The Philadelphia Eagles own their highest pick in almost a decade and a half, and everyone has opinions on who the team should take with the 4th overall selection. The key to assuming value for positions in the draft is by learning from history. Last week, we looked at the first round numbers for offensive players over the past five NFL Drafts. Now, we take a look at the history of defense in the first round.
Top 5: NT (0), DT (4), DE (2), 3-4 OLB (1), 4-3 LB (1), 3-4 ILB (0), CB (1), S (1)
Rationale: As you can see, the defensive line takes precedent over pretty much every other spot on the defensive side of the ball in the Top 5. Typically, teams like to build from the lines on out, so it is not really surprising that the lines would get the most attention. Of the six defensive linemen taken in the Top 5, three have gone to the Pro Bowl (Chris Long, Gerald McCoy, and Ndamukong Suh). Both secondary players taken in the Top 5, Patrick Peterson and Eric Berry, have made the Pro Bowl, showing that you only take cornerbacks and safeties that early if you are positive you are getting a sure-fire superstar. The linebackers spread throughout different schemes (4-3, 3-4) but show they are rarities (you can blame Aaron Curry for that). Also, as you can see nose tackle is clearly not a premium this high (sorry Star Lotulelei fans).
6-10 Picks: NT (1), DT (2), DE (2), 3-4 OLB (1), 4-3 LB (3), 3-4 ILB (0), CB (2), S (1)
Rationale: Much like with the offense, picks become a bit more fluid as the draft moves forward. As you can see, all the positions are mostly spread even. The only position to lack attention in the Top 10 of the last five years is the 3-4 inside linebacker. I have bunched the 4-3 linebackers together, because most backers in that scheme normally plays all three spots as they go through the motions. The nose tackle taken in the Top 10 is BJ Raji who has gone to the Pro Bowl but also played a bit of 5-technique during his time with the Packers.
11-15 Picks: NT (1), DT (3), DE (7), 3-4 OLB (0), 4-3 LB (0), 3-4 ILB (0), CB (2), S (1)
Rationale: The mid-round first round picks bring back the defensive line dominance. The numbers can be skewed by the offensive pick and who is on the board, but the teens are typically where we see large runs on defensive lineman, offensive lineman, and skill positions on offense. Clearly, teams' hesitations toward certain positions is tempered here and there, and there is more of a margin for error.
1st Round: NT (3), DT (12), DE (25), OLB (6), 4-3 LB (5), 3-4 ILB (1), CB (16), S (5)
Rationale: The later parts of the opening round are very loose. The teams picking in the bottom-half are typically successful and are one or two positions away from getting that much better. Defensive line benefits from the early selections, which reigns over all other position types on defense (37 total defensive lineman). The secondary features more of late round push as you can see safety and cornerback are helped in numbers by the late first round. Linebackers pretty much stay consistent throughout.
So now that we know more about the defensive in the first round, which position do you think the Eagles draft if they go defensive with their first pick?