ESPN Series The Best Steals 7th Rd and Beyond

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ESPN Series The Best Steals 7th Rd and Beyond

Postby thescout » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:13 pm

I'll try and post all the articles for the draft series from ESPN. Great history reading this stuff. There are quality players throughout the whole draft you just need to find them.

Starr, Bo, Berry among draft bonanzasRounds 7-30, and free agency, have produced plenty of diamonds in the roughEmail Print Comments 83Share19 retweet 18By Sheldon Spencer

US Presswire
Bart Starr (1956, 17th round, Packers), John Randle (1990, free agent, Vikings) and Donnie Shell (1974, free agent, Steelers) are among the great players uncovered on the NFL draft's fringes.Here's a glimpse at how difficult assembling's round-by-round NFL draft all-stars is.

We decided to mirror the NFL draft's current length -- seven rounds -- with a slight twist. Within the seventh-round team, we're also including players selected in later rounds -- the NFL draft sometimes went 30-rounds deep -- and including the best undrafted free agents in that grouping.

We discovered there's plenty of star power in the draft's lower rungs and free-agency's fringes, too. The result: several agonizing choices (see charts below).

In keeping with our general guidelines, we're giving Hall of Famers priority in most cases. Still, we wrestled with selecting our starting safeties, for example. Best Round-By-Round Teams Explained
Below are a few of the guidelines we formed in assembling's best NFL draft round-by-round teams. The project is described in more detail here.

We surveyed candidates originally signed by NFL teams in the league's drafts since 1936. The American Football League and NFL did not merge drafts until 1967, therefore players who signed originally with AFL teams between 1960 and 1966 were not considered. Players who originally signed with teams in the old All-American Football Conference also were excluded.
Players were judged primarily on their performance for the team that first signed them. For example, the fact that Brett Favre is a lock for the Hall of Fame doesn't mean he was a great draft pick for the Falcons.
Priority was given to players who accumulated championships, all-league/Pro Bowl citations and/or Hall of Fame numbers primarily with their original teams.
We bent these guidelines in exceptional cases.

Nearly 50 years after his retirement, Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell (free agent, 1948, New York Giants) still ranks second on the NFL career interceptions list (79, trailing only the Minnesota Vikings' Paul Krause's 81 picks). Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Donnie Shell (free agent, 1974) won four Super Bowls in his first six seasons with the team -- and gave the Steelers eight more years of solid service. Unlike Tunnell, Shell is still on Canton's waiting list.

Choosing this tandem means relegating two Hall Of Famers -- Larry Wilson (seventh round, 1960, Cardinals) and Ken Houston (ninth round, 1967, Oilers) -- to the also-considered list. Why?

Tunnell (1956, Giants) and Shell were part of championship winners, Wilson and Houston were not.

As you'll discover, logic is only part of this recipe -- and sometimes it's left in the pantry, lost somewhere behind the Carnation Instant Milk and that box of Wheaties with Joe Kapp's picture on it. Sometimes, we'll grant wild-card exceptions that are purely subjective and clearly defy logic.

An originally proposed all-Canton backfield of Leroy Kelly (eighth round, Cleveland, 1964) and Bobby Mitchell (seventh round, Cleveland, 1958) was shelved when some staffers pushed for Auburn's Bo Jackson (seventh round, Los Angeles Raiders, 1987, after Tampa Bay's 1986 draft rights expired). Bo's shelf life was limited by his dueling MLB career and the hip injury that ended his NFL jaunts in January 1991.

His career numbers (2,782 rushing yards and 16 rushing TDs) don't hold a candle to either Kelly's or Mitchell's. But what the Raiders risked -- a seventh-round draft pick -- paid tremendous dividends on and off the field for a franchise that was trying to establish a foothold in Los Angeles. After his rookie year, Jackson's play in a job-sharing role with Hall Of Famer Marcus Allen helped improve the Raiders' fortunes the next three seasons. The Raiders got great value out of a part-time, one-of-a-kind player, let alone a seventh-round draft pick.

Yes, Jackson never will be enshrined in Canton. Still …

No offense, Bobby Mitchell, but Bo leapfrogged you into our starting lineup. Hey, this is very subjective.

Likewise, it was tough to limit the best diamonds-in-the-rough wide receiver contingent to two.

It's hard to displace a pair of HOFers in Florida A&M's Bob Hayes, an Olympic track star but seventh-round reach for the Dallas Cowboys in 1964, and SMU's Raymond Berry, a 20th-round selection of the Baltimore Colts in 1954.

[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Ed Andrieski
Former Broncos' star Rod Smith might have been the greatest free-agent receiving signing ever.
Still, Denver's Rod Smith makes a strong argument. He emerged from NCAA Division II Missouri Southern in 1994 to become the dream free agent. In 12 full seasons, Smith caught more passes (849) for more yards (11,389) and more touchdowns (68) than any undrafted player in NFL history. He also snared two Super Bowl rings.

Hmmm … Berry celebrated two titles with the Colts, Hayes one with the Cowboys. Factor in length of service, too, and Smith edges the "world's fastest human" Hayes for a spot on our team by a nose.

Now where's Berry's teammate, Johnny Unitas? The Baltimore Colts legend started his NFL career as a 1955 ninth-round draft pick of the Steelers, who cut him. He didn't excel with the first NFL team to sign him, so Johnny U.'s not part of our squad.

Some of the other quarterbacks considered for the starter's role on our seventh-round and beyond all-stars included Hall of Famers Roger Staubach (1964, 10th round, Cowboys) and Warren Moon (1984, CFL free agent, Oilers).

But Bart Starr's résumé trumps them all. The former Alabama quarterback was a 17th-round selection of the Green Bay Packers in 1956, and all he did was lead them to five titles in 16 seasons. He won two Super Bowl MVPs on his way to Canton.

Suffice it to say there were plenty of debates at every juncture. Even given the infinite options of the Internet, we're not going to publish every name considered at every position. This is a highly subjective process -- and we were bound to have overlooked someone, some way, somehow.

See the charts below for some of the best lower-rung prospects the NFL has ever signed. Click here to read about Round 6.

Here are some of the best offensive players selected in the seventh round and beyond -- including undrafted free agents -- in NFL draft history. Pro Football Hall of Fame members are in bold face. Guards and tackles were not selected position specific.

Position Player Year College Signed By Comment Among Others Considered
QB Bart Starr 1956 Alabama Packers A 17th-round selection, Starr won five titles as a Packers QB, including a pair of SBs Roger Staubach (1964, 10th round, Cowboys),
Warren Moon (1984, CFL FA, Oilers)
RB Bo Jackson+ 1987 Auburn Raiders Our wild-card pick: Jackson was an iconic player in his all-too-brief NFL stint Bobby Mitchell (1958, 7th round, Browns), Tony Canadeo (1941, ninth round, Packers)
RB Leroy Kelly 1964 Morgan State Browns Kelly was a six-time Pro Bowl selection in eight seasons in Cleveland Willie Parker (2004, undrafted, Steelers), Earnest Byner (1984, 10th round, Browns)
WR Rod Smith 1994 Missouri Southern Broncos Smith caught more passes (849) for more yards (11,389) and more TDs (68) than any undrafted player in NFL history Bob Hayes (7th round, 1964, Cowboys, HOF), Donald Driver (7th round, 1999, Packers)
WR Raymond Berry 1954 SMU Colts A 20th-round pick, he retired after 13 seasons with Colts with then-NFL record 631 catches T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2001, 7th round, Bengals), Mark Clayton (1983, 8th round, Dolphins)
TE Shannon Sharpe 1990 Savannah State Broncos The eight-time PBer won two of his three SB rings as a Bronco Jackie Smith (1963, 10th round, Cardinals),
Antonio Gates (2003, undrafted, Chargers)
C Jim Ringo 1953 Syracuse Packers As a Packer, seventh-round pick Ringo won two NFL titles, seven PB citations Jay Hilgenberg (1981, undrafted, Bears), Tom Nalen (1994, 7th round, Broncos)
G Nate Newton 1986 Florida A&M Cowboys Undrafted, Newton (who also played tackle) won three SB titles, six PB citations in 14 seasons Gene Hickerson (1957, 7th round, Browns),
Max Montoya (1979, 7th round, Bengals)
G Dan Fortmann 1936 Colgate Bears In eight seasons with the Bears, ninth-round pick Fortmann was an all-league star and won three NFL titles. Herb Scott (1975, 13th round, Cowboys),
Mark Schlereth (1989, 10th round, Redskins)
T Rayfield Wright 1967 Fort Valley State Cowboys Seventh-round pick played with five Super Bowl teams, went to six consecutive PBs Joe Jacoby (1981, undrafted, Redskins)
T Roosevelt Brown 1953 Morgan State Giants As a 20-year-old rookie, Brown won a starting job and kept it for 13 years, with 9 PBs, 1 NFL title. Cody Risien (1979, 7th round, Browns)
+Jackson drafted No. 1 overall by Buccaneers in 1986, did not sign with them

