First Round Hits and Misses

Hours away from the 2013 NFL Draft's first round, Rick Drummond tallies the first round hits and misses of the past five years.

| 4 years ago

First Round Hits and Misses

At its most desperate points, the first round of the NFL draft is a must-win situation. For teams with fewer questions to answer, it’s still a critical opportunity to add talent. Hits are expected. Misses are remembered for years.

With so much of the pre-draft scrutiny focused on the players who will potentially become known as ‘first-rounders’, it’s worth a full look at those players who’ve gone before – if, for nothing else, a glimpse of what can really be expected from this year’s crop.

I’ve taken the 159 first-round picks from the past five years and run them through a gauntlet of measures: checking their snap contribution, their PFF grades in key facets of play, their performance in select Signature Stats and other surrounding factors related to the value they’ve shown relative to their draft slot. Boiling all of that down to a broad strokes, pass/fail (and yes, oversimplified in many cases) ‘Hit’ or ‘Miss’ mark for each player, we have a look at what the draft’s premier picks have produced.

First Round Expectations

Imagine yourself as an NFL GM holding a first round pick in the upcoming draft. What do you want from it? Ideally, a future Hall of Famer. Realistically, a top-level starter for multiple seasons. You want immediate impact as well, but understand an acclimation period may be part of the deal.

If that pick of yours is in the Top 10, you’ll have access to cream of the crop – and your team is probably in dire need of that kind of talent infusion. A selection in the next 10 spots (11-20) means your team is in a little better shape, but was not in the playoffs the previous year and almost certainly has specific needs to address. If you find yourself picking in the bottom third of the round, you’re probably in better shape roster-wise and can afford to take more chances, but can’t settle for impact diverted too far down the line – you are, after all, looking to make a near-term Super Bowl run with this team.

With the round split into thirds like this, greater expectations are placed on those Top 10 selections than the 21-32 range, but bottom line – and this is all very bottom line – they’re all first-rounders and are all expected to be significant additions sooner than later.

Hits and Misses

Working with ‘top-level starter’ as the goal, the majority of players considered here were relatively easy to sift into the hit or miss columns. Where it gets to be less clear is in the cases of progressing, declining, or up-and-down trends. A player like Duane Brown has seen his share of snaps each year and climbed from a rather disappointing first season to string together a number of improving-to-outstanding campaigns. Being a 26th overall pick, the pressure on him wasn’t as great to succeed immediately as it might have been had he gone earlier in the draft, so even that rough first year weighs less on his record, making those strong years further on more of the focus.

Some were up at the outset and down as they went (way down, in Jeff Otah’s case) and some have bounced back from fall-offs (see Devin McCourty’s 2010-2011-2012 span). In these cases, the benefit of the doubt was applied and recent trends won out.

Once reviewed, the hard line of hit or miss was applied and a tag was given to each player. There’s room for argument with some — the gray area can be vast — but “he has shown something and might eventually turn out to be a hit” is tough to fit as a column header.

With that, we look first at the most recent first-rounders.

Doing The Unthinkable

I’ve broken the Golden Rule of post-draft analysis by applying judgment to players not yet three years into the league. Softening the harsh edge by marking the 2011 and 2012 draftees as “early” hits or misses is my compromise. Their hit/miss status may very well change in time, but for now, we go with what we know and allow just these two classes a middle mark either leaning toward hit or toward miss if that fits them best.

Among those marked as ‘early hits’ in this group, some have left little doubt. A.J. Green and Julio Jones have stepped in and proven themselves worthy of their draft slots with immediate impacts. Tyron Smith excelled as a rookie on the right and managed a switch to the left in his second season. Mike Pouncey and Nate Solder have built on solid first years to produce even better sophomore seasons. Robert Griffin, Kevin Zeitler, and Doug Martin all excelled in their debuts.

On the defensive side, J.J. Watt, Von Miller, and Muhammad Wilkerson are shoe-ins, Nick Fairley leapt up in his second season, as did Patrick Peterson. Harrison Smith flashed cover ability as a rookie and Luke Kuechly settled in after a move to the middle.

