In one month, you will hear plenty of talk about teams getting that next franchise player. In truth, it is more likely than not that a first round draft pick won’t be part of that team’s future, if we took a time machine forward six years. This doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be busts (though that may certainly be the case), in addition to those out of the league because they could not cut it, plenty of others move on in free agency or trades because the team decided to address other positions.
For example, Champ Bailey was traded by Washington to Denver, and continued his Hall of Fame career away from his original team. Players like Jay Cutler (Denver) and Ricky Williams (New Orleans) were moved in big trades by coaches that did not draft them originally. Others, like Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo), wore out their welcome with off the field issues. Some were stars, but had injuries that affected their future with the team, like Shawne Merriman in San Diego.
In total, over the previous decade (1999 to 2008 drafts), only 38% of first round picks were still the main starter for their original drafting team six years later. A handful of others were still with the organization, but injured or in a backup role.
How does that break down by position?
The positions that catch–and defend–the passes have not tended to remain with their drafting teams. Along with defensive tackle, the wide receivers and cornerbacks have had the lowest retention rates. Cornerbacks, in particular, has plenty of guys who have continued to play elsewhere and have been long-time starters in the league, but did not stay on as “franchise players” with the team that first drafted them.