The NFL draft is a week away and a quarterback will be taken first for the fourth time in the last five years.

The Houston Texans announced that they will take Fresno State’s David Carr as the cornerstone of the franchise. Of the previous three quarterbacks picked No. 1, one ? Peyton Manning ? is a star, one ? Tim Couch ? is still developing his game and one ? Michael Vick ? will get to showcase his limitless potential this year.

Quarterback has typically been regarded as a difficult position to select, but teams have done well the past ten years. Since 1992, 18 quarterbacks have been taken in the first round of the draft.

Six of those 18 can be called successes and five or six ? depending on what you think of Kerry Collins ? have been busts. The other six are still young enough to make an impact, although Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf and Cade McNown can probably be shifted to the bust category.

Of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL last year, two were high picks. Steve McNair was taken third in 1995 and Brett Favre was the sixth pick in the second round in 1991.

Other than Carr, Oregon’s Joey Harrington is the only quarterback expected to go in the first round this year. It is a good bet that at least one of the two will go on to have a successful career.

Meanwhile, for the third year in a row at least five wide receivers are projected to be picked in the first round, and that number could rise if Florida State’s Javon Walker moves up the draft board.

While first-round quarterbacks have had a nearly 50-50 chance of success, receivers have been much more risky.

There have been 37 receivers selected in the first round in the last 10 years. Only 15 have had at least one 1,000-yard season. Nineteen of those 37 players had less than 500 yards receiving last year.

Even the receivers who do make an impact do not usually do so right away.

Only three receivers selected in the first round since 1979 ? Randy Moss, Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway ? have posted 1,000-yard campaigns in their rookie seasons. The 15 first-round picks of the last ten years who have topped the 1,000-yard mark reached that plateau in their third season on average.

The question for this year’s crop is whether it will look like the class of 1999, which featured Torry Holt and David Boston, or the classes of 2000 and 2001, which featured 11 players who averaged just under 400 yards receiving as rookies.

Either way, if your favorite team ends up taking a receiver in the first round, don’t expect him to do too much right away.

The third skill position ? running back ? is also the position teams have had the most success drafting in recent years.

In each of the last three seasons, the top running back picked has gone on to rush for at least 1,200 yards and five touchdowns. That’s good news for Boston College’s William Green, who is projected to be taken by Cleveland with the 16th pick.

The last three years were not anomalies, either. In 1998, Fred Taylor and Robert Edwards were both picked in the top 20 and combined for 2,338 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing and 752 yards receiving that year.

Both running backs taken in the first round in 1997 ? Warrick Dunn and Antowain Smith ? rushed for between 840 and 980 yards as rookies and each has had two 1,000-yard seasons since.

The 1996 draft yielded Eddie George, who rushed for over 1,200 yards five years in a row before injuries limited him to 939 yards last year. Four of the five running backs selected in the first round in 1995 have rushed for 1,000 yards once.

Marshall Faulk was the No. 2 pick in 1994 and the top three running backs in 1993 were Jerome Bettis, Garrison Hearst and Robert Smith.

Of the 30 running backs taken in the first round since 1993, 18 have had at least one 1,000-yard season, 10 have posted multiple 1,000-yard seasons and eight topped 1,000 yards as rookies.

While two quarterbacks will likely go in the top 10 and five receivers are expected to be picked in the first round, Green and Michigan State’s T.J. Duckett could be much better investments for two teams on draft day.

Of course, you shouldn’t get too worried if your team loses out on draft day. Kurt Warner and Jeff Garcia are proof that not every great player takes a predictable route to the NFL.

Jacobs can be reached at bjacobs@campustimes.org.



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