Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Adventures in drafting NFL linebackers
By Mike Sando
Drafting Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller fifth overall would help the Arizona Cardinals catch up with their division rivals in at least one category.
Since 2005, linebackers drafted by Arizona have combined to start only 16 games for the team, with 2010 second-round choice Daryl Washington starting 11 of them.
Cody Brown (2009), Buster Davis (2007) and Darryl Blackstock (2005) combined to start two games for the team, both by Blackstock, despite entering the NFL as second- or third-round selections. Only Brown remains in the NFL.
The Seattle Seahawks have gotten 145 starts from second- and third-round linebackers during the same span. Overall, linebackers drafted by NFC West teams since 2005 have combined to start 423 games for their original teams: 180 for Seattle, 173 for San Francisco, 54 for St. Louis and 16 for Arizona.
Washington showed last season he's likely to help Arizona close the gap. The 49ers could lose 57-game starter Manny Lawson in free agency. Seattle could move on without 61-game starter Leroy Hill while teammate Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl choice with 84 starts, is coming off surgeries on both knees.
With that in mind, I'll continue our position-by-position series on relatively recent NFC West draft choices with a look at linebackers.
Italics identify what teams might have been thinking as they entered various stages of the draft.
In the charts, I've used the term "not active" to describe, in most cases, players who weren't on regular-season rosters recently, including Jon Alston, recently cut by Tampa Bay.
Some players described as "starters" or "backups" could see their roles change pending free agency, roster changes and other dynamics.
We'd better find perennial Pro Bowlers in this range ...
Feeling safe drafting linebackers in this range ...
Not really sure what we're getting here ...
More questions than answers, but worth a shot ...
Not too late to find special-teams contributors, and possibly more ...