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T-post Tom
05-11-2010, 09:54 PM
History shows expectations for rookie defensive tackles are too high
By Pat Kirwan

As many coaches say, things always start up front on defense. That theme definitely carried through during the draft.

Teams went after front seven defenders in a much more aggressive manner than in recent drafts. In total, 26 players were taken in the first two rounds that play in the force unit -- made up of the defensive line and linebackers. Compare that to recent years: 17 players in 2006, 20 in '07, 16 in '08 and 22 in '09.

While the number of linebackers and defensive ends taken in the first two rounds held close to the average over the previous four drafts, the big change came at defensive tackle. The 11 interior linemen selected more than doubled the yearly average. The expectations for the crop are pretty high as we hear post-draft minicamp reports and learn how good many of these high selections look in shorts.

The real money in any draft is spent in the first two rounds. One general manger, who could have taken a defensive tackle in the first two rounds but passed, thought the 2010 class was a little inflated and could be in for a rude awakening.

With that in mind, it might be time for a reality check. Teams should lower the expectations just a bit based on history, not fantasy.

Here are the defensive tackles taken in the first two rounds during the previous four drafts: Three in '06, four in '07, five in '08 and five in '09.

In the first round alone, there were five defensive tackles taken this year, including three in the top 10. While there are high expectations, it can't be ignored what Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Tyson Alualu, Dan Williams, Jared Odrick, Brian Price, Torell Troup, Lamarr Houston, Linval Joseph, Mike Neal and Terrence Cody are up against as rookies.

First off, a number of these players will suffer an injury that will cut their rookie campaign short. For the first time in many of their football lives, they will face offensive linemen bigger and stronger than they are. In addition, the speed of the game between the tackles will be more like a blur than a situation where they can diagnose what's happening before it's too late to protect themselves and make a play.

Last year's defensive tackle class is a perfect example of what rookies are up against. The five defensive tackles taken in the first two rounds only managed six starts. Peria Jerry, B.J. Raji, Ron Brace, Fili Moala, and Sen'Derrick Marks only generated 2 sacks, 37 tackles and no forced fumbles combined.

Could it have been a down year? More likely it's just very difficult for young tackles to have the power, technique and ability to disengage a blocker.

Rookie production by DTs taken in first two rounds from 2006-2009

Year Player Team Tackles Sacks Forced fumbles
2006 Haloti Ngata Ravens 13 1 0
2006 John McCargo Bills 5 0 0
2006 Brodrick Bunkley Eagles 6 0 0
2007 Alan Branch Cardinals 8 0 0
2007 Justin Harrell Packers 10 0 0
2007 Amobi Okoye Texans 23 5.5 1
2007 Adam Carriker Rams 21 2 0
2008 Glenn Dorsey Chiefs 32 1 1
2008 Sedrick Ellis Saints 20 4 0
2008 Trevor Laws Eagles 11 0 0
2008 Kentwan Balmer 49ers 6 0 0
2008 Jason Jones Titans 24 5 3
2009 Peria Jerry Falcons 0 0 0
2009 B.J. Raji Packers 19 1 0
2009 Fili Moala Colts 5 0 0
2009 Ron Brace Patriots 6 1 0
2009 Sen'Derrick Marks Titans 7 1 0

If these 17 defensive tackles could only generate 20.5 sacks (about an average of one per player), five forced fumbles and 216 tackles (about 13 per man), it might be a good idea to lower expectations for the group drafted in the first two rounds this year.

It doesn't matter what grade Suh, McCoy or any of the other guys had going into the draft. They're all taking a giant leap in competition. A great rookie season would be 35 tackles and five sacks. A good first year would be 25 tackles and three sacks.

When you look at the 17 defensive tackles taken in the first two rounds from 2006 to 2009, only about half are even starters at this point. Teams might have to settle for 10 tackles and one sack from their rookie defensive tackle and hope he can develop going forward.

It's going to be tough for all 11 of the defensive tackles from the 2010 class to be success stories this season, or even in the next few years. While there's a lot of potential in this crop, right now each player has a big mountain to climb.

KCrockaholic
05-11-2010, 10:17 PM
This is pretty well known stuff, but when you look at Dorsey compared to the others on that list he is one of the top 3 rookies on that list. Hopefully we can soon just find him a position and stick with it, whether it's 5-tech or NT.

BossChief
05-11-2010, 11:11 PM
water is wet

Id also like to add that tackle stats aren't a accurate stat. They are one of the few that are kept by the team. The reason I posted this is so that people take it into account when they compare Dorseys tackles to that of players from other teams. What it does show was how active he had been. "Tackle stats are accurate" was one of the top ten biggest myths in the NFL on NFLNs top ten special.

I think that the NFL should carry the stat (and missed tackles as well) because if they did, teams could use it in contracts as incentive and it would provide coaches with another resource going forward on how to evaluate players. Just a thought.

DTs, QBs, CBs, NTs, and 5-tecs take time to develop and you really shouldn't grade them till after their third years. All of those positions almost always take that long before they start to play up to expectations.