Breaking Down Every NFL Team's Draft TendenciesApril 29, 2014
Breaking Down Every NFL Team's Draft Tendencies
After what has seemed like an eternity of waiting, the 2014 NFL draft is a little over a week away, so it's time to break down every team's draft tendencies.
Every established decision-maker, whether a general manager or coach, has a certain way that he likes to do things, and that reflects in the results of each draft class. Some decision-makers are aggressive in seeking trades, while others are more conservative and stand pat with their selections.
In some situations, a decision-maker might favor drafting one position in the early rounds or players from a certain school. And of course, it's always fascinating to see when the last time a quarterback-starved team selected a potential franchise signal-caller.
Past drafts were studied in order to compile this list, and for newer decision-makers, quotes were sought out on their draft philosophy so as to provide a window into their thought process.
Here is a breakdown of every NFL team's draft tendencies.
Last year, in his first draft as the general manager for the Arizona Cardinals, Steve Keim selected six offensive players and three defensive players.
But he was also the vice president of player personnel under former general manager Rod Graves, so we can go back a bit to ascertain his draft tendencies.
In the first round last year, he selected North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, and the team has selected five offensive linemen overall in the past two years. The free-agent signing of left tackle Jared Veldheer will help to solidify the line, but it should surprise no one if Keim goes back to the well.
It's also worth noting that the Cardinals haven't drafted a quarterback since San Diego State's Ryan Lindley was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Could Keim be preparing to pull the trigger on the club's future franchise signal-caller?
Since taking over as general manager of the Atlanta Falcons prior to the 2008 season, Thomas Dimitroff has built four playoff teams, and much of that is due to his success in the draft.
He has been difficult to predict. In 2013, he spent his first three selections on defense, while in 2012, the first three picks came on offense. Overall, he's used three first-round picks on offense and three on defense.
He's also shown a willingness to be cavalier and execute major trades, as he did in 2011 when he moved up to the top of the first round to select receiver Julio Jones. He also traded up in the first round last year to tab cornerback Desmond Trufant, so there is a precedent for a potential move upward.
As Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik notes here, Dimitroff also shies away from selecting players of dubious character.
In his time as Baltimore Ravens general manager, Ozzie Newsome has proved to be one of the most adept talent evaluators in the history of the NFL.
He has gone defense in the last three first rounds and spent his first four picks last year on that side of the ball. He hasn't selected a quarterback since Tyrod Taylor in the sixth round in 2011.
In this millennium, Newsome has twice used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman (Michael Oher in 2009 and Ben Grubbs in 2007) and twice on wide receivers (Mark Clayton in 2005 and Travis Taylor in 2000).
He didn't select a running back last year and hasn't since nabbing Bernard Pierce in the third round in 2012.
Last year in his first season in charge, Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley had an outstanding draft, netting a number of starters who could evolve into stars.
He went offense with three of the team's first four picks, including a quarterback (EJ Manuel) and two receivers (Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin). The one defensive player in that group, linebacker Kiko Alonso, had a fabulous neophyte campaign.
He did not select an offensive lineman or pass-rusher.
Last week, in the team's predraft press conference, Whaley didn't shy away from potentially moving up to nab a player. He said, via BuffaloBills.com:
It’s got to be a right deal and it has to be a calculated deal that is beneficial to us and the other team. It’s going to take two to tango to get to a trade. Everybody says you should trade down and that is great, but if nobody wants to trade with you, you can’t do it. So we’ll sit down with Russ and Coach and all these guys and Jim Overdorf and we’ll say, ‘Does this make sense? Does this make us a better team? Does this get us to the playoffs?’ If it does and we’re all on board because it’s a team effort, we’ll do it.
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman had only five picks last season in his first draft in charge, but he made the most of it, nailing the first two.
He spent the first two picks on defensive linemen, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. He did not draft a receiver last year.