The misses (yes, ‘early misses’) are attached to players who’ve failed to show they can match their draft slot assumptions (Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker), were not called upon to contribute off the bat (A.J. Jenkins, David Wilson), or fell to injury early on (David Decastro, Dre Kirkpatrick). No matter the reasoning – and granted, some are situation-based or otherwise beyond control – these first-rounders are losing out to expectations as their careers get going.

* You can find the list as part of the final table at the bottom of the page.

Positional Trends

Of particular interest given the projections for the first round of the 2013 draft, offensive tackles have proven to be some of the safest selections in recent years with 22 taken and 16 being handed hit status. Seven of the eight selected in the Top 10 are panning out — the lone Top-10 tackle miss: Baylor’s Jason Smith going to the Rams in 2009.

The offensive tackle tally accounts for the hit/miss edge we’ve seen overall. The remaining positions contribute to a straight 50-50 split. The following table breaks down the hits and misses in each third of the round (Picks 1-10, etc.) and provides totals per position — these include the early hits and misses from the 2011 and 2012 classes. Note the interior defender splits in each section of the round as we head into a draft with a number of players set to play there in the NFL.

Position1-10 Hit1-10 Miss11-20 Hit11-20 Miss21-32 Hit21-32 MissTotal HitTotal Miss
Int Defender4461261211
Edge Defender2285341311
Running Back211227510
Wide Receiver32035287
Tight End00010203

Particular positional draft classes also sort out as notable examples of the hit-and-miss nature of first round drafting. As a pair to point to, the 2008 offensive tackle group and the receivers taken in 2009:

Of the eight first-round tackles from 2008, five have earned hit tags including Branden Albert, whom we’re sure to hear more of in the coming hours. Jake Long and Gosder Cherilus have recently moved on from their original teams. Ryan Clady is sitting on the Franchise Tag while waiting for the pay day the Duane Brown got last year. Even Sam Baker, who has come on of late, secured a sizable second contract. With Jeff Otah falling out of the league and Chris Williams moving inside to guard, this class had some mixed bag elements but was still largely a hit as a whole.

20081MIAJake LongOTMichiganHit
200812DENRyan CladyOTBoise St.Hit
200815KCBranden AlbertOTVirginiaHit
200817DETGosder CherilusOTBoston Col.Hit
200819CARJeff OtahOTPittsburghMiss
200821ATLSam BakerOTUSCMiss
200826HOUDuane BrownOTVirginia TechHit
200814CHIChris WilliamsOT/OGVanderbiltMiss

The receiver group selected in the 2009 draft shows the range of possibilities: Darrius Heyward-Bey, a Top-10 miss; Hakeem Nicks, a bottom-of-the-round hit; Jermey Maclin a mild miss from the middle; Michel Crabtree, a late-blooming Top-10 hit; Kenny Britt, a frustrating up-and-down hit; and Percy Harvin a standout from the start. An interesting set that says something for not racing for receiving talent at the top.

20097OAKDarrius Heyward-BeyWRMarylandMiss
200910SFMichael CrabtreeWRTexas TechHit
200919PHIJeremy MaclinWRMissouriMiss
200922MINPercy HarvinWRFloridaHit
200929NYGHakeem NicksWRNorth CarolinaHit
200930TENKenny BrittWRRutgersHit

Team Success

If I were to ask most anyone to guess which teams, if any, logged all-hit or all-miss records during this span of drafts, I’d expect to get some Patriots and Raiders responses, respectively. As the table below shows, those answers would be in line with what was found. What might not be expected is seeing the Redskins join New England as an all-hit team and the Bears grabbing a seat next to Oakland on the hitless bench.

In all, a 53 percent hit rate with 47 of the more established players and 38 youngsters landing in the hit and early hit columns. Not an especially encouraging number, but one that reinforces the notion that so much of the draft – even at the top – is a crapshoot despite the time dedicated to limiting risk.

TeamHitEarly HitEarly MissMissHit%

How will teams do this year? We’re about to find out – well, at least we’ll get the process started and get on the road to knowing more a few years down the line. For now, the five-year list of hits and misses… check out the influx from each college, too — Alabama’s recent contribution sets them above USC and Oklahoma in terms of the numbers of players coming in.

For further commentary on past picks, check out Khaled’s Draft Grader series and Neil’s summary with additional thoughts.

