In general, we expect too much from late-round picks. (And from overall draft batting averages.)
In a recent conversation with former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist, he pointed to an article he once read in Ourlads by Joe Landers. Apologies, I couldn’t find the link.
“Using some common sense and a little investigative research, you'll find that it's rare, at least according to Landers’ study, to find a cornerback or running back or wide receiver that's really going to help you in the last three rounds,” Sundquist said. “And yet you'll find teams constantly take a reach on one of these positions.
“Evidence shows you're more likely to find a defensive tackle, offensive lineman, safety or tight end in the later rounds. Why? Most conventional wisdom says don't draft a safety or tight end high due to escalating rookie salaries and the going market at the position. As for defensive tackles or offensive linemen, it’s probably because of the greater numbers at the position. Both circumstances force down talented players at those positions.”
I went back and combed over the AFC South drafts since 2002, to see how many picks they spent on each side of the ledger Sundquist sets forth and how often the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans did well with a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick at those spots. This is, of course, highly unscientific. Metrics guys can probably shred it. But I thought it worth fiddling with.
Notables are players who played significantly, even if it’s been with another team, or recent picks who appear on track to contribute.
WRs, RBs. CBs: 9
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 14
Most: Six safeties, four receivers, corners and defensive tackle
Cornerback Brice McCain, 2009 sixth round
Safety Dominique Barber, 2008 sixth round
Receiver David Anderson, 2006 seventh round
Safety C.C. Brown, 2005 sixth round
Corner Demarcus Faggins, 2002 sixth round
Defensive tackle Howard Green, 2002 sixth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 7
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 13
Most: 13 offensive linemen
Tight end Brody Eldridge, 2010 fifth round
Receiver Pierre Garcon, 2008 sixth round
Guard Jamey Richard, 2008 seventh round
Tackle Charlie Johnson, 2006 sixth round
Safety Antoine Bethea, 2006 sixth round
Guard Jake Scott, 2004 fifth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 12
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 9
Most: Five receivers, four offensive linemen
Tight end Zach Miller, 2009 sixth round
Running back Rashad Jennings, 2009 seventh round
Guard Uche Nwaneri, 2007 fifth rounder
Defensive tackle Derek Landri, 2007 fifth round
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh, 2005 fifth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 14
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 16
Most: Seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers
Corner Cortland Finnegan, 2006 seventh round
Running back Quinton Ganther, 2006 seventh round
Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, 2007 fifth round
Offensive lineman Daniel Loper, 2005 fifth round
Tight end Bo Scaife, 2005 sixth round
Guard Jacob Bell, 2004 fifth round
Center/guard Eugene Amano, 2004 seventh round
Safety Donnie Nickey, 2003 fifth rounder
Guard/center Justin Hartwig, 2002 sixth rounder
Of the notables from the division drafted since 2002, 73 percent (19) have been from the positions Sundquist says teams should concentrate on late while 27 percent (seven) play positions he believes should generally be avoided.
I'd be fine with the Titans not wasting yet another late pick on a receiver and with the Texans using late-rounders on something other than corners and receivers for sure. But it's not like Houston's spending late picks on safeties or the Colts use of such selections on offensive linemen have paid huge dividends either.
I'd love to read your thoughts.