First Round, Seventh Overall
Previous Picks: 2007-Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings; 2008- Sedrick Ellis, DT, Saints; 2009- Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders; 2010- Joe Haden, CB, Browns; 2011-Aldon Smith, 49ers.
Each of the perennial contenders in this league have one thing in common, they hit on their first-round picks. When you're selecting in the Top 10, it becomes infinitely more important to not only land starters with your first pick, you need to get impact players.
Over the past five years, the Number 7 slot has yielded perhaps the best running back in the game in Adrian Peterson, along with a couple promising young stars in Joe Haden and Aldon Smith. Two busts out of five at this high of a pick is pretty alarming, as Sedrick Ellis and Darrius Heyward-Bey haven't come close to living up to their draft status.
Second Round, 38th Overall
Previous Picks: 2007- Zach Miller, TE, Raiders; 2008- John Carlson, TE, Seahawks; 2009- Rey Maualuga, LB, Bengals; 2010- T.J. Ward- S, Browns; 2011- Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals.
Although the impact from the first round to the second round is severely lessened, it's still expected that teams find solid long-term starters in Round 2, especially in the first 10 picks of that round.
As you can see, most of the last five selections at 38th overall have had their fair share of success. Although none of the aforementioned players have made the Pro Bowl, each is a solid contributor with the exception of Ryan Williams, whose rookie season was lost with a ruptured Patella Tendon in camp. Zach Miller has started for five years with the Raiders and Seahawks....John Carlson had a promising start to his career in Seattle before injuries derailed him and now he hopes to find a fresh start in Minnesota....Rey Maualuga has started since his rookie season with the Bengals and played at a near Pro Bowl level in 2011....T.J. Ward is one of the most punishing safeties in football and has started every NFL game he's played in.
Third Round, 70th Overall
Previous Picks: 2007- Ryan Harris, RT, Broncos; 2008- Earl Bennett, WR, Bears; 2009- Michael Johnson, DE, Bengals; 2010- Ed Dickson- TE, Ravens; 2011- Justin Houston, DE, Chiefs.
As the draft moves to Round 3, teams are hopeful to find solid starters, but resigned to the fact that many of these picks will be little more than role players or special teams contributors.
Over the last five years, the production from the 70th overall selections have been very solid. Ryan Harris spent three seasons as a starter for the Broncos.....Earl Bennett has been the Bears best receiver....Michael Johnson has been a pass rush specialist for the Bengals....Ed Dickson started all 16 games last season for the Ravens and scored five touchdowns.....Justin Houston had a fine rookie season in Kansas City which included 5.5 sacks.
Fourth Round, 101st Overall
Previous Picks: 2007- Adam Podlesh, P, Jaguars; 2008- Justin King, CB, Rams; 2009- Stephen McGee, QB, Cowboys; 2010- Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers; 2011- Clint Boling, G, Bengals.
As the draft moves into the third day, teams are more hopeful than confident that they can find contributors. Most third-day draftees will play some special teams and on occasion clubs can pluck a talented starter who may have had some character flags or an undersized starter who was overlooked.
Production from the 101st overall picks over the last five years are about where you should expect it to be, hit and miss. Adam Podlesh is one of the league's best punters and he was given a solid free agent contract by the Bears prior to 2011.....Justin King was a part-time starter for a year and a half with the Rams and he's currently a free agent....Stephen McGee has been a developmental quarterback for the Cowboys that the team has shown some confidence in....Mike Williams has been the jewel of this class as he had a fantastic rookie season with Tampa Bay and is expected to start again this season....Clint Boling is a developmental line prospect who started three games as a rookie with the Bengals.
Fifth Round, 142nd Overall
Previous Picks: 2007- Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals; 2008- Zack Bowman, CB, Bears; 2009- Kevin Huber, P, Bengals; 2010- Cameron Sheffield, LB, Chiefs; 2011- Karl Klug, DT, Titans.
There have been several fifth-round picks that have panned out in NFL lore, but the overwhelming majority in this round are little more than role players or special teams contributors.
In our sample, Steve Breaston has been a nice contributor for the Cardinals before moving to the Chiefs last year in a starting role....Zack Bowman was mostly a special teams contributor for the Bears before moving to the Vikings this season in the hopes to compete for a starting role at cornerback....Kevin Huber has been the Bengals full-time punter since his rookie season and he's above average at his position.....After not playing as a rookie, Cameron Sheffield had a limited special teams role with the Chiefs....Karl Klug was a great pickup for the Titans as the defensive tackle picked up seven sacks while playing in their defensive line rotation.
Sixth Round, 176th Overall
Previous Picks: 2007- Rufus Alexander, LB, Vikings; 2008- Jalen Parmele, RB, Dolphins; 2009- Spencer Adkins, LB, Falcons; 2010- Rusty Smith- QB, Titans; 2011- Dwayne Harris, WR, Cowboys.
Very little is expected from sixth-round draft picks and it's a plus if any of these guys can play any role, whether it be special teams or on offense or defense.
As expected, none of our pick #176 samples have made much of an impact in the NFL. Rufus Alexander was out of the league after just one season with the Vikings......Jalen Parmele never played for the Dolphins who drafted him, but he did log three seasons as a kick return specialist for Baltimore....Spencer Adkins has been a solid special teams contributor for the Falcons...Rusty Smith started one game in emergency duty as a rookie for the Titans but doesn't figure into their plans....Dwayne Harris played less than half of his rookie season for the Cowboys in a special teams role.
Seventh Round, 228th Overall
Previous Picks: 2007- DeShawn Wynn, RB, Packers; 2008- Chris Chamberlain, LB, Rams; 2009- Lydon Murtha, T, Lions; 2010- Reginald Stephens- G, Bengals; 2011- Jabara Williams, LB, Rams.
Seventh-round draft picks aren't expected to make most teams and if they do whatever role they play is considered a bonus.
Our samples at Pick #228 are exactly what you'd expect. DeShawn Wynn started four games as a rookie with the Packers and no more, as he has been on three teams in four years....Chris Chamberlain was a special teams contributor for the Rams before earning a starting role in 2011 and is currently a member of the Saints....Lydon Murtha never played for the Lions but spent the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins....Reginald Stephens spent his rookie season with the Bengals and never played and is now a member of the Bears....Jabara Williams played in two games as a member of the Rams before being waived and then picked up by the Bears. He is mostly a special teams contributor.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie