Everyone seems to know how the first round of NFL draft will go, more or less. The number one pick is usually the best quarterback in the draft, this time Andrew Luck, edging Robert Griffin III. But what about the guys down below? Those fourth, fifth, sixth and even seventh round picks?
Impossible to predict, no matter how much of a draft expert you claim to be. Usually, many of the lower picks find themselves out of the league or simply on the practice squad pretty soon. But every once in a while, usually one or two players from each draft, you get an All-Pro level player, helping turn the tide for a failing club or simply upgrading a contender into a champion.
Note – We chose only players from late fourth round or below, 2009 NFL Draft or before. We like giving players at least three years in the league before deciding their fate as bust, steal or regular.
2009 – Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears
The 6’0 Wide Receiver out of Abilene Christian was the 140th pick in the 2009 NFL draft, going in round 5. Not surprising due to his Division II college career. In 2010, he made the Pro Bowl after Percy Harvin got injured, taking up the mantle as the return man. But Knox is more than just returns. In three seasons with the Bears he has yet to crack the 1000 yards magic number, but his 19.6 yards per reception last season was second best in the NFL and has emerged as the Bears best deep threat.
2008 – Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints
Carl Nicks was the 164th pick in the 2008 NFL draft, a fifth rounder. Unlike Knox, he didn’t come from a small school, playing for Nebraska. His off field problems deterred many teams from picking him, but Nicks has emerged into one of the best guards in the NFL, making the 2010-2011 Pro Bowl games, winning the Super Bowl with the Saints against the Colts. He recently signed a five year, $47.5 million contract with the Buccaneers.
2006 – Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans
The small cornerback was the 215th pick in the 2006 draft, a 7th rounder. He immediately became a starter for the Titans, spending six seasons with the team, making the Pro Bowl after the 2008 seasons. He’s a very tough defender to beat, but has a problem with dealing when getting beat, shown by his repeated fines for dirty plays on Receivers who got the best of him. He signed with the St. Louis Rams on a five year, $50 million deal.
2006 – Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts
The 207th pick (6th round) of the 2006 NFL draft is still with the Indianapolis Colts, completing his sixth season with the team. The Safety has two Pro Bowls two his name (2007, 2009 seasons), coming up with at least 70 tackles in the last four seasons. He’s a great tackler, but isn’t considered a ball hawk, not intercepting one pass in 2011.
2006 – Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills
Like most NFL players, the moment Williams, a 5th round (134) pick in the 2006 NFL draft a nice fat extension (six years, $39 million) he got injured. Well, not right away, but he played only four games in the 2011 season, going down to a lingering injury in his leg. He made two Pro Bowls prior to the 2011 season and was also selected to the All-Pro team in 2010. Along with Justin Smith, Williams is probably one of the two best Nose Tackles in football.
2005 – Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys
A 7th round pick (224), Jay Ratliff got his chance to finally grab a spot on the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense when Jason Ferguson went down in 2007. Since then, Ratliff has started every game for the Cowboys, making four consecutive Pro Bowls, including an All-Pro selection in 2009.
2005 – Chris Myers, Denver Broncos
Now playing for the emerging Houston Texans, Myers made his first Pro Bowl game after the 2011 season and is able to play guard as well as Center if needed. He was the 200th pick in the 6th round of the 2006 NFL draft.
2005 – Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles
Cole was a fifth round pick in 2005, going at 146. He has played for the Eagles ever since, amassing 68 sacks in his seven seasons in the league, going double digits in 2011 and four more seasons, widely considered as one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. He has made two Pro Bowl games (2007, 2009 season) and one All-Pro team (2009). He signed a huge $55 million extension last month, carrying his contract to 2017.
2004 – Michael Turner, San Diego Chargers
Stuck for too long behind LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner left the Chargers after 2007 season and has been with the Atlanta Falcons ever since, being a huge part of the successful (until the postseason) post-Michael Vick era. Turner has made two All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections (2008, 2010), rushing for at least 1300 yards in three of his four seasons with the Falcons, scoring 50 touchdowns in his four seasons there. Turner was the 154th pick in the draft.
2004 – Jared Allen, Kansas City Chiefs
The most productive defensive end in the NFL since 2004, Allen has recorded 105 sacks in his 8 seasons, setting a new Vikings franchise record with 22 sacks in 2011, missing out on the Defensive Player of the year award by 7 votes. He has made the Pro Bowl four times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), same for All-Pro selections. Allen was the 126th pick in the draft.