it follows that the third would have a bit of a drop off after such a flurry in the second. The fact that rounds 4 - 7 are so even is what made me question the strategy. Is there an actual strategy, or is it entirely a guessing game at that point?

The CUT rate (DB's who are drafted and never make an NFL roster) in the worst year of this study was in 1999 when 8 (18%) of the 45 selections were cut in camp. 1.6% is the average cut rate for DB's over this 12 year period, so you can see what a lousy year that one was. The good thing we got from that draft class was Champ Baily, but it took a bit of time to pull that off.

It appears that a light bulb was switched on during the 2001 draft, because none of those players were cut in camp, and from that point on (with the exception of 05' & 06") very few defensive backs are cut without ever seeing a roster spot. After recognizing this trend, I'm feeling more hopeful for this group of players, because this is a group where the men can have lengthy careers. (by NFL standards)

How have the Denver Broncos drafted DB's during this period? Below is the complete list from 1996 - 2011:

YEAR.......ROUND/#...............NAME............................LAST YEAR PLAYED

1996..........2nd #44..............Tory James........................2006 (3y DEN, 3y OAK, 4y CIN, 1y NWE)
1996..........4th #122.............Darrius Johnson................2003 (4y DEN, 1y KC)
1996..........6th #181.............Tony Veland......................1998 (Practice squad 96', DEN 97', CAR 1y)

1997..........4th #124.............Cory Gilliard......................1997 (Cut by DEN, picked up by CIN for 1y)

1998..........2nd #61..............Eric Brown.........................2004 (3y DEN, 4y HOU)

1999..........3rd #67...............Chris Watson....................2002 (1y DEN, 3y BUF)
1999..........5th #167.............Darwin Brown....................CUT (The Darwin Theory Didn't Work)

2000..........1st #15...............Deltha O'Neal....................2008 (4y DEN, 4y CIN, 1y NWE)
2000..........2nd #45..............Kenoy Kennedy.................2007 (5y DEN, 3y DET)

2001..........1st #24...............Willie Middlebrooks............2005 (4y DEN, 1y SFO)

2002..........4th #131.............Sam Brandon....................2006 (5y DEN)
2002..........7th #228.............Chris Young......................2004 (02' P/S, 2y DEN)

2004..........5th #152.............Jeff Shoate........................2007 (04' DEN, 07' DEN)

2005..........2nd #56..............Darrent Williams...............2006 (2y DEN, Tragic Loss!)
2005..........3rd #76...............Karl Paymah.....................2010 (4y DEN, 1y MIN, 1y HOU)
2005..........3rd #97...............Domonique Foxworth.......2011 (3y DEN, 1y ATL, 1y BAL)

2008..........4th #119.............Jack Williams....................2009 (2y DEN, 1y DET)
2008..........7th #220.............Josh Barrett......................2011 (2y DEN, 1y NWE)

2009..........2nd #37..............Alphonso Smith.................2011 (1y DEN, 2y DET)
2009..........2nd #48..............Darcel McBath..................2011 (2y DEN, 1y JAX)
2009..........4th #114.............David Bruton.....................2011 (3y DEN)

2010..........5th #137.............Perrish Cox.......................2010 (1y DEN)
2010..........7th #225.............Syd'Quan Thompson........2011 (2y DEN)

2011..........2nd #45..............Rahim Moore....................2011 (1y DEN)
2011..........4th #108.............Quinton Carter.................2011 (1y DEN)

Did you notice how many of the above years that we drafted multiple DB's? The Broncos are actually above the NFL average for drafting this position, but not by much. Our saving grace in the years we drafted three, we actually had extra picks to do it with.

What do you do when you are great at drafting and developing Running Backs, but suck at finding and developing Defensive Backs? You trade the best RB you have at the time for the best DB you can get! Shanahan was able to grab the very best one in the league at the time, by giving up his best RB! Nice! But he sucked at drafting DB's.

Consider this for a moment! Shanny never drafted a DB that stuck in Denver for more than 5 years, and he only got two 5 year guys from the 18 he drafted during these years. Yes, there were players that he drafted who's careers lasted longer than that, but he didn't manage to tie them up long term.

Champ Baily is in his 9th season with Denver this year, and I'm finally happy that Shanny is gone, because who knows, he may have let Champ get away too! I look at the list above and say, "Where is our Rande Barber?" "Where is our lifer?"

Fortunately, in 06' & 07' we saved the DB picks and got some talent at other spots, thanks to Champ Bailey making everyone else better. (Or worse depending on how you look at it!) It appears to me that we have been much more successful when trading or hiring DB's away from other teams. Hopefully that is now changing. It would certainly be great to see what stability in the coaching staff could do over the next 5 years!

Here's a look at the AVGY (Average years in the league) for this position. 1996 (16y) - 2007 (5y)

Draft Year...AVGY all rounds combined.

1996.......258 total years / 41 players = 6.3 AVGY........ 1 player still active
1997.......270 total years / 52 players = 5.2 AVGY........ 2 player still active
1998.......271 total years / 42 players = 6.5 AVGY........ 1 player still active
1999.......208 total years / 45 players = 4.6 AVGY........ 2 player still active
2000.......262 total years / 52 players = 5.0 AVGY........ 1 player still active

2001.......245 total years / 44 players = 5.6 AVGY........ 03 active (07%)
2002.......271 total years / 51 players = 5.3 AVGY........ 09 active (18%)
2003.......272 total years / 47 players = 5.8 AVGY........ 16 active (34%)
(04' = the 8 year cut off)
2004.......216 total years / 47 players = 4.6 AVGY........ 11 active (23%)
2005.......238 total years / 49 players = 4.9 AVGY........ 22 active (45%)
2006.......190 total years / 47 players = 4.0 AVGY........ 26 active (55%)
2007.......191 total years / 48 players = 4.0 AVGY........ 29 active (60%)

Totals:.....2,892 tot. yrs. / 562 players = 5.2 AVGY 123 actv. (22%)

The Caesars in Rome are roling over in their graves, jealous of the almost three thousand years represented here by just 562 of our best athletes. I laugh, because if they hadn't been dumb enough to keep killing off their losers, then the games might still be going on!

