On April 25, the Washington Redskins will exercise their right to claim the 13th selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. Should they opt to use the pick on a player (as opposed to trading it away), what kind of player can they reasonably expect to get?
Thirteen is an interesting spot after all. On the one hand, it doesn't carry with it the white-hot pressure of, say, a top five pick ... the kind of pick that, when missed badly, can set a franchise back for years.
On the other hand, it is hardly a throwaway either. Maybe at pick 28 you can write a bust off to bad luck, but at 13, you better hope the guy you tap isn't a whiff. No, there isn't a set formula for judging the merits of career after-the-fact–injuries, regime-changes and other X Factors can sometimes overtake the most promising of careers–but at the very least, you do want to be able to look back 5-10 years down the road and say, "Yeah, but he could play."
With pre-draft hype building to a crescendo (you can't swing a dead cat around the internet these days without hitting draft analysis and prediction), this week we're taking a look at the history of the 13th pick.
As one might expect, over the course of 73 years (as far back as NFL.com keeps draft records), the success/failure spectrum has run the gamut. On one extreme you'll find all-time greats and Hall-of-Famers, like RB Jim Brown (arguably the greatest player in league history), RB Franco Harris, DE Carl Eller and TE Tony Gonzalez.
On the other you'll find afterthoughts and asterisks, like OT James Fitzpatrick, WR Lindsay Scott, DT Troy Archer, LB Jim Files.
You'll even find tragedy, like that of RB David Overstreet.
This research is not offered as prediction or analysis of what the Washington Redskins will do with the 13th pick in the 2009 draft. Instead, it is offered as context and a chance to consider flesh-and-blood examples of the kind of player the pick has brought through NFL history.
My original intent was to look at a representative sample of thirteenth picks, and I set out using a 30-year window as a base line. Before I knew it, however, I had gone back 40 years, to 1969, (what can I say, the internet connection was cooking).
Here is what I found.
Since 1969, players chosen at #13:
• 14 have played 10 years or more (not counting active players at less than 10)
• 9 have played 5 years or less (not counting active players)
• Longest career: 17 yrs (OT Mike Kenn, ATL)
• Shortest career: 1 yr. (RB David Overstreet (MIA) deceased; 2 yrs. RB Leon Burns (SD))
• Average career length (retired players): 8.1 yrs
• Drafted By Position:
8 - Defensive Line
7 - Linebacker
7 - Wide Receiver
6 - Offensive Line
6 - Running Back
3 - Tight End
2 - Defensive Back
1 - Quarterback
• One positive trend that bears mention is recent success rate. A quick look at the last ten years shows a very solid list of players, including DT's Adam Carriker, Marcus Stroud and Ty Warren, DE/LB John Abraham, and OT Jammal Brown. The Redskins should be so lucky.
Since 1936, players chosen at #13:
• Hall of Famers: 5 - RB Jim Brown, DE Carl Eller, RB Franco Harris, TE Kellen Winslow, TE Tony Gonzalez (book it)
• There's a certain symmetry at play. As noted above, NFL.com's official draft history goes back to 1936. The 13th pick that year was used to select RB Bernie Scherer, by a team called the Boston Redskins. One year later, that team would leave Beantown and head south to its new home in Washington, DC. In the 73 years since, the Redskins have had the 13th selection one other time, and selected ... RB Ray McDonald in 1967. Redskins fans jonesing for RB Knowshon Moreno should take note. Could be karma. **
• Best Name: Tie - OG Tarzan White, RB McArthur Lane
• Worst Name: LB Percy Snow
Let's get to the matter at hand. The list below is broken into three sections:
1. The NFL started tracking games started in 1980, so for the 29-year period between 1980-2008, each player is listed by career length (retired players only), number of years in which he started at least half of games he played in ("strt"), and teams with which he spent his career.
2. Pre-1980, players are listed by career length and teams played for.
3. Pre-1969 (my artificial 40-year cut-off; the internet connection wasn't that fast), players are listed only by name, position and team drafted by.
You are invited to make your own observations, offer additional breakdowns and, if you wish, draw your own conclusions. And, as I have found myself doing the last couple of days, you may take a second or two reflecting on your own job, and whether or not it hangs on something as tenuous telling a Jim Brown from a Chet Hanulak before the fact.
Hail, and enjoy.
** EDIT 3/23:
Two errors to note:
1) I mistakenly listed Bernie Scherer as the 13th pick in 1936, by the Boston Redskins. NFL.com's draft "History" page has him as the 13th player *listed* in 1936, but selected by the GB Packers. They have the Redskins choosing FB Ed Smith with the 14th player *listed*.
2) I managed to leave out the following disclaimer:
Note: the records on NFL.com appear either incomplete or misnumbered, as ALL picks are not numbered sequentially prior to 1967. For purposes of this piece I rely on the accuracy of the official league record. If there are errors, please let me know.
Thanks to the attentive anonymous reader who brought this to my attention.]
