FanPost

D-linemen. The Tough Guys Are Tough To Find!

There simply isn't much to say about the historical Broncos D-line guys. It is traditionally a group that has been thrown together, a bunch of guys from other teams. Even the Super bowl starters fit that mold! Do you remember Trevor Wesley Pryce II (9 years), Maa Junior Tanuvasa (6 years), Byron Keith Traylor (4 years), and Neil Smith (3 years)? They were the D-line starters on both of our SB winning teams. Non of them played their entire careers here, but all four got two rings each.

The guys we have competing for playing time this year, at the DT spot, are Justin Bannan (10y), Ty Warren (9y), Kevin Vickerson (7y), Mitch Unrein (1y), Derek Wolfe (R), Sealver Siliga (R), Ben Garland (R). This is certainly the position with the most question marks leading up to the draft this year, and with the restructuring of Warren's contract we are now more secure in our ability to field a decent group inside.

You can throw away your entire concept of value picks, after taking a look at how the NFL drafts Defensive Linemen. Whenever 8 of 10 players selected in a row are defensive linemen, you know that a panic attack is taking place! Has anyone ever seen a string of D-line guys ranked in clumps like that? I doubt it! The fact that I am seeing this sort of thing happen continually, and at many different positions, tells me that the NFL draft is governed more by a fear of loss (based upon need) than by a desire for gain! (based upon the best player available)

It really didn't surprise me when I saw just how many of these tough guys got drafted very high in the first round, and how they have all, as first round picks, had long and fruitful careers! Well, almost all. There may have been one pick somewhere who didn't, but that guy was erased by the rest! This is a position that caters well to long NFL careers, and if you choose DE over DT then you will last longer.

120 Defensive Linemen from this eleven year group were on a roster in 2011. (75 DE, 42 DT & 3 NT) The interesting thing is that these 120 men represent less than half of the total D-linemen on the roster, which means that the 1 - 4 year players (53%) are the largestest group!

Years....# Players) Round picked

15:........1) 3rd
14:........1) 1st
13.........1) 4th, 1) 6th (2 total)
12.........2) 1st, 1) 2nd (3 total)

11.........6) 1st, 2) 2nd, 1) 3rd (9 total)
10.........4) 1st, 4) 5th, 1) 6th, 2) 7th (11 total)

09.........5) 1st, 3) 2nd, 1) 3rd, 2) 4th, 2) 5th, 2) 6th (15 total)
08.........3) 1st, 3) 2nd, 3) 3rd, 4) 4th, 3) 5th, 1) 6th (17 total)
07.........3) 1st, 3) 2nd, 2) 3rd, 2) 4th, 1) 5th, 3) 6th, 2) 7th (16 total)

06.........8) 1st, 1) 2nd, 3) 3rd, 5) 4th, 3) 5th, 1) 6th, 2) 7th (23 total)
05.........5) 1st, 6) 2nd, 3) 3rd, 3) 4th, 2) 5th, 1) 6th, 2) 7th (22 total)

An interesting anomaly took place in 2002 (the ten year players). There was an equal # (4) of 5th round picks who have lasted 10 years as there were 1st rounder's.

The two major drops in the rosters are after the 6th and the 11th years, so a player who can make it to the seventh year has a pretty good chance at a long career. He needs to have developed into a starter, if he wants to beat out the fresh new talent each year, and it doesn't hurt his chances if he plays DE either.

63% of the defensive linemen in this study who were still on the 2011 roster are listed as DE's. Perhaps that is a reflection of the # of teams using the 3 - 4 alignment vs. the 4 - 3.

There are 15 DE's, 10 DT's, and 2 NT who's careers have lasted 10 or more years to date, and of the 7 that have lasted 12 years or more, 5 are DE's. That DT/NT inside position must be rough on the ankles, knees and hips with all that heavy lifting. I wonder how many of them end up getting joint replacements later in life.

The 20 players in the 10 & 11 year groups are evenly split between the ends and tackles. (10 DE, 9 DT & 1 NT.) The 48 total players in the 7, 8 & 9 years group are, 30 DE, 17 DT, 1 NT, and the 45 players in the 5 & 6 year groups are, 30 DE & 15 DT.

Apparently true Nose Tackles are rare these days. It appears that the tackle position on the defensive side of the ball is much more difficult to fill throughout the entire league. If we are having problems with that position then we shouldn't feel lonely on that score. but with that being said, it would seem pertinent to get the good ones signed to long term contracts!

Here is the list broken down into the rounds these current players were selected from.

Round...Total Players Selected.

1st...............37 (31%)
2nd..............19 (16%)
3rd...............13 (11%)
4th...............17 (14%)
5th...............15 (13%)
6th...............10 (08%)
7th...............08 (07%)

It seems highly likely that picking anywhere in the 2nd to fifth rounds gives you a fairly equal chance of getting a long tenured guy. After the first round I was surprised how level the playing feild became until the 6th & 7th rounds rolled around. We can lump those two rounds together as well.

We have now looked at the players that were on the 2011 roster, but how does this information match up with the total # of players selected over this same period?

