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Best pick of the NFL draft? Try lucky No. 24

Eric Adelson
Yahoo Sports

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(From L to R) Aaron Rodgers, Ed Reed and Steven Jackson were all drafted with the 24th overall pick. (Getty Im …

Admit it: Sometime in your football-loving life, you've secretly shrugged off your favorite NFL team's late-season loss because "at least we'll get a better draft pick." Hey, we get it: There isn't much solace in losing – especially in December – and maybe that loss will translate to a superstar rookie the next year.

Or … maybe not.

The Wall Street Journal did the math, and the "better" picks might be anything but. Specifically, there's a certain draft slot that has yielded a bumper crop of stars over the last decade, and it's nowhere near the top 10.

As Brian Resutek points out, the following players have been selected 24th overall dating back to 2002. See if you recognize any names:

Ed Reed, Dallas Clark, Steven Jackson, Aaron Rodgers, Johnathan Joseph, Brandon Meriweather, running back Chris Johnson, Peria Jerry, Dez Bryant, Cameron Jordan, David DeCastro.

That's 23 Pro Bowls, a number that is likely to rise considering the most recent four on the list have yet to play in any. Rodgers is a possible Hall of Famer – remember his eternal wait in the Green Room? – and Reed is in Canton for sure. Both have won a Super Bowl, as has Clark. The 24th pick actually has more Pro Bowlers since '02 than the No. 1 pick.

So what's the reason for it?

[Related: Best NFL matchups of 2013 season]

There are two possible explanations. One, teams drafting later in the first round feel less pressure to go with the hot name. Nobody wants to pass up the next Troy Aikman and have to live with the consequences for a decade. (Nine of the No. 1 picks since 2002 have been quarterbacks.) A struggling team might have to grab a marquee pick to get fans excited, rather than fill a need at a lower-profile position. Good example: In 2011, Jacksonville took Blaine Gabbert over J.J. Watt, who went 11th (another fertile draft position). We all know how that turned out, but many Texans fans were upset at the time with what looked to be a pedestrian choice from Wisconsin. If Jacksonville had Matt Schaub, things might be a little different in North Florida and East Texas right now.

The other, more obvious explanation is the quality of the teams drafting later in the first round. There's a reason the Lions consistently pick in top 10 and the Patriots consistently draft in the bottom 10. Former Patriots executive Scott Pioli has been described as a genius (though not as much lately) and Matt Millen has been described as, well, not a genius.

"I think it's less about numbers and more about the fact that the better teams draft later in the first round," says Russell Baxter, founder of ProFootballGuru and a member of the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

There's also the element of luck. Or should we say Luck: The Colts, as we all know, drafted quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in 2012, then went out and made the playoffs.

Indianapolis, of course, picks 24th this month. Both team history and draft history suggests they won't screw it up.

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