Note: I wrote this post originally on March 11.
In the past five years, 34 defensive linemen and 18 defensive ends have been taken in the first round. Here are some numbers on how they fared:
* The average defensive lineman taken in the first round over the past five seasons had 2.69 sacks as a rookie. The average defensive end averaged 3.89 sacks. Note that we include guys described in that hybrid LB/DE role here.
* There have been few exceptions. The Redskins took Brian Orakpo with the 13th pick last year, and he had 11 sacks. The Browns took Kamerion Wimbley with the13th pick in 2006, and he also piled up 11 sacks in his rookie season. Penn State's Tamba Hali was in Wimbley's draft class, the 20th pick by Kansas City. He had eight sacks in his first season. Other than those three guys, no defensive lineman taken in the first round had more than six sacks as a rookie.
* I also took a look at the top-10 sack leaders from 2009. Their average experience was 5.5 years in the league. And nine of them had three years of experience or more. The only exception (again) was Orakpo.
It should be noted that these numbers only measure sack totals. As I pointed out many times during the season, sacks don't always measure overall performance. There's playing the run, consistent pressure on opposing QBs and other factors that should also be considered. Juqua Parker had eight sacks last season. Julius Peppers had 10.5. But they're obviously two very different players.
Looking at the top-10 sack guys from last season, though, it's hard to argue against many of those players being among the league's elite.