A few days ago, we published a timeline of the Cowboys’ unwillingness to appropriately fix their offensive line over the last 5 years. Buried deep within that post was a chart that showed how frequently all 32 teams draft OL talent. That post focused on the Cowboys, but I think there are a lot of other interesting things to analyze within that chart, especially leading up to the 2013 draft, which is loaded with talent along the OL. Here’s the chart, with some observations on other teams around the league following behind.
The last 5 years:
|Team||Total picks||OL drafted 1st 3 rounds||Total OL drafted||% of picks on OL|
• The Giants have ignored their OL in a similar fashion as the Cowboys. However, they’ve won 2 Super Bowls in the last 6 years, despite terrible OL play in the most recent Super Bowl season. This basically makes Jerry Reese immune to criticism in the way the Giants were built.
• There are arguments to be made for drafting (or not drafting) offensive linemen heavily. The Packers, Steelers, and Giants all won Super Bowls in the last 5 years without stellar OL play. However, if you look at the chart above, exactly half of the NFL’s teams have drafted at least 7 offensive linemen in the last 5 years. 10 of the 12 playoffs berths in 2012 were occupied by teams within that group. Only 2 teams that drafted 6 or less made the playoffs.
• The Eagles were always known for drafting OL talent under Andy Reid, and to some degree that’s true. If you look at the chart above, you’ll see that no teams drafted more total offensive linemen than them over the last 5 years. However, they did not use high picks on the OL during that span. Only two teams (the Cardinals and Titans) drafted fewer offensive linemen (0) in the first 3 rounds than the Eagles (1). And that “1” was Danny Watkins.
• Over the last 5 years, as noted in the last bullet point, the Cardinals and Titans drafted no offensive linemen in the first 3 rounds in the last 5 years. The Cardinals had 14 picks in the first 3 rounds the last 5 years. The Titans had 16. The Titans’ willingness to ignore their OL in the draft is a little more forgivable, since they found both of their bookends in the 2005 draft (Michael Roos and David Stewart), and both are good players. However, Roos and Stewart are both 30, and G Steve Hutchinson is 35. They’re going to have to address it this draft, I would think. The Cardinals, however, have no excuse. Their OL has had major holes for the last half decade, and they haven’t adequately addressed it in the draft. If your OL stinks and you continue to ignore it in April, it’s going to continue to stink. It’s not rocket science.
• The Buccaneers have drafted a shockingly low 2 offensive linemen in the last 5 years, and only one since GM Mark Dominik became the GM 4 years ago (Xavier Fulton, 5th round, 2009). Since Dominik took over, just 3% of their draft picks have been offensive linemen, and the one guy he did draft is now in the CFL. They’ve drafted no offensive linemen… at all… in the last 3 years. The site JoeBucsFan.com explained why:
Dominik explained that he’s only drafted one offensive lineman among his 30 draft picks and that’s because he believes it’s typically better to see an offensive linemen on some level of the pro game before committing to them.
The prevalence of the spread offense in college has made it more challenging to effectively scout O-linemen, Dominik said, and Dominik pointed to successes with Ted Larsen, Demar Dotson and Jamon Meredith.
“Personally, I like them to develop a little bit in this game and then go get a little more information about [them,] “ Dominik said of studying young linemen prospects after the draft. “So if you can be more meticulous, have a mindset as we do as an organization, and Greg’s 100 percent on board which is fantastic for us, you go find them.”
Wow. For one, I think a very easy counter argument that can be made here is that it’s typically better to see ANY player on some level of the pro game before committing to them.
In reference to Ted Larsen, Demar Dotson, and Jamon Meredith, those were three players that were picked up off the scrap heap. Dotson starts, and is a nice player. Larsen has started 27 games over the last 3 years, but is a player that you would look to upgrade the first chance you got. Ditto that for Meredith, who got his first real action this season.
Otherwise, the Bucs have Donald Penn, Jeremy Zuttah, and Davin Joseph, which is a nice trio, but are all holdovers from the previous regime. They also have Carl Nicks, a great guard, but one the Bucs had to throw $47.5 million at over 5 years to get him to come to Tampa, and as previously mentioned, Demar Dotson. That’s the projected starting 5 in 2013 as it currently stands, which isn’t bad. However, going forward, if I understand the strategy correctly (and maybe I don’t), the Bucs are going to rely on overpaying really good offensive linemen on the open market, and filling in the rest with scrap heap guys because their GM isn’t comfortable evaluating college OL prospects? Good luck with all that when the holdovers from the previous regime begin their decline, Bucs fans.
• The Jaguars drafted a punter in the 3rd round last year. So that’s what they’re up to.
• The Browns are interesting. They’ve drafted the OL with less frequency than all but 5 teams, but that kind of makes sense for them. They drafted Joe Thomas 3rd overall in 2007 (not within the last 5 years), and have used Top 40 picks on Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack, both of whom have panned out. So while they haven’t drafted in bulk, they’ve used rich resources on their OL, and have one of the better OL units in the league. They just haven’t had a QB worth protecting.
• Since Bruce Allen took over as GM with the Redskins prior to the 2010 offseason, the Redskins have drafted 7 offensive linemen. That ties them with the Steelers for the most in the NFL.
• Not OL related, but the Eagles have had more total draft picks (51) than any team in the league over the last 5 years. They were followed by the Patriots, with 48. The Saints had the least, with 26, followed by the Jets, with 27.