Ranking the Most Important Positions for Rebuilding a NFL Franchise
With the NFL Scouting Combine getting ready to start, teams will start to get up close looks on young players who could help improve their on field play.
For some of last year's bad teams, these young players will be the building blocks in the remodeling of a franchise.
Every year bad teams take players they hope they can build a winning team around in future years. So for an NFL in need of a total makeover, where's the best place to start?
What better way to figure it out than ask NFL teams? Okay, well not actually ask—more like study. The process into these rankings required a look at the last 10 NFL Drafts. The top 10 picks in each draft were looked at to narrow down on the teams that would be looking to "rebuild" in that year's draft.
Each pick was given a descending numerical value opposite of the number of the pick—the No. 1 pick was worth 10 points, while the No. 10 pick was worth one point and all other picks correlating in between.
The total number of points from each position was added up between all 10 years to figure out which positions NFL teams favored when trying to rebuild their rosters.
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Position: QB, Point Total: 130
Surprise! NFL teams took more quarterbacks in the top ten than any other position. Using the point totals, no other position received over 100 points or even came close.
It's no secret the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Find the right quarterback and the team gets a head start on building for success, like we saw with several teams this past season.
Swing and miss on a quarterback and run the risk of setting the team back another couple years before success can be found again (Here's looking at you, Gabbert).
This becomes interesting coming into April's draft because there's no clear top tier talent at quarterback. Will the teams at the top of the draft be desperate and grab one anyway or will they let the draft play out and hope they can grab one in later rounds?
The Second Tier
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Position: OL, Total Points: 81
If a quarterback is the most important position, most teams view the guys who protect the quarterback to be the next most important.
This position is listed as general "OL" because all the players taken in the top 10 of these drafts were listed at tackles, regardless of whether that's where they stayed in the pros. The tackle position was one of only three positions to be taken No. 1 overall in the past 10 years.
Position: WR, Total Points: 78
This number is slightly skewed thanks to Matt Millen and his army of wide receivers taken as the general manager of the Detroit Lions. Thanks to Mr. Millen, the argument for a wide receiver being important for rebuilding loses a little steam.
That doesn't stop NFL teams from taking them, though, in hopes they can find a Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones.
The Run Game
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Position: RB, Total Points: 52
This number has gone down slightly since the NFL has become more of a passing league, and teams started to realize that the value of a running back can be found much cheaper. Only five running backs have been taken in the top 10 since 2005 when three went in the top five of that draft.
Teams have started to rely more on drafting offensive linemen to fortify the line, then grab a back deeper in the draft to produce the same value.
Position: DT, Total Points: 51
Although running backs might not be valued as high as they used to be, that doesn't make stopping the run any less valuable.
Take the 2010 draft with Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy going back-to-back at No. 2 and No. 3 overall and both becoming Pro Bowl players.
This could be a recurring theme into this year's draft as the defensive tackle position is said to be full of depth and could produce more solid players meant to clog the line of scrimmage.
Getting to the Quarterback
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Position: DE, Total Points: 42
Defensive end is the only other position to be taken first overall in the past 10 drafts to join quarterback and offensive tackle. Defensive end is considered one of the cornerstone positions on defense, but teams wait to strike on defensive ends unless they are a high talent.
The position does not have a large volume of players taken in the top 10 of these drafts, but when they are taken, it is usually with higher picks, as only three of the ends taken were out of the top five.
Position: LB, Total Points: 42
This combines outside and inside linebackers. The linebackers have the opposite case of the defensive ends. There is a higher volume of linebackers taken, but only three have gone in the top five during the past 10 drafts.
That seems to be the case again this year with Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and Manti Te'o possibly going early, but not in the top five.
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Position: CB, Total Points: 33
Cornerbacks are not viewed as top of the draft talent. In the past 10 drafts, only two have been taken in the top five—both were No. 5 overall.
If looking for a corner to be a building block, that player needs to be in the Patrick Peterson mold—being able to return kicks as an added feature. A strict cover corner is not worth as much, even with such a pass happy league.
Position: S, Total Points: 31
The same can be said about safeties. Again, only two top five—both No. 5—picks in these 10 drafts.
This suggests a trend towards the philosophy used by the New York Giants in their two Super Bowl runs—if the defensive line can get to the quarterback, the secondary won't have to play as big a part in defending.
With corners and safeties getting the lowest point totals on defense, it seems more NFL teams want to believe in that theory as well.
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Position: TE, Total Points: 10
Only two tight ends have been taken in the top 10—Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow, both No. 6 overall—in the past 10 years. Those two were drafted in 2004 and 2006.
Even with the evolution of big, athletic tight ends, those players can be found deeper in the draft and aren't a priority to build an offense around.
Positions receiving no points: FB, P, K
Even Matt Millen resisted from taking any of these in the top 10.