The St. Louis Rams may have had the best defensive line in football in 2013. At defensive end, the Rams had two stars in Robert Quinn (the Defensive Player of the Year) and Chris Long (who has recorded 33 sacks over the past three years). As part of the RG3 trade, St. Louis traded down in the first round of the 2012 draft and wound up selecting defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who had a breakout sophomore season. The other defensive tackle spot was manned by Kendall Langford, a solid if unremarkable 28-year-old player. That defensive line helped St. Louis record a sack on 9.2% of all pass plays in 2013, the second highest rate in the NFL (behind Carolina).
Then, the Rams drafted a defensive tackle in the first round of the 2014 Draft. And not just any defensive tackle, but Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, the combine superstar who led the nation in tackles for losses last year. Assuming Donald replaces Langford in the lineup, that gives the Rams for first round picks on the defensive line, which brings us to the first trivia question of the day.
Can you name the last team to have four different defensive linemen who were drafted in the first round start 8+ games in a season?
But unlike that mystery team, each member of the projected front line of the 2014 Rams defense was drafted in the first 14 picks: Long was the 2nd selection, Donald was the 13th pick, and Quinn and Brockers were both taken 14th overall. In fact, no defensive line — not even the various Fearsome Foursomes of Rams1 yesteryear — have had four first round defensive linemen drafted in the top fourteen.
But can you name the one team to have four first round defensive linemen selected in the top sixteen to start 8+ games in a season?
Finally, I want to close with a note about the 1987 Cowboys. For about a decade, Too Tall Jones and Randy White were mainstays on the defensive line: Jones was the first pick in the ’74 draft, White the second pick in the following draft. Beginning in 1981, John Dutton (the 5th overall pick of the Colts in 1974) moved into the starting lineup at tackle next to White. Harvey Martin, a third round pick, was a starter in Dallas until 1983, but the following year he was replaced at RDE by Jim Jeffcoat, the Cowboys first round pick in 1983. That gave the Cowboys four first round starters on the defensive line starting in 1984, and the trio played together for three straight seasons.
In 1987, Dutton was replaced by Kevin Brooks, a player the Cowboys drafted in the first round in 1985. That would be like the Rams drafting another first round defensive linemen next year and keeping him as a reserve for two seasons. But it gets crazier: in 1987, Dallas selected Danny Noonan with the 12th pick! Since Dutton and Noonan — who were both Cornhuskers, by the way — were both on the team in ’87 behind a front line of Jones/Brooks/White/Jeffcoat, that gave the Cowboys six defensive linemen with first round pedigrees. Jeff Fisher, the ball is in your court.