On Sept. 4, the NFL will launch its 2008-2009 season. By that date, rosters will have been cut down to a 53-man Active/Inactive roster–down from the 80 they're allow to carry through the preseason.
Invariably, the 27 players who get cut are mostly made up of draft picks in the later rounds or players that showed modest potential in college but just couldn't make plays to stay on the team.
A full 94 percent of players drafted in the seventh round aren't playing football two years into their careers. That number drops to 88 percent for those drafted in the sixth round and 70 percent for those that go in the fifth round. AllFourQuarters.com will soon be launching a feature that indexes the success of each team's draft picks.
In the last 10 NFL drafts, though, a good number of players have emerged from the later rounds to become Pro Bowlers that were critical players in postseason runs. A good number of players from the first round have turned out to be bubkis. From the 1997-2007 NFL Drafts, we take a look at the top six "steals" and the top six "flops."
6) Al Harris, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
Al Harris was drafted in the sixth round (169th overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He spent his entire rookie season on Tampa Bay's practice squad and was released in 1998.
Harris showed flashes of Pro-Bowl talent in Philadelphia, but really launched his career in 2003 as a starter for Green Bay. He intercepted Matt Hasslebeck in the 2004 NFC Wild Card game and ran it back for the winning touchdown.
In 2005, he was part of a Packers pass defense that was No. 1 overall, allowing just one touchdown in coverage. In 2007, he was selected to play in his first Pro Bowl. He's become one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
5) Matt Hasselbeck, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
Matt Hasselbeck was selected in the sixth round (184th overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Since then, he hasn't done anything particularly remarkable other than be a three-time Pro Bowler and lead his team to a Super Bowl.
Seattle has won the NFC West four years in a row, and there's no stopping him yet—he set career highs in 2007. Not that Green Bay was in desperate need of a quarterback or anything, but whom would you pick? Aaron Rodgers?
4) Brian Westbrook, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles
Brian Westbrook was selected in the third round (91st overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was drafted behind NFL greats like Maurice Morris (backup RB for the Seahawks) and DeShaun Foster (backup RB for the 49ers). Westbrook won the Walter Peyton award in 2001, is a two-time Pro Bowler, and helped lead the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX.
He averages almost five yards per carry and has almost as many rushing touchdowns (27) as he does receiving (23). He's the all-around threat you need your RB to be.
3) Devin Hester, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
How many of you would have picked Cedric Griffin? Jimmy Williams? Tye Hill? Never heard of them? Don't worry, neither has anyone else, but they were CBs picked ahead of Devin Hester in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Heading into his third season, Hester already holds the NFL record for most kick-return TDs in a season, and he's pretty much the only returner that would make NFL teams rather have the 40-yard-line penalty for kicking the ball out of bounds than have it land in his arms.
He's basically been a Pro Bowler since he stepped on the field. It's early in his career, but, barring any catastrophic injuries, Hester should have a fine life.
2) Donald Driver, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver was selected in the seventh round (213th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Since then, he's been to three Pro Bowls with four-straight seasons of over 1,000-yards receiving.
He's never averaged less than 10-yards per catch. In the 2008 NFC Championship game, Driver juked the Giants into giving him free land to score a 90-yard go-ahead touchdown. He and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are the only two players to be drafted in the seventh round and go to the Pro Bowl.
1) TOM BRADY, Quarterback, New England Patriots
Tom Brady is a sure-shot Hall of Famer. His name will be in the mix whenever you debate the best NFL Quarterbacks of all time. Did you know he was also drafted in the sixth round, 199th overall?
There is virtually no end to the list of things that Tom Brady has accomplished in the NFL, but here's the highlights: three Super Bowls, two-time Super Bowl MVP, four Pro Bowls, highest single game and single-season quarterback rating, most passing touchdowns in a season, and most passing yards in a season.
By the way, he's has also dated and impregnated one of Hollywood's hottest actresses and now dates a supermodel. Your life is nowhere as great as Tom Brady's.
6) Tim Couch, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
Aren't No. 1 picks supposed to be automatic Hall of Famers? I mean, you have four months to review the guy. The Browns thought otherwise, and selected Couch in the 1999 NFL Draft, a favor he would return by spending four years ruining any hopes the team had of being successful.
Just how bad is Couch? He was signed by the Dolphins in 2007—the 1-15 Dolphins—as a third-string QB and was cut. Third string. 1-15 Dolphins. Cut.
5) Yatil Green, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins
To be fair, Yatil Green was hit with phenomenally bad luck after being touted as one of the NFL's next great receivers. On the first day of his rookie season's training camp, Green ripped his quadriceps muscles, ATL, and the cartilage in his right knee.
He recovered, got pumped for the new season, came back to training camp, and tore the same ATL on the first day again. Good thing they didn't give him a three-year, $4.5 million contract or anything. Green tried a comeback with the Jets and the Raiders but retired soon after.
4) Ryan Leaf, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
"Ha," says Leaf, "What are the Colts thinking, picking that Manning guy, I'm a finalist for the Heisman Trophy!" Leaf threw two touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his first nine regular-season games and won only four games in three years. I'm pretty sure I would have been a better NFL quarterback. He does not play football anymore.
3) Courtney Brown, Defensive End, Cleveland Browns
After a decent rookie season, Brown totally fell apart, at least health-wise. In the space of 12 months, he injured his back, neck, knee, foot, hand, and, believe it or not, his ear.
In the next three seasons, he'd play in only 26 games and record only eight sacks. For a first-overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, not that impressive. You almost have to feel bad for the Browns. Couch and Brown? Tough to swallow.
2) Ron Dayne, Running Back, New York Giants
Can you imagine sacrificing your multi-million dollar NFL career to eat at McDonald's every day? Dayne was selected by the Giants in the 2000 NFL Draft and most commentators instantly put the team as a Super Bowl contender. "Thunder and lightening," they said, calling upon Tiki Barber's speed and Ron Dayne's power.
They literally drafted a guy to run two yards, and he couldn't even do that. Who knows what he's doing now.
1) Michael Vick, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons
What did Vick accomplish for the Atlanta Falcons? Average TD-INT ratio (71-52), average quarterback rating (75.7), oh, and he destroyed the franchise. He was an arrogant loudmouth.
In the six seasons Vick was the Falcons' starting quarterback, the team had two winning seasons and collapsed after he left. There is no top-flight draft pick so responsible for wrecking havoc on a franchise more than Vick, as he did when he was finally put in jail for illegal dog fighting.
At least the Chargers are Super Bowl contenders. Aren't the Browns mentioned as playoff contenders?
Scott Harris is also the Managing Editor of AllFourQuarters.com, an NFL stats and analysis blog.