NFL Draft 2012: What to Expect from Sensabaugh, Harris and Martin's Rookie Years

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NFL Draft 2012: What to Expect from Sensabaugh, Harris and Martin's Rookie Years
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Sensabaugh is a good depth choice for the Titans.

After months of media hype, the NFL draft is over, and fans finally have new members of their team to welcome to town.

Expectations for draft picks are high, but are they too high?

Over the course of the next few weeks, "What to Expect" will examine every draft pick from the AFC South in its historical context. Using past performances from similarly drafted players and by examining the way in which each team develops certain positions, I will create a realistic baseline by which to judge the performance of each pick.

Readers should be aware that rookies historically perform much, much worse than fan expectations.

Also, keep in mind that I am not saying the player will perform to these expectations, but rather anything better than the results should be considered a successful rookie year, and anything worse would be a disappointment.

These are not predictions. They are baselines.

It's not uncommon for teams to use late-round picks on defensive backs, and that's exactly what the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars did in 2012.

The Titans picked up corner Coty Sensabaugh in Round 4 and safety Markelle Martin in Round 6. The Jaguars added corner Mike Harris in Round 6 as well.

Here's what they can expect from these players early in their careers.

  • There have been 164 defensive backs taken from Round 4 through Round 6 since 2005. Nineteen of them never made an NFL roster. The good news is that 105 of them played in at least eight games, and 49 of them played in 15 games or more.
  • While playing time was plentiful, starts were not. Only 23 started eight games or more and just three started all 16 games. A full 121 players started one game or fewer.
  • Players were fairly productive, with 34 ringing up at least 20 tackles. Thirty-seven had an interception, though just 13 had more than one. Twenty had at least five passes defended.

The Jags took two players in this range last year. Chis Prosinski played in 13 games, started one and had 11 tackles. Rod Issac played in just three games.

The best player taken by the Jags in this range was probably Gerald Sensabaugh in 2005. His career is a best-case scenario for a player of this ilk.

The Titans have also dabbled in defensive backs in this range recently. Alterraun Verner had a very strong rookie year in 2010. Vincent Fuller would be another solid example of a fourth-round corner.

When Titans fans think about Sensabaugh, these are the kinds of players they should keep in mind. Cortland Finnegan was a seventh-round pick but also merits mention.

 

Summary

The mid to late rounds are outstanding opportunities to get solid NFL corners. But don't expect a Pro Bowler—just two of the 164 taken since 2005 have made it.

A good baseline for these players is to make the roster, appear in eight games or more and get a start. Fifteen tackles would put them in the top quarter of productivity. An interception would be nice as well.

The long-term, best-case scenario for players like this is to be a quality player in the league for three to five years. Maybe they become a regular starter at some point, but not right away.

The third-day picks are all about depth, and with any luck, that's what the Jags and Titans got.

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