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We were curious to see how much early-round emphasis the Ravens and Jets put on the defense when Rex Ryan (and by extension, Mike Pettine) were in positions of authority. The results are intriguing.
Rex Ryan has been a defensive coordinator or head coach at the NFL level for eight years now - and every step of the way, new Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has worked with him. Between four years with the Baltimore Ravens and another four with the New York Jets, Ryan and Pettine have worked closely in building a unique defense that's consistently among the NFL's best.
We were curious: how much of a draft emphasis did the Ravens and Jets put on finding defensive players in the early rounds while Ryan and Pettine were on staff? The answer: not a huge priority. (Please don't read into anything beyond that; we're not saying that a completely different Bills regime led by GM Buddy Nix - a guy who has drafted three offensive players in the first three rounds in three years - will suddenly switch things up. This is just interesting data to chew on.)
10 of 23 picks made by the Ravens (2005-08) and Jets (2009-12) in the first three rounds were defenders. Let's break down those 10 picks by position:
Four defensive linemen. The Ravens took Haloti Ngata in the first round in 2005, and that's turned out pretty well for them. The Jets used another two first-round picks on Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, plus a third-rounder on Kenrick Ellis, who was held back by off-field issues. All three figure into the team's long-term plans under Ryan as ascending, active young defensive linemen.
Two cornerbacks. The only other first-round pick was used here when the Jets took Kyle Wilson in the first round; Wilson is the team's nickel back when everyone is healthy. Baltimore also tabbed David Pittman in the third round; he now plays in the CFL.
Two linebackers. Both the Ravens and the Jets snagged a linebacker in the third round of of the draft. Baltimore took Tavares Gooden there; he was waived and now plays in San Francisco. The Jets took Demario Davis, who is expected to be a starter for the team in 2013.
One hybrid pass rusher. When we say "hybrid pass rusher," we mean a traditional defensive end that can stand up and perform limited coverage responsibilities in 4-3 Under looks. The Ravens used a second-round pick Oklahoma's Dan Cody to play this position; he didn't last very long in the league.
One safety. Baltimore used a third-round pick on Tom Zbikowski, who spent four years in Baltimore before following Chuck Pagano to Indianapolis.
For those of you that weren't counting, let's break that down by round.
- Round 1: 3 DL, 1 CB
- Round 2: 1 DE/OLB
- Round 3: 1 DL, 2 ILB, 1 CB, 1 S
Again, please don't make the mistake of thinking we're making any sort of statement about the Bills' potential 2013 NFL Draft plans by pointing this out. It's just interesting to note how two of the NFL's consistently best defenses were emphasized in the early rounds of the draft while Ryan (and Pettine) were on board.