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NFL Draft 2012: 25 Most Stunning Draft-Day Free Falls Ever

Tony SantorsaSenior Writer IIFebruary 12, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: 25 Most Stunning Draft-Day Free Falls Ever

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    Each and every year, there always seems to be one or two players who see their stock take a sudden dip. 

    Some of these players were projected to be Top 10 picks, but found themselves going in the middle-to-late second round. 

    That is what we call a draft-day free-fall.

    In that spirit, let's take a look at the 25 most stunning draft-day free-falls in NFL history. 

25. Prince Amukamara

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    Entering the 2011 NFL Draft, many believed Prince Amukamara was the draft's top-rated cornerback and should have gone somewhere in the Top 15. 

    However, Amukamara fell to 19th overall, and the New York Giants gladly opened their doors.

    Amukamara played in seven games this season for the Giants, recording one interception and forcing a fumble on his way to helping them win Super Bowl XLVI. 

24. LaMarr Woodley

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    It's quite shocking that LaMarr Woodley was picked 46th overall, as he came into the 2007 NFL Draft as one of the most talented defensive ends who could not only rush the quarterback but also play the run. 

    Woodley has successfully made the transition to outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as he's racked up 225 tackles and 48 sacks through five seasons in the NFL. 

23. Desean Jackson

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    Entering the 2008 NFL Draft, California's DeSean Jackson was easily the most talented wide receiver in that class and was projected to be the first wide receiver selected—but that was not the case.

    Jackson saw six wide receivers be drafted ahead of him until he was finally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles at 49th overall in the second round. 

22. Nick Fairley

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    Auburn's Nick Fairley came into the 2011 NFL Draft as arguably the most talented defensive tackle and was projected to go as high as second overall. 

    However, Fairley fell out of the Top 10 and landed right into the lap of the Detroit Lions. He played in 10 games this past season, and finished with just one sack and 11 tackles. 

21. LeSean McCoy

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    LeSean McCoy has now emerged as one of the NFL's most dynamic and productive running backs, but he was picked only 53rd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles.

    McCoy was projected to go in the first round by many, but some felt that he shouldn't have left Pittsburgh so early and returned for his senior season. 

20. Justin Houston

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    Entering the 2011 NFL Draft, Georgia's Justin Houston seemed to be one of the most talented and well-rounded linebackers the class had to offer—but he fell to 70th overall to the the Kansas City Chiefs.

    In his rookie season with the Chiefs, Houston posted a solid 5.5 sacks and a total of 43 tackles. 

    To be honest, I'd say he's pretty productive for a player who went in the third round. 

19. Louis Oliver

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    Entering the 1989 NFL Draft, Florida cornerback Louis Oliver appeared to be the draft's top-rated defensive back and was projected to be a sure Top 10 pick, but that did not happen, as he slipped to 25th overall.

    With the Miami Dolphins, Oliver played in seven seasons while picking off 24 passes and returning two of them back for touchdowns. 

18. Andre Smith

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    Andre Smith may not be considered that big of a fall, but he came into the 2009 NFL Draft as one of most highly rated offensive tackles in NFL history. 

    Smith faced some character issues and fell to sixth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. 

17. Aaron Hernandez

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    How did so many teams pass on Aaron Hernandez and allow him to slip all the way to 113th overall? That's absurd.

    I realize that teams questioned his character and drug issues, but he has been arguably the most dynamic tight end in the NFL since the 2010 NFL Draft.

    The New England Patriots' tight end has snagged 124 passes for 1,473 yards and 13 touchdowns his first two seasons in the NFL. 

16. Andy Dalton

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    Going 35th overall may not seem like that much of a fall for Andy Dalton, but considering that guys like Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert were drafted ahead of him, I'd say it's a pretty big drop.

    Out of the 2011 NFL Draft, Dalton appears to be one of the top quarterbacks right alongside Cam Newton. Dalton led his Cincinnati Bengals to a 9-7 playoff season this past year, as he threw for 20 touchdowns and posted an 80.4 quarterback rating. 

15. Rey Maualuga

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    Many believed USC's Rey Maualuga was going to be the next Junior Seau, as he was projected to go in the mid-first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. 

    However, Maualuga fell to the Cincinnati Bengals at 38th overall, as teams were a bit concerned about his ability to defend the pass since he looked to be a pure pass-rusher. 

    Since then, Maualuga has played in 44 games for the Bengals while recording just two sacks and accumulating 132 tackles. 

14. Michael Crabtree

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    Tenth overall may seem like a nice spot, but for Michael Crabtree, it was a bit of a fall since he came into the 2010 NFL Draft as the most talented wide receiver.

    Crabtree was the second wide receiver picked in that year's draft; the Oakland Raiders decided to go with Darrius Heyward-Bey, which allowed Crabtree to fall to the San Francisco 49ers.

    In three seasons, Crabtree has 175 receptions for 2,240 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

13. Matt Leinart

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    Who could forget Matt Leinart?

    The USC product came into the 2006 NFL Draft as one of the most successful quarterbacks in NCAA history, but teams weren't buying his stock, as he fell to 10th overall rather than going somewhere in the Top Five.

    Leinart failed with the Arizona Cardinals and ultimately ended up being the backup quarterback with the Houston Texans—so, apparently, teams were accurate about not buying his stock. 

12. Jimmy Clausen

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    Jimmy Clausen certainly hasn't amounted to anything throughout his first two years in the NFL, but he is still considered one of the biggest draft-day free-falls in NFL history.

