Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Which NFL teams draft for defense early
By Mike Sando
Ray Horton is the Arizona Cardinals' third defensive coordinator since Ken Whisenhunt became head coach in 2007.
He inherits a defense that has struggled despite significant investments.
Arizona has used six first- and second-round choices for defensive players since 2007, tied for the second-highest total in the league.
Only the New England Patriots have drafted more defensive players in those rounds over the past four drafts. Only the Patriots have used a higher percentage of first- and second-round choices for defense during the period in question.
A quick look at the defensive players NFC West teams have selected in the first two rounds since 2007:
- Arizona Cardinals (6): cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, nose tackle Dan Williams, nose tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Daryl Washington, defensive end Calais Campbell and outside linebacker Cody Brown. Branch is a role player. Brown is off the roster. Rodgers-Cromartie has been to a Pro Bowl, but is coming off a tough season. Williams appears to be ascending. Campbell has become a quality starter with the potential to become more.
- Seattle Seahawks (4): linebacker Aaron Curry, safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Lawrence Jackson and cornerback Josh Wilson. Thomas showed promise immediately as a rookie last season. Curry became an immediate starter at strongside linebacker, but is not yet an impact player. The team's current leadership traded away Jackson and Wilson.
- San Francisco 49ers (3): linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Kentwan Balmer and safety Taylor Mays. Willis is a perennial Pro Bowl selection and arguably the best linebacker in the NFL. The 49ers traded Balmer to Seattle following a disappointing start to his career. Mays started for a stretch as a rookie in 2010, but lost the job.
- St. Louis Rams (3): defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Adam Carriker and linebacker James Laurinaitis. Long and Laurinaitis are quality starters on the rise and players the Rams are building around. Carriker's career never got going in St. Louis. The team traded him to the Washington Redskins last offseason.
Overall, teams have drafted slightly more defensive players (133) than offensive players (122) in the first two rounds of the past four drafts. New England has used 11 of the 255 picks in question, tied for second-most in the NFL, even though the Patriots did not have their own first-round selection in 2008.