Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History at the spot.
No. 20: Houston Texans
No. 20 has produced productive players in the last five years. Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew did reasonably well as a rookie. Tampa Bay corner Aqib Talib has nine picks in his first two years. Aaron Ross missed the bulk of his third season with a hamstring injury. Tamba Hali has a very respectable 27 sacks in four seasons. Dallas end Marcus Spears had only 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2009. Quality defensive backs have been there two of the last three years and that may bode well for the Texans’ chances to address corner or free safety. Two of those No. 20 picks were acquired in trades.
No. 31: Indianapolis Colts
No. 31 has produced a running back (Chris Wells to Arizona in 2009), two defensive backs (Kenny Phillips to the Giants in 2008 and Kelly Jennings to Seattle in 2006), a tight end (Greg Olsen to Chicago in 2007) and a defensive tackle (Mike Patterson to Philadelphia in 2005). Phillips was on IR most of last year, while Jennings and Patterson, a high-motor interior guy, have played in every game of their careers. Olsen’s fit with new coordinator Mike Martz is a question. I don’t think history will tell us a lot about what the Colts, firm believers in best player available, will find or do.
No. 10: Jacksonville Jaguars
There should be and will be quality options at No. 10 for the Jaguars. Recent years saw the 49ers snatch receiver Michael Crabtree, the Patriots select linebacker Jerod Mayo, the Texans pluck defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, the Cardinals grab quarterback Matt Leinart and Detroit pick receiver Mike Williams. Williams busted hard. Leinart is about to take over the job as Arizona’s starter. Okoye is still young with upside. Mayo was defensive rookie of the year. Crabtree had an ugly holdout, but San Francisco has high expectations for him in his second year. How are trade possibilities? Houston and New England got their picks in deals.
It’s a coincidence for sure, but No. 16 has been spent on a defensive player for the last five years. The scorecard: linebacker Larry English to San Diego in 2009, corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Arizona in 2008, tackle Justin Harrell to Green Bay in 2007, defensive back Jason Allen to Miami in 2006 and tackle Travis Johnson to Houston in 2005. The Titans will probably be fine extending the trend, as their biggest concerns are with rebuilding a defense that needs an end, a corner and could benefit from additions at safety and linebacker too.