Commentary

Tip Sheet notes: Past won't affect pick

The Rams' spotty draft record with defensive linemen won't influence decision on Suh

Originally Published: January 8, 2010
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com
By virtue of their one victory this season, the St. Louis Rams own the top choice in the 2010 draft, and thus the rights to Ndamukong Suh, if they decide that the Nebraska defensive tackle is their man.

And if the Rams opt for someone else, one person familiar with the team's personnel department told ESPN.com this week, it will be because Suh wasn't atop the St. Louis draft board, and not because of the franchise's recent spotty track record for selecting defensive linemen.

"If he's their guy, then he's their guy," said the insider. "[General manager Billy] Devaney wasn't even here when they picked [Adam] Carriker and [Chris] Long in the first round. They weren't on his watch."

St. Louis selected Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker with the 13th overall choice in 2006, and Virginia end Chris Long with the second overall pick in 2008. The two linemen have been solid, when healthy, but not much more than that. Yet the past experiences with those first-round choices apparently will not affect the future.

Carriker missed all of 2009 after suffering a right shoulder injury in the preseason, and appeared in 31 games with 25 starts in his first two years. He totaled 43 tackles and two sacks. Long had 83 tackles and nine sacks in two seasons, playing in 32 games with 20 starts. The pair has been far from dominating so far. But if the St. Louis scouting staff determines that Suh is as good as most observers seem to feel he is, the Rams won't display any hesitation about adding him to their young defensive front.

Since 1970, there have been only four defensive tackles selected with the first overall pick in the draft: Kenneth Sims (New England, 1982), Russell Maryland (Dallas, 1991), Steve Emtman (Indianapolis, 1992) and Dan Wilkinson (Cincinnati, 1994). Of that group, all but Emtman (pretty much regarded as a first-round bust) played more than six seasons, but only Maryland made it to a Pro Bowl (one time).

One has to go all the way back to Bubba Smith (Baltimore Colts, 1967) to find a defensive tackle drafted No. 1 overall who was chosen for more than one Pro Bowl game and regarded as dominant.

On the other hand, choosing a defensive tackle in the first round overall hasn't been such a bad move for teams. There have been 32 first-round tackles since 2000, and eight of them have played in Pro Bowls -- six with multiple appearances.

Many talent evaluators think Suh will struggle against the bigger and more physical guards in the NFL, but also believe he is the kind of defender who will make players around him (perhaps like Carriker and Long) much better.