By JERRY TAPP
The NFL Draft commences Thursday night and teams are looking to find just the right college players to add to their rosters.
The short-term goal for each NFL team is to have a draft where most if not all these draft choices can make the team and contribute in some way, shape or form. The long-term goal might be to draft a player or two who can become a mainstay for the franchise for years to come and be a player who provides longevity and durability as an NFL player.
You would think that the drafted players who most likely would have long careers in the NFL would be players drafted in the early rounds … those are the best college players, the cream of the crop.
History, however, tells us otherwise. Players drafted in the first round are not always the players who stay in the league a long time and play in triple-digit career games.
To prove my point, I looked at the last several college drafts going back to 2000. I looked at each year’s draft and found which player in that draft played the most career games of those players drafted that year. Here’s an example:
- In the 2000 NFL Draft, defensive end Courtney Brown was the overall number one pick in the draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played a total of 61 games in his NFL career. The player from that draft who played the most career NFL games was punter Shane Lechler who was a fifth round choice (#142 pick overall) of the Oakland Raiders. He played 286 career games in the league.
Before you raise your hand and say, “Sure, kickers drafted are going to last a lot longer in the league than non-kickers,” I’ll admit you’ll have a good point. But that was not the case in every year.
Here are the players from each draft year (2000-2014) who have played in the most career NFL games from their draft class. I have also listed the number of NFL games each number one selection from that year played in his career.
2000: Shane Lechler, punter (5th round, #142 pick), 286 career games
Number One pick: Courtney Brown, 61 career games
2001: Drew Brees, QB (2nd round, #32 pick), 275 career games
Number One pick: Michael Vick, QB, 143 career games
2002: Julius Peppers, defensive end (1st round, #2 pick), 266 career games
Number One pick: David Carr, QB, 94 career games
2003: Jason Witten, TE (3rd round, #69 pick), 255 career games
Number One pick: Carson Palmer, QB, 182 career games
2004: Larry Fitzgerald, WR (1st round, #3 pick), 250 career games
Number One pick: Eli Manning, QB, 236 career games
2005: Dustin Colquitt, punter (3rd round, #99 pick), 238 career games
Number One pick: Alex Smith, QB, 166 career games
2006: Sam Koch, punter (6th round, #203rd pick), 224 career games
Number One pick: Mario Williams, DE, 158 career games
2007: Mason Crosby, K, (6th round, #193 pick), 208 career games
Number One pick: JaMarcus Russell, QB, 31 career games
2008: Brandon Carr, DB (5th round, #140 pick), 192 career games
Number one pick: Jake Long, tackle, 104 career games
2009: Kevin Huber, punter (5th round, #142 pick)/Thomas Morstead, punter (5th round, #164 pick) each 174 career games
Number one pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, 149 career games
2010: Ndamukong Suh, DT (1st round #2 pick) 158 career games
Number One pick: Sam Bradford, QB, 83 career games
2011: Cameron Jordan, DE (1st round #24 pick), 144 career games
Number One pick: Cam Newton, QB, 125 career games
2012: Mitchell Schwartz, tackle (2nd round #37 pick)/Russell Wilson, QB (3rd round #75 pick)/Demario Davis, LB (3rd round #77 pick) each 128 career games
Number One pick: Andrew Luck, QB, 86 career games
2013: Cordarelle Patterson, WR (1st round #29 pick)/Duron Harmon, DB (3rd round #91 pick) each 111 career games
Number one pick: Eric Fisher, tackle, 102 career games
2014: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB (1st round, #21 pick)/Jarvis Landry, WR (2nd round, #63 pick) each 96 career games
Number One pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, 75 career games.
If we go to the 2015 draft, there are five players drafted that year who have played in the maximum number of career NFL games since that year, 80. None of those five were drafted in the first round of that ’15 draft.
Even the 2016 draft has a similar result: Nine players drafted in the ’16 draft have played the maximum of 64 career games in their four-year career in the NFL. Of those nine, none were drafted in the first round.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp