2007 NFL Draft Class in Review: How Did the Top 10 Picks Fare?
Most analysts and sportswriters believe that a draft class cannot be evaluated until three years after the fact.
Three Aprils ago, the 2007 draft class looked like it had a bright future ahead.
College standouts Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell were considered to be top talent, with the latter becoming the No. 1 overall pick for the Oakland Raiders, while Quinn fell all the way to the Cleveland Browns at No. 22.
Other top talents that year included Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, LaRon Landry, and others expected to have great success.
Now that enough time has passed, I decided to look back and see how the Top 10 picks have transitioned to the NFL.
With the First Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders Select:
JaMarcus Russell, Quarterback, Louisiana State University
This picture sums up Russell's stint in the Black Hole just as well as any other.
Plagued by a contract holdout at the start of his career, Russell went on to post a 7-18 record as a starter and, until his release on May 6, 2010, was known around the league as quite possibly one of the biggest "busts" of all time.
Coming out of college, this guy was known for winning the Sugar Bowl (MVP) and throwing the ball 80 yards off his knees. ESPN football guru John Clayton even mentioned that it would "be hard to pass up on Russell at No. 1."
Russell made his first professional appearance on Dec. 2, 2007 against the Broncos, and the following week, against the Jaguars, he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, setting a tone for the rest of his time as the starter.
While there were some bright spots, including back-to-back victories to close the 2008 season, Russell finished the 2009 season with the lowest quarterback rating, lowest completion percentage, fewest passing touchdowns, and fewest passing yards among qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL.
While counterpart Brady Quinn has also not impressed, already with his second team (and not even guaranteed to start), one can't help but wonder where the Raiders would be if they took Adrian Peterson instead.
With the Second Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions Select:
Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
Many argued that Johnson, not Russell, should have been the first pick in this draft. He won the Biletnikoff Award, was ACC Player of the Year, and was selected for a third straight time to the All-ACC squad.
Johnson tallied 1,202 yards on 76 catches, and his 15 touchdowns in 2006 were a new Georgia Tech single-season record.
In any case, Johnson has firmly established himself as the best player on the Lions, and although he has found himself faced with some difficult seasons to start his career, it is clear that with Matthew Stafford, he will only succeed.
He quickly made an impact, finishing his rookie season with 756 yards and five total touchdowns.
He followed this, while enduring the dismal 0-16 season, with his best season yet, finishing the year as one of the strongest wide receivers, statistically, for the season. He placed fifth in receiving yards (1,331), seventh in receiving yards per game (83.2), and led the league in receiving touchdowns (12). However, his numbers decreased during the 2009 season.
In any case, Johnson has a bright future ahead.
With the Third Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns Select:
Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
So far, Thomas has proven himself to be one of the best players to come out of this draft. Since his rookie year, he has made the Pro Bowl three consecutive times.
In college, Thomas won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman, and the Associated Press awarded him placement on its All-American First Team at tackle.
He was named the NFL's Rookie of the Month for November and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Adrian Peterson (and was the only other player to garner any votes).
In a Top 10 dominated by inconsistency, Joe Thomas is one of the bright spots of this draft and his team.
With the Fourth Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Bucs Select:
Gaines Adams, Defensive End, Clemson
I would like to take this space to pay tribute to Adams, who suddenly died of cardiac arrest on Jan. 17, 2010. Gaines was a star DE at Clemson, where he was one of seven unanimous All-Americans his senior season.
At the end of the 2007 season, Adams had 35 tackles, six sacks, and two forced fumbles in 2007; he led all 2007 rookies with his six sacks.
This performance gained him a place on the 2007 NFL All-Rookie team, and he continued to play well the following season before being traded to the Chicago Bears for a second round pick in 2010.
Gaines was a great young player and will be sorely missed.
With the Fifth Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals Select:
Levi Brown, Offensive Tackle, Penn State
Brown has been a serviceable lineman for the Cardinals, playing in Super Bowl 43 and starting 27 out of a possible 29 games as a pro.
