Want to predict which rookies will be busts? Look at pass rushers

My previous article demonstrated how difficult it is for rookie defensive tackles to contribute immediately.

Well, it's not any easier for defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers to come in and make a big impact right away.

Clay Matthews and Brian Orakpo may have reached double-digit sacks last year, but they are the exception. For every Matthews or Orakpo, there are at least 10 rookie pass rushers drafted in the first or second round that can't deliver.

Defensive ends taken in Rounds 1-2 in 2010
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Team
1
13
1
15
1
16
1
31
2
40
2
43
Sergio Kindle
2
52
2
53
2
54

Nine rookies were taken in the first or second round as 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers in the 2010 NFL Draft. At best, there is likely just one Matthews or Orakpo among the group.

The problem for many rookie pass rushers is that they have technique deficiencies, lack multiple pass rush moves and don't realize the level of desire necessary to succeed at the pro level. Another issue is that many come in undersized and with limited strength or power. They get so beat up playing the run, that they have nothing left when it's time to pressure the quarteback.

Here's what the 2011 class of pass rushers is up against, if history is any indication.

What is the realistic level of sack production that a fan can hope for from a rookie pass rusher? It's definitely not the 10 by Matthews or the 11 by Orakpo.

Try a more realistic number like three or fewer. There have only been three rookie pass rushers to reach double-digit sacks from the first or second round since '06. Don't expect many more tackles, either, as most average in the mid-20s their rookie season.

There's also the chance your team drafted the next Vernon Gholston, who had five tackles, zero sacks and zero forced fumbles in his rookie season, or Jarvis Moss who had 12 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

At least those two players are still on the team that drafted them. About a quarter of all pass rushers drafted within the last four years have already been traded or released.

Here's a look at every first and second round rookie since 2006.

Rookie production by DEs or 3-4 OLBs taken in first two rounds from 2006-2009
Year
Player
Team
Tackles
Sacks
Forced fumbles
2006
47
4.5
1
2006
58
8
5
2006
53
4
2
2006
Seahawks (since traded)
33
3
1
2006
Browns (since traded)
62
11
1
2006
Bobby Carpenter
Cowboys (since traded)
19
1.5
0
2006
57
2.5
0
2007
Jamal Anderson
30
0
1
2007
Rams (since traded)
30
2
0
2007
Gaines Adams
Bucs (deceased)
38
6
2
2007
Dan Bazuin
Bears (released)
0
0
0
2007
Jarvis Moss
12
1
1
2007
Tim Crowder
Broncos (released)
16
4
1
2007
36
3
2
2007
Chiefs (since traded)
14
1
0
2007
Victor Abiamiri
3
0
0
2007
Ikaika Alama-Francis
Lions (released)
12
0
0
2007
14
4
1
2007
13
0
0
2008
40
4
1
2008
29
2
0
2008
Derrick Harvey
19
3.5
0
2008
Jaguars (since traded)
13
2.5
1
2008
26
1
0
2008
28
0
1
2008
Vernon Gholston
13
0
0
2008
Kentwan Balmer
7
0
0
2009
38
0
0
2009
18
0
1
2009
22
2.5
2
2009
18
4.5
0
2009
50
11
1
2009
51
10
1
2009
11
0
0
2009
19
0
0
2009
David Veikune
0
0
0
2009
36
2
1
2009
Cody Brown
0
0
0


I'm not here to rain on the draft parade, but if your team selected a pass rusher in the top two rounds, and is about to spend the big bucks to sign him, don't expect your money's worth right away.

Be realistically happy if your new addition is active for 16 games, records 30 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. That would make him above average for a rookie.