1996 - 2000 is pretty set now on their AVGY since most of the players are gone. It is easy to see the devastating affect that cutting those 8 players had on the AVGY of the 1999 draft class. 2004 isn't looking so good either, with all but 11 players gone at this stage in the game. In just a few more weeks we will be able to see just how well the different positions stack up to one another.

Of the first 12 DB's selected in 1996, 8 of them lasted 10 years or more. 2) 10y, 2) 11y, 1) 12y, 1) 13y, 1) 15y and Brian Dawkins at 16 years. With three 1st round, and seven 2nd round picks being taken ahead of him, Brian Dawkins out lasted them all. He was the last of his 41 member draft class, and Denver drafted Tory James 17 selections ahead of Dawkins in the second round that year. I wonder where the draft nicks had him ranked. Who could have known?

Tory lasted 11 years, but Denver didn't see the value enough to keep him more than three. There was one 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th round player who lasted eleven years from that draft class. Lawyer Milloy, selected 6 picks ahead of Tory retired last year with 15 years, but no one came close to matching the intensity of Brian Dawkins.

There is still one player active on a 2012 roster, from the 1997 class, who can match Dawkins longevity by playing this year. Third round pick Ronde Barber has played his entire career at Tampa Bay. "Hey Ronde, you're a senior citizen now," according to NFL standards.

Al Harris, who was also drafted by Tampa that year (but played his entire career elsewhere) has yet to make a 2012 roster after suffering injuries in both his last two seasons, so it may be up to Ronde to carry the torch from here.

Let's take a look at how the AVGY of this group is affected by each round in the draft.

Round.....# Drafted......%@ 5+years.....%@ 8+years....%@ 11+years.....AVGY

1st.................65...............(61) 94%...........(32) 49%..........(09) 14%.............7.5
2nd................92...............(75) 82%...........(41) 45%..........(12) 13%.............7.2
3rd................74................(43) 58%...........(18) 24%..........(05) 07%.............5.8
4th.................83...............(35) 42%...........(18) 22%..........(04) 05%.............5.0
5th.................83...............(40) 48%...........(09) 11%..........(01) 01%.............4.0
6th.................82...............(34) 41%...........(10) 12%..........(01) 01%.............3.9
7th.................83...............(21) 25%...........(06) 07%..........(01) 01%.............3.0

The thing that stands out here is it makes no difference whether you select a DB in the first or second round! Not a significant enough difference to use the first round pick. The results are going to be pretty much the same, and so if you don't have the thirty second ranked defense against the pass, or something similar, save your money!

It's worth taking a quick look at the "over the hill gang", if for no other reason than to pay them some respect.

This is the list of guys who've lasted 11+ years with the draft information included. Who knows, perhaps someone who has some time this summer will do a study on these guys to try and figure out if there is something they have in common which may contribute to their longevity. I wonder how many of these names you've never heard of? I had a few.

1996

1 CHI.........Walt Harris................2008 13y
2 NWE......Lawyer Milloy.............2010 15y
2 DEN.......Tory James................2006 11y
2 SEA.......Fred Thomas.............2007 12y
2 PHI.........Brian Dawkins...........2011* 16y
3 NYJ........Ray Mickens..............2006 11y
4 ATL.......Juran Bolden..............2006 11y
5 NYJ........Marcus Coleman.......2006 11y

1997

1 SEA.......Shawn Springs..........2009 13y
2 MIA........Sam Madison............2008 12y
2 GNB.......Darren Sharper.........2010 14y
3 TAM.......Ronde Barber...........2011* 15y
6 TAM.......Al Harris....................2011* 15y
7 DAL.......Omar Stoutmire.........2007 11y

1998

1 OAK.......Charles Woodson.....2011* 14y
1 SFO.......R.W. McQuarters......2008 11y
2 ARI.........Corey Chavous.........2008 11y
2 MIA........Patrick Surtain...........2008 11y
2 TAM.......Brian Kelly.................2008 11y
2 TEN.......Samari Rolle..............2008.11y
3 PHI.........Allen Rossum............2009 12y
4 PIT.........Deshea Townsend....2010 13y

1999

1 WAS.......Champ Bailey...........2011* 13y
1 BAL........Chris McAlister.........2009 11y
1 BUF........Antoine Winfield.......2011* 13y
2 STL........Dre' Bly.....................2009 11y
3 GNB.......Mike McKenzie......... 2009 11y
4 SFO.......Pierson Prioleau...... 2010 12y

2000

2 CAR...... Deon Grant................2011* 12
4 MIN........Tyrone Carter.............2010 11

2001

1 BUF........Nate Clements..........2011*.11
1 NYG.......Will Allen....................2011* 11
3 ARI.........Adrian Wilson............2011* 11

There is a pretty good list of 10 year guys who want to make this list next year, but I'll save you from all that! When I look at this list, the list of survivors, I just think of Champ Bailey, and think of the guys in Washington who made that deal with Shanny, you know, the guys who were then fired and replaced by Shanny? I think Daniel Snyder figured that if Shanny could rape his team that bad, then he definitely needed him on his side!

As always, the greatest sports team in the world is still, and always will be, THE BRONCOS! GO GETTUM GUYS! 19 - 0 TILL WE AIN'T!

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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