To avoid making future draft mistakes we must first learn from the past. Although every draft is different, there have been some trends that have played out over the years. Based on draft results from 2000-2010, here are some of the facts we’ve encountered about the defensive tackle position.
Defensive tackles may not sell many jerseys and they’re usually not featured on television commercials, but every good defense has a good one. The defensive tackle position seems to be picking up steam as it is one of the most frequently selected positions early in the draft.
The moniker- “Get your big guys early” certainly applies when we look at the draft statistics over the past decade. Our research clearly shows that Round 1 is the spot to beef up the middle of your defense. Of the 38 defensive tackles selected in the first round, 18 have worked out (became solid starters) for a hit rate of 47.4 percent. Pro Bowlers such as Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork, Tommie Harris, John Henderson, Marcus Stroud and Albert Haynesworth were all found by their respective teams in Round 1.
What about the second round?
If you don’t get your defensive tackle in the first round then it may be in your best interests to just wait. Our research shows that tackles selected in the second round have just a 26.9 percent hit rate (7 for 26). The 2001 draft may have yielded Pro Bowlers Kris Jenkins and Shaun Rogers in Round 2, but that was 10 years ago and there really hasn’t been much to speak of at the position since. The 20+ percent drop in the hit rate from the first round to the second is among the largest of any defensive position. In fact, the 26.9 percent hit rate is the lowest of any defensive position and the only position lower in the second round is quarterback.
Is there a bounce-back in Round 3?
The short answer is no. Defensive tackles selected in the third round have just a 12.5 percent hit rate (4 of 32), the lowest of any defensive position and the lowest of any position other than quarterback. For every diamond in the rough like Terrance Knighton there have been nearly ten times as many Claude Wroten’s and Donnell Washington’s.
What about the late-round picks?
Although late-round defensive tackles still have a low 9.2 percent hit rate (12 of 130), the risk is minimal drafting in the fourth round and beyond. That nine percent rate is roughly middle of the pack when you take into account all the positions, both offensive and defensive. Solid starters that were found late include Corey Williams, Issac Sopoaga, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Paul Soliai and Kyle Williams.
Overall, our stats clearly show that the place to find a solid defensive tackle is Round 1, and if you don’t get one there, you probably shouldn’t bother taking a shot for a while. This year’s draft may prove this wrong as there will be several solid prospects that may be available in the second round and beyond, including Devon Still, Kendall Reyes and Brandon Thompson. With that said, our research is based on facts so draft accordingly.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie