NFL teams used to be able to count on getting an instant starter in the first round of the NFL draft. It still happens but it’s not something that teams can count on year after year.
The Redskins are drafting 21st but fans need to temper their expectations of getting a player the team can plug into the lineup right away. Let’s look at the drafts from 2010-2015 and see how many of the players taken in the No. 21 spot and the players take two spots before that pick and two spots after it ended up starting. That range of five picks over six years can give us an idea of what the chances are that the player picked by the Redskins in the first round will be a immediate starter.
Calculating the odds by looking at those 30 players, the answer is—flip a coin. Of the 30 players taken with picks 19 through 23 since 2010, 15 were their teams’ primary starters as rookies.
But, if you want to hone in on what has happened lately, the chances of the Redskins’ top pick starting right away are not so good. Last year, just one player taken in the range we’re examining here was his team’s primary starter. That was receiver Nelson Agholor of the Eagles. In 2014, two became immediate starts and in 2013 three were. So from the last three drafts the immediate starter percentage is 40.
“We’re not getting instant oatmeal anymore,” Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said at the NFL Combine. “And you’ve got to understand there’s going to be growing pains. Nothing’s easy. A guy can have all the talent in the world. But this game is about fundamentals and when we’re getting them they don’t have it. So our coaches have to really coach and teach, and it takes longer.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was blunt in his assessment of the players coming out.
“Great athletes,” he said of the current crop. “The athletes are much, much better, but the fundamentals are worse than they’ve ever been. “
His boss, Arizona GM Steve Keim, agrees.
“When you’re watching offensive linemen and they’ve never been a three-point stance, or a quarterback who has never been in a huddle or under center, you have to project,” said Keim. “That’s part of the business and that’s what makes it fun, difficult and challenging.”
It should be noted here that just because a lot of first-rounders don’t start doesn’t mean they don’t contribute as rookies. If the Redskins take a D-lineman he’ll be a part of the rotation. A cornerback would pay nickel or some packages on defense and a wide receiver would get some snaps as a fourth wideout in some situations.
But if the Redskins’ first-round pick doesn’t start right away or is in and out of the starting lineup, it’s too early to start applying the bust label. Over the last few years such a player has been shown to be the norm.