Considering how popular an idea this is hereabouts, I'm sure this statement will be controversial. However, this topic is not meant to be inflammatory, this research bears out the fact that the value is not good at all. Before I attempt to prove this, I just want to get some things out of the way:
1. I'm using ProFootballFocus to help me with the stats. I realise they are controversial amongst some on this board but I'm only using the raw stats, not their grading system.
2. For the purposes of this research, I'm focusing on every down players and their ability to rush the QB. This is for obvious reasons: a) We're unlikely to draft a limited down role player in the first round and b)we don't have a problem stopping the run.
3. I'm not saying that under no circumstance should we not draft a first round DT after all, where would we be without Vince? What I'm trying to do is dispel the notion that we should be drafting a pass rushing DT because it's a "position of need" or because we "should build through the trenches first". If a DT is an outstanding all round player or shows the upside to be so, I'm all in favour. This is merely an argument to demonstrate that drafting one because we need one would be a terrible value proposition.
4. Nor is this about individuals available in this draft.
So onto the workings.
I used PFF to look at the draft positions of every DT who had more total QB pressures than Kyle Love last year. For me, this guarantees three things, firstly by using total pressures rather than a percentage, I'm looking at 3 down players, secondly that we are in fact improving on Love and thirdly by just using pressures, I'm only looking at pass rush ability. Now the one problem I see here is that judging "pushing the pocket" isn't something that can be assessed so isn't taken in to consideration. This is just about sacks, hits and hurries. For what it's worth, there were 33 DT's in 2012 who had more total QB pressures than Kyle Love.
I chose to breakdown those DT's with more pressures than Love into five draft categories. They were: 1. those picked in the Top 10 of their respective draft, 2. Picked in the 1st Round, 3. picked in the 2nd, 4. rounds 3-4 and 5. rounds 6-UDFA. This is how they broke down:
Top 10 5 of the 33 (Suh, Mccoy, Dareus etc)
1st Round 4
2nd Round 7
The DT's picked in the first round outside the top 10 are as follows:
Michael Brockers (14th overall)
Fletcher Cox (12th overall)
Nick Fairley (13th overall)
Vince Wilfork (21rd)
1. Three Down DT's that can get to the passer are found pretty much equally at every level of the draft.
2. If you assume that Brockers, Fairley and Cox are classed as out of reach of where we usually pick then the only DT who might have been available as a first round pick for the Patriots that can get pressure is our own Big Vince. Other than him, no-one picked at a realistic Patriots first round pick got more QB pressure than Kyle Love.
3. The value is clearly in the 2nd - 4th rounds. The choice is clear. Either pick up an elite DT near the top of the 1st, or wait until the 2nd round at least. But at the bottom of the first round, based on 2012 performances at least, the value is horrible (as in worse than Kyle Love horrible (literally)