How Soon is Too Soon to Judge Jerry Hughes?

We all know that Jerry Hughes had an underwhelming rookie year. While early reports from Colts camp were encouraging, he was largely invisible against the Rams on Saturday night. The lack of production has some fans howling that the 2010 first round pick should be cut.

It seems to me that while Hughes hasn’t show much, this is largely a rush to judgement. Rather than opine blindly however, let’s see what the numbers say about defensive ends taken in the first 45 picks of the draft. How long do they have before showing if they were a bust?

The following chart will track the defensive ends taken in the first 45 picks of the draft. The Sacks, AV, and Years column are totals BEFORE the player became effective. Players in bold eventually became star level players. Some of these ends eventually became 3/4 OLBs.

Draft Pos Player Sacks AV Years 1st good year Year Cut/Dealt
2009 3 Tyson Jackson 1 9 - - -
2009 18 Robert Ayers 1.5 7 - - -
2009 11 Aaron Maybin 0 3 - - 2011
2008 2 Chris Long 9 9 2 2010 -
2008 6 Vernon Gholston 0 6 - - 2011
2008 8 Derrick Harvey 8 14 - - 2011
2008 28 Lawerence Jackson 12.5 12 - - 2010
2008 32 Phillip Merling 3.5 5 - - -
2007 4 Gaines Adams 13.5 18 - - 2009
2007 8 Jamaal Anderson 4.5 22 - - 2011
2007 13 Adam Carriker 3.5 17 - - 2009
2007 17 Jarvis Moss 4.5 2 - - 2010
2007 26 Anthony Spencer 4.5 6 2 2009 -
2006 1 Mario Williams 4.5 6 1 2007 -
2006 20 Tamba Hali - - 0 2006 -
2006 32 Mathais Kiwanuka 8.5 10 2 2008 -
2005 18 Erasmus James 5 6 - - 2007
2005 20 Marcus Spears 8 34 - - -
2005 28 Luis Castillo 3.5 7 1 2006 -

This list is many things, but encouraging isn’t one of them. It’s not that defensive ends are slow to develop. It’s that most of them simply never do. The vast majority of first and high second round DEs on this list bust out of their first team within two to three seasons. Even the ones who met with modest success took a couple of years to develop. It seems that teams know pretty quick with ends. First round DEs don’t typically play well. If they aren’t productive by year three, they may never have a good season.

Of the 19 players taken from 2005 to 2009, 13 of the 19 have never had a ‘good’ year in the NFL.  Nine of them have already been released or traded at least once.

The good news for Jerry Hughes is that only one of the players was good from the go (Tamba Hali). Two others blossomed in their second year.

It’s too early to talk about cutting Hughes in the preseason of his second year, but it’s not too early to talk about cutting him at the end of this year if he doesn’t produce.

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