NFL Nation: Draft Watch 2011 history in that spot

Draft Watch: AFC South

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
2:21
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: History in the spot.

Houston Texans

2010: OT Anthony Davis (49ers)

2009: LB Aaron Maybin (Bills)

2008: DB Leodis McKelvin (Bills)

2007: LB Patrick Willis (49ers)

2006: QB Jay Cutler (Broncos)

2005: LB DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys)

2004: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers)

Last year at No. 11, the 49ers got Rutgers offensive tackle Davis, who started every game on the right side. Maybin, taken in the spot in 2009, is on the hot seat in Buffalo where he’s not come close to expectations. In 2007, the 49ers got the excellent middle linebacker Willis 11th, when the Texans took defensive tackle Amobi Okoye the spot before. The verdict on Cutler is still to be determined, while Ware is a superstar and Ben Roethlisberger's won two Super Bowls. Other hits since the NFL-AFL merger include Michael Irvin, Dwight Freeney and Leon Searcy. Other misses: Ron Dayne, Michael Booker.

Indianapolis Colts

2010: WR Demaryius Thomas (Broncos)

2009: WR Percy Harvin (Vikings)

2008: RB Felix Jones (Cowboys)

2007: QB Brady Quinn (Browns)

2006: LB Manny Lawson (49ers)

2005: WR Mark Clayton (Ravens)

2004: QB J.P. Losman (Bills)

Last year’s 22nd pick, Denver receiver Thomas caught 22 passes and scored two touchdowns. Minnesota grabbed receiver Harvin in the spot in 2009 and he’s one of the game’s most dynamic players already. Quinn didn’t cut it in Cleveland and ranks third now in Denver, and Losman didn’t solve Buffalo’s quarterback issues. The last time the Colts were in this spot, they took receiver Andre Rison in 1989. He played only one season for the franchise, but in 12 years he amassed more than 10,000 receiving yards and caught 84 touchdowns.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2010: DE Derrick Morgan (Titans)

2009: LB Larry English (Chargers)

2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Cardinals)

2007: DT Justin Harrell (Packers)

2006: CB Jason Allen (Dolphins)

2005: DT Travis Johnson (Texans)

2004: OT Shawn Andrews (Eagles)

Morgan went 16th to Tennessee last year, but suffered a season-ending knee injury early on. Rodgers-Cromartie had a big rookie season in 2008 as the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu was a huge find at the spot in 2003 and Jevon Kearse set a rookie record for sacks and led Tennessee to the Super Bowl in 1999. But others in the recent past like Allen, Houston's Johnson and Cleveland running back William Green hardly lived up to expectations. Dan McGwire, a big quarterback bust for Seattle, also went in the spot in 1991. But anyone thinking the Jaguars can’t hit a home run should know that a guy rated by many as the greatest player of all time, Jerry Rice, was selected 16th in 1985.

Tennessee Titans

2010: LB Rolando McClain (Raiders)

2009: OT Eugene Monroe (Jaguars)

2008: DE Derrick Harvey (Jaguars)

2007: DE Jamaal Anderson (Falcons)

2006: S Donte Whitner (Bills)

2005: S Antrel Rolle (Cardinals)

2004: CB DeAngelo Hall (Falcons)

