It’s as close to fact as you can get. The Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 item on their “things we need” list is a left tackle to protect their franchise quarterback for years to come. Is there anyone out there that can truthfully dispute that statement? Anyone?
Sure, a bookend OLB to pair with Clay Matthews and some DB help (CB, S, ANYTHING!) would be great. A real punter would be great. Those are all things I want to see happen, as well.
However, with often-injured unrestricted free agent Chad Clifton on a downward career slope, the all-important left tackle position must be addressed now. With any luck, the Packers will be able to bring Clifton back for at least one more year and draft a potential LT of the future.
The question is, will they be able to get that player at pick No. 23 in the first round and should they even try? Stay with me, I’ll explain what I mean.
Thanks to the friend-making machine known as Facebook, a Packer fan named Andy Tisdel alerted me to a blog post he had written. Andy had done some great research, identifying all of the starting left tackles in the NFL in 2009 and noting what round they were drafted in.
While you can read the post to get the full details, the end result was predictably that just over 50 percent of the starting left tackles in the NFL in 2009 were drafted in the first round.
So the Packers should draft an offensive tackle first, right? Not so fast. I had a feeling that if we dug a little deeper into the numbers, we might get a different answer.
Let’s take a quick look at the players in question and where they were drafted:
Colts: Charlie Johnson (sixth)
Titans: Michael Roos (second) Pro Bowler
Texans: Duane Brown (first, No. 26)
Jaguars: Eugene Monroe (first, No. 8 )
Steelers: Max Starks (third)
Browns: Joe Thomas (first, No. 3) Pro Bowler
Ravens: Jared Gaither (fifth)
Bengals: Andrew Whitworth (second)
Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (first, No. 4) Pro Bowler
Patriots: Sebastian Vollmer (second) [Starter on IR: Matt Light, (second), Pro Bowler]
Dolphins: Jake Long (first, No. 1) Pro Bowler
Bills: Jonathan Scott (fifth)
Chargers: Marcus McNeill (second)
Raiders: Mario Henderson (third)
Chiefs: Branden Albert (first, No. 15)
Broncos: Ryan Clady (first, No. 12) Pro Bowler
Bears: Orlando Pace (first, No. 1) Pro Bowler
Packers: Chad Clifton (second)
Lions: Jeff Backus (first, No. 18)
Vikings: Bryant McKinnie (first, No. 7) Pro Bowler
49ers: Joe Staley (first, No. 28)
Cardinals: Jeremy Bridges (sixth)
Rams: Alex Barron (first, No. 19)
Seahawks: Sean Locklear (third) [Starter on IR: Walter Jones, (first, No. 6), Pro Bowler]
Cowboys: Flozell Adams (second) Pro Bowler
Eagles: Jason Peters (undrafted) Pro Bowler
Redskins: Levi Jones (first) [Starter on IR: Chris Samuels, (first, No. 3), Pro Bowler]
Giants: David Diehl (fifth) Pro Bowler
Saints: Jermon Bushrod (fourth) [Starter on IR: Jammal Brown, (first, No. 13), Pro Bowler]
Buccaneers: Donald Penn (undrafted)
Panthers: Jeff Otah (first) [Starter on IR: Jordan Gross, (first, No. 8), Pro Bowler]
Falcons: Sam Baker (first, No. 21)
Using the starters that were on IR rather than their replacements, the results tabulate as follows:
first round: 17
Out of the 17 first round picks, 15 were selected 21st or higher. Only 12 percent of those first round tackles were drafted in the range where the Packers will be selecting.
Now let’s look at only the best of those left tackles; those that have made the Pro Bowl:
first round: 11
Eleven out of 16 (70 percent) of Pro Bowl left tackles were drafted in the first round. And even more significantly, eight of those 11 (73 percent) were top-10 picks. Of the other three, none were selected below No. 13.
(for those of you whose heads are swimming right now)
Only two current starting left tackles were selected in the first round range where the Packers will be picking. More starting left tackles were selected in the later rounds and more Pro Bowl tackles were selected in the second round.
Statistically it’s a small sample size (your mileage may vary and past performance is not a guarantee of future results). But based on these figures, the chances of the Packers selecting a starting left tackle at the No. 23 pick is 12 percent. The chances of them selecting a future Pro Bowler is zero percent.
Yes, not one of the Pro Bowl tackles above selected in the first round went later than No. 13. Ironically, according to these numbers, they have a much better chance of finding a Pro Bowl tackle in the second round.
Sooooooooooooo, do the Packers still select an OT at No. 23 in the first round? What do YOU think?