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Analyzing the Draft: Starters at DT/NT

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  April 12, 2011 01:17 PM

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As part of the run up to the NFL draft, a lot of you will give your opinions on where and when the Patriots need to draft certain players. Do they need to grab an outside linebacker first? Or maybe a running back? How about a defensive end? Can they wait on safety help?

To that end, we'll take a look at each position and break down where the 2010 opening day starters on each NFL team came from in the draft. We’ll also identify where each of the Pro Bowlers – the starters and backups on the initial team, not injury replacements – and All Pro players came from

This is the type of “study” that almost every team does before the draft. It’s a valuable, if blunt, tool to see where value can be had at each position. (I use the term “study” loosely because I only did this past year, not a three- to five-year stretch most teams have personnel department interns look at).

I think you’ll see some surprises along the way.

Part II: Defensive tackles/nose tackles

This is obviously one of those positions where you can find starting-caliber players even among undrafted free agents. While 14 starters, and four Pro Bowlers, came from the first round, 10 starters weren’t even drafted.

But I think this is case where you have to go inside the numbers.

Here are the starters that were taken in the first round (overall pick in parenthesis): Kevin Williams (9), Sedrick Ellis (7), Gerald McCoy (3), Vince Wilfork (21), Amobi Okoye (10), Tyson Alualu (10), Casey Hampton (19), Richard Seymour (6), N. Suh (2), Tommie Harris (14), B.J. Raji (9), Mike Patterson (31), Brodrick Bunkley (14), Haloti Ngata (12).

Here are the undrafted players: Pat Williams (MIN), Remi Ayodele (NO), Daniel Muir (IND), Tommy Kelly (OAK), Tony Brown (TEN), Ed Johnson (CAR), Bryan Robinson (AZ), Gary Gibson (STL), Colin Cole (SEA), Ma'ake Kemoeatu (WAS).

While there are some good players in the latter group – Tommy Kelly (19) and Colin Cole (27) were ranked in the top 30 in 2010 rankings from profootballfocus.com – and some underachievers in the first round – Sedrick Ellis (56), Amobi Okoye (59) – first rounders were a better producing group as a whole. Their average ranking by profootballfocus.com was 27.7. The undrafted group as 51.8 in the 77-player rankings.

Pound for pound, the fifth through seventh rounds held their own with studs Kyle Williams (1) and Aubrayo Franklin (13) coming in the fifth, Antonio Garay (2) in the sixth and Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff (21) in the seventh. Outstanding quality out of just a 10-player pool.

The lesson here seems to be that if you’re looking for production, it’s probably better to take an interior lineman early. If you have a scheme where pluggers in a 4-3 will work just fine, you’re better off waiting until later in the draft or after it, and try to use your earlier picks for impact players at other positions.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the all important, especially for the Patriots this year, outside linebackers. We’ll also take a look at pass rushers specifically.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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