Gettleman spent time with the Giants before joining the Panthers, so he's likely more apt to be patient and not ultra-aggressive with potential trades.
Speaking recently with Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, Gettleman offered this regarding the prospect of selecting a receiver in the first round:
I don’t know if wide receiver has had a tougher time, but history will tell you the adjustment isn’t easy. (Houston’s DeAndre) Hopkins and (San Diego’s) Keenan Allen had quality rookie years. You have to go through the full process, and part of that full process is spending time with these kids, finding out what they know, what they don’t know. I thought last year that our coaching and scouting staff did a great job post-combine in that part of the process.
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has now spearheaded two drafts, and he has selected seven offensive players compared to five defensive players.
He has drafted two receivers, two offensive linemen, two cornerbacks and two linebackers among his selections.
But with the Bears coming off a season when they possessed the NFL's 30th-ranked defense and allowed a ridiculous 5.3 yards per carry, it's easy to see that he will be using the majority of picks to bolster that side of the ball.
As John Mullin of CSNChicago.com wrote, Emery operates on a "ceiling" philosophy, which takes into account the potential upside of a player. That has led to him taking players in spots where some have felt they were overdrafted, such as offensive lineman Kyle Long in the first round last year or receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round of 2012.
After years of drafting poorly, the Cincinnati Bengals and owner Mike Brown have stepped their game up in recent years, adding a ton of young talent to help form one of the league's best 53-man rosters.
The Bengals have selected at least one skill position player in the first three rounds of every draft since 2007, including receiver A.J. Green with their first-round selection in 2011.
The club hasn't selected a quarterback since nabbing Andy Dalton in the second round in 2011.
It's worth noting the team's proclivity for selecting players from the University of Georgia; they've done so in the past four drafts.
The Bengals have only drafted four cornerbacks in the past four years combined.
Ray Farmer is set to take on his first draft as general manager of the Cleveland Browns, and it's an important one with the team holding the fourth and 26th picks of the first round and 10 selections overall.
While the expectation is that he will use one of the first-round selections to take a quarterback, there isn't any data to fall back on to prove that point. The club last drafted a quarterback in 2012 when former team president Mike Holmgren grabbed Brandon Weeden in the first round.
As it concerns his potential to trade up from the 26th overall selection, Farmer said this at his predraft press conference, via CBS Cleveland:
That’ll depend upon who’s on the board and the value that we have associated with that player. If there’s a guy – again generalities – at No. 15, 16 and we’ve got to go up 10 spots, what’s that cost look like from our perspective of what do you have to give to get there; and No. 2 is that a player that we really can’t live without, or is there a player in, we’ll say, similar value range that we’re going to get at No. 26? And if that’s the case, then what’s that point of moving if we’re happy with both instances?
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones desperately needs a solid draft to help push his team over the hump, as they haven't qualified for the postseason since 2009.
He hasn't drafted a quarterback since Stephen McGee in the fourth round in 2009 and has only drafted three signal-callers overall this millennium.
He's gone offense in the first round in three of the past four years (including two offensive linemen) and has selected at least one receiver in every draft since 2009.
The club hasn't used a pick in the first three rounds on a linebacker since tabbing Bruce Carter in the second round of the 2011 draft.
Jones has shown a willingness to make trades, as illustrated by moving down several times in 2013 before taking center Travis Frederick and trading up in 2012 for cornerback Morris Claiborne.
In his first three drafts as Denver Broncos executive vice president and general manager, John Elway has gone defense in the first round all three times, including back-to-back defensive tackles in 2012 (Derek Wolfe) and 2013 (Sylvester Williams).
He has also selected a quarterback in each of the last two drafts (Zac Dysert and Brock Osweiler) as well as running backs (Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman).
He has selected at least one defensive back in all three drafts but didn't select a linebacker in 2013 after doing so in 2011 and 2012.
Elway is no stranger to making draft-day deals. He traded out of the first round completely in 2012 before nabbing Wolfe.