McClain went to Oakland eighth last season and was second on the Raiders in tackles his rookie year. Jacksonville had the spot the two years before that. The Jaguars think they got a long-term left tackle in Monroe, but Harvey might be done already. Jordan Gross is a top-flight tackle for Carolina and receiver Plaxico Burress was a Super Bowl hero for the Giants. But receiver David Terrell busted for the Bears, receiver David Boston didn’t fare much better in Arizona and running back Tim Biakabutuka was a dud for the Panthers. Sam Adams’ long career clogging up the middle as a defensive tackle started in Seattle. The last time the Titan franchise had this pick, it landed Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak, who’s now the team’s coach.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:55
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals' top pick is No. 5 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses: ANALYSIS: The Cardinals are still taking criticism for selecting Brown fifth overall in 2007 when running back Adrian Peterson was available. Coach Ken Whisenhunt recently defended the decision, saying Brown is a good player on the rise, and the team badly needed to build up its offensive line when Whisenhunt arrived as head coach in 2007. To be fair, the Cardinals had already paid big money to running back Edgerrin James in free agency. Still, Peterson was seen as the best player available. In retrospect, adding Peterson might have made Arizona even more dangerous during its Super Bowl season.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers' top pick is No. 7 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses: ANALYSIS: The 49ers traded up to select pass-rusher Andre Carter seventh overall in 2001. They selected defensive tackle Bryant Young seventh overall in 1994. Previously, the 49ers selected tight ends Ken MacAfee (1978) and Ted Kwalick (1969) in this slot. The team landed Carter after Bill Walsh made a first-round swap with Seattle's Mike Holmgren. The 49ers came out ahead in that deal; Holmgren's Seahawks wound up with receiver Koren Robinson. Carter never became a dominant pass-rush force for San Francisco, but he did have 25.5 sacks over his first three seasons. First-year general manager Trent Baalke was with the 49ers when the team selected tight end Vernon Davis in this general range -- sixth overall -- five years ago. That decision has worked out well.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams' top pick is No. 14 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses: ANALYSIS: This is the first time the Rams have selected 14th since moving to St. Louis for the 1995 season. The Los Angeles Rams selected running back Gaston Green (1988), running back Barry Redden (1982), linebacker Jack Pardee (1957) and tight end Leon Clarke (1956) in this slot. The Rams have picked in this general range several times this decade, however. The results were generally disastrous, but the people responsible for making those decisions aren't in charge any longer. The Rams have done a much better job in the draft more recently. Looking back, however, the team selected defensive tackle Adam Carriker 13th in 2007 and cornerback Tye Hill 15th in 2006. Defensive tackles Jimmy Kennedy (2003) and Damione Lewis (2001) went 12th overall to St. Louis.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks' top pick is No. 25 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses: ANALYSIS: The Seahawks' previous leadership selected center Chris Spencer with the 26th pick in 2005. Ted Thompson, who mentored current Seattle general manager John Schneider, was with Seattle when the team used the 23rd choice of the 2003 draft for defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs. Tubbs was on his way to becoming a disruptive force until a knee injury cut short his career. Schneider was with the Packers in 2004 when the team used the 24th choice for Carroll, who disappointed as a cornerback. A look at the quarterbacks selected in this general range over the years lends little confidence in the prospects for Seattle finding one in 2011. There are more misses than hits, although Schneider was with Green Bay when the Packers found Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall choice.

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ top pick is No. 9 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: RB C.J. Spiller (Bills)

2009: DT B.J. Raji (Packers)

2008: LB Keith Rivers (Bengals)

2007: WR Ted Ginn Jr. (Dolphins)

2006: LB Ernie Sims (Lions)

2005: DB Carlos Rogers (Redskins)

2004: WR Reggie Williams (Jaguars)

ANALYSIS: Raji quickly has become a dominant force, although some of the other names on this list didn’t work out. The Cowboys really need to make the most of the fact they have a top-10 pick. They haven’t drafted well in recent years. Cornerback Mike Jenkins (2008) is the only Dallas draft pick from the last five years to make the Pro Bowl, and that came in 2009. Jenkins and the rest of the secondary struggled mightily last season, and there’s a strong feeling Dallas will address the defensive backfield in the draft. But the Cowboys have other needs elsewhere, and the “bust factor’’ with a top-10 pick isn’t generally as high when you go with an offensive or defensive lineman. Any time Jerry Jones and this franchise make a decision, there’s the potential for something flashy. But this might be a year where it’s best to stick to basics and upgrade either the offensive or defensive line.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins’ top pick is No. 10 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: DT Tyson Alualu (Jaguars)

2009: WR Michael Crabtree (49ers)

2008: LB Jerod Mayo (Patriots)

2007: DT Amobi Okoye (Texans)

2006: QB Matt Leinart (Cardinals)

2005: WR Mike Williams (Lions)

2004: CB Dunta Robinson (Texans)

ANALYSIS: The Redskins desperately need a quarterback, and they’re not sitting in a great spot. If you look at the recent history of the No. 10 pick, Leinart is the sole measuring stick. He was a complete bust in Arizona. With Donovan McNabb almost certainly gone, the Redskins have to find someone to run their offense. There’s a good chance Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will be gone before Washington gets on the clock. That leaves a pool of guys like Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker, who could be huge reaches this early in the draft. The overall history of this pick isn’t great, but Mayo was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, so there is hope. It might mean the Redskins have to look for a quarterback somewhere else. At No. 10, they might have a shot to get a quality defensive tackle -- Albert Haynesworth and Maake Kemoeatu simply haven’t been getting things done.