Here are some of the best defensive players selected in the seventh round and beyond -- including undrafted free agents -- in NFL draft history. Pro Football Hall of Fame members are in bold face. To honor the popularity of the 3-4 defense, we picked four linebackers. Corners, safeties and linebackers were not selected position specific.

Position Player Year College Signed By Comment Among Others Considered
DT John Randle 1990 Texas A&I Vikings With Vikings, he assembled the bulk of the numbers (137.5 career sacks) for his HOF induction Leon Lett (2001, 7th round, Cowboys), John Elliott (1967, 7th round Jets)
DT Manny Fernandez 1968 Utah Dolphins Undrafted free agent Fernandez won two SB rings, starred in SB VII win Fred Miller (1963, 7th round, Colts), Jim Burt (1981, undrafted, Giants)
DE David (Deacon) Jones 1961 SC State Rams A 14th-round selection, two-time DPOY Jones literally defined the term "sack" Richard Dent (1983, 8th round, Bears), Clyde Simmons (1986, 9th round, Eagles)
DE L.C. Greenwood 1969 Arkansas AM&N Steelers A "Steel Curtain" star, Greenwood appeared in six PBs, won four SB rings Coy Bacon (1968, undrafted, Rams)
LB Joe Schmidt 1953 Pittsburgh Lions One of the game's first MLBs, elected to PB 10 straight seasons London Fletcher (1998, undrafted, Rams)
LB Joe Fortunato 1955 Miss. State Bears Fortunato played 12 seasons for the Bears and made five PBs, won one title Jessie Armstead (1993, 8th round, Giants)
LB James Harrison 2002 Kent State Steelers In his second stint with Steelers, Harrison has three PBs, two SB rings Seth Joyner (1986, 8th round, Eagles)
LB Bart Scott 2002 Southern Ill. Ravens Scott started 58 of his 109 Ravens appearances and earned a PB citation in 2006 Greg Biekert (1993, 7th round, Raiders)
CB Dick
(Night Train)
Lane 1952 Scottsbluff (Neb.) Jr. College Rams Credit the Rams for discovering undrafted HOF talent Lane, who intercepted 14 passes as a rookie on his way to Canton Everson Walls (1981, undrafted, Cowboys)
CB Willie Wood 1960 USC Packers An undrafted free agent, the safety won five titles with the Packers, and made a game-breaking pick-six in SB I Cornell Green (1962, undrafted, Cowboys)
S Emlen Tunnell 1948 Toledo, Iowa Giants Tunnell grabbed at least six INTs for 10 seasons, keyed the Giants' "umbrella" D Larry Wilson (7th round, 1960, Cardinals)
S Donnie Shell 1974 SC State Steelers Four SB rings, 5 PBs in 14 seasons, all in Pittsburgh Ken Houston (9th round, 1967, Oilers)
Sometimes running the Mularkey offense makes me feel like I'm in a prison.

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