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History Provides Conundrum


We've all heard that phrase before about how if you don't pay attention to history — yada, yada, yada — you're doomed to repeat it, or some such jazz.

History as a predictor of the future? Let that rattle around for a while.

Anyway, let's take this idea and try to apply it to American football, specifically this week's NFL Draft and who the Falcons might select.

It has been largely agreed upon among media members and the ilk that the Falcons are targeting defensive end and wide receiver help starting Thursday.

As I've studied the mock drafts since the offseason began, I've seen just about every scenario you can see, and suddenly, the question popped into my head: If defensive end and wide receiver are the positions of the first two picks for the Falcons this year, which is better to pick when?

Quite a conundrum, as you can tell from the complicated wording of the previous sentence.

Basically, I was wondering what history could tell us about wide receivers and defensive ends picked in the second round.

The prevailing thought is that it usually takes three years for a player to begin to peak in the NFL, so I went back to the 2008 season to analyze the two positions for five seasons. What I was looking to see, I found — err, sort of.

History states, if you're taking a defensive end and a wide receiver with your first two picks, you should spare yourself the anxiety and just flip a coin to determine which to take first.

Before I undertook the task of looking at all the numbers and stats and moon phases and everything else that goes into determining the success of a player, I was of the opinion that taking a defensive end in the first and wide receiver second would be the most successful formula.

It is. Or it's not. Or... I don't know. You tell me.

Let's break this down.

I will warn you: I will attempt to sound scientific during this explanation, but in no way am I a scientist. I kind of felt like this guy while researching, but I used merely a computer and the Googles to find this information. Apparently, there's something in the building's insurance policy that requires me to stay away from bunsen burners.

Anyway, Between 2004-2008, there have been 24 wide receivers and 15 defensive ends selected in the second round. So, already, we can tell that NFL teams prefer to select wide receivers in the second round, judging by this sampling.

The biggest piece of information I found when looking at all the picks between those five Drafts was how far apart risk and reward are between the two positions.

For example, out of the 24 wide receivers taken in the second round, three could be considered to be stars — Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson, drafted in 2008 and now has 3,124 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns; Green Bay's Greg Jennings, drafted in 2006 and now has a Super Bowl title and 5,222 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns; and Vincent Jackson, who has 3,648 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns since being drafted by San Diego in 2005.

So, we've established that there is some real star quality among wide receivers in the second round — big, big reward. But, there's also huge bust potential.

Five of the receivers taken in the second round between 2004-2008 are no longer in the league and eight spent time on more than one team's roster. Twelve have amassed more than 1,000 career receiving yards, but three have yet to crack the 100-yard barrier — huge, huge risk.

Of the defensive ends, the most prolific since being drafted is Cleveland's Matt Roth, who has 271 career tackles and 20 career sacks after being taken by Miami in the 2005 Draft. But of all the defensive ends taken in the second round from 2004-2008, there are few that come close to reaching that "star" level.

A couple have become household names to a certain extent — Dallas' Igor Olshansky, Philadelphia's Darryl Tapp, Arizona's Calais Campbell — but none have reached the level of a John Abraham (first round), Julius Peppers (No. 2 overall) or Mario Williams (No. 1 overall).

That's not to say that they won't, but they've got a ways to go. There seems to be just as much uncertainty among this group.

Two of the 15 players selected as defensive ends in those five Drafts have changed positions to defensive tackle — Olshansky and our very own Jonathan Babineaux. Also, one defensive end — Dan Bazuin drafted by Chicago — never even played a snap in the league.

The one big note I will make about the defensive ends is that all of them not named Dan Bazuin are still playing today. The wide receivers can't make that claim. So, to me, there's much less risk, but also much less reward among the second-round defensive ends, whereas there's a much bigger gap between the two with wide receivers.

In the end, it's just a gigantic coin flip. I can now see both sides of it, although I still contend that better defensive end talent can be found in the first round and you're better off taking your chances with a wide receiver in the second.

Based on the information I have not-so-scientifically provided, what's your opinion? Vote below.

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