New York Giants

The Giants’ top pick is No. 19 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: LB Sean Weatherspoon (Falcons)

2009: WR Jeremy Maclin (Eagles)

2008: OT Jeff Otah (Panthers)

2007: S Michael Griffin (Titans)

2006: CB Antonio Cromartie (Chargers)

2005: OT Alex Barron (Rams)

2004: OT Vernon Carey (Dolphins)

ANALYSIS: If you’re Giants general manager Jerry Reese and you’re looking at this list, you have to feel very good about having the No. 19 overall pick. There’s not a single guy on this list that’s been anything close to a disappointment. In fact, look at the last three No. 19 picks -- they all play positions the Giants potentially could be looking at. A speedy outside linebacker, like Weatherspoon, could really help the defense. Maclin’s emerging nicely in Philadelphia, and the Giants have some uncertainty at receiver with Steve Smith coming off a major injury. When healthy, Otah’s been a powerful force on Carolina’s offensive line. The Giants aren’t getting any younger on the offensive line, and Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo has a chance to be available. The Giants have some familiarity with Boston College. Tom Coughlin used to coach there. He also drafted guard Chris Snee, his son-in-law, out of Boston College and that’s worked out well.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ top pick is No. 23 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: OT Bryan Bulaga (Packers) (started 12 games on Super Bowl winner)

2009: OT Michael Oher (Ravens)

2008: RB Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers)

2007: WR Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs)

2006: G Davin Joseph (Buccaneers)

2005: CB Fabian Washington (Raiders)

2004: DT Marcus Tubbs (Seahawks)

ANALYSIS: The Eagles have pretty glaring needs on the offensive line, particularly at right tackle and right guard. Bulaga and Oher were able to step in and help their teams right away. That could make someone like Castonzo a likely target, and the Eagles also have done a lot of homework on Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod. The rule of thumb is that guards don’t usually have as much value as tackles, but Joseph is proof you can get a very good guard at No. 23. The Eagles could reach into their own backyard in a later round and get Lehigh’s Will Rackley, who has the potential to play guard or tackle. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd attended his pro day. Right cornerback also is a high priority, and Colorado’s Jimmy Smith could be a candidate at No. 23, but there are some concerns beyond his physical ability. On passes to the side of the field covered by Asante Samuel, the Eagles allowed only 5.91 yards per attempt last season. On the other side of the field, they allowed 8.58 yards, which ranked 31st in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. A dream scenario for the Eagles would be for the lockout to end before the draft. That would allow them a chance to package quarterback Kevin Kolb with the No. 23 pick to try to jump somewhere into the top five to land LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos’ top pick is No. 2 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: DT Ndamukong Suh (Lions)

2009: T Jason Smith (Rams)

2008: DE Chris Long (Rams)

2007: WR Calvin Johnson (Lions)

2006: RB Reggie Bush (Saints)

2005: RB Ronnie Brown (Dolphins)

2004: OL Robert Gallery (Raiders)

ANALYSIS: This is the Broncos’ first top-five pick since 1991 when they took linebacker Mike Croel at No. 4. The Broncos would love to have the success Detroit had last year with the pick. Suh looks like a unit changer and Denver needs a similarly dominant defender. Detroit is the only team to have great success at No. 2 in the past seven years. Along with Suh, Johnson is a fabulous player. There are some good players on this list, though, with no flat-out duds. The Rams hope to see progress in Smith and Long, who made strides in 2010.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers’ top pick is No. 18 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: C Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers)

2009: LB Robert Ayers (Broncos)

2008: QB Joe Flacco (Ravens)

2007: CB Leon Hall (Bengals)

2006: LB Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys)

2005: LB Erasmus James (Vikings)

2004: DE Will Smith (Saints)