Martin Mayhew took over as general manager of the Detroit Lions prior to the 2009 draft, and there are a number of trends to take from his body of work.
First, he hasn't selected a quarterback since using the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft on Matthew Stafford.
Mayhew has also selected a defensive lineman in the draft three times: Ziggy Ansah (2013), Nick Fairley (2011) and Ndamukong Suh (2010).
He's also drafted at least one receiver every year, usually in the first three rounds.
Mayhew has only selected a defensive back in the first two rounds of the draft twice.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is notorious to marching to the beat of his own drum, often eschewing the "popular" pick in order to make the one he deems best for the club.
He drafts fairly evenly on both sides of the ball, but it's worth noting that he drafted defense with the club's first six picks in 2012, so there is a precedent for going heavy for one unit.
Interestingly, he has never selected either a tight end or defensive back in the first round, and those are considered to be two of the team's primary needs.
For a more detailed look on some of Thompson's draft tendencies, check out this piece from Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Rick Smith took over as general manager of the Houston Texans after the 2006 draft, and his club holds the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in his tenure.
He has gone defense in the first round in five of his seven drafts and hasn't selected a quarterback since T.J. Yates in the sixth round in 2011.
He has selected a wide receiver in the first three rounds of the last two drafts. In 2011, he selected three defensive backs but hasn't picked one since.
He hasn't selected a running back since Ben Tate in the second round in 2010, and Tate just signed a free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has shepherded his team to the playoffs in each of his two seasons on the job. And while it certainly helped to have to no-brainer decision to select quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, Grigson has still been a success.
Twelve of his 17 draft picks have come on offense, and he has selected three tight ends in two years.
He has yet to draft a cornerback.
According to Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star, Grigson has executed trades in each of his two drafts. Chappell expects movement next month as well, especially considering the team is without a first-round pick—it was traded away in the deal that brought running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.
David Caldwell only has one draft under his belt as general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but a definite trend emerged last April.
After using his first pick on offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, Caldwell then spent every single pick on either a wide receiver (twice) or defensive back (five times).
He has yet to draft a quarterback.
As Sports Illustrated's Peter King noted, Caldwell could be looking at a pass-rusher with the third overall pick. It also stands to reason that the club will select a quarterback in the early rounds.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have one draft class under their belt, and it helped the team go 11-5 and earn a wild-card spot in last year's postseason.
Last year, the Chiefs went offense with their first three picks, tabbing a tackle (Eric Fisher), tight end (Travis Kelce) and running back (Knile Davis). They did not select a quarterback or wide receiver.
Reid and Dorsey also didn't draft a defensive tackle last year, but the team lost Tyson Jackson in free agency to the Falcons.
They also showed a willingness to draft players from small schools, doing so three times last year (Fisher from Central Michigan, Eric Kush from California (Pa.) and Mike Catapano from Princeton).
Dennis Hickey is set to lead his first draft as general manager of the Miami Dolphins after serving as director of player personnel for the Buccaneers.
While there isn't any hard data to lean on, he did mention in his introductory press conference that he subscribes to the theory of taking the best player available, which flies directly in the face of the approach that was taken by deposed general manager Jeff Ireland, who often drafted based on team needs.
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has been in charge of the draft since 2006, and for the most part, he's done well.
The club holds the eighth overall pick in next month's draft and clearly needs a quarterback, so it's worth noting that Spielman hasn't selected one since tabbing Christian Ponder in the first round in 2011.
He has also double-dipped in recent years, selecting two players from both Florida State and UCLA in 2013 and two players from USC, Notre Dame and Arkansas in 2012.
Spielman has shown a definite tendency toward offensive linemen and linebackers and acquired an additional first-round selection (including two extra in last year's draft) in each of the past two years.
New England Patriots
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been in charge of the team's draft room since coming to the team in 2000, and he didn't earn the nickname "Trader Bill" for sitting on his hands.
