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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Updated: May 9, 1:47 PM ET
Draft risk study: Defensive tackles

By Ted Kluck
Special to Page 2

By position: QB | RB | WR | O-line | DE | DT | LB | CB | S | Study wrap

While it is much less a glamour position than defensive end, a fair number of defensive tackles have been taken off the board in recent years. Below, we'll use the simple metric of 80 games played plus a Pro Bowl selection to determine success. The logic being that, despite scheme, if a player is playing consistently and being recognized in the postseason, he was probably worthy of a first-round pick.

A number of very good DTs grade out as first-round busts but would have been very good if not for injuries (such as Steve Emtman).

1989: No first-round DTs

1990
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Seahawks 3 Cortez Kennedy, Miami 167 7 No
Patriots 10 Ray Agnew, N.C. State 157 0 No

Kennedy was an NFL star -- both a run-stuffer and deceptively quick pass-rusher. Agnew was solid, if not spectacular.

1991
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Cowboys 1 Russell Maryland, Miami 154 1 No
Cardinals 6 Eric Swann, (semipro) 127 2 No
Redskins 17 Bobby Wilson, Michigan State 42 0 Yes
Lions 20 Kelvin Pritchett, Mississippi 208 0 No
49ers 25 Ted Washington, Louisville 231 3 No

Swann, a semipro player with no real college experience, was taken almost solely on the basis of his measurables and made two Pro Bowl appearances. Washington has been a very good run stopper, and Maryland was good, though probably not overall No. 1 material. Pritchett started forever in Detroit.

1992
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Colts 1 Steve Emtman, Washington 50 0 Yes
Rams 3 Sean Gilbert, Pittsburgh 147 1 No
Raiders 16 Chester McGlockton, Clemson 179 4 No

Emtman was going to be a star but was undone by his knee and neck injuries. Gilbert went to one Pro Bowl, but is perhaps most famous for signing a huge free-agent deal, and McGlockton was the prototype inside run stuffer.

1993
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Broncos 11 Dan Williams, Toledo 86 0 Yes
Eagles 24 Leonard Renfro, Colorado 23 0 Yes
49ers 26 Dana Stubblefield, Kansas 154 3 No

Things tailed off considerably in 1993, with Dan Williams and his multiple knee injuries ending up a disappointment in Denver. He sneaked over our longevity metric but is still, I think, a bust. Renfro only played 23 games for the Eagles, who may have set a record for futility in drafting defensive linemen (see defensive ends).

1994
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Bengals 1 Dan Wilkinson, Ohio State 195 0 No
Seahawks 8 Sam Adams, Texas A&M 195 3 No
Dolphins 20 Tim Bowens, Mississippi 156 2 No
Oilers 26 Henry Ford, Arkansas 133 0 No

Was Big Daddy Wilkinson worth the No. 1 overall pick? Probably not, but he also wasn't an abject failure as much as he was a product of some very effective pre-draft hype (remember the video of him jumping up and down off a table?). Adams and Bowens were very good, and Henry Ford, in addition to inventing the assembly line (sorry) also had a nice NFL career.

1995
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Bucs 12 Warren Sapp Miami 182 7 No
Colts 15 Ellis Johnson, Florida 149 0 No
Lions 20 Luther Elliss, Utah 133 2 No

The Bucs rolled the dice on a pudgy-but-athletic prospect from Miami named Warren Sapp who had a history of recreational drug use. The result? A seven-time Pro Bowl selection. Sometimes character is overrated. Regarding Ellis Johnson, I am impressed by how many defensive linemen Florida has put into the league.

1996
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Dolphins 20 Daryl Gardener, Baylor 102 0 No

Nobody thinks "star" when the name Daryl Gardener is mentioned. He was, however, a solid NFL starter. Grinders Shane Burton and Steve Martin, as well as star La'Roi Glover all went later in this draft.

1997
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Raiders 2 Darrell Russell, USC 83 2 No

Russell started fast, and then flamed out equally fast as a result of drug issues. Worth it?

1998
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Packers 19 Vonnie Holliday, North Carolina 107 0 No

Vonnie Holliday = solid-if-not-spectacular (see Daryl Gardener).

1999
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Bucs 15 Anthony McFarland, LSU 93 0 No
49ers 24 Reggie McGrew, Florida 24 0 Yes
Vikings 29 Dimitrius Underwood, Michigan State 19 0 Yes

The Vikings overlooked some bizarre behavior to grab Dimitrius Underwood, the ultimate boom-or-bust type of player. He busted. Ditto for Reggie McGrew.

2000
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Eagles 6 Corey Simon, Florida State 91 1 No
Vikings 25 Chris Hovan, Boston College 109 0 No

The Eagles finally got one right, as Simon went to a Pro Bowl. Hovan's career has been up and down, but that face paint really is something isn't it?

2001
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Browns 3 Gerard Warren, Florida 91 0 Yes
Rams 12 Damione Lewis, Miami 85 0 Yes
Jaguars 13 Marcus Stroud, Georgia 91 3 No
Steelers 19 Casey Hampton, Texas 85 3 No
Rams 29 Ryan Pickett, Ohio State 91 0 Yes

These studies have given me a whole new respect for how badly Cleveland has drafted over the years. Add to that list, Gerard Warren. The Rams whiffed twice in this class, with Lewis and Pickett both doing very little. Stroud and Hampton, though, have been stars.

2002
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Chiefs 6 Ryan Sims, North Carolina 59 0 Yes
Jaguars 9 John Henderson, Tennessee 80 1 No
Cardinals 12 Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin 29 0 Yes
Titans 15 Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee 63 0 No

Bad teams are bad for a reason (see: Arizona and Wendell Bryant). The Chiefs are still waiting for Ryan Sims to pan out, but John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth have both been very good.

2003
Team Pick Player, School Games Pro Bowls Bust?
Jets 4 Dewayne Robertson, Kentucky 61 0 No
Saints 6 Jonathan Sullivan, Georgia 37 0 Yes
Vikings 9 Kevin Williams, Oklahoma State 62 2 No
Rams 12 Jimmy Kennedy, Penn State 53 0 Yes
Giants 25 William Joseph, Miami 55 0 Yes

Kevin Williams is an NFL star, while Dewayne Robertson, though it is too early to attach "bust" has struggled. Kennedy (3 NFL sacks) and Sullivan (1.5 NFL sacks) have both done very little, and William Joseph is proof that going back to "Da U" to train isn't an automatic recipe for NFL success.

Crunching the Numbers: First-Round DTs, 1989-2003
Number of DTs drafted: 42

Notable busts: Wendell Bryant, Dimitrius Underwood, Leonard Renfro

Number of busts: 14

Bust percentage: 33%

Number of DTs with at least one Pro Bowl appearance: 17

Pro Bowl percentage: 40%

For the sake of comparison
Percentage of first-round LB busts: 16%
Percentage of first-round DE busts: 31%

Conclusions
The DT position was comparable in risk to the DEs, busting out at a slightly higher 33 percent. That said, the Rams have really struggled in picking defensive tackles, and the Eagles have struggled with D-linemen in general, grabbing Jerome McDougle, Jon Harris and Leonard Renfro during the study cycle. All were busts. Jacksonville has built its defense around John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, two Pro Bowl-quality DT picks in back-to-back years.

Ted Kluck is not a scientist; rather, he is the author of three books -- including "Facing Tyson: Fifteen Fighters, Fifteen Stories" (Lyons Press 2006) -- as well as a full-fledged draft geek. He recently spent a season playing professional football as a member of the Battle Creek Crunch (GLIFL) where he was, without a doubt, a bust.