I will only compare the seven years from 2007 to 2001 (the 5 - 11 year players). That will allow for the 5 and 8 year comparisons that we have made at the other two positions so far. This 5 & 8 year comparison combines all of the D-Line positions.

Draft Year:..Qty of Picks..5+ years....8+ years....AVGY

2001...................46..........25 (54%)....18 (39%)....5.0
2002...................39..........23 (59%)....18 (46%)....5.6
2003...................47..........27 (57%)....16 (34%)....5.0
2004...................42..........25 (60%)....18 (43%)....4.5
2005...................39..........21 (54%).....N/A............3.7
2006...................45..........27 (60%).....N/A............4.1
2007...................44..........23 (52%).....N/A............2.6

2002, 04' & 06 are all looking pretty good. Of course as usual, the 05' to 07' years are to early to know how the AVGY is going to pan out, but the reason 02 was so great is because fewer, but better picks were made, and there were 4 picks in the 5th round that blew away the averages.

302 total players were selected (43 per year) during this seven year period. The Defensive Ends lead the way with 159, Defensive Tackles 139, with just 3 Nose Tackles and 1 versatile guy, caled a DE-DT, who can do it all. Last year (2011) there were many more players listed simply as DL's then there were DE/DT/NT's which may reflect a movement toward coaching up more D-line players who can do it all. Then again, maybe not.

The break down of the round selections follows, and shows the % of players remaining on the 2011 roster vs. the total selected in their round.

Round.....# Of Players selected...# of players left (2011).......%

1st.............................52.............................37.............................71%
2nd............................35.............................19.............................54%
3rd.............................37.............................13.............................35%
4th.............................41.............................17.............................41%
5th.............................38.............................15.............................39%
6th.............................45.............................10.............................22%
7th.............................54..............................08............................15%

I'm begining to wonder about the 6th and 7th rounds. Why would teams spend so many picks on this position, in the seventh round, when they just don't pan out? Doesn't the NFL know what these percentages are? Is it that there really aren't many good picks at any position in the last two rounds?

It makes me wonder why there ever was a 12 round draft. It isn't that there aren't talented players in those rounds. It is more about the ability of that talent to beat out the veteran players already in the league.

Only 1696 roster spots are available amongst the 32 teams, and only 1440 game day spots, (the rest are practice squad) along with the fact that there are only twenty four starting spots per team, so it isn't hard to imagine how talented the guys are who actually do get cut!

Only 257 defensive linemen were on a roster in 2011. That represents 15% of the total roster. 137 (53%) of those players aren't even a part of our study since they have played for 4 years or less. That fact certainly demonstrates the youth movement that's happening at those positions. It also shows how great the long tenured players really are!

The last area of interest that struck me was what rounds the different positions were selected in. Does the NFL have priorities on which position is filled first? Here are the results.

Players on the 2011 roster:

Round............Selections

1st..............23 DE, 12 DT & 2 NT
2nd.............12 DE, 7 DT
3rd..............9 DE, 5 DT
4th..............11 DE, 6 DT
5th..............9 DE, 4DT
6th..............5 DE, 4 DT, 1 NT
7th..............6 DE, 2 DT
Total...........75 DE, 42 DT, 3 NT

Since there were only 16 more ends drafted than tackles in the "active players group", it is obvious that the emphasis is on the DE position, but could that be part of the reason why there is a higher percentage of DE's who enjoy longer careers? I tend to think that it is more about the riggers of the tackle position itself since the ends selected in every round tend to last longer than the tackles do.

All players drafted from 2001 - 2007:

Round............Selections

1st............23 DE, 20DT, 2 NT
2nd...........20 DE, 8 DT
3rd............15 DE, 14 DT
4th............17 DE, 15 DT
5th............18 DE, 14 DT, 1 NT
6th............17 DE, 25 DT
7th............25 DE, 24 DT
Total.........130 DE, 120 DT, 3 NT

There isn't much of a difference in the number of ends selected over the tackles, but when you look at rounds two and six, it's kind of a head scratcher. It appears that the end position is definately given a higher value than the tackle position is. Is it that the importance of the outside pass rush is valued more highly, and that the inside guys are expected to jam up the middle so that the runners must bounce outside?

We all know that a great QB like PFM can pick apart the D when he has room to work in the pocket. It would seem like more NFL teams would want more guys like we expect our own draft pick Wolfe to be for us, the kind of guy who disrupts the pocket from the inside. Are these guys really that difficult to find? If so, it would seem like the college ranks would plug those types of players into those spots and coach them up!

All players drafted from 2008 - 2011: (These are the 1 - 4 year players who weren't a part of this study before now.)