ANALYSIS: This is an interesting group. It shows teams can find franchise players at No. 18, but they can also make a major mistake with the pick. Flacco was a tremendous value for Baltimore in 2008. Pouncey looks like he’ll be at center in Pittsburgh for the next decade. Smith has also had a terrific career and was a solid pick at No. 18. James was a terrible pick, Carpenter wasn’t worth it and the jury is still out on Ayers. The Chargers know they have to pick smart. They took linebacker Larry English at No. 16 in 2009 and are waiting for a payoff. It’s interesting that there are four defensive ends/linebackers on this list. That’s exactly the position the Chargers will be looking for with the No. 18 pick.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs’ top pick is No. 21 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: TE Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)

2009: C Alex Mack (Browns)

2008: T Sam Baker (Falcons)

2007: S Reggie Nelson (Jaguars)

2006: RB Laurence Maroney (Patriots)

2005: WR Matt Jones (Jaguars)

2004: DT Vince Wilfork (Patriots)

ANALYSIS: The Kansas City Chiefs are not used to drafting this low. Kansas City has picked in the top five the past three years. However, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli is plenty familiar with having the No. 21 pick. He was with New England when it had the choice in 2004 and 2006. Pioli has seen teams both score and whiff with the pick. Wilfork was a tremendous choice while taking Maroney was a blunder. However, the pick has paid solid dividends in recent years. This doesn’t appear to be a bad spot to be in.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders’ top pick is No. 48 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: QB Jimmy Clausen (Panthers)

2009: S Darcel McBath (Broncos)

2008: TE Fred Davis (Redskins)

2007: LB Justin Durant (Jagaurs)

2006: DB Cedric Griffin (Vikings)

2005: LB Odell Thurman (Bengals)

2004: LB Dontarrious Thomas (Vikings)

ANALYSIS: It’s interesting that a quarterback was taken at this spot in 2010. Clausen was the third quarterback taken last year. If a quarterback such as Washington’s Jake Locker or Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett takes a similar tumble, we could see a quarterback taken at No. 48 again. This pick has been hit-or-miss, so it could be worth taking a gamble. Oakland picked at No. 47 two years ago and is still waiting for safety Mike Mitchell to develop. Last year, Oakland took defensive lineman Lamarr Houston at No. 44 and he had a terrific rookie season. In 2007, Oakland took standout tight end Zach Miller at No. 38. The Raiders know they can find talent in the second round.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ top pick is No. 1 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010 QB Sam Bradford (Rams)

2009: QB Matthew Stafford (Lions)

2008: OT Jake Long (Dolphins)

2007: QB JaMarcus Russell (Raiders)

2006: DE Mario Williams (Texans)

2005: QB Alex Smith (49ers)

2004: QB Eli Manning (Giants via Chargers)

Analysis: It’s still early, but indications are the Panthers are seriously considering taking a quarterback, and that probably narrows it down to Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. Part of the reason the Panthers are looking down this road is because they saw what the Rams got in Bradford last year. The early results from Bradford and Stafford have been encouraging. But Russell was a tremendous flop, and Smith hasn’t been much better. Manning is the only quarterback taken No. 1 overall in this time period to make a Pro Bowl. Even before Manning, the history of quarterbacks at No. 1 is shaky for a long time. Carson Palmer and Michael Vick have had some good years and some bad ones. David Carr and Tim Couch rank right up there with Russell. To find a quarterback drafted first overall who has been an unquestioned success you have to go all the way back to Peyton Manning in 1998, and there were some people at the time who thought Ryan Leaf could be just as good. Long story short: there might not be such a thing as a sure-fire quarterback, even with the No. 1 pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers’ top pick is No. 20 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: CB Kareem Jackson (Texans)

2009: TE Brandon Pettigrew (Lions)

2008: CB Aqib Talib (Buccaneers)

2007: CB Aaron Ross (Giants)

2006: DE Tamba Hali (Chiefs)

2005: DE Marcus Spears (Cowboys)

2004: DE Kenechi Udeze (Vikings)

