Originally Posted by The Pencil Neck
People are talking about DEs and LBs and drafting them high... and I know this isn't the greatest stat to use and that there are a zillion mitigating circumstances... but let's look at where the top 10 sackers were drafted.
Elvis Dumerville - 4th round
Jared Allen - 4th round
Dwight Freeney - 1st round
LaMarr Woodley - 2nd round
Will Smith - 1st round
Trent Cole - 5th round
Andre Carter - 1st round
Brian Orakpo - 1st round
Demarcus Ware - 1st round
Julius Peppers - 1st round
Still a lot of high draft picks, but there's more of a showing for the lower rounds.
Linebackers and linemen (both OL and DL) generally have longer careers than running backs but they can also be developed more. Running backs can usually come in and be starting the first year. A really good running back can make a moderate line look good... and vice versa.
Like you said, there's a ton of circumstances to look at. What players do they have around them? What defense strategy is the DC using?
Another thing is, looking at the players career stats, what sort of trend can be extrapolated? Do DE's drafted early have higher sack totals earlier in their career than those drafted mid-late round? This MAY help reflect a player's (or what round he was selected in) development.
Jared Allen has produced since his first season. But I would suspect that the avg. 4th round DE may take a few years before becoming acclimated to the NFL. I'd put any 5 year veteran on equal footing regardless of what round he was selected in. Early in their careers, I'd suspect a 1st/2nd round DE would consistently outproduce a 4th/5th round DE, with all else equal. I think the round they go in partly displays what the GM believes their length to impact (LTI) is... or how long/short they believe that player will produce for the team.