Round............Selections

1st............18 DE, 14 DT, 2 DL
2nd...........11 DE, 9 DT, 4 DL
3rd............7 DE, 10 DT, 7 DL
4th............13 DE, 7 DT, 1 DL
5th............6 DE, 5 DT, 3 DL
6th............11 DE, 5 DT, 2 DL
7th............11 DE, 16 DT, 7 DL, 1 NT
Total.........77 DE, 66 DT, 26 DL, 1 NT

Two anomilies took place in 2010. Neither ever happened anywhere else in this study! 17 of the players selected never made an NFL roster, and 13 DE's were selected in a row (no DT's or NT's), begining in the 5th round and continuing well into the 7th round! Those three rounds saw 18 DE's selected to 7 DT's! One other unusual event was that for two years in a row, (08' & 09') no DE's were selected in the 5th round, but then no defensive linemen were selected in the 09' fifth round at all. (I know. Useless information, but strange facts show up when one takes the time to look deep!)

Why were so many players cut in 2010? Why were so many DE's selected in that stretch? There were 13 defensive linemen selected in the 7th round of the 2011 draft, even though we have seen (from the previous 7 year study) that the success rate in that round is excrutiatingly low! When will the NFL spend more time scouting the defensive line players so that those percentages improve?

Is the seventh round a "sling it against the wall and hope it sticks" round?

The 2011 draft is where we saw a switch to the D-line players being given a more bland designation as DL's vs. DE/DT/NT. Did someone get lazy here, or are there really that many more players who are as versitle as the designation implies?

The following is the complete list of the 2011 D-line roster for those of you who are interested. This completes the points of interest that I could find in this group.

1997 15y

3 Jason Taylor DE

1998 14y

1 Vonnie Holliday DE

1999 13y

4 Aaron Smith DE
6 Kelly Gregg NT

2000 12y

1 Shaun Ellis DE
1 John Abraham DE
2 Fred Robbins DT

2001 11y

1 Gerard Warren DT
1 Justin Smith DE
1 Richard Seymour DE
1 Andre Carter DE
1 Casey Hampton NT
1 Ryan Pickett DT
2 K. Vanden Bosch DE
2 Shaun Rogers DT
3 Ron Edwards DT

2002 10y

1 Julius Peppers DE
1 John Henderson DT
1 Dwight Freeney DE
1 Al Haynesworth DT
5 Justin Bannan DT
5 Rocky Bernard DT
5 Kenyon Coleman DE
5 Aaron Kampman DE
6 Howard Green DT
7 Raheem Brock DE
7 Brett Keisel DE

2003 9y

1 Kevin Williams DT
1 Jimmy Kennedy DT
1 Ty Warren DE
1 Calvin Pace DE
1 Tyler Brayton DE
2 Chris Kelsay DE
2 Osi Umenyiora DE
2 Anthony Adams DT
3 Cory Redding DE
4 Jarret Johnson DE
4 Nick Eason DT
5 Robert Mathis DE
5 Aubrayo Franklin DT
6 Jimmy Wilkerson DE
6 Antonio Garay DE

2004 8y

1 Tommie Harris DT
1 Will Smith DE
1 Vince Wilfork NT
2 Igor Olshansky DE
2 Travis LaBoy DE
2 Dwan Edwards DT
3 Darnell Dockett DT
3 Randy Starks DT
3 Anthony Hargrove DE
4 Shaun Phillips DE
4 Isaac Sopoaga DT
4 Robert Geathers DE
4 Jared Allen DE
5 Dave Ball DE
5 Antonio Smith DE
5 Amon Gordon DT
6 Corey Williams DT

2005 7y

1 Marcus R. Spears DE
1 Luis Castillo DE
1 Mike Patterson DT
2 Shaun Cody DT
2 Matt Roth DE
2 J. Babineaux DE
3 Justin Tuck DE
3 Sione Pouha DT
4 Chauncey Davis DE
4 Chris L. Canty DE
5 Trent Cole DE
6 Eric Moore DE
6 Jovan Haye DE
6 C.J. Mosley DT
7 Kevin Vickerson DT
7 Jonathan Fanene DE

2006 6y

1 Mario Williams DE
1 Haloti Ngata DT
1 K. Wimbley DE
1 Brodrick Bunkley DT
1 Tamba Hali DE
1 Manny Lawson DE
1 John McCargo DT
1 Mathias Kiwanuka DE
2 Darryl Tapp DE
3 Chris Gocong DE
3 Frostee Rucker DE
3 Jason Hatcher DE
4 Domata Peko DT
4 Barry Cofield DT
4 Elvis Dumervil DE
4 Ray Edwards DE
4 Guy Whimper DE
5 Rob Ninkovich DE
5 Parys Haralson DE
5 Mark Anderson DE
6 Jeremy Mincey DE
7 Fred Evans DT
7 Dave Tollefson DE

2007 5y

1 Jamaal Anderson DE
1 Amobi Okoye DT
1 Adam Carriker DE
1 Jarvis Moss DE
1 Anthony Spencer DE
2 Alan Branch DT
2 LaMarr Woodley DE
2 Turk McBride DT
2 Tim Crowder DE
2 Victor Abiamiri DE
2 I. Alama-Francis DE
3 Charles Johnson DE
3 Brandon Mebane DT
3 Ray McDonald DE
4 Brian Robison DE
4 Marcus Thomas DT
4 Ryan McBean DT
5 Antonio Johnson DT
5 Derek Landri DT
6 Matt Toeaina DT
7 C.J. Ah You DE
7 Keyunta Dawson DE

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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