Analysis: The Bucs have been in this territory recently and have had tremendous results and one very big complication. The Bucs were at No. 19 heading into the 2009 draft, which was the first for general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris. They feared missing out on a chance to get the guy they believed would be their franchise quarterback. That’s why they traded up to No. 17 and took Josh Freeman. You can’t question that move, because Freeman single-handedly turned the franchise around last season. Even taking Talib at No. 20 -- and it should be pointed out that move was made by former general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden -- brought some positive results. When on the field, Talib showed flashes of being one of the best young cover corners in the game. But the latest in a series of off-field troubles means Talib is probably on his way out of Tampa Bay. The lesson to be learned here is that you can get big-time talent in the draft, but it’s wise to do your homework on the character and attitudes of players. It’s common knowledge the Bucs desperately need a defensive end. Look at Hali and Spears. They represent two ends of the spectrum. Hali came with some questions about being undersized but had no character issues, and he’s turned out to be a solid pass-rusher. Spears came with some questions about attitude and never has panned out.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints’ top pick is No. 24 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: WR Dez Bryant (Cowboys)

2009: DT Peria Jerry (Falcons)

2008: RB Chris Johnson (Titans)

2007: DB Brandon Meriweather (Patriots)

2006: CB Johnathan Joseph (Bengals)

2005: QB Aaron Rodgers (Packers)

2004: RB Steven Jackson (Rams)

Analysis: Johnson, Rodgers and Jackson are proof that you can get a big-time player this late in the draft. The Saints aren’t looking for a quarterback because they have Drew Brees. But running back isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and when you see guys like Johnson and Jackson have been available at this spot, it makes you wonder about the Saints taking a shot if Alabama’s Mark Ingram is there. Yes, defensive end and outside linebacker might be greater needs, and those positions are possibilities. Pierre Thomas re-signed, Reggie Bush is expected to stay and Chris Ivory is recovering from injury, but the Saints still have to think back to the end of last year when they basically ran out of running backs.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ top pick is No. 27 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: CB Devin McCourty (Patriots)

2009: RB Donald Brown (Colts)

2008: CB Antoine Cason (Cardinals)

2007: WR Robert Meachem (Saints)

2006: RB DeAngelo Williams (Panthers)

2005: WR Roddy White (Falcons)

2004: OLB/DE Jason Babin (Texans)

Analysis: Although nearly every draft guru is projecting that the Falcons will take a defensive end, it’s not out of the question that a wide receiver or running back could be the pick here. General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have talked a lot about wanting to add explosive players. If they look at their own history and the recent history of NFC South teams who have been in this spot, the idea of going with a receiver or running back could get stronger. Although it took some time for him to develop, White has turned into one of the game’s top receivers. Meachem also took some time and dealt with some injuries but has emerged as a force in the New Orleans passing game. Williams had some explosiveness as soon as he joined the Panthers.

Draft Watch: AFC North

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: history in that spot.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals' top pick is No. 4 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: OT Trent Williams, (Redskins)

2009: LB Aaron Curry (Seahawks)

2008: RB Darren McFadden (Raiders)

2007: DE Gaines Adams (Buccaneers)

2006: OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Jets)

2005: RB Cedric Benson (Bears)

2004: QB Philip Rivers (Chargers)

Analysis: Draft history shows the Bengals are in a good spot at No. 4. Most players on this list have turned out to be productive pros or are getting playing time right away while trying to make a name for themselves. The last franchise quarterback taken in this spot was Rivers, who was drafted by the Giants and traded to the Chargers on draft day in 2004. That was a great pick in a strong quarterback class that included the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and the Giants' Eli Manning. Is that caliber of quarterback available this year for the Bengals, whose starter, Carson Palmer, has threatened to retire? Prospects such as Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert would be much riskier picks.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns' top pick is No. 6 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: OT Russell Okung (Seahawks)

2009: OT Andre Smith (Bengals)

2008: LB Vernon Gholston (Jets)

2007: S LaRon Landry (Redskins)

2006: TE Vernon Davis (49ers)

2005: CB Adam Jones (Titans)

2004: TE Kellen Winslow Jr. (Browns)

Analysis: Recent history shows the No. 6 overall pick can be hit or miss. Smith, Gholston and Jones are all certified busts as big-money draft picks. It's too early to tell with Okung, while Landry, Davis and Winslow have all had multiple productive seasons in the NFL. The Browns went 5-11 for the second consecutive year after having a similar pick in 2010. In the first year under president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, Cleveland took cornerback Joe Haden at No. 7 overall, and he turned out to be a solid selection. The Browns need to add another impact player from the top of this draft to close the gap with the Ravens and Steelers.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens' top pick is No. 26 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: DT Dan Williams (Cardinals)

