Two Decades of #1 and Top-Five Picks, By Position


From the FanPosts. -Joel

Most people with a passing interest in the draft probably know that the #1 pick is usually only used on a handful of positions. Whether professionals, hobby bloggers, or fan comments, draft-related media tend to reinforce each other's general notion that quarterbacks and offensive tackles are the only positions in the discussion for the first-overall pick. Media constructs also tend to agree that QB, OT, defensive tackle, and defensive end are the most likely positions to go in the top five. To test the veracity of these common perceptions, I decided to break down historical #1 and top-five picks over the past 20 years (1993 to present) by position, and came up with some stats and notes I thought worth sharing.

#1 Picks

Of the 20 players selected #1 in that period, there have been 13 QB, 2 OTs, 2 DEs, and one each at DT, RB, and WR. Most observers probably already know that QBs dominate the recent history, but this means that they account for more than twice as many #1 picks as all other positions combined. Also noteworthy:

  • The last time there were consecutive drafts without a QB taken #1 overall was a four-year dry spell between Drew Bledsoe in 1993 and Peyton Manning in 1998
  • QBs account for 12 of the past 15, from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck
  • The past four consecutive #1 picks were QBs

The stats confirm that QB is alone in the first tier of positions in likelihood of selection with the #1 pick, which would usually make it the obvious choice for the Kansas City Chiefs, who pick first in the 2013 NFL Draft. But between a trade for Alex Smith and what is generally regarded as a QB class with an unimpressive top end, the Chiefs appear unlikely to select a QB so early.

According to history, RB, WR, OT, DT, and DE comprise the second tier of likelihood, and there are arguments of varying validity for and against each one's odds for the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles bounced back well from a serious injury, rushing for over 1500 yards and 5 touchdowns, but most would probably agree that he is most effective with limited touches. WR Dwayne Bowe signed a contract to remain in KC for the foreseeable future, but it takes two (or often three) respectable receivers to field a decent passing offense. General manager John Dorsey designated LT Branden Albert the team's franchise player, likely retaining him through at least 2013, if not longer. Mammoth DT Dontari Poe was the Chiefs' pick at #12 in the 2012 draft. That leaves DE, but KC coaches have stated their intention to remain with a 3-4 defense, and Tamba Hali and Justin Houston serve as capable pass-rushers. That leaves room for 5-technique linemen, especially with Glenn Dorsey facing free agency this year, and Tyson Jackson slated for the same a year later.

Note that I did not include Wikipedia's entry for the Chiefs' 2013 #1 pick, as seen here:


Top-Five Picks

If, for the sake of argument, QB, WR, RB, OT, DT, and DE were off the table, the next clue to determine the likelihood that a position could be within shouting distance of the top pick would be if it had been picked close to #1, if not actually at #1. I set that proximity at the top five, not only because of the likelihood the Chiefs might pick that position #1, but also because any trade down from #1 is likely to keep them in the top five. One might find that arbitrary, but it'll do for amateur writing and free research. Obviously there have been 100 players picked in the top five the past 20 years, so figuring percentages is easy.


Note that zero interior offensive linemen and zero tight ends were selected in the top five in this period. Also note that I assigned players to the positions they were originally drafted to play, and grouped 5-tech DL (and other 3-4 ends whose intended positions were across from the OT) with the defensive ends. Some specifics:

This could more or less sort the remaining positions into third, fourth, and fifth tiers. The third is OLBs and CBs, as they were top-five picks approximately as often as DTs, albeit with no recent history of #1 picks. The fourth is middle/inside linebackers and safeties, as they at least had some occurrence within shouting distance of #1. The fifth is composed of the rest: guards, centers, tight ends, punters, and kickers. With no top-five picks in recent history, it's apparent that teams do not value those positions nearly enough to consider them in the top five, let alone at #1.


This isn't meant to predict exactly whom KC will draft. It's not even meant to assess the quality of the 2013 prospects, which joins team needs as the traditional determinants of mock drafts. It's merely meant as an additional factor--position probability--for people to consider when attempting to predict or just plain guess what will happen at the top of the draft, both this April and in future years.

Good luck!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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