A Brief History of the 20th Overall Pick in the NFL Draft


Nov 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) returns a kickoff in the fourth quarter of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Bengals won, 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

When the Philadelphia Eagles ended their 2014 season with a 34-26 victory over the New York Giants, it clinched their ownership of the 20th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Even though it wasn’t official until the end of that game, draftniks and Eagles fans alike wondered where the team may go with their pick.

While we won’t be able to find out who the next first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles will be until Roger Goodell announces it at the podium on April 28th, the last ten years may have established some patterns that could provide insight into where the focus may end up, as farfetched as it may be to believe so.

First, let’s look at the last ten players selected with the 20th overall pick before trying to draw any conclusions.

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So what does that even mean? Before we go off the deep end, there are no guarantees that any pattern or trend will continue and I admit it. That doesn’t stop me from trying to put the pieces together, though. Chip Kelly would be proud (and annoyed) at the amount of effort put in to analyze what is essentially a random generator of results.

Even though the Pro Bowl has essentially lost all value as players continue to drop out, it’s worth nothing that only three players selected 20th overall have been selected for it. The three players (Kyle Long, Aqib Talib, Tamba Hali) have made it a combined nine times, with Hali’s five leading the pack. While it’s not bad odds compared to the overall hit rate of the Draft, it’s not very comforting on the surface to see that just 30% of 20th overall picks make it to the “all star” game (granted, Brandin Cooks may in time.)

Even if we can’t get too excited about landing a star player at that spot, there’s something to lean on in terms of what positions get looked at the most. Six of the ten players were on the defensive side of the ball, three of whom play(ed) cornerback (!!!) and three at defensive end (not a first round need for the Eagles). If a loud portion of the fan base gets their wishes, the Eagles could add the fourth cornerback to break the tie.

Wait, but I thought the Eagles are going to package up massive amounts of picks to move up for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota? The dream pairing that will set fire to the NFL as we know it?

Not likely. Of the last ten drafts, seven of the teams making the selection at 20th overall originally owned the pick and opted to stay put. The three teams that didn’t were Dallas (’05), Detroit (’09), and New Orleans (’14).

If you want to stay optimistic, the last time an NFL Draft had back-to-back years with the ownership of the 20th pick changing hands was in 2004 (Miami to Minnesota) and 2005 (Buffalo to Dallas); will the Eagles make it a once-a-decade trend?

In my attempt to grasp as many straws as possible, let’s overanalyze a little more. Of the three transactions involving the pick, only two actually occurred on Draft day (Dallas received Buffalo’s 2005 first round pick as a result of a trade in the 2004 NFL Draft). Those two involved the original owner trading up (!!!), so maybe it’s not time to cancel your pre-order on a Mariota jersey after all. From the numbers, if the Eagles do move the pick, they’re moving up.

It’s not all roses, though. I researched the records of each team the year before and after the Draft for the last ten seasons. Six teams that picked 20th overall finished with a worse record the following year, by an average of 2.83 games. Since obviously it’s impossible to lose hundredths of a game, that’s around three games, which initially projects the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles to finish 7-9.

Of the four teams that finished with more wins than the year before making the 20th pick, it was by 2.33 wins. If the Eagles have any luck, that’ll give them a 12-4 record next year. Which side will the dice roll end on?

Next: Philadelphia Eagles 2015 Mistakes to Avoid

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