2009: LB Clay Matthews Jr. (Packers)

2008: OT Duane Brown (Texans)

2007: LB Anthony Spencer (Cowboys)

2006: DT John McCargo (Bills)

2005: C Chris Spencer (Seahawks)

2004: RB Chris Perry (Bengals)

Analysis: Picking late in the first round is one of the toughest things to do for any franchise, but the Ravens thrive on it. General manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best at finding late-round gems. Current Ravens such as Michael Oher, Ben Grubbs, Ed Reed, Todd Heap and Ray Lewis were all taken with picks No. 23 and higher. Matthews is the most recent gem at No. 26. He was selected by the Green Bay Packers two years ago and quickly became one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. But Baltimore also has to be careful. Most of this recent group has failed to live up to expectations.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers' top pick is No. 31 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: DE Jerry Hughes (Colts)

2009: RB Beanie Wells (Cardinals)

2008: S Kenny Phillips (Giants)

2007: TE Greg Olsen (Bears)

2006: CB Kelly Jennings (Seahawks)

2005: DT Mike Patterson (Eagles)

2004: WR Rashaun Woods (49ers)

Analysis: The Steelers, who have six championships, are in the unfamiliar position of being Super Bowl losers. They will try to use the No. 31 overall pick to fill one of the team's needs. These players are not expected to be superstars. But they are first-round picks and the goal is to become productive starters. Pittsburgh is similar to Baltimore with its ability to find great players late in rounds. Since 2005, Pittsburgh has drafted Rashard Mendenhall, Heath Miller, Ziggy Hood and Santonio Holmes with picks No. 23 and higher. The Steelers will aim to continue their late-round success in this draft.

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills' top pick is No. 3 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:

2010: DT Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers)

2009: DE Tyson Jackson (Chiefs)

2008: QB Matt Ryan (Falcons)

2007: T Joe Thomas (Browns)

2006: QB Vince Young (Titans)

2005: WR Braylon Edwards (Browns)

2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)

ANALYSIS: Some sexy picks have been made in this spot. None of the players have been out-and-out busts, although character concerns have overshadowed a couple. Only McCoy and Jackson haven't been selected for at least one Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald is an elite receiver, arguably the best in the business. Edwards can be a dangerous playmaker when not dropping passes, which he didn't do last year. Ryan is an emerging star. Young has been a lightning rod, but he did win rookie of the year and has gone to a pair of Pro Bowls. Thomas is a star blocker with four Pro Bowls on his résumé already.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins' top pick is No. 15 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:

2010: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)

2009: LB Brian Cushing (Texans)

2008: G Branden Albert (Chiefs)

2007: LB Lawrence Timmons (Steelers)

2006: CB Tye Hill (Rams)

2005: LB Derrick Johnson (Chiefs)

2004: WR Michael Clayton (Buccaneers)

ANALYSIS: This is a region of the first round where picks can break either way. There have been solid players drafted here, but no superstars. Cushing was a rookie of the year, but his career has been tainted by performance-enhancing drug usage. Clayton made an immediate impact with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, but hasn't caught more than 38 passes since. Johnson has been a solid linebacker for Kansas City, while Timmons has been an influential member of Pittsburgh's defense the past two seasons. Hill has been the biggest disappointment. He has been with four teams, starting 25 games.

New England Patriots

The Patriots' first-round picks are Nos. 17 and 28 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in those spots, with their NFL teams in parentheses:

2010: G Mike Iupati (49ers) and DE Jared Odrick (Dolphins)

2009: QB Josh Freeman (Buccaneers) and G Eric Wood (Bills)

2008: T Gosder Cherilus (Lions) and DE Lawrence Jackson (Seahawks)

2007: DE Jarvis Moss (Broncos) and T Joe Staley (49ers)

2006: LB Chad Greenway (Vikings) and TE Marcedes Lewis (Jaguars)

2005: LB David Pollack (Bengals) and DE Luis Castillo (Chargers)

2004: LB D.J. Williams (Broncos) and CB Chris Gamble (Panthers)

ANALYSIS: Results have been mixed with these slots, but the 28th pick actually has found more starters than the 17th in recent years. Freeman showed signs of developing into a future star last year, and Cherilus has started 40 of his 43 games at right tackle. Williams and Greenway have been regular starters. But Moss and Pollock didn't work out. In the 28th slot, Odrick is the only one who hasn't been a regular starter. Injuries detonated his rookie season.