(table showing 25 rows at a time, click headers to sort, *=’early’ hit or miss)

20081MIAJake LongOTMichiganHit
20082STLChris Long43DEVirginiaHit
20083ATLMatt RyanQBBoston Col.Hit
20084OAKDarren McFaddenRBArkansasMiss
20085KCGlenn Dorsey43DT/34DELSUMiss
20086NYJVernon Gholston34OLB/34DEOhio St.Miss
20087NOSedrick Ellis43DTUSCMiss
20088JAXDerrick Harvey43DEFloridaMiss
20089CINKeith Rivers43OLBUSCMiss
200810NEJerod Mayo34ILB/43OLBTennesseeHit
200811BUFLeodis McKelvinCBTroyMiss
200812DENRyan CladyOTBoise St.Hit
200813CARJonathan StewartRBOregonHit
200814CHIChris WilliamsOT/OGVanderbiltMiss
200815KCBranden AlbertOTVirginiaHit
200816ARZDominique Rodgers-CromartieCBTennessee St.Miss
200817DETGosder CherilusOTBoston Col.Hit
200818BALJoe FlaccoQBDelawareHit
200819CARJeff OtahOTPittsburghMiss
200820TBAqib TalibCBKansasHit
200821ATLSam BakerOTUSCMiss
200822DALFelix JonesRBArkansasMiss
200823PITRashard MendenhallRBIllinoisMiss
200824TENChris JohnsonRBEast CarolinaHit
200825DALMike JenkinsCBSouth FloridaMiss
200826HOUDuane BrownOTVirginia TechHit
200827SDAntoine CasonCBArizonaMiss
200828SEALawrence Jackson43DEUSCMiss
200829SFKentwan Balmer34DE/DTNorth CarolinaMiss
200830NYJDustin KellerTEPurdueMiss
200831NYGKenny PhillipsSMiami (FL)Hit
20091DETMatthew StaffordQBGeorgiaHit
20092STLJason SmithOTBaylorMiss
20093KCTyson Jackson34DELSUMiss
20094SEAAaron Curry43OLBWake ForestMiss
20095NYJMark SanchezQBUSCMiss
20096CINAndre SmithOTAlabamaHit
20097OAKDarrius Heyward-BeyWRMarylandMiss
20098JAXEugene MonroeOTVirginiaHit
20099GBB.J. Raji34NT/34DEBoston Col.Hit
200910SFMichael CrabtreeWRTexas TechHit
200911BUFAaron Maybin43DE/34OLBPenn St.Miss
200912DENKnowshon MorenoRBGeorgiaMiss
200913WASBrian Orakpo43OLB/34OLBTexasHit
200914NOMalcolm JenkinsCB/SOhio St.Miss
200915HOUBrian Cushing43OLB/34ILBUSCHit
200916SDLarry English34OLBNorthern IllinoisMiss
200917TBJosh FreemanQBKansas St.Miss
200918DENRobert Ayers34OLB/43DETennesseeMiss
200919PHIJeremy MaclinWRMissouriMiss
200920DETBrandon PettigrewTEOklahoma St.Miss
200921CLEAlex MackOCCaliforniaHit
200922MINPercy HarvinWRFloridaHit
200923BALMichael OherOTMississippiMiss
200924ATLPeria Jerry43DTMississippiMiss
200925MIAVontae DavisCBIllinoisHit
200926GBClay Matthews34OLBUSCHit
200927INDDonald BrownRBConnecticutMiss
200928BUFEric WoodOG/OCLouisvilleHit
200929NYGHakeem NicksWRNorth CarolinaHit
200930TENKenny BrittWRRutgersHit
200931ARZChris WellsRBOhio St.Miss
200932PITEvander Hood34DEMissouriMiss
20101STLSam BradfordQBOklahomaMiss
20102DETNdamukong Suh43DTNebraskaHit
20103TBGerald McCoy43DTOklahomaHit
20104WASTrent WilliamsOTOklahomaHit
20105KCEric BerrySTennesseeMiss
20106SEARussell OkungOTOklahoma St.Hit
20107CLEJoe HadenCBFloridaHit
20108OAKRolando McClain43MLBAlabamaMiss
20109BUFC.J. SpillerRBClemsonHit
201010JAXTyson Alualu43DTCaliforniaMiss
201011SFAnthony DavisOTRutgersHit
201012SDRyan MathewsRBFresno St.Miss
201013PHIBrandon Graham43DEMichiganHit
201014SEAEarl ThomasSTexasHit
201015NYGJason Pierre-Paul43DESouth FloridaHit
201016TENDerrick Morgan43DEGeorgia TechHit
201017SFMike IupatiOGIdahoHit
