With the 2017 draft just a few months away, it got me thinking how quickly time can fly. Ten years have flown by as I can distinctly remember a then 15 year old me studying up on the 2007 class of prospects. Looking back, not only have I grown as a football fan, but it was also a very interesting group of players. No franchise quarterbacks emerged, but for a period of time you could say that the league’s best running back, wide receiver, left tackle, linebacker and cornerback all came from that draft. To commemorate the ten year anniversary, I will be recapping the 32 first round selections through four installments of eight and see how the players fared at the next level. In hindsight, it should be very interesting to see the results and once again show that the NFL Draft is an inexact science.
1. Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU: There are very few quarterbacks that have entered the NFL with the physical gifts of Russell. His combination of sheer size and arm strength is a package that was too enticing for Al Davis who was never one to shy away from physical specimen to pass over. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. After a holdout that led into his rookie season, he spent the majority of that year on the bench under rookie head coach Lane Kiffin (who could have his own ten year recap in his own right) appearing in four games and starting one.
2008 was Russell’s first and only year as the Raiders full time starter playing in 15 games. He had made some strides that season, but 2009 was where it all fell apart. In that season Russell played in 12 games, started nine and completed less than 50 percent of his passes throwing three touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also finished that year third on the quarterback depth chart behind Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye. That also ended up being Russell’s last taste of NFL action as he showed up to offseason workouts in 2010 weighing close to 300 pounds, and in May of that year the Raiders eventually released him.
Later in 2010, Russell was arrested for codeine possession without a prescription which put a damper on immediate comeback attempts. While he most notably tried a comeback in 2013, Russell was not given able to catch on with a team although some expressed interest. Some feel that questions regarding work ethic could have played a role. Despite Russell beings selected by the Raiders in a time where it would have been tough for almost any young quarterback to succeed, the culmination of everything led to him going down as one of the bigger draft busts in recent memory.
2. Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech: Johnson was the fourth receiver drafted by Matt Millen in the first round within a five year stretch, but his sheer dominance proved that once again a broken clock is in fact right twice a day. Still the gold standard of receiver prospects a decade later, Johnson was a can’t miss player entering the league and somehow exceeded the hype.
At 6’5, 235 pounds with 4.3 speed and a 43 inch vertical, the player who became known as “Megatron” terrorized defenses throughout his nine year career. In that span, Johnson hauled in 731 passes for 11,619 yards (good for 27th all time when he retired) and 83 receiving touchdowns. With the production also came the accolades as Johnson was a six time Pro Bowler and was a first team All-Pro on three occasions. In 2012, he also broke Jerry Rice’s record for most receiving yards in a single season with 1,964 which still stands.
Johnson surprised many by retiring after his age 30 season in 2015 as he still had plenty left in the tank. Due to his size, Johnson was susceptible to hits to his knees, and after a while even for an all time great the physical toll football takes on a body just might not become worth it. Even though the process can drag on for receivers, Johnson certainly is deserving to see his name amongst the all time greats in Canton, Ohio one day.
3. Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas, T Wisconsin: When analysts say drafting a franchise left tackle can have a team set for a decade, Thomas is exactly what you look for. Despite the constant roster turnover around him in Cleveland, Thomas’ play is one thing the franchise has been able to count on and he hasn’t slowed down. Through ten seasons, he has made ten Pro Bowls and is a six time first team All-Pro. In short, Thomas has been everything you could ask and more from a tackle. While some in the media might cite a lack of team success throughout his career, it would be a travesty if he isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gaines Adams, DE Clemson: Leading up to the 2007 draft, one of the hottest rumors was regarding a possible swap between the Lions and Buccaneers centered around Calvin Johnson and Adams. A unanimous college All American in 2006, Adams was the consensus top pass rusher available and he showed some of that promise in his first two seasons where he recorded 12.5 sacks.
In the middle of the 2009 season, the Buccaneers traded Adams to the Bears for a 2010 second round pick. That pick oddly enough swapped hands multiple times and was used by the Patriots to select Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately in January of 2010, Adams passed away due to an enlarged heart which had gone previously undetected at just 26 years old.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Levi