NFL Draft: Ranking the Top Picks of the Last 10 Years
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Every year it is fun to look at guys from past NFL drafts and consider where they are now in the league. Then, I like to do what I do best and rank them!
I ranked the players based on four major categories:
- How valuable (to the team) is the position of the player being drafted?
- Has the player won any Super Bowls?
- How many Pro-Bowls has the player been to?
- Last but certainly not least: STATS!
No. 10: JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders
Russell never lived up to the hype coming out of LSU in 2007.
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Russell impressed scouts and coaches alike at the NFL Combine with his size and arm strength, and in 2007 the Oakland Raiders took the first team All-SEC quarterback with the No. 1 pick.
Instead of getting to camp and learning the offense, Russell held out until Week 1 of the regular season. In his first game against the Jaguars, he went seven of 23 for 83 yards, one touchdown, three picks and a fumble.
Over the next few years the numbers didn't get much better, and Oakland released the overweight quarterback in 2010. He finished his time in Oakland completing 52 percent of his passes for 4,000 yards and had 23 interceptions to only 18 touchdowns. He is currently a free agent.
Russell has since been tagged as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
No. 9: David Carr, Houston Texans
David Carr never lived up to expectations in Houston.
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David Carr exploded onto the scene in 2001 during his senior season at Fresno State. Carr threw for 46 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards during the year, leading the Bulldogs to a BCS bid.
The debate leading up to the 2002 NFL draft surrounded whether the Texans would take Carr or QB Joey Harrington out of Oregon. Houston went on to take Carr, and even won their first regular season game against the Cowboys.
Unfortunately, the win against the new in-state rival was probably the high point during Carr's time with the Texans. In 2006, the Texans acquired Matt Schaub from Atlanta, who took Carr's place after five seasons.
Carr has a 74.9 career QB Rating and won a Super Bowl last season as a backup for the Giants.
No. 8: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford should move up this list as his supporting cast improves.
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In 2010 the Rams made the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Bradford has shown promise despite a weak supporting cast. Jeff Fisher was hired in 2012 as the Rams' new head coach and quickly made his opinion of Bradford clear, when he told Mike and Mike in the Morning:
There’s a number of friends of mine in the league that know the league, and I had one of them tell me during the process that they thought Sam may be one of the better quarterbacks — or the best quarterback — in the league, he just hasn’t had a chance to prove it yet. That weighed very heavily in my opinion. Very, very impressive player. I think he has a tremendous upside.
Watch for Bradford to climb this list in the near future.
No. 7: Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Alex Smith looked like a bust, but head coach Jim Harbaugh may have finally unlocked what scouts saw in 2005.
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In 2005 the 49ers drafted Alex Smith out of Utah with the first pick in the draft. Fans who believed Smith would return the team to the glory days of Young and Montana right away were severely disappointed. Smith played in nine games as a rookie, throwing 11 interceptions and only one touchdown.
Although Smith improved, he never impressed. After shoulder surgery kept him out of the 2008 season, many feared his days in the Bay Area were numbered.
But in 2011, the team hired head coach Jim Harbaugh, who brought in noted quarterback guru Greg Roman as the team's offensive coordinator. Smith put up by far his best performance to date, leading the team to the NFC Championship game. Smith became a free agent after the 2011 season and re-signed with the 49ers for three more years.
No. 6: Mario Williams, Houston Texans
The Texans drafted pass rush specialist Mario Williams with the first pick overall in 2006.
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Mario Williams is the lowest-ranked player on the list to have been a Pro Bowler.
Let me preface this by saying that I am a firm believer in the pass rush—I think it is the most important aspect of a defense.
However, the Texans had the first overall pick in 2006, drafting a defensive lineman for their third consecutive year (the team drafted DE Jason Babin only two years before; Babin has recorded 30.5 sacks the last two seasons with the Eagles and Titans).
Williams has made two Pro Bowls, but has never made more than 14 sacks in a season. Following the 2011 season, Williams became a free agent, eventually signing with the Bills.
No. 5: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford has some serious talent around him in Detroit...
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In 2009 the Lions took Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the top pick. After two rough seasons in which Stafford struggled to stay healthy, the Lions finally got him protection in 2011.
Stafford had a breakout season in 2011, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. The Lions have a talented young roster, and Stafford could benefit greatly from it.
No. 4: Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Carson Palmer has shown he has one of the top arms in the league over the past decade.
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The 2003 top pick, Carson Palmer, would probably be towards the top of this list if he had not have had to face the Ravens and Steelers defenses twice a year for most of his career.
Regardless, the former Trojan has an 86.3 career quarterback rating while throwing for over 25,000 yards. Palmer forced the Bengals to trade him in 2011 and is now the starting quarterback in Oakland. He is a two-time Pro Bowler.
No. 3: Jake Long, Miami Dolphins
Left tackle is one of the most important positions in the game, and Jake Long is one of the best.
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Jake Long was the top selection out of Michigan in the 2008 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins. Long has made a habit of making the Pro Bowl, doing so in all four years of his young career.
The left tackle position is the most important on the offensive line, with the job of protecting the quarterback's blind side. Long does it better than just about anyone in the league—just ask his quarterbacks.
No. 2: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton shocked the world during his rookie season in Carolina.
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The Carolina Panthers received plenty of negative reactions when they drafted Auburn quarterback Cam Newton No. 1 overall in 2011. After a sub-par NFL Combine and college-eligibility questions, many thought he was a bust in the making.
The Panthers, however, took the gamble with the top choice, and it paid off immediately. Newton was a catalyst for the young team, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in his rookie season. He may have the highest ceiling in the history of the sport, much less this list.
No. 1: Eli Manning, San Diego Chargers
Eli Manning is the only top pick in the last 10 years to win a Super Bowl as a starter.
The San Diego Chargers took Eli Manning with the top pick in 2004, only to trade him to the Giants for fourth overall pick Phillip Rivers. Manning has had an extraordinary career with the Giants, leading them to two Super Bowl wins over Tom Brady and the Patriots and winning the MVP award in both games. The two-time Pro Bowler has thrown for over 24,000 yards with an 82.1 QBR.