Do Not Draft Defensive Tackles in Round 1, Pt 2

UltimateNYG New York Giants Football Blog has some company with NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan.

In the past year, we made remarks here on the blog from time to time stating that you do not want to use your first round draft pick on a Defensive Tackle, all other things being equal. 

Then, on March 25, 2010, we wrote a post: DO NOT DRAFT DEFENSIVE TACKLES IN ROUND 1.

We backed up our claim with some research into why the numbers supported our conclusions that this position was not worth the heavy Round 1 investment. 

Yesterday, Bob found an article by Pat Kirwan.  His conclusion: History Shows Expectations For Rookie Defensive Tackles Are Too High

Mr. Kirwan brings up the same arguments as we do, namely that DTs are too busy getting hurt and are not mature enough to take the pounding.  He did not take his conclusions to the next level, which is that if they stink as rookies, that is one less year you have these guys to be impact players because of their limited shelf life.  And then the next step, that Round 1 is just too high for them as a group, considering their net returns for you. 

This is as good a time as any to unveil the 7th group of players taken in Round 1 of the NFL Draft the past 10 years, Centers and Guards.  How appropriate that we feature the DT counterpart, the interior OL. 

Year Player Pick Starts Pro Bowls Wonder’s Grade
2001 Leonard Davis 2 139 3 4
  Steve Hutchinson 17 132 8 1
2002 Kendall Simmons 30 83   3
2003 Jeff Faine 21 94   4
2004 Shawn Andrews 16 50 3 3
2005 Chris Spencer 26 54   4
  Logan Mankins 32 80 2 2
2006 Davin Joseph 23 16 1 3
  Nick Mangold 29 64 2 1
2007 Ben Grubbs 29 44   3
2009 Alex Mack 21 16   4
  Eric Wood 28 10   4
23 1.6 3.0

Look ALSO at where these guys are picked- in the bottom half of Round 1.  Compare that to the Defensive Tackles we sampled on March 25th, who were taken at an average spot of #15.  There is only one player on this entire list taken at 15 or better!  We know full well that Guards and Centers do not touch the ball, they can’t collect sacks and turn the ball over the way a DT can.  We are not advocating selecting Guards and Centers every year in Round 1.  But clearly these guys are not valued by GMs and it makes them worth another look.   

So let’s review what we have here through 7 positions evaluated: 

Position PBowls Rating
G/C 1.6 3.0
LB 0.9 3.2
CB 0.5 3.3
RB 0.9 3.4
OT 0.5 3.7
S 1.4 3.8
DT 0.6 4.1

Obviously you can’t just go manufacturing picks here at Center and Guard where there aren’t any.  But what it says is that these non-impact players will get it done for you, they won’t bust for you and some of them can be mighty special players.

Back to Defensive Tackle, where Kirwan goes amiss is to lump Round 2 in with Round 1.  There is such an enormous difference between the expectations and certainty of Round 1 with Round 2.  Round 1 is about the cream, the budding superstars, the known quantities.  While we object to the draft value chart, which shows that a Round 1 player is worth multiples of the Round 2 player, we do acknowledge that a Round 1 player is going to have a higher certainty of NFL success.  Round 2 is where many of these DTs belong.  The rating numbers demonstrate that. 

Let’s use one more metric which will show the weakness of DT, bust percentage

Position Bust %
G/C 0%
CB 3%
OT 6%
LB 9%
RB 13%
S 13%
DT 26%

Obviously this statistic is a subset of the rating, but in some ways it is able to go much further past any other metric we can easily quantify.  Kirwan says highly picked rookie DTs don’t fulfill expectations.  We go one step further and say DTs BUST period.  26% of the time.  That is way too high, and we have the comparisons now from other positions to prove it.  A lot of these guys simply need to go into Round 2+. You should not be busting on your Round 1 pick with this kind of frequency. 

Summary: Slow rookie starts and high bust probabilities are two good reasons why less DTs need to be selected in Round 1 of the draft.

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