201018PITMaurkice PounceyOCFloridaHit
201019ATLSean Weatherspoon43OLBMissouriHit
201020HOUKareem JacksonCBAlabamaHit
201021CINJermaine GreshamTEOklahomaMiss
201022DENDemaryius ThomasWRGeorgia TechHit
201023GBBryan BulagaOTIowaHit
201024DALDez BryantWROklahoma St.Hit
201025DENTim TebowQBFloridaMiss
201026ARZDan Williams34NTTennesseeHit
201027NEDevin McCourtyCB/SRutgersHit
201028MIAJared Odrick34DE/43DEPenn St.Miss
201029NYJKyle WilsonCBBoise St.Miss
201030DETJahvid BestRBCaliforniaMiss
201031INDJerry Hughes43DE/34OLBTCUMiss
201032NOPatrick RobinsonCBFlorida St.Miss
20111CARCam NewtonQBAuburn* Hit
20112DENVon Miller43OLBTexas A&M* Hit
20113BUFMarcell Dareus43DTAlabama* Hit
20114CINA.J. GreenWRGeorgia* Hit
20115ARZPatrick PetersonCBLSU* Hit
20116ATLJulio JonesWRAlabama* Hit
20117SFAldon Smith34OLBMissouri* Hit
20118TENJake LockerQBWashington* Miss
20119DALTyron SmithOTUSC* Hit
201110JAXBlaine GabbertQBMissouri* Miss
201111HOUJ.J. Watt34DEWisconsin* Hit
201112MINChristian PonderQBFlorida St.* Miss
201113DETNick Fairley43DTAuburn* Hit
201114STLRobert Quinn43DENorth Carolina* Miss
201115MIAMike PounceyOCCentral Florida* Hit
201116WASRyan Kerrigan34OLBPurdue* Hit
201117NENate SolderOTColorado* Hit
201118SDCorey Liuget34DEEast. Illinois* Hit
201119NYGPrince AmukamaraCBNebraska* Miss
201120TBAdrian Clayborn43DEIowa* Hit
201121CLEPhil Taylor43DTBaylor* Miss
201122INDAnthony CastonzoOTBoston Col.* Hit
201123PHIDanny WatkinsOGBaylor* Miss
201124NOCameron Jordan43DECalifornia* Hit
201125SEAJames CarpenterOT/OGAlabama* Miss
201126KCJonathan BaldwinWRPittsburgh* Miss
201127BALJimmy SmithCBColorado* Miss
201128NOMark IngramRBAlabama* Miss
201129CHIGabe CarimiOT/OGWisconsin* Miss
201130NYJMuhammad Wilkerson34DETemple* Hit
201131PITCam Heyward34DEOhio St.* Miss
201132GBDerek SherrodOTMississippi St.* Miss
20121INDAndrew LuckQBStanford* Hit
20122WASRobert Griffin IIIQBBaylor* Hit
20123CLETrent RichardsonRBAlabama* Hit
20124MINMatt KalilOTUSC* Hit
20125JAXJustin BlackmonWROklahoma St.* Miss
20126DALMorris ClaiborneCBLSU* Hit
20127TBMark BarronSAlabama* Hit
20128MIARyan TannehillQBTexas A&M* Hit
20129CARLuke Kuechly43MLBBoston Col.* Hit
201210BUFStephon GilmoreCBSouth Carolina* Hit
201211KCDontari Poe34NTMemphis* Miss
201212PHIFletcher Cox43DTMississippi St.* Hit
201213ARZMichael FloydWRNotre Dame* Miss
201214STLMichael Brockers43DTLSU* Hit
201215SEABruce Irvin43DEWest Virginia* Hit
201216NYJQuinton Coples34DENorth Carolina* Hit
201217CINDre KirkpatrickCBAlabama* Miss
201218SDMelvin Ingram34OLBSouth Carolina* Hit
201219CHIShea McClellin43DEBoise St.* Miss
201220TENKendall WrightWRBaylor* Miss
201221NEChandler Jones43DESyracuse* Hit
201222CLEBrandon WeedenQBOklahoma St.* Miss
201223DETRiley ReiffOTIowa* Hit
201224PITDavid DeCastroOGStanford* Miss
201225NEDont'a Hightower43OLBAlabama* Hit
201226HOUWhitney Mercilus34OLBIllinois* Miss
201227CINKevin ZeitlerOGWisconsin* Hit
201228GBNick Perry34OLBUSC* Miss
201229MINHarrison SmithSNotre Dame* Hit
201230SFA.J. JenkinsWRIllinois* Miss
201231TBDoug MartinRBBoise St.* Hit
201232NYGDavid WilsonRBVirginia Tech* Miss


