Where the NFL’s Starting Offensive Linemen Were Drafted

Most mock drafts have the Steelers selecting an offensive lineman or a cornerback with their first pick, mainly because those are the two positions that are viewed as their biggest needs. The offensive line has been a talking point for several years now and yet the Steelers haven’t used many early picks on the position (obvious exception: Maurkice Pouncey in 2010).  Since 2005 the Steelers have selected just three linemen on the offensive side of the ball in the first three rounds: Pouncey, Trai Essex and Kraig Urbik.

With that in mind, I was curious to see where all of the NFL’s starting linemen in 2010 were selected in the draft, and which rounds produced the most players at each position. After going through every team, here are the results. The players counted as “starters” are simply the players that started the most games at the position. For example: Jonathan Scott goes in as the Steelers starting left tackle.

2010 NFL Starting Offensive Linemen By Round
1 16 6 4 4 8
2 6 5 6 6 6
3 1 3 5 2 6
4 2 5 2 3 3
5 3 2 3 6 1
6 1 2 5 0 2
7 1 2 3 1 1
Undrafted 2 7 4 10 5

Here’s a similar breakdown, only this time looking at teams that made the playoffs in 2010.

2010 NFL Starting Offensive Linemen By Round: Playoff Teams
1 5 2 3 1 2
2 2 2 0 2 4
3 0 0 1 0 2
4 1 2 1 4 1
5 2 1 2 0 1
6 1 2 1 0 1
7 0 0 2 0 0
Undrafted 1 3 2 5 2

The Steelers ended up starting one first-rounder (Pouncey) and a second-rounder (Flozell Adams, selected by Dallas) to go with a fifth-rounder (Jonathan Scott), a sixth-rounder (Chris Kemeaotu), and an undrafted free agent (Ramon Foster) for the majority of their games.

The only spot on the line league-wide that has a decisive advantage in the first round is left tackle. That’s not much of a surprise since it’s usually regarded as the most important spot on the line and, in most cases, the position responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blind side (unless your quarterback is a lefty).

Many guards, especially those that play the right side, aren’t even drafted.

After seeing this does it change your opinion of what the Steelers should do in April? Obviously a lot of depends on which players are available at each position, and it’s just too far in advance to know that.

I don’t hate the Steelers tackle situation assuming everybody is back and ready to go (Max Starks and Willie Colon. Perhaps Flozell Adams if he’s not released) so I can’t see reaching for a player at a position that probably won’t be starting anyway. Plus, I’ve been pretty vocal in my belief they should take the best player on their board regardless of position. The Steelers may not have that many needs for this upcoming season, but they do have some players getting a little long in the tooth. If, for example, the second- or third-best nose tackle grades out higher than the eighth- or ninth-best offensive tackle when you are on the clock, don’t take offensive tackle just because he represents a greater need.

This entry was posted in 2010 steelers, 2011 mock draft, Offensive Line and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Cols714

    I’m of the opinion that the tackle position is overrated. Especially LT. Teams can get by with average OTs.
    I certainly would never draft one of those guys with a top 10 pick.

    I think I like Rahim Moore for the Steelers at 31. Seems like Ed Reed part 2.

  • Anonymous

    I’m of the opinion that the Steelers should go with a tackle in round one. I too believe mostly in best player available with some weight towards need. But this draft features no obvious first choice tackle, but does have a bunch of “first round talent” tackles. I think one of Castonzo, Smith, Carimi, Solder, Sherrod is going to be available at 31. If so, I think you take him unless a “top 20 talent” falls for some reason.

    I don’t think DB shakes out the same way. The DB field is “deep” this year if you’re looking at later round picks. That is to say that a late round DB this year is better than your average DB in similar rounds other years. But that doesn’t hold up in first round. There’re only two first round DBs, Peterson and Amukamara and neither is falling into Pittsburgh’s lap.

    Other positions just aren’t as pressing. Yes, you take the best player available. But you are not completely blind to need. If Dareus or Quinn magically appeared at 31, pick him up over any of those tackles. But even if you think Cam Newton is a bit better player than Anthony Cantonzo, you still take Castonzo because there is some weight to need.

    Now, an interesting question from an academic standpoint would be how would you order your top X picks assuming you are guaranteed they will all be on the board as you draft them?

    • Grw1960

      OT Sherrod has been a slow downward soiral since the beginning of 2011. And many including Mayock say he is round 2 talent and could be rated lower than G/T Ijalana, Depending on Ijalana’s work out on April 6th.
      Also I agree with BPA in the first round as long as it is not QB , C or OLB

      • Randy Steele

        Wexell is down on Sherrod, too. Wex thinks he’s a finesse blocker who compares (Horrors!) with Tony Hills.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    BPA in r1, unless it is a QB, C or special teamer. And maybe OLB. Rookies rarely start and there isn’t another position for which having an elite player in 2012 wouldn’t be helpful.