[* = active player]
2008 - JONATHAN STEWART,* RB, CAR
1 yr. (0 strt)
2007 - ADAM CARRIKER,* DT, STL
2 yrs. (2 strt)
2006 - KAMERION WIMBLEY,* LB, CLE
3 yrs. (3 strt)
2005 - JAMMAL BROWN,* OT, NO
4 yrs. (4 strt)
2004 - LEE EVANS,* WR, BUF
5 yrs. (5 strt)
2003 - TY WARREN,* DT, NE
6 yrs. (5 strt)
2002 - DONTE' STALLWORTH,* WR, NO
7 yrs. (6 strt) - 4 NO (3 strt), 1 PHI, CLE, NE (all strt)
2001 - MARCUS STROUD,* DT, JAX
8 yrs. (7 strt) - 7 JAX (6 strt), 1 BUF (strt)
2000 - JOHN ABRAHAM,* DE/LB, NYJ
9 yrs. (8 strt) - 6 NYJ (5 strt), 3 ATL (3 strt)
1999 - TROY EDWARDS, WR, PIT
7 yrs. (1 strt) - 3 PIT, 1 STL, 2 JAX (1 strt), 1 DET
1998 - TAKEO SPIKES,* LB, CIN
11 yrs. (11 strt) - 5 CIN, 4 BUF, 1 PHI, 1 SF
1997 - TONY GONZALEZ,* TE, KC
11 yrs. (11 strt)
1996 - WALT HARRIS,* CB, CHI
13 yrs. (12 strt) - 6 CHI, 2 IND, 2 WAS (1 strt), 3 SF
1995 - MARK FIELDS, LB, NO
10 yrs. (8 strt) - 6 NO (5 strt), 1 STL (strt), 3 CAR (2 strt)
1994 - JOE JOHNSON, DE, NO
10 yrs. (9 strt) - 8 NO (7 strt), 2 GB (2 strt)
1993 - BRAD HOPKINS, OT, HOU/TEN
13 yrs. (13 strt)
1992 - EUGENE CHUNG, OG, NE
5 yrs. (2 strt) - 3 NE (2 strt), 1 JAX, 1 IND
1991 - MIKE PRITCHARD, WR, ATL
9 yrs. (6 strt) - 3 ATL (3 strt); 2 DEN (1 strt), 4 SEA (2 strt)
1990 - PERCY SNOW, LB, KC
4 yrs. (0 strt) - 3 KC, 1 CHI
1989 - ERIC METCALF, WR, CLE
13 yrs. (5 strt) - 6 CLE (3 strt), 2 ATL (2 strt), 1 SD, AZ, CAR, WAS, GB
1988 - KEITH JACKSON, TE, PHI
9 yrs. (4 strt) - 4 PHI (1 strt), 3 MIA (3 strt), 2 GB
1987 - CHRIS MILLER, QB, ATL
10 yrs. (6 strt) - 7 ATL (3 strt), 2 LA/STL (3 strt), 1 DEN (strt)
1986 - JAMES FITZPATRICK, OT, SD
7 yrs. (0 strt) - 4 SD, 3 LA
1985 - EDDIE BROWN, WR, CIN
8 yrs. (1 strt)
1984 - KEITH MILLARD, DT, MIN
10 yrs. (0 strt) - 7 MIN, 1 SEA, 1 GB, 1 PHI
1983 - JAMES JONES, RB, DET
11 yrs. (0 strtr) - 6 DET, 4 SEA, 1 DET
1982 - LINDSAY SCOTT, WR, NO
4 yrs. (0 strt)
1981 - DAVID OVERSTREET, RB, MIA
1 yr. (0 strt) - deceased
1980 - EARL COOPER, RB, SF
7 yrs. (0 strt) - 6 SF, 1 LA Raiders
1979 - KELLEN WINSLOW, TE, SD (9 yrs.)
1978 - MIKE KENN, OT, ATL (17 yrs.)
1977 - A.J. DUHE, LB, MIA (8 yrs.)
1976 - TROY ARCHER, DT, NYG (3 yrs.)
1975 - LYNN BODEN, OG, DET (5 yrs. - 4 DET, 1 CHI)
1974 - RICK MIDDLETON, LB, NO (5 yrs. - 2 NO, 3 SD)
1973 - BURGESS OWENS, DB, NYJ (10 yrs. 7 NY, 3 OAK/LA)
1972 - FRANCO HARRIS, RB, PIT (13 yrs. - 12 PIT, 1 SEA)
1971 - LEON BURNS, RB, SD (2 yrs. - SD, STL)
1970 - JIM FILES, LB, NYG (4 yrs.)
1969 - FREDDY DRYER, DE, NYG (13 yrs. - 3 NY, 9 LA)
1968 - McARTHUR LANE, RB, STL
1967 - RAY McDONALD, RB, WAS
1966 - STAN HINDMAN, DE, SF
1965 - RALPH NEELY, OT, BAL
1964 - CARL ELLER, DE, MIN
1963 - JIM KANICKI, DT, CLE
1962 - CLYDE BROCK, OT, CHI
1961 - RIP HAWKINS, LB, MIN
1960 - WARREN RABB, QB, DET
1959 - ALEX HAWKINS, RB, GB
1958 - JIM PHILLIPS, WR, LA
1957 - JIM BROWN, FB, CLE
1956 - LEON CLARKE, WR, LA
1955 - LINDON CROW, DB, CHI
1954 - CHET HANULAK, RB, CLE
1953 - BILLY REYNOLDS, RB, CLE
1952 - RAY BECK, OG, NYG
1951 - DON JOYCE, DE, CHI
1950 - CHUCK HUNSINGER, RB, CHI
1949 - GEORGE SIMS, DB, LA
1948 - JOE SCOTT, RB, NYG
1947 - FRANK WYDI, OT, PIT
1946 - NICK SCOLLARD, DE, BOS
1945 - JACK DUGGER, OT, PIT
1944 - RALPH HEYWOOD, WR, DET
1943 - TOM FARMER, RB, LA
1942 - ALF BAUMAN, DT, DET
1941 - NORM STANDLEE, RB, CHI
1940 - JOHN SCHIECHL, C, PHI
1939 - GAYLON SMITH, RB, CLE
1938 - BOYD BRUMBAUGH, RB, BKLN
1937 - TARZAN WHITE, OG, NYG
1936 - BERNIE SCHERER, RB, GB **