The 32nd pick in the draft is actually a good case study for whether or not being drafted by a good team increases your chance for success moreso than if you were drafted by a crappy one. That's because since 2002, the 32nd pick has typically been reserved for the NFL champion, but before that, was the first pick in the second round, which would typically be reserved for the
Browns worst team.
Over the last 10 years, the Super Bowl champion has picked 32nd eight times; the Miami Dolphins picked 32nd in 2008 because the New England Patriots forfeited the 31st pick for the "Belichick, Lies, & Videotape" scandal, and the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in 2006.
Of the 11 players selected 32nd since the 2002 realignment that included the expansion Houston Texans, only one has made even a single Pro Bowl: Guard Logan Mankins, selected by the Patriots in 2005, who has made it six times with one first team All-Pro appearance. Other than that, the 32nd overall pick has been pretty much miss-and-miss over the last 20 years with only two exceptions.
Mankins, a player that went to the best team in the NFL, and Drew Brees, a quarterback that was the first pick of the second round in 2001 by the worst team in the NFL. Since 1985, the 32nd overall picks have combined for 14 Pro Bowl appearances, and they all belong to Brees and Mankins.
Players selected with the last pick in the first round in recent years include:
- Matt Elam, S, Ravens
- David Wilson, RB, Giants
- Derek Sherrod, OT, Packers
- Patrick Robinson, CB, Saints
- Evander Hood, DL, Steelers
While it's too early to know what will come of someone like Elam (his rookie season would most likely get a passing grade, but not extraordinary), we do know that Wilson, Sherrod, and Robinson have been disappointments. Hood hasn't exactly jumped off the stat sheet either, with Pro Football Focus grading him as the second-worst 3-4 DE in the NFL (though it seems like he plays both inside and out, I can't say for sure without watching more Steelers games and that just sounds like an awful thing to do.)
The Dolphins selected defensive end Philip Merling with the first pick of the second round in 2008, after New England forfeited their pick, and he has 3.5 sacks in six seasons. The year before, the Indianapolis Colts picked wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, and he played a little more than two seasons before a knee injury essentially ended his career.
Probably the third-best player picked 32nd since 1985 is Mathias Kiwanuka. The New York Giants selected him in 2006 (Pittsburgh traded up to 25 to select WR Santonio Holmes) and Kiwanuka has played eight seasons, with 36 career sacks and two Super Bowl championships.
Though I can't say that Holmes has ever been a player that has interested me much, I will say that if you placed him among all the wide receivers that were picked 32nd, he might rank second behind only Henry Ellard (Rams, 1983.) So if the Seattle Seahawks are looking for an impact receiver with their first round pick, they might want to trade up.
Here are some more facts about pick 32, don't mind if I do:
- Speaking of receivers, three in a row were selected from 1998-2000: Jerome Pathon, Kevin Johnson, and Dennis Northcutt, the last two having been taken by the expansion Cleveland Browns. The expansion Browns didn't draft a player that was named to a Pro Bowl until their fifth season in the NFL: They took center Ryan Pontbriand in the fifth round of the 2003 draft and he went twice.
Ironically, their first round pick that year was center Jeff Faine.
- Though Brees and Mankins will eventually have their day in court, only one player ever picked 32nd has been named to the Hall of Fame. Former San Francisco 49ers right tackle Bob St. Clair, who was a third round pick back in 1953.
- Offensive line is probably your highest-probability bet with the 32nd overall pick. Along with Mankins, center Ray Donaldson (BAL, 1980), guard Ben Coleman (PHO, 1993), and G/C Mike Montler (BOS, 1969) have been among the most successful 32nd overall picks.
I expect to hear some people inevitably say, "Well, the SEAHAWKS are better than all that and know how to pick WINNERS" when it comes to the lack of success with the 32nd overall pick, but I think it would be better to just lower expectations if that's what you are thinking. The truth of the matter is that not all first round picks are created equal, and picking last in the first round means you are much closer to the second round than you are to the first overall pick. In the top five, you should expect to pick an elite player, but with the 32nd pick, you should hope you get a starter.
The fact is that many teams haven't even been that lucky.
Over the last seven years, the only player to enjoy more than one season as a starter (with the exception of Matt Elam, who could technically not have more than one season as a starter yet) is Hood. He has three seasons as "starter" with the Steelers, and he was drafted five years ago. Sherrod and Merling have never been full-time starters (Sherrod has had most of his career wiped out with injuries) and at best, it might be nice just to see Seattle draft a player that can play some sort of role on the offense or defense.
And if you think that the Seahawks are an exception because of how well they draft, you might want to do some self-checkage prior to self-wreckage. Seattle has missed on first round picks before (James Carpenter, jury out on Bruce Irvin) and if they're taking a 'best player available' approach, that usually means that there is some level of risk involved since 'BPA' candidates typically slip due to some red flag.
Their highest probability bet is probably an offensive lineman, specifically a guard. If they take a defensive end, just note that those players have produced some decent hits (Kiwanuka) and some terrible misses (Merling, Tyler Brayton, Nate Davis.) And if they select a wide receiver, you may be getting something closer to Dennis Northcutt and not Reggie Wayne (30th, 2001.)
There are plenty of ways for the Seahawks to come away from this draft with a good player, but winning the Super Bowl means not getting the best options available. I think I can live with that.