  • Randy Steele

    Concerning Round 1 strategy, I agree with Easy: With a couple exceptions, BPA all the way.

    Here’s the thing, though. I think we’ll be surprised at the quality of players who will fall this year. A decent LT might even be available.

    Why? Because, if the new labor agreement comes into effect during this draft, it will all but guarantee that the money in the past that was lavished on Round 1 rookies will be spread to players who are drafted later.

    The result? GMs might take a chance on the riskier group of quarterbacks in Round 1. Because teams don’t have to lock up so much money on a first round player, those who are desperate for a starting QB might figure it’s worth the risk to make an early grab for one of those QBs most mocks have headed for the second round.

    If true, four quarterbacks might be taken in the first round, which means a couple players who wouldn’t have been available at 1.31 now will be.

  • Cols714

    I’m OK with a tackle in the first round. However, I still think they are overrated and taking them in the top 10 seems foolish.

    Guard play has been much more important to the Steelers over the years.

  • Mike L

    A few points- for the Steelers you had a 5th rd pick (Scott) playing for an injured 3rd rd pick (Starks). Did this happen for any other teams? Also you have player who played LT in college but could not transition in the pros and are now playing other positions (Robert Gallery and Jason Smith) these choices skew the picks even more towards LT in high rounds, the players did not live up to expectations.
    In Ted’s post he says it is a 50-50 chance the Steelers can draft Sherrod without trading up. At best I think this is 20%. I have the Lions going LT @13th. Both the Cowboys and Dolphins could trade down and take Pouncey or Carimi. NE could be looking at LT with pick 17 or 28 but who can tell with them. KC also would like an upgrade at LT to move Alberts inside. Indianapolis is taking an OL. Philadelphia has a strong chance of drafting on the OL but could trade down. Trading up for Tyron Smith would seem perfect but I don’t thing they take the chance. Seattle becomes a great trade partner for the Steelers. They could draft Locker at 31 or go guard/center. A trade would work out to a 1st and 3rd to move up. This allows the Steelers to leap over the Ravens (26th) who could need to replace Gaithers, Atlanta looking to improve their OL, NE again and Chicago who needs OL help. JJ even mentioned moving up to 25th for OL in the latest podcast. The lack of a CBA could make Sherrod a higher pick over Solder who is more of a developmental player. This still works for the Steelers as they can get by with who they have as they did last year.
    Oh, you say why LT as a priority (1st rd)? Max Starks is due 7 and 8 million over the next two years. Needing to sign Woodley, Taylor, Timmons and Troy will be expensive and could make Starks too much to keep, he will (within a few years) need to take the path of Flozell and move back to the right side.

  • Grw1960

    I know it won’t happen. But I would love to see one of the early 2nd round teams trade up to the Steelers pick at 31 for one of the 2nd level QBs. But more than likely any team than wants to do that will probably target NE’s pick at 33.
    That said I am thinking ( unless the right player fall to 31) we may see a surprise type pick by the Steelers at 31. A position not needed but a definite upgrade none the less.

    • Randy Steele

      No one will move up from a pick early in Round 2 to trade for the Steelers’ Round 1. Moving up those few spots to grab a guy would cost the team too much money compared to the Round 2 player they’d get and the money they’d pay him.

      As a side note, I’ve often wondered if anyone ever did a study on the draft’s bang for your buck, and by that I mean the area of the draft in which very good players are available for a surprisingly reasonable amount of money.

      I’ve often guessed that the top half of the second round may be stocked with players like that.

      • Anonymous

        I haven’t seen something comprehensive, but I do remember reading somewhere that the overall #1 position in the draft is not a good place to be since you overpay quite a bit,

      • Steeler Stan

        It happens every year. You’re not going to get a lot for the trade up though. Probably a 4th to move down 15-20 spots.

  • Steeler Stan

    I think everyone would agree that going “best player available” has served the Steelers well over the years. However, they’ve had the luxury of not drafting for need in most of those years and when they’ve been forced to draft for a position it hasn’t worked well. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough quality options at corner to succeed at this point. They were barely adequate at the position last year and with Ike and McFadden getting a year older they won’t likely even reach that level this year. If Butler and Lewis weren’t good enough to beat out Anthony Madison then they’re probably already lost causes so we can’t hope for improvement from within. If Ike leaves…. we’re in deep crap. However, having said all that I do think they can afford to still spend their 1st rounder on the best player available if they’re willing to spend 3 of their other picks on corners.
    The O-Line could be better no doubt but as long as we bring Flozell back and Starks and Scott are back, we’ll be okay there. If Colon is healthy enough he should be our right guard. He was never as good as Flozell was for us last year.
    I’d put the draft priorities as: CB, T, G, S.