While he has been a key contributor at times, Brown has seen the spotlight taken away from his accomplishments by fellow classmate Joe Thomas and 2008 draftees Ryan Clady and Jake Long (although all three are AFC players, they are the most frequently referenced young linemen).
Look for Brown to continue his effort. Not a mistake to draft him, as the Cardinals made the Super Bowl only a year later, but with other playmakers on the board, maybe Brown would not be taken had the Cards had another chance.
With the Sixth Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Redskins Select:
LaRon Landry, Safety, Louisiana State
Landry, coming off the same LSU team—that wowed scouts—as JaMarcus Russell, has so far also made a strong impact.
At the beginning of the 2007 season, Landry was immediately named the starting strong safety opposite late Pro Bowl free safety Sean Taylor.
He recorded his first half-sack in just the second week of the season and recorded his first unassisted sack on November 4 during a Week Nine game against the Jets, and he had an outstanding playoff performance against the Seahawks, recording five total/solo tackles and two key interceptions—although the Redskins offense wasn't able to capitalize and lost.
His impressive rookie season earned him a 2007 Pro Bowl alternate selection, and he was selected to the 2007 NFL All-Rookie Defensive Team. While he hasn't had the same recognizable success since his rookie campaign, Landry finished the 2009 season with 90 total tackles, including 78 solo tackles.
Many think that under new coach Mike Shanahan the Redskins will be better this year, so anticipate a rejuvenated team.
With the Seventh Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Vikings Select:
Adrian Peterson, Running Back, University of Oklahoma
Quite possibly the best player of this draft, AD has proven himself on the biggest stage. Pro Bowl MVP as a rookie. All-Pro and rushing titles. Trip to the NFC Championship Game.
While he is still young, AD was the top fantasy pick in every draft last season. He can catch a case of fumble-itis now and then, but still is one of the most feared players in the league.
I don't need to say much more—even the most casual fan knows this guy.
With the Eighth Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons Select:
Jamaal Anderson, Defensive End, Arkansas
Anderson has also been somewhat of a disappointment. He switched to defensive tackle for a few games this past season due to his struggles and has not shown his potential since coming out of college.
While he started as a rookie, Anderson finished the 2007 season with 30 tackles, one forced fumble, three pass defenses, and no quarterback sacks. He finished the 2008 season with 27 tackles and two sacks.
The Falcons also had the most picks in this draft, so picking Anderson was not necessarily the best idea with other players around later.
With the Ninth Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins Select:
Now, before we begin, let's discuss the scenario.
Brady Quinn, who some expected to be taken at No. 3, is still on the board. The Dolphins are without a quarterback of the future, and most people assume Quinn to the Fins is a sure thing.
Then all hell breaks loose.
Ted Ginn Jr., Wide Receiver, Ohio State University (cue booing)
As a Dolphins fan, I remember this day like it was yesterday. I've never seen fans more angry. I've never seen Mel Kiper Jr. so confused and upset. Seriously.
In any case, Ginn and his family became part of the worst season in Dolphins franchise history, coach Cam Cameron and GM Randy Mueller were fired, Bill Parcells took over, and the Dolphins turned it around.
However, Ginn never really "caught on," or caught anything for that matter. While his returning ability was his strongest point, Ginn was traded to the 49ers this offseason.
In fairness, Ted really got a lot of criticism for a decision "out of his hands" (can't help the puns), but after three years, he never paid off.
With the 10th Pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans Select:
Amobi Okoye, Defensive Tackle, Louisville
Okoye, together with Mario Williams, has formed a surging D down in Houston.
He started as a rookie, the youngest player ever in the NFL, and was named Defensive Rookie of the Month for September 2007 after leading the AFC with four sacks. As a result, he is the youngest player ever to receive the award.
He has had a total of 94 tackles and eight sacks through his young career, and with the Texans being a trendy pick this year, expect to see more of Okoye.
The Best of the Rest
While the Top 10 has its share of ups and downs, the rest of the 2007 class has some great players. Here is a list of the other Pro Bowlers that were drafted that year.
Steve Smith (Giants)
Plenty of other rising stars are members of this class, but I would be hesitant to give it an A grade, only because of some of the failures.