Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

04/05/2010

Winning and the Importance of Offensive Line in the NFL Draft

Everybody knows the recent struggles of the Oakland Raiders from the 2003 season through the 2009 season but let’s examine their drafts and see if there are any trends. Oakland has gone 29-83 (25.9%) over that stretch.

Out of those 55 picks the offensive line made up only 14% of those drafts.

Let’s compare them to another team that has been struggling year in and year out. The Detroit Lions have gone 28-84 (25.0%) during the stretch from 2003 – 2009 including an 0-16 season in 2008.

Detroit finished those drafts with a total of 57 picks and like the Oakland Raiders, seemed to avoid offensive linemen as if they were the plague especially in the early and mid rounds.

Offensive Linemen Drafted: 7 for about 12% of their picks in total.

The San Francisco 49ers haven’t been much better from 2003-2009 with a record of 40-72 (35.7%) but let’s take a look at their drafts and see if they were running into the same problems as the Raiders and Lions.

So the 49ers had 59 picks and only spent 7 picks on offensive linemen for a percent of about 12% of their 7 drafts. While they did draft them high, they also didn’t draft much in the way of depth at all.

Given those three teams and their relative struggles from 2003-2009, let’s take a look at three very successful teams. We’ll start off with the New England Patriots who are posterboys for stocking up on offensive linemen like they’re going out of style. Note that New England has gone 87-25 (77.7%) including a 16-0 season.

The Patriots finished with 63 total picks. Of those picks, they selected an offensive lineman 12 times for a percent of 19%. The Patriots aren’t afraid to select 2 or more linemen in a draft despite having what many would deem considerable depth already.

The Indianapolis Colts have also seen great success from 2003-2009 with a record of 89-23 (79.5%) so let’s examine their drafts. The Colts would have 60 draft picks and select 12 offensive linemen for a percentage of 20%. That also included drafting 3 centers in the 2008 Draft and at least 1 offensive lineman taken in every draft.

Worth noting is the Philadelphia Eagles from 2000-2004 who went 59-21 (73.8%) and were extremely successful. They had 37 draft selections over that period of time and selected 8 offensive linemen for a percentage of 21.6%. Their 2004 draft they selected an OT, two OG, and an OC with their last pick.

Winning organizations of the past including the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-1995 (12 offensive linemen), the San Francisco 49ers from 1987-1992 (9 offensive linemen), and the New York Giants from 1985-1990 (14 offensive linemen) all drafted well known stars but also were smart enough to know that you build your teams up front and offensively that starts with the big behemoths blocking.

So when you’re watching the 2010 NFL Draft, make a small note of those organizations that target 2 or 3 offensive linemen. Maybe jot a note down if they did this in the 2009 NFL Draft too and cross your fingers that team is the one you’re a fan of.

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