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 in that spot.
My colleague Mike Sando from the NFC West bureau has done some outstanding research on this very topic. Over the past 15 years, he's discovered that running backs have been quite popular at No. 27. From 1995-09, there were four running backs taken, three wide receivers and three offensive linemen. True to form, the Colts selected Donald Brown at No. 27 overall in '09 and there's a good chance he'll start for the next six or seven seasons.
In '08, the Chargers selected cornerback Antoine Cason at No. 27. He's had four interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his first two seasons. Teams at the bottom of the first round love it when cornerbacks slip a little bit. That's why I keep saying the Cowboys will keep a close eye on Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. And remember, you heard it here first. In '07, I took at trip to Tulsa, Okla., to do a story on a former team roper named Robert Meachem. He'd become a star receiver at Tennessee and the Saints selected him at No. 27 . Meachem was a huge disappointment in his rookie season, reporting to work out of shape. But now he's a key member of the Saints' elite corps of receivers. So in the past three years, you've seen teams connect on those late first-round picks.
Most people believe the Giants need to draft a linebacker in the first round. And as Sando's research indicates, that's been a very popular position at the No. 15 spot, where the Giants will be. In the past 15 drafts, teams have selected five linebackers at No. 15. Will Alabama's Rolando McClain still be available? We're about to find out. The Steelers selected Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons at No. 15 overall in '07 and I'd say that's worked out pretty well. The Chiefs took offensive tackle Branden Albert out of Virginia in '08 and last year the Texans went with former USC linebacker Brian Cushing. That's two excellent linebackers at No. 15 in the past three years. Bodes pretty well for Giants fans.
For whatever reason, there's been an inordinate number of defensive backs taken at No. 24 overall. And it wouldn't surprise me to see the Eagles continue that trend. The team could take a safety or cornerback and feel pretty good about it in my mind. The Eagles have a lot of practice selecting in this range, so they won't get caught off guard. Last year, the Falcons took defensive tackle Peria Jerry out of Ole Miss in the No. 24 hole. And in '08, the Titans selected running back Chris Johnson, now the most prolific runner in the league. In '07, the Patriots drafted Miami safety Brandon Meriweather and turned him into a pretty versatile player. And how can anyone forget the No. 24 pick in the '05 draft? It was the ultimate green room debacle, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That's obviously worked out pretty well for the Packers.
There's no real consensus at the No. 4 pick over the past 15 drafts. But there's only been one quarterback taken No. 4 overall -- if you can believe that. The position is so valuable that the top player at that position (Sam Bradford this year) is almost always gone by No. 4. Last season, the Seahawks played it really safe with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, who's going to be an excellent player in the league for years to come. The Raiders selected Arkansas running back Darren McFadden No. 4 overall in '08 and you can't say that's really panned out for them. Of course, nothing they've done the past decade has really panned out for them. The Bucs took Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams No. 4 overall in '07 and we all know that his life ended tragically this past January. In '06, the Jets found an excellent left tackle in D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia. The Redskins would be wise to follow the Jets' lead in three weeks. In '05, the Bears went with Texas running back Cedric Benson. But I wouldn't worry about the Redskins taking a running back at No. 4. There's no one good enough to tempt them at that spot. Shanahan would rather go with the old warhorses, Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson.