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The Twenty Greatest NFL Seventh Round Draft Picks

Kurt ColemanOn September 2, 2010, Kurt Coleman of the Philadelphia Eagles had the greatest game of his young NFL career.

Unfortunately, it was a preseason game, and it was against a New York Jets team of mostly backups.

Still, that’s not to take away what a tremendous game the Ohio State rookie had. After all, scoring two touchdowns in one game is a fairly impressive feat, isn’t it?

It’s more impressive when you consider two things:

1. Coleman is a safety, meaning both of his touchdowns came on defense
2. Coleman was a seventh round draft pick.

Kurt Coleman’s first touchdown was a sixty-four yard fumble recovery. As soon as rookie running back Joe McKnight dropped the rock, Coleman scooped it up and blazed a 64 yard trail to the end zone with almost no one in his wake. The second score was based on a bit of luck, as Jets rookie fullback John Connor tripped over his lineman’s leg, causing the ball to squirt loose, which allowed Coleman to take it a scant 8 yards for the score.

It was likely this astounding output against the Jets that sent veterans Macho Harris and Quintin Demps packing from the 53-man roster.

For a seventh round NFL draft pick, Kurt Coleman played like he should have been drafted far sooner. In fact, former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly, who was providing commentary on the Eagles affiliate station for this game, commented that safeties tend to have lower draft value, because it’s hard to gauge them properly in college.

While the exact quote escapes me, Casserly said something along the lines of safeties having maybe only five plays a game where they can showcase NFL-quality abilities.

So in other words, if college football had a more “pro” style, perhaps Coleman may have been a second or third rounder.

Of course, I’m basing this on one lousy pre-season game. It could have been one of those “touched by God” days that random athletes seem to have.

But you know, there are plenty of first round draft picks who, great as they were in college, fail to spark anything in the pros (Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf…), whereas there’s some late round steals that stun the world (Tom Brady, a sixth rounder, being the prime example).

I did a little research of seventh round players going back to the 1980 Draft, just to see if any of them crashed through the ceiling, this perception that seventh rounders can’t and won’t pan out.

You may be surprised to see just who did shatter that glass.

Here, now, are the twenty best seventh rounders since 1980, and what Kurt Coleman, or any seventh rounder, has a shot at duplicating.

[adinserter block=”2″]20. CRAIG JAMES (running back, 1984-88, 2,469 rushing yards, 13 total touchdowns)
PICK: 187 overall, New England
James’ NFL career was short, but he’s notable for becoming the most recent Caucasian to run for over 1,000 yards in a season (1,227 in 1985). If not for injuries late in his career, he’d be remembered more as the running back version of Wes Welker, and not some egotistical, meddling father.

19. JAY RATLIFF (defensive tackle, 2005-present, 21.5 sacks)
PICK: 224 overall, Dallas
Ratliff started in his rookie year, and how many seventh rounders can say that? As Dallas as resurged, Ratliff has remained part of the stifling pass rush along with DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, which fixes to wreak havoc for some time to come.

18. CORTLAND FINNEGAN (cornerback, 2006-present, 11 interceptions, three defensive touchdowns)
PICK: 215 overall, Tennessee
Finnegan was a vital part of the Titans resurgence in 2006, after the team had a dismal start. Playing for a somewhat obscure college (Samford) and being labeled a poor tackler shunted Finnegan down the draft board, but his 2008 Pro Bowl selection seems to speak against those assessments.

17. AHMAD BRADSHAW (running back, 2007-present, 1,323 rushing yards, 10 total touchdowns)
PICK: 250 overall, New York Giants
Perhaps it’s a bit early to declare Bradshaw “great”, but in his rookie season where he went near the very end of the draft, he was anointed with Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward as the “Earth, Wind, and Fire” running attack that helped win Super Bowl XLII. With Jacobs slowing down, Bradshaw now takes over as the starter.

16. ERIC MARTIN (wide receiver, 1985-94, 49 receiving touchdowns, 8,161 receiving yards)
PICK: 179 overall, New Orleans
A somewhat forgotten name, but yet a vital part of Jim Mora’s goal to make something of the Saints in the 1980s. His 532 receptions rank as the most in Saints history, though that mark could be jeopardized by someone whose name appears later in this list.

15. MARION BUTTS (running back, 1989-95, 43 career touchdowns, 5,185 rushing yards)
PICK: 183 overall, San Diego
What could have been. From 1989 to 1993, Butts was a star on the rise for the Chargers, peaking with 1,225 yards in 1990. Sadly, injuries derailed him from the NFL at age 29. Butts, of course, earned a nickname from Chris Berman, that being “No Ifs, Ands, or”. Ahhh, simpler times

14. GUS FREROTTE (quarterback, 1994-2008, 114 touchdown passes, 21,291 passing yards)
PICK: 197 overall, Washington
A journeyman and largely career-backup, Frerotte does have a 99 yard touchdown pass to his credit, which he threw in 2008 to Bernard Berrian. The Redskins picked two well-known quarterbacks in this draft, the other being Heath Shuler, who went third overall. Shuler was out of the league by 1998, whereas Frerotte continued to find consistent work. Who’da thunk it?

13. BO JACKSON (running back, 1987-90, 2,782 rushing yards, 18 total touchdowns)
PICK: 183 overall, Oakland (then Los Angeles)
Perhaps Bo’s being overrated here, but had his career continued without that nasty hip injury, he’d be in Canton as we speak. Bo went #1 in the 1986 draft, but the Buccaneers (his suitor then) and he had a falling out, pushing him back into the draft pool for 1987. The Raiders were more than happy to take the dual-sport athlete.

12. JAMAL ANDERSON (running back, 1994-2001, 41 total touchdowns, 5,336 rushing yards)
PICK: 201 overall, Atlanta
Though his career ended prematurely after an ACL tear, Anderson was a key component that helped the 1998 Falcons become NFC Champions, a year in which he had 1,846 yards on the ground. Despite four different thousand-yard seasons, we’ll remember most the “Dirty Bird”, a dance which me, you, and every other kid emulated after putting up a touchdown in pickup games.

11. ADAM TIMMERMAN (offensive guard, 1995-2006)
PICK: 230 overall, Green Bay
Twelve years is quite a while for a seventh rounder to stick around. If longevity isn’t enough, consider that Timmerman played in four Super Bowls, winning two with Green Bay (1996) and St. Louis (1999). So in other words, Timmerman was part of The Greatest Show on Turf that redefined NFL offenses. Pretty nice tribute, I think.

10. STEVE JORDAN (tight end, 1982-94, 28 receiving touchdowns, 6,307 receiving yards)
PICK: 179 overall, Minnesota
The career touchdowns may not jump out at you, but six Pro Bowls from 1986-91 sure will. His peak year was 1986, where he had 859 yards and 6 scores, which stands out in the time period. Longtime wrestling fans may better remember Jordan’s atrocious acting from a 1993 vignette with Mr. Perfect.

9. GARY ANDERSON (kicker, 1982-2004, 80.1 career percentage)
PICK: 171 overall, Buffalo
Not too many South Africans find their way into NFL prominence, but Anderson’s twenty-three year career sure does. Playing for five different teams, Anderson’s missed kick in the 1998 NFC Title game is the only blight on a long and prosperous career.

8. TOM NALEN (center, 1994-2008)
PICK: 218 overall, Denver
When John Elway led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins, each offensive play started with the ball coming from under Nalen’s butt. Nalen also demonstrated some incredible endurance, starting 188 games and finding his way into five Pro Bowls.

7. BROCK MARION (free safety, 1993-2004, 31 interceptions, 3 defensive touchdowns)
PICK: 196 overall, Dallas
Everyone forgets that Marion played a minor role on two championship Cowboys teams (though he had a pick in Super Bowl XXX, and six total that season). Marion is more often regarded as a Dolphin, where he had five picks in each of three straight seasons from 2000-2002, which included a 100 yard INT return for six.

6. LEON LETT (defensive tackle, 1991-2001, 22.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles)
PICK: 173 overall, Dallas
Boy, Jimmy Johnson sure could pick ‘em. When you forget Lett’s two infamous blunders in 1993 (the blown touchdown in the Super Bowl, and the Thanksgiving touch), you’re left with a reliable run stopper that helped Dallas take three Super Bowls, as well as earn himself a pair of Pro Bowl appearances.

5. MARQUES COLSTON (wide receiver, 2006-present, 33 receiving touchdowns, 4,074 yards)
PICK: 252 overall, New Orleans
Perhaps he’s rated a bit high, but keep in mind these stats are for just four seasons. Colston became an impact player in his rookie year, netting 70 grabs and 1,038 yards. His 168 catches in his first two seasons is an NFL record for rookie/sophomore campaigns. Though projected to end up a tight end in the NFL, Colston has since become one of the best overall receivers in today’s game.

[adinserter block=”1″]4. DONALD DRIVER (wide receiver, 1999-present, 49 receiving touchdowns, 9,050 receiving yards)
PICK: 213 overall, Green Bay
Coming from the football powerhouse of Alcorn State, Driver wasted no time in becoming perhaps Brett Favre’s most reliable target ever. In seven out of the last eight years, Driver’s gone over the 1000 yard mark, and has peaked at nine touchdowns in two different seasons. Though getting older, Driver still remains a viable option for young Aaron Rodgers.

3. MICHAEL MCCRARY (defensive end, 1993-2002, 71 sacks, 7 forced fumbles)
PICK: 170 overall, Seattle
After arriving in Baltimore in 1997 as a well-regarded pass rusher, McCrary joined Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Chris McAlister, and others in forming perhaps the greatest defense in the modern NFL era. In Baltimore alone, McCrary had 51 sacks over six seasons, one year in which he and the defense carried Trent Dilfer all the way to the Vince Lombardi trophy.

2. TJ HOUSHMANDZADEH (wide receiver, 2001-present, 40 receiving touchdowns, 6,693 receiving yards)
PICK: 204 overall, Cincinnati
Perhaps he went so long to be picked due to no one knowing how to say his name? Houshmandzadeh began to break out in the 2004 season, and has never had less than 900 yards in a season since. His 112 receptions in 2007 remains a club record, and he ended up with 12 touchdowns on the season. A roster cut by Seattle as of this writing, TJ won’t remain unemployed for long.

1. SHANNON SHARPE (tight end, 1990-2003, 62 receiving touchdowns, 10,060 receiving yards)
PICK: 192 overall, Denver
Considered by many to be the greatest tight end of this era, or perhaps any other, Sharpe was initially considered ‘too small’ to play the position. All he ended up doing was be an integral part of two Super Bowl champions in Denver, and later one in Baltimore. Sharpe went over 1000 yards three times in his career, and had ten touchdowns in a season twice. All that’s left now is the Hall of Fame.

Justin Henry is the owner and (currently) sole writer of Couch Groove Football. He can be found on and Twitter –

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  1. Good article, I forgot about a lot of those guys. Although, I wouldn't label James as "meddling" just because he has concern for the health of his son.


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