He is a notorious mover and shaker in the draft, as ESPN.com's Mike Reiss detailed here.
As for players he's taken in recent years, Belichick has shown a definite proclivity toward defensive backs, selecting seven over the past three years. Fourteen of his last 23 picks have come on the defensive side of the ball.
He hasn't selected a tight end in the past two drafts. He famously selected both Rob Gronkowski (second round) and Aaron Hernandez (fourth round) in 2010.
Belichick hasn't drafted a quarterback since Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 draft. Tom Brady will turn 37 during this season.
New Orleans Saints
Mickey Loomis has served as general manager of the New Orleans Saints since 2002 and helped the club to win the Super Bowl after the 2009 season.
He hasn't had more than six picks in a draft since 2008. The club has seven picks in next month's draft.
He has selected a defensive player in each of the last six first rounds but hasn't selected a cornerback since 2011.
Loomis hasn't drafted a quarterback since Sean Canfield in the seventh round in 2010.
New York Giants
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has been in charge of the draft since 2007, and while his results have helped produce two Super Bowl titles, his classes have struggled in recent years.
He has used four first-round picks on defense and three on offense, so there isn't much of a trend. He has spent six picks in the first three rounds on wide receivers and has also stockpiled cornerbacks and defensive linemen.
He hasn't selected a tight end since Adrien Robinson in the fourth round in 2012 and has selected four offensive linemen over the past two years.
For a detailed look at Reese's draft tendencies, check out this piece from NJ.com's Jordan Raanan.
New York Jets
John Idzik is set to lead his second NFL draft as general manager of the New York Jets after hauling in a successful class in 2013.
Last year, he went defense with his first two picks and grabbed the defensive rookie of the year in lineman Sheldon Richardson. Idzik also selected three offensive linemen and a quarterback (Geno Smith in the second round).
He didn't select a skill position player until the seventh round, where he tabbed fullback Tommy Bohanon.
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has been in charge for two drafts, but considering he didn't have a first- or second-round pick in 2012, it's best to judge his tendencies based on his 2013 class.
Last year, he selected 10 players: six on offense and four on defense. He did select a quarterback, Tyler Wilson (fourth round), who was cut during training camp.
McKenzie also went for variety, taking nine different positions with his 10 picks: cornerback, offensive line, linebacker, quarterback, tight end, running back, defensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive end.
He also traded down several times last year in an effort to stockpile picks, so don't be shocked if he takes that approach again.
While Howie Roseman has served as general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles since 2010, coach Chip Kelly has much of the juice in the draft room.
Last year, Kelly and Roseman used their first pick on an offensive tackle (Lane Johnson) and didn't select a linebacker, running back or receiver. They nabbed a tight end in the second round (Zach Ertz), used two late-round picks on defensive backs and grabbed a quarterback in the fourth round (Matt Barkley).
Kelly and Roseman seem to employ the best-player-available philosophy.
Kevin Colbert has been the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers since before the 2000 season and has been an integral part of the club's success during that time frame.
He has selected an offensive lineman twice in the first round since 2010, and last year's first-round pick, linebacker Jarvis Jones, was the first non-offensive or defensive lineman of the first round since 2009.
Some other tendencies include the drafting of running backs; Colbert has taken at least one in every draft since 2007. He also hasn't selected a defensive back in the first two rounds since 2005 and hasn't selected a defensive tackle in the first four rounds since 2011.
San Diego Chargers
Last year was Tom Telesco's first draft as general manager of the San Diego Chargers, and his haul helped enable the team to make a surprise run to the divisional round of the postseason.
He had six picks last year and split them evenly: three on offense and three on defense. He only took one skill position player (receiver Keenan Allen in the third round).