New York Jets

The Jets' top pick is No. 30 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:

2010: RB Jahvid Best (Lions)

2009: WR Kenny Britt (Titans)

2008: TE Dustin Keller (Jets)

2007: WR Craig Davis (Chargers)

2006: RB Joseph Addai (Colts)

2005: TE Heath Miller (Steelers)

2004: RB Kevin Jones (Lions)

ANALYSIS: What strikes me is that all seven selections not only are offensive players, but also ball handlers. Perhaps teams in the back of the draft feel they can gamble a little bit and try to hit big on a skill position. Whatever the reasoning, it seems to have worked. This has been a successful spot. Jones and Addai rushed for 1,000 yards as rookies. Best appears to be the Lions' running back of the future. Miller and Addai have gone to Pro Bowls. Britt was the Titans' leading receiver last year. Keller is one of the NFL's better tight ends.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
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» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: history in that spot.

Chicago Bears

The Bears' top pick is No. 29 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Cornerback Kyle Wilson (New York Jets)

2009: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants)

2008: Defensive end Kentwan Balmer (San Francisco 49ers)

2007: Offensive guard Ben Grubbs (Baltimore Ravens)

2006: Center Nick Mangold (New York Jets)

2005: Defensive back Marlin Jackson (Indianapolis Colts)

2004: Wide receiver Michael Jenkins (Atlanta Falcons)

ANALYSIS: The bottom of the first round is a great place to find starting-caliber guards and centers. The top tackles are usually off the board. Fortunately for the Bears, they could use a guard or center just as much as a tackle. While coach Lovie Smith wants to bring back veteran center Olin Kreutz, a free agent, he will have to be replaced some day. And more depth at guard could allow the Bears to move 2008 first-round draft pick Chris Williams back to left tackle.

Detroit Lions

The Lions' top pick is No. 13 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Defensive end Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)

2009: Defensive end Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins)

2008: Running back Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers)

2007: Defensive lineman Adam Carriker (St. Louis Rams)

2006: Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (Cleveland Browns)

2005: Offensive lineman Jammal Brown (New Orleans Saints)

2004: Receiver Lee Evans (Buffalo Bills)

ANALYSIS: Unfortunately for the Lions, this isn't a great spot to get an elite cornerback. Those types of players are usually drafted in the top seven or eight picks. (The Lions are hoping that Nebraska's Prince Amukamara somehow slips through the cracks.) This is a nice area to draft a second-tier defensive lineman, and this year, the Lions will probably have their pick of offensive tackles as well.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers' top pick is No. 32 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Cornerback Patrick Robinson (New Orleans Saints)

2009: Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (Pittsburgh Steelers)

2008: Defensive end Phillip Merling (Miami Dolphins)*

2007: Receiver Anthony Gonzalez (Indianapolis Colts)

2006: Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (New York Giants)

2005: Offensive guard Logan Mankins (New England Patriots)

2004: Tight end Benjamin Watson (New England Patriots)

*First pick of second round.

ANALYSIS: There are some awfully productive players on this list. Part of the reason is that the previous year's most successful organization were in that spot and thus are more likely to make a good scouting decision. But it also tells us the Packers should have an opportunity to select a player who can make an immediate impact as long as they don't limit themselves to certain positions.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' top pick is No. 12 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Running back Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)

2009: Running back Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)

2008: Offensive tackle Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos)

2007: Running back Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills)

2006: Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (Baltimore Ravens)

2005: Linebacker Shawne Merriman (San Diego Chargers)

2004: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (New York Jets)

ANALYSIS: This list tells us what we knew already: You can get a blue-chip, impact player here if you exercise good judgment. The Vikings' decision, of course, will be complicated by their need for a quarterback. What will they do if they have, say, a potentially elite pass-rusher like North Carolina's Robert Quinn available to them? Take Quinn and look for a quarterback later? Or prioritize the quarterback?

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