Defense better option than QB at No. 3

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
4:07
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars might be better off taking a pass-rusher instead of a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Looking back at the last 20 players selected third overall reveals teams had much better success in drafting offensive and defensive linemen and wide receivers than quarterbacks. Twelve linemen and receivers were drafted since 1994 and eight went on to have above average or very good careers. In fact, six of those eight could be considered among the best players at their position at some point in their careers.

Only three players -- receiver Braylon Edwards, defensive end Andre Wadsworth, and defensive end Tyson Jackson -- could be considered busts. One other player, Miami defensive end Dion Jordan, just finished his rookie season.

But the ratio is much worse when it comes to quarterbacks. Four of the six quarterbacks drafted No. 3 overall in the last 20 years were busts: Vince Young, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, and Heath Shuler. Only Matt Ryan and Steve McNair proved to be worthy of their high selection.

Does that mean Jaguars general manager David Caldwell should not take Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick? Not necessarily. Smith’s flameout has nothing to do with whether Manziel will make it in the NFL. But it’s certainly interesting to go back and see how the players selected third overall have turned out and the trend is that taking an offensive or defensive lineman is a much safer bet than picking a quarterback.

Here’s a look at the breakdown of the last 20 players selected third overall:

Quarterbacks (6)

Matt Ryan (Atlanta, 2008): Ryan has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 23,472 yards and has a nearly 2:1 touchdown-interception ratio: 153 touchdown passes, 77 interceptions. He was the Associated Press’ Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and has led the Falcons to the playoffs in four of his six seasons. He is 60-34 as a starter.

Vince Young (Tennessee, 2006): Young was one of the most dynamic college players, but his game never quite translated to the NFL. He was named the Associated Press’ Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 after he threw for 2,199 yards and 12 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and ran for 552 yards and seven TDs. But he threw nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in 2007 and started just 22 games over the next four seasons with Tennessee and Philadelphia.

Joey Harrington (Detroit, 2002): Harrington played for three teams in his six seasons and only had one season in which he threw more touchdown passes than interceptions.

Akili Smith (Cincinnati, 1999): He started just 17 games in four years with the Bengals and three five touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Steve McNair (Houston/Tennessee, 1995): His 13-year career included three Pro Bowls and a 91-62 record as a starter. He became the Titans’ starter in his third year and led them to a 12-3 record in 2000. His best season was 2003, when he threw for 3,215 yards and 24 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.

Heath Shuler (Washington, 1994): He went 8-14 in his 22 starts in his four seasons in the NFL, throwing 15 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions.

Running backs (1)

Trent Richardson (Cleveland, 2012): It’s early, but his career is not exactly on par with what you’d expect from a No. 3 overall pick. He has rushed for 1,513 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns in his two seasons. He was traded to Indianapolis after the second game of the 2013 season and averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on 157 attempts with the Colts.

Wide receivers (3)

Braylon Edwards (Cleveland, 2005): He had one great year, but otherwise was an average to below-average player. He caught 359 passes for 5,522 yards and 40 TDs, including a career-high 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 TDs in 2007.

Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona, 2004): Fitzgerald has made seven Pro Bowls in his 10 seasons and has 846 catches for 11,367 yards and 87 touchdowns.

Andre Johnson (Houston, 2003): He is currently 17th on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list (12,661 yards). He has made seven Pro Bowls and is a two-time first-team All-Pro selection.

Offensive tackles (2)

Joe Thomas (Cleveland, 2007): He just finished his seventh season and made his seventh Pro Bowl. That’s right, he has been voted to the Pro Bowl in every season.

Chris Samuels (Washington, 2000): He played 10 seasons in the NFL (all with the Redskins) and made the Pro Bowl six times.

Defensive ends (4)

Dion Jordan (Miami, 2013): He played 20-30 snaps per game throughout most of his rookie season because the Dolphins used him only in obvious passing situations. He needs to work harder to become an every-down player.

Tyson Jackson (Kansas City, 2009): The Chiefs plugged him in as a 3-4 defensive end, which means he wasn’t counted on to provide much impact in the pass rush. He has just nine sacks in five seasons and has never forced nor recovered a fumble. Expectations are a little higher for a No. 3 overall pick.

Andre Wadsworth (Arizona, 1998): After a lengthy holdout he had a solid rookie season (five sacks and 42 tackles) but knee injuries ended his career after just three seasons with the Cardinals.

Simeon Rice (Arizona, 1996): Rice played for four teams in his 12-year career and made the Pro Bowl three times. He recorded double-digit sacks in eight seasons, including a career-high 16.5 in 1999. He was voted the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press after recording 12.5 sacks in 1996. He finished his career with 122 sacks, which currently ranks 15th on the NFL’s all-time list.

Defensive tackles (3)

Marcell Dareus (Buffalo, 2011): He has established himself as one of the NFL’s better interior pass rushers and has 18.5 sacks in three seasons, including 7.5 in 2013.

Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay, 2010): He is coming off his best season as a pro. He set career highs in tackles (35) and sacks (nine) and made his second Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro selection. He has 18 sacks, 90 tackles, and 10 pass breakups in his career.

Gerard Warren (Cleveland, 2001): He never made the Pro Bowl, but was a solid run-stopper who still managed to compile 36.5 sacks in his 11-year career.

Cornerback (1)

Shawn Springs (Seattle, 1997): He intercepted 33 passes and broke up 84 passes in his 13-year career. He picked off seven passes (two for touchdowns) in 1998, which was the only season in which he made the Pro Bowl.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.