Follow Rick Twitter: @PFF_Rick


  • Pats fan

    check out whos got 100% hits!! go Patriots!

  • Ferynn

    So basically, The safest pick (=best ?) in the 1st round is taking an OT.

  • kj

    Kenny Britt was a hit and Jeremy Maclin was a miss? That makes absolutely no sense.

    • Joe

      Exactly! Kenny Britt has only 400 yds (roughly) more than Bey but is considered a hit?? I love PFF but sometimes the statistics get in the way.

  • MosesZD

    Sorry, but with some of these players you’re letting the puffed up stats of in-tema lack of depth and mediocrity get in the way. A bad WR getting a lot of catches because there is nobody else doesn’t make him a hit. It makes him a third-rate WR being carried by the non-NFL scrubs he’s in competition with for touches.

  • RyGuy

    How the heck is Eric Berry a miss?!?! I guess making the pro bowl both years he’s been healthy (including his rookie year) is not good enough? What more do you want? And if I were GM I would much rather roster a healthy and consistent Maclin(miss) than an always injured and up and down Nicks(hit) and Britt(hit). Oher is a solid pass blocking LT and would be one of the best RT in the league, yet he is a miss at 23 overall? I’m pretty sure any team in need of a starting tackle would gladly take him there any year. Same with Justin Blackmon at 5th overall who finished his rookie season with 600 yards and 4 TDs in his last 7 games… Not sure how that’s a miss? Considering AJ Green’s last 7 games of his rookie campaign netted him less than 500 yards and only 1 TD… Also Kendall Wright was brutally under utilized in his rookie campaign and still managed a solid 64 receptions for over 600 yards and 4 TDs, I wouldn’t call that a miss…

    • JL

      Eric Berry is perhaps the most overrated player in the league, also using pro-bowls to judge talent is perhaps the worst decision making on your part. That means Jeff Saturday was still a pro bowl center last year even though he was benched for his backup. Pro bowls don’t mean anything, All-Pros do
      Kendall Wright had a pretty significant drop rate, cant find the exact stats but he was leading the league in drops for a bit. I wouldn’t call him a miss though, as receiver is perhaps the hardest skill position to learn at the NFL level

  • RWG

    This is a confusing article. Crabtree is considered a hit, while Maclin is a miss? Also, D-Mac, Mendenhall, and D. Cromartie all misses….. Akib Talib a hit? I don’t really disagree with the hits I listed here, but some of the misses I’ve listed don’t make sense. Some of the players are injury prone… yes, but other injury prone hits like Nix get a pass?

  • Bob Hope

    Cameron Jordan has 9.0 sacks in two years is a hit (there are DEs I could mention too, but I’ll stick with him since he seems to be actually be a pretty good player), but Robert Quinn who had 4 more sacks as a rookie (1.0 – 4.0) and 2.5 less in his second year (8.0 – 10.5) is a miss? I know this is subjective, but is it just the difference in tackles or is it the couple extra pass deflections and FF? I’m not saying Jordan is bad, I just don’t think Quinn is a bust.

    • IMHO…

      Completely agree. Quinn (15.5 sacks in first 2 years), Whitney Mercilus (6 sacks as a rookie in limited playing time) and Jared Odrick (11 sacks in 2 years from a 3-4 DE is GREAT) should all be changed to Hits and Brandon Graham (9.5 sacks total in 4 seasons) and Derrick Morgan (not a bad player, but just mediocre) should be changed to misses.