Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.
The Bills' top pick is No. 3 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: DT Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers)
2009: DE Tyson Jackson (Chiefs)
2008: QB Matt Ryan (Falcons)
2007: T Joe Thomas (Browns)
2006: QB Vince Young (Titans)
2005: WR Braylon Edwards (Browns)
2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)
ANALYSIS: Some sexy picks have been made in this spot. None of the players have been out-and-out busts, although character concerns have overshadowed a couple. Only McCoy and Jackson haven't been selected for at least one Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald is an elite receiver, arguably the best in the business. Edwards can be a dangerous playmaker when not dropping passes, which he didn't do last year. Ryan is an emerging star. Young has been a lightning rod, but he did win rookie of the year and has gone to a pair of Pro Bowls. Thomas is a star blocker with four Pro Bowls on his résumé already.
The Dolphins' top pick is No. 15 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
2009: LB Brian Cushing (Texans)
2008: G Branden Albert (Chiefs)
2007: LB Lawrence Timmons (Steelers)
2006: CB Tye Hill (Rams)
2005: LB Derrick Johnson (Chiefs)
2004: WR Michael Clayton (Buccaneers)
ANALYSIS: This is a region of the first round where picks can break either way. There have been solid players drafted here, but no superstars. Cushing was a rookie of the year, but his career has been tainted by performance-enhancing drug usage. Clayton made an immediate impact with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, but hasn't caught more than 38 passes since. Johnson has been a solid linebacker for Kansas City, while Timmons has been an influential member of Pittsburgh's defense the past two seasons. Hill has been the biggest disappointment. He has been with four teams, starting 25 games.
The Patriots' first-round picks are Nos. 17 and 28 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in those spots, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
ANALYSIS: Results have been mixed with these slots, but the 28th pick actually has found more starters than the 17th in recent years. Freeman showed signs of developing into a future star last year, and Cherilus has started 40 of his 43 games at right tackle. Williams and Greenway have been regular starters. But Moss and Pollock didn't work out. In the 28th slot, Odrick is the only one who hasn't been a regular starter. Injuries detonated his rookie season.
The Jets' top pick is No. 30 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: RB Jahvid Best (Lions)
2009: WR Kenny Britt (Titans)
2008: TE Dustin Keller (Jets)
2007: WR Craig Davis (Chargers)
2006: RB Joseph Addai (Colts)
2005: TE Heath Miller (Steelers)
2004: RB Kevin Jones (Lions)
ANALYSIS: What strikes me is that all seven selections not only are offensive players, but also ball handlers. Perhaps teams in the back of the draft feel they can gamble a little bit and try to hit big on a skill position. Whatever the reasoning, it seems to have worked. This has been a successful spot. Jones and Addai rushed for 1,000 yards as rookies. Best appears to be the Lions' running back of the future. Miller and Addai have gone to Pro Bowls. Britt was the Titans' leading receiver last year. Keller is one of the NFL's better tight ends.