    Coming out of Notre Dame, Clausen had a pretty successful run, displaying all the tools and skills to be a productive NFL quarterback—but no one was buying it.

    Clausen fell to 48th overall to the Carolina Panthers and is now the current backup behind Cam Newton. 

11. Da’Quan Bowers

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    Entering the 2011 NFL Draft, many believed that Da'Quan Bowers was the draft's most talented pass-rusher. He certainly could have been, but teams were simply too afraid of his left knee, which was serious enough to keep him out of the NFL Combine. 

    A once-Top 10 pick fell to 51st overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Bowers recorded 1.5 sacks and 22 tackles in his first season.

10. Warren Sapp

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    We can all agree that Warren Sapp is one of the greatest defensive tackles in NFL history, as he racked up 96.5 sacks throughout his 13-year NFL career while compiling a whopping 438 tackles.

    Coming out of Miami, Sapp figured to go somewhere in the Top Five, but he fell to 12th overall, and it was a huge steal for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

    Teams didn't seem too interested in Sapp's potential drug problem, but now the joke is on the 11 teams that passed on him. 

9. Rashaan Salaam

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    Rashaan Salaam came into the 1995 NFL Draft as arguably the most talented running back and certainly had a ton of upside.

    Salaam fell to 21st overall and was selected by the Chicago Bears—and that was a mistake.

    Salaam was a huge bust, playing just four seasons in the league while accumulating only 1,684 yards and averaging 3.6 yards per carry. 

8. Brady Quinn

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    Watching Notre Dame's Brady Quinn fall in the 2007 NFL Draft was a bit depressing—but then the 22nd pick came around, and he was drafted by his hometown team, the Cleveland Browns.

    Quinn had a successful collegiate career under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, and many figured he'd go in the Top 10 since he was pretty productive in a pro-style offense. 

    However, teams weren't buying Quinn's stock—which appears to be a good thing, as he ultimately ended up failing in Cleveland and is now the current backup behind Tim Tebow with the Denver Broncos. 

7. Ryan Mallett

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    Coming into the 2011 NFL Draft, many believed Ryan Mallett was the most talented quarterback in the class, as he possessed the perfect skill set to be an NFL drop-back passer—but apparently no one bought into it, and he fell to 74th overall to the New England Patriots.

    Many figured that Mallett would go somewhere in the first round or even the second round, but teams questioned his character and seriousness to be an NFL quarterback. 

    We'll just to see how accurate those assumptions are. 

6. Drew Brees

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    I still wonder, to this day, why so many teams passed on Drew Brees.

    Brees is now a Super Bowl champion and is considered to be one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

    Brees was drafted 32nd overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, which means 31 teams head a chance at grabbing him, but everyone decided to pass—and I guarantee you that they're all regretting it. 

5. Randy Moss

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    Randy Moss is the current record-holder for most touchdowns in a single NFL season, as he snagged 23 back in 2007—but he witnessed a huge draft-day free-fall back in the 1998 NFL Draft. 

    Teams were simply afraid of Moss' character and if he was an actual team-player, but he certainly turned into one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game. The Minnesota Vikings drafted him at 21th overall, and 13 seasons later, Moss has 153 career touchdowns. 

4. Thurman Thomas

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    This Hall of Fame running back ran for 12,074 yards throughout his 13-year NFL career, but was only drafted 40th overall by the Buffalo Bills.

    Know who this is? It's Thurman Thomas.

    Thomas is certainly one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game, but teams were too cautious about his recently torn ACL two years before the draft and figured they'd pass on him—which was a huge mistake. 

3. Aaron Rodgers

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    Taking a look back at the 2005 NFL Draft, I'm sure that the San Francisco 49ers would have much rather drafted Aaron Rodgers first overall rather than Alex Smith. 

    Rodgers fell to 24th overall, as the Green Bay Packers felt that his value was simply too much to pass on despite having Brett Favre as their franchise quarterback.

    Eventually Rodgers' time came, and since becoming the team's full-time starter in 2008, he has a 41-21 record while completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 132 touchdowns and an incredible 104.1 quarterback rating. 

2. Dan Marino

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    Despite never winning a Super Bowl, some will argue that Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback in NFL history—and I think we can all agree that he's certainly one of the greatest. 

    Marino fell to 27th overall in the 1983 NFL Draft, as teams were concerned about his health and possible drug problems—and they could not have been more wrong. 

    The Hall of Fame quarterback posted a 147-93 record as a starter for the Miami Dolphins, throwing for an incredible 420 touchdowns while compiling 61,361 total passing yards. 

1. Tom Brady

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    I realize that Tom Brady was not projected to go in the first round or even the second round, but the Michigan quarterback figured to go somewhere in the middle rounds—not 199th overall in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. 

    The biggest draft-day free-falls in NFL history benefited no one else besides Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots. 

    Brady is a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who has two league MVPs under his belt, as well as two Super Bowl MVPs. To go along with his accolades, Brady also holds several records, such as 50 touchdowns in a single season. 

    TB12 has a career 124-35 record as New England's starting quarterback, and he's posted a 96.4 quarterback rating while tossing 300 touchdowns compared to just 115 interceptions—he's only intercepted 2.2 percent of the time he attempts a pass. 

    As Brady went 199th overall, he may be the biggest draft-day free-fall, but he is also the greatest draft-day steal in NFL history. 

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