Saturday, January 29, 2011

Should the Carolina Panthers draft Nick Fairley #1 Overall? Maybe not.

Auburn DT Nick Fairley, celebrating
Many NFL media pundits, and many fans alike, think that the Carolina Panthers should draft Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Awed, perhaps, by the difference-making abilities of recent high defensive-tackle selections, like the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh and the Baltimore Ravens' Haloti Ngata, they see the disruptive force Fairley was on opposing offensive lines this past college season, and the brilliant performance he put on in the BCS National Championship Game between Oregon and Auburn.

Others shy away from Fairley because of his penchant for cheap shots and dirty play, and still others shy away from him because he only had one dominant season against lower-grade quality linemen.

But perhaps there's another reason why the Carolina Panthers, and indeed, the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and possibly every other team picking in the top half of the first round should be leery of drafting not just Nick Fairley, but any other highly-touted defensive tackle.

This article, from the Ultimate New York Giants website, shows something quite surprising:

 The original observation was that drafting Defensive Tackle in aggregate did not generate the kind of returns from the First Round we would expect.  So far, the data from using the elementary 1-7 Rating system and number of Pro Bowls collected bears this out.  We saw from the numbers that 31 Defensive Tackles generated 19 Pro Bowl appearances and knew that was low.  Well, here with the Safeties, we have 22 Pro Bowls from 16 players.
Those numbers are from the last ten years of first round draft picks. The author's conclusions are the same as mine - namely, that NFL GMs are drafting defensive tackles too early in the draft in comparison with return on their investment. 

With that in mind, it's quite possible that there just simply needs to be a different way to evaluate defensive tackles, as it is clear that it is a more hit-or-miss draft selection than many other positions. 

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