First up, here’s the linebackers taken in picks 25-48 of the past six drafts:
Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Thompson, Stephone Anthony, Benardrick McKinney, Hau’oli Kikaha, Eric Kendricks, Denzel Perryman, Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, Reggie Ragland, T.J. Watt, Reuben Foster, Tyus Bowser, Darius Leonard, and Jahlani Tavai.
Now let’s compare that to the linebackers taken in the third round in those same drafts:
Christian Kirksey, Preston Brown, Chris Borland, Eli Harold, Lorenzo Mauldin, Jordan Hicks, Paul Dawson, Jordan Jenkins, Nick Vigil, Kyler Fackrell, Duke Riley, Alex Anzalone, Kendell Beckwith, Fred Warner, Jerome Baker, Malik Jefferson, Oren Burks, Dorian O’Daniel, Germaine Pratt, Sione Takitaki, Cody Barton, and Bobby Okereke.
While the third round group of linebackers is a little bit stronger than the cornerback group, there is still a noticeable drop off in talent between the two groups. Here is how the percentages worked out.
- 93% still in the NFL
- 80% started at least one game in 2019
- 33% have made a Pro Bowl (Kendricks, McKinney, Smith, Watt, and Leonard)
- 82% still in the NFL
- 50% started at least one game in 2019
- 0% have made a Pro Bowl
The percentages for picks 25-48 are pretty similar to the cornerback group (with a slightly higher percentage of Pro Bowlers). The third round picks still didn’t have any Pro Bowlers (although Fred Warner had to be close last season), and their percentage of starters last season were about the same as the corners. However, the percentage still in the NFL was better (82% compared to just 65% of corners).
In recent years there have been less flat out busts at linebacker in the third round than there have been at corner.
While both cornerbacks and linebackers look like worthy first round picks based on the drop off between these groups, cornerback might get the slight edge as a better way to go based on a more drastic amount of busts in the third round at that position.
Now let’s move to the offensive side of the ball and look at the much debated running back position.