As for his philosophy regarding trades, Telesco recently said this at his predraft press conference, via Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
It’s always an option. It’s always an option to maybe move down and pick up some picks, which would be great. The board will tell you a lot of times if you can do that. If you’re going to trade down, you need to know what you’re going to get if you do trade down and then the other side of that is can you find someone if you want to trade up. That’s something where you can make some calls before the draft but really in reality you don’t really know until either you’re on the clock or a couple of picks before if you can actually do that, but yes, it’s certainly an option.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke (along with head coach Jim Harbaugh) has overseen a fantastic three-year run, with the team reaching the NFC Championship Game in all three seasons and advancing to one Super Bowl.
Baalke has drafted defense in the first round in two of the three years and has selected at least one receiver in each draft. In fact, his drafting has been split evenly, with 14 offensive players and 14 defensive players.
He's also shown a willingness to draft injured players, as he did last year with defensive lineman Tank Carradine and running back Marcus Lattimore.
Baalke spoke about his philosophy on potentially trading up or down in his predraft press conference, via Ryan Sakamoto of NinersFans.com:
The answer’s the same every year. Do we have the ammunition to make a jump and go get somebody? Yes. Are we motivated to do that? Depends. There’s so many factors that go into that but when you’re sitting at 30 where do you need to go if you are targeting someone? You saw us last year make a move to get somebody. Will we do that this year? I don’t know. I may know but I certainly wouldn’t tell you if I did know. There’s players that we certainly like, trying to determine where they may go, how high we may need to go if we choose to go. If we stay are we prepared to make a pick? Could we move back? That’s always a possibility when you’re sitting at 30, so there’s a lot of different ways we can go.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are on top of the world nearly three months removed from triumph in Super Bowl XLVIII.
And now they have another draft with which to stockpile talent, something they've done a very good job of since coming to the Pacific Northwest in 2010.
Carroll and Schneider have twice selected an offensive lineman in the first round and also love picking defensive backs, having drafted eight overall in four years. They picked four defensive linemen last year.
While the duo has only selected one quarterback, they made the pick count, nabbing Russell Wilson in the third round in 2011.
St. Louis Rams
Les Snead is set to take on his third draft as general manager of the St. Louis Rams, and he's been involved in a number of marquee trades already.
In 2012, he dealt the No. 2 overall pick to the Redskins in the trade that brought Robert Griffin III to our nation's capital, and he traded up last year to the eighth overall pick to select receiver Tavon Austin.
Snead has drafted a number of players at the skill positions, including four receivers and three running backs. He has yet to select a quarterback.
He's also shown a willingness to draft players with character concerns, as evidenced by his picks of cornerback Janoris Jenkins (second round, 2012) and linebacker Alec Ogletree (first round, 2013).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a brand new head coach (Lovie Smith) and general manager (Jason Licht), and the duo will have the opportunity to bring in their first draft class next month.
Licht and Smith have been extremely aggressive in free agency, adding a number of valuable pieces that should allow them to select the best player available in the first round next month. Many pundits have linked the team to Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.
While there are no tendencies to draw from as Licht has never run a draft, this piece from Bleacher Report's Knox Bardeen might shed light (no pun intended) on his success (or lack thereof) at picking quarterbacks.
Next month's draft will represent the third in charge for Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster but the first with coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Webster has selected offensive players in each of his first two drafts but has leaned toward defense overall, with 10 defensive players selected against five on offense.
He selected two offensive linemen in the first four rounds last year and nabbed a wide receiver early in each draft (Kendall Wright in 2012's first round and Justin Hunter in 2013's second round).
Webster also has yet to select a quarterback, as he wasn't in charge when the team selected Jake Locker in the first round in 2011.
Bruce Allen was hired as general manager of the Washington Redskins following the 2009 season, and this will be his fifth draft in charge of the team.
He has selected offense twice and defense twice in the first round. He showed he's unafraid of making a huge deal when he traded three first-round picks to the Rams for the right to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second overall selection in 2012.
He has selected a running back every year in Washington and didn't select either an offensive lineman or linebacker last year.