The main discussion on Field Gulls and other Seahawks sites has been to either draft a DL at 5 or draft a QB at 5. Most people are against QBs because of their perceived high bust rates and Geno Smith, and because a DL is a more safe idea and one that can change the DL. Without involving the quality of the prospects of the play of Geno Smith/the QBs in the draft, this was just something I wanted to look at.
Like Quaternion did for his article about QBs, I chose 2011 onward because that year was when the rookie contract structure was changed, which changed drafting strategy among other things.
I defined a DL as Edge/DT/etc, as a lot of the debate is not only about Jalen Carter but about Will Anderson, Myles Murphy, Tyree Wilson, and later in the draft Siaki Ika and others. But the metrics to measure DL is complicated, at best. I don't have access to many statistics like PFF grades, and raw stats like sacks and tackles can be very misleading, so this analysis of "hit" and "bust" rates will be based on my opinion, but if another alternative is present I'd like to use that instead.
I used top-10 picks because of the talent gap between them and the late picks, and if I did every 1st Round DL one by one it would take too much time due to the high amount of DL drafted yearly and changing values as the draft goes on.
Top 10 Picks
2011: Von Miller (Hit), Marcell Dareus (Meh), Aldon Smith (Miss, but because of off-field)
2013: Dion Jordan (Miss), Ezekiel Ansah (Meh), Barkevious Mingo (Miss)
2014: Jadeveon Clowney (Meh), Khalil Mack (Hit)
2015: Dante Fowler (Miss), Leonard Williams (Hit), Vic Beasley (Miss)
2016: Joey Bosa (Hit), DeForest Buckner (Hit)
2017: Myles Garrett (Hit), Solomon Thomas (Miss)
2018: Bradley Chubb (Meh)
2019: Nick Bosa (Hit), Quinnen Williams (Hit), Josh Allen (Meh), Ed Oliver (Meh)
2020: Chase Young, Derrick Brown
2022: Travon Walker, Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux
Of the 25 DL drafted in the top 10 from 2011-2023, 5 were drafted within the past 3 years, so they can be excluded from this analysis.
Of the remaining 20, 8 can be considered hits. 6 of them aren't busts but not hits either, so they're meh, and the remaining 6 are misses, giving us a percentage of 40% hits, 30% meh, and 30% misses.
The Rest of the First Round
There's been 81 total DL drafted in the 1st round during the period 2011-2019.
Hit: 29 (35.8%)
Miss: 34 (41.9%)
Meh: 18 (22.2%)
There's a lot of issues with this data because it's on my opinion, however I think that the overall point still stands even if my opinion is wrong on a few players.
Overall, most DL picks land in the meh or miss category and bust out, and relatively few actually end up playing well and even less are game changers, like in QBs where we see Mahomes level to Mayfield level to Zach Wilson level, we see Bosa level to Chubb level to Jordan level.
Ultimately, DLs like all positions are just as susceptible to busts and hits, and are not a safe pick as they are portrayed compared to a QB and the average DL career from 2011-2015 of top 10 picks had 48.5 sacks over a 7-10 year career. If PCJS believe in the DL and they take him, cool, if they take a QB, cool, this article is just intended to show how DLs also bust a lot in the NFL.