What’s in a number? More misses than hits at No. 18

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What is a photo of former New England running back Robert Edwards, being carried away from a game of flag football on the beach, doing in these parts? It’s all in the No. 18. Read on.

Jerry Angelo was asked on Saturday afternoon if he thought the team might be able to find an elite pass rusher with the 18th pick in the draft, a notion he more or less dismissed.

Seeing as yours truly asked the question, I can say now that maybe it would have been better to ask if he thought the Bears could find an elite player from any position in that spot. If past history is an indicator, chances are the Bears will not.

First, let’s re-visit Angelo’s response:

If he’s elite there is a reason why he is there at 18 so I can’t say he’s elite, he said. He might have elite traits but to say he is going to be an elite pass rusher, there is going to be probably one flaw is the reason why he is there. There are only probably in any draft maybe eight elite players, in any given draft, sometimes you might get to 10, sometimes it might be as few as three. That’s a strong word. You might get a player with some strong traits that has some potential but there is going to be some real areas of concern too and one thing I have learned in my experience with pass rushers as there have probably been as many gotten on the second day, meaning rounds four through free agency as gotten on the first day. That is one good thing about pass rushers. You can get them really in any round. There are certain traits that they have to have, very difficult position to project as well.

In examining the No. 18 position over the past 20 drafts … it doesn’t look there will be a sure thing for Angelo & Co.

In fact, the best player from the entire bunch might have come last year when the Baltimore Ravens made the bold move of selecting I-AA quarterback Joe Flacco of Delaware in the spot when many thought he wouldn’t be a first-round pick. I had an exchange with Flacco’s agent Joe Linta at this time last year and he basically let me know how much I didn’t know in explaining Flacco would be a first-round selection. Well, Linta was right and his client had a terrific rookie season.

The overall production from the No. 18 spot in the draft has been spotty, at best. That’s where the Lions got a rank-and-file lineman in Jeff Backus in 2001. One-time Bears wide receiver Eddie Kennison was drafted there in 1996. Tony Bennett enjoyed a few decent seasons rushing the passer for Green Bay and Indianapolis and he was taken there in 1990. Concerns about Chad Pennington’s arm strength, or lack of arm strength, dropped him all the way to No. 18 in 2000.

But when it comes to Pro Bowls and the 18th pick the most famous player on the list is a guy who wasn’t even named to the Pro Bowl. Edwards, the 18th pick in 1998, blew out his left knee in a 4-on-4 beach game involving rookies at the Pro Bowl after a fine rookie season. It ended his career. Guess who else was playing in that sand affair? Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.

If our count is accurate, the 18th pick in the draft has produced just two Pro Bowl appearances over the last 20 years. Linebacker Alfred Williams, drafted by Cincinnati in 1991, represented Denver in an all-star game. New Orleans defensive end Will Smith has been to one Pro Bowl. That’s it. Twenty players from this position in the first round and two one-time Pro Bowl performers.

Take a look at the list. Cringe if you must.

2008 QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore

2007 CB Leon Hall, Cincinnati

2006 LB Bobby Carpenter, Dallas

2005 DE Erasmus James, Minnesota

2004 DE Will Smith, New Orleans, 1 Pro Bowl

2003 DE Calvin Pace, Arizona

2002 RB T.J. Duckett, Atlanta

2001 OT Jeff Backus, Detroit

2000 QB Chad Pennington, N.Y. Jets

1999 OT Matt Stinchcomb, Oakland

1998 RB Robert Edwards, New England

1997 DE Kenny Holmes, Tennessee

1996 WR Eddie Kennison, St. Louis

1995 RB Napoleon Kaufman, Oakland

1994 CB DeWayne Washington, Minnesota

1993 OT Earnest Dye, Arizona

1992 S Dana Hall, San Francisco

1991 LB Alfred Williams, Cincinnati, 1 Pro Bowl

1990 LB Tony Bennett, Green Bay

1989 C Brian Williams, N.Y. Giants

No. 18 pick by position

QB–2

RB–3

WR–1

OT–3

C–1

DE–4

LB–3

CB–2

S–1

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