NFL Draft: Offensive Skill Players a Hot Commodity
by Dave Schwab - 4/6/2011
Anyone who seriously follows professional football understands that championship teams are built around a strong offensive and defensive line. Yet, when it comes to the NFL Draft, much of the focus revolves around the top prospects in the offensive skill positions.
This year’s crop includes Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton at quarterback, A.J. Green and Julio Jones at wide receiver, and Mark Ingram at running back. However, let’s take a look back at the past few drafts to see how some high-profile first round picks at these positions have fared in the early stages of their NFL career.
Matt Ryan was taken by Atlanta with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft and was able to step in as an immediate starter for the team. He had a banner rookie year, but really came into his own last season by leading the Falcons to a 13-3 record and the NFC South title. The second quarterback taken that year was Joe Flacco by Baltimore with the 18th overall pick. He too assumed the role of starter in his rookie year and has led the Ravens to three straight playoff appearances.
There were no wide receiver selected in the first round in 2008, but five running backs were taken. Darren McFadden went to Oakland (fourth), Jonathan Stewart to Carolina (13th), Felix Jones to Dallas (22nd), Rashard Mendenhall to Pittsburgh (23rd) and Chris Johnson to Tennessee (24th). So far, Johnson is the most accomplished with 4,598 yards rushing in three seasons including a NFL-best 2,006 yards in 2009.
The 2009 draft saw QB Matthew Stafford go to Detroit with the first overall pick. Stafford started 10 games for the Lions in his rookie year, but just three games last season after suffering a shoulder injury early in the season. Mark Sanchez went to the New York Jets with the fifth overall pick and has started 31 of 32 regular season games, helping to lead the Jets to two AFC title games. Josh Freeman was the third QB taken in the first round, going to Tampa Bay with the 17th overall pick. He became the Buccaneers full-time starter in 2010 and almost led them back to the playoffs with a 10-6 record
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was a surprise pick of Oakland with the seventh overall selection in 2009 and remains a question mark with just 35 receptions for 490 yards in his first two seasons. Michael Crabtree went to San Francisco with the 10th overall pick and has fared somewhat better with 103 receptions for 1,366 in two years. Philadelphia selected Jeremy Maclin with the 19th overall pick and after a respectable rookie campaign he had a break-out year in 2010 with 70 receptions for 964 yards and 10 touchdown catches. Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, and Kenny Britt brought the total number of wide receivers chosen in the first round to six. Nicks has had the most success of the three with 79 receptions for 1,052 yards in 2010.
The three running backs taken in the first round in 2009 were Knowshon Moreno by Denver with the 12th pick, Donald Brown by Indianapolis with the 27th pick and Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells by Arizona with the 31st pick. Moreno has been the best of the three with 1,726 yards on 429 carries his first two seasons. Brown has rushed for 778 yards on 207 carries in two seasons while Wells rushed for 793 yards his rookie year, but just 397 yards last year.
The 2010 draft saw another quarterback go with the first overall pick when St. Louis selected Sam Bradford. Bradford started all 16 games for the Rams as a rookie and threw for over 3,500 yards on his way to leading the team to its most wins in four seasons. The only other QB taken in the first round was Tim Tebow. He went to Denver with the 25th pick and started three games as a rookie, but has yet to earn the starting job heading into this season.
The two wide receivers taken in the first round last year were Demaryius Thomas by the Broncos with the 22nd pick and Dez Bryant by Dallas with the 24th pick. Thomas made little impact with 22 receptions for 282 yards. Bryant had 45 receptions for 561 yards while also establishing himself as a dangerous return man on special teams.
C.J. Spiller was the first running back taken in the 2010 draft. Buffalo used the ninth overall pick on Spiller, who rushed for just 282 yards on 74 carries as a rookie. Ryan Mathews went to San Diego with the 12 overall pick and racked up 678 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie campaign. The third RB taken was Jahvid Best by Detroit with the 30th selection. Best rushed for 555 yards on 171 carries and scored four touchdowns in 2010.
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