    • Ted

      Stan, your opening statement is not accurate. The Steelers have drafted to fill a major immediate need in the first round twice in the past decade, trading up both times in the first round to get the top player on their board at that spot.

      Our 2002 pass defense was atrocious and we decided to let Lethon Flowers walk after the season. We had no starting strong safety before the draft and traded up to get Troy Polamalu. That worked out pretty darn well; I assume everyone would agree.

      Similarly our WR corps had been decimated due to the FA defections of Plax after the 04 season and Randle El after the 05 season. Thus, we traded up to get Santonio in a 2006 draft that was deemed weak and thin at WR. That also worked out pretty well. No way we win or even get to SB 43 without Santonio making every big play on offense and special teams.

      The last time the Steelers drafted a player at position in need of a major immediate upgrade in the first round that did not work out was when we desperately reached for Troy Edwards at No. 13 overall in the 1999 NFL Draft after T. Holt and David Boston had gone off the board. That obviously did not work out.

      But when we reach for a player at a position in desperate need, it has actually worked out pretty well in the Colbert era; and only the first-round is applicable for such discussion or it is not a major need.

      If we lose Ike to free agency, CB will be such a need this year. However, if Ike is resigned, then I don’t think we have a position in dire need of an immediate grade for this draft. Obviously CB would still need a young stud to help immediately and eventually become a starter, while we would like a better player at RG and an eventual starter at OT. But none of those would be must-gets the way we needed a SS from the 2003 NFL Draft and a WR in the 2006 draft.

      • Gretz

        I have a hard time calling Polamalu and Holmes reaches. They were the best players at their position in the draft, and arguably the best players available at their slots, both at that time and in hindsight

        I also think there’s a difference between “reaching” and drafting for need. Reaching (Troy Edwards) is never, under any circumstances, a good idea. If the Steelers take the eighth best cornerback in the first round, one that grades out as a second or third rounder, and pass on a player at another position that they have a higher grade on just because they “need” a cornerback”, I would consider that a reach and not be in favor of such a strategy.


        • Ted

          Adam, I said nothing about reaching for Polamalu and Holmes. Instead, Stan had said it hasn’t worked out well when the Steelers drafted for need as their No. 1 criteria and I wanted to point out that it has. We absolutely had to get a SS in 03 and a WR in 06, more so than we ever needed a player at one spot as long as I can remember. And both of those worked out real, real well. Now you can argue that Troy was real high on our board and thus also fit BPA. But I bet we had players rated higher than Santonio overall, but had to get a WR and justifiably had Santonio much higher on our board than Chad Jackson.

          • Anonymous

            You comments about reaching and trading and about BPA and need brought to mind a little game theory and economics.

            Consider, there is value both in getting a higher quality overall player as well as in getting a player whose role more nearly matches your team’s needs. Assuming you could quantify these, the value of a plyer would be some function on these two variables, and the best scenario would be getting the best player availble who also fills your greatest need.

            Also consider that when two teams trade pick positions the generic “value” of the positions being traded is roughly equal. This happens because teams are only going to trade if they think they are coming out ahead by making the trade, and when one team gets something of clearly higher value from the other, that becomes unlikely.

            So why trade at all if the values are the same? Ah, that’s because it’s only the context free valuation that is roughly the same. In the context of an individual teams’ wants and needs those values are altered (and that’s the basic economics of why anyone ever trades/sells/purchases anything). The optimum trade is one where each team trades positions of equal value, but go from a scenario in which the best available players at the slots do not at all match need to one in which the BPA coincides with the area of greatest need. And the close to that the better the trade. To do that optimally you need perfect knowledge about every other team’s intended picks, but you do you best to model that (and it’s pretty simple to model the zero picks necessary when trading up to the “now” slot).

            That’s why you see traded picks like Polamalu and Holmes being both BPA when selected and filling a need. Getting into that situation is precisely why you trade at all. And since that’s such a good position to be in that’s also why you see picks from trades performing so well. What that doesn’t tell you is that “the Steelers should trade.” When an opportunity to align talent and need presents itself, he who hesitates is lost. But those opportunities cannot be manufactured. They either arise and you take them, or they don’t and there’s nothing to take. If you force a trade you are likely not to come out ahead, and the worst strategy of all is trading up only to reach.

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