NFL Nation: Justise Hairston

Rams downplay need for running back

April, 26, 2011
4/26/11
6:38
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Adding depth at running back and finding a possible successor for Steven Jackson has become an occasional topic around here as the St. Louis Rams head toward the draft.

The Rams sound more inclined to seek a complementary back than an eventual replacement.

"In our minds, (Jackson) is still playing at an extremely high level," general manager Billy Devaney told reporters Tuesday. "So, we don't feel like, 'Gosh, we'd better start looking down the road.' This kid is as good as there is. We don't feel any pressure to start lining somebody up to take Steven Jackson's place."

That is the politically correct thing to say and, most likely, the truth as well. Coach Steve Spagnuolo cast the Rams' search for a running back in the "complementary" mold.

"People call them 'third-down backs, sub backs, change-of-pace backs,' " Spagnuolo said. "There’s all those kinds of things you could throw in there. The one thing, you guys that know (coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) a little bit and his history, he’ll take what’s given to him and work around it. So, we’ll see what we have when all of this putting together is finished."

McDaniels' teams have drafted six running backs over the years: Knowshon Moreno and Laurence Maroney in the first round, Cedric Cobbs in the fourth, Justise Hairston in the sixth and two backs, Spencer Nead (fullback/tight end) and Antwoine Womack, in the seventh.

Excluding Nead, most were at least 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds.

'07 draft class nearly purged from AFC East

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
11:15
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After they dumped quarterback Trent Edwards and traded running back Marshawn Lynch in consecutive weeks, a lone member of the Buffalo Bills' 2007 draft class remained on the roster.

Just three years later, one keeper is a lousy return.

But consider how the rest of AFC East drafted in 2007.

Only six of 30 AFC East draftees from 2007 still are with the team that drafted them: two New York Jets, two Miami Dolphins, one New England Patriot and one Bill. (See chart below.)

[+] EnlargeDavid Harris
Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMIThe Jets traded second-, third- and sixth-round choices to move up and select David Harris.
The Jets were most effective. They drafted just four players. Their first two have been stars, and the last pick helped them acquire a standout receiver. They traded up to select star cornerback Darrelle Revis 14th overall and top inside linebacker David Harris 47th. Seventh-round pick Chansi Stuckey was sent to the Cleveland Browns in the trade that landed receiver Braylon Edwards.

The Patriots were the least efficient on nine picks, but they had only two selections inside the first four rounds. Their lone keeper was Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather in the first round.

The Dolphins made 10 selections in what was the final draft class for general manager Randy Mueller and the only one for rookie head coach Cam Cameron. They famously misfired on ninth overall pick Ted Ginn, who was traded for a fifth-round pick this offseason, and second-round quarterback John Beck. Still around are defensive tackle Paul Soliai and punter Brandon Fields.

The last man standing from Buffalo's seven-man 2007 draft class is second-round linebacker Paul Posluszny.

So that's a 20 percent retention rate for the AFC East on all draftees and a 40 percent rate for those selected in the top three rounds.

With help from ESPN researcher Keith Hawkins and the Elias Sports Bureau, I wanted to find out how those percentages compared leaguewide.

Poorly, it turns out.

Of the 225 players chosen in other divisions that year, 100 have remained with the teams that drafted them. That's 44.4 percent overall, more than twice the AFC East rate.

When narrowing the field to players taken within the first three rounds, 89 prospects were absorbed into other divisions, and 54 have stuck, a success rate of 60.7 percent.

A few notes turned up by the research:

  • The Dolphins are the only team that has gotten rid of their top four picks.
  • Twenty-six teams have parted ways with at least one of their picks from the first three rounds.
  • Of the 19 teams that had at least one pick in each of the first three rounds, only the Pittsburgh Steelers retained all of them (Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Matt Spaeth).

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:00
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NFC Recent History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Recent history.

Buffalo Bills: It's a safe bet their objective won't be to draft defensive backs. The Bills have many shortcomings, but their secondary isn't among them. Thanks to former head coach Dick Jauron's obsession with defensive backs, the Bills have a glut there. Of the 18 players they selected the past two drafts, a third of them played cornerback or safety. The Bills are bleak at offensive tackle because they've chosen one, seventh-round project Demetrius Bell, in the past three years. In fact, you'd have to search back to 2002 to find a tackle they selected before the fifth round. The Bills are switching to a 3-4 defense this year, so it might be enlightening to know they haven't selected any defensive tackles -- let alone one who would be an effective NFL nose tackle -- three draft classes in a row.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins still are trying to recover from their disastrous 2007 draft class. Only three players remain on their roster, a disappointing receiver (ninth overall pick Ted Ginn), a pedestrian defensive tackle (fourth-rounder Paul Soliai) and a punter (seventh-rounder Brandon Fields). That was the last draft conducted by former GM Randy Mueller. The Dolphins were in such disrepair, new football ops boss Bill Parcells focused on the staples. Of the 18 picks under Parcells, seven were linemen. Eleven offensive players were chosen, but only two running backs, two receivers and one tight end. That would suggest they'll target defense in this year's draft, but they've been aggressive in addressing their needs through free agency so far. Safety, outside linebacker and nose tackle are positions to watch -- for now.

New England Patriots: The loose pattern the past three springs has been to draft defensive backs early and offensive linemen late. In that span, the Patriots selected a cornerback or a safety in the first or second round of each class and have taken five O-linemen (six if you count long-snapper Jake Ingram) in the fourth round and later. Only 11 of the 28 players they've drafted were offensive players, which is a significant reason why the Patriots have the NFL's oldest group of players on that side of the ball. The trend would indicate it's time to get younger there, especially in the backfield. The Patriots have selected one running back since 2007, calling Central Connecticut State's Justise Hairston that year in the sixth round.

New York Jets: A look at the Jets' three-year track record suggests they're famished for draft choices. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has a fondness for bartering picks to move up in the draft order. As a result, they selected just three players last spring and four in 2007. So few incoming prospects hurts organizational development, and with so many positions seemingly set, the Jets need to focus on drafting as many rookies as possible next month. When they traded for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, they were sure to send a 2011 draft choice. They sent Kerry Rhodes to the Arizona Cardinals for a fourth-round pick this year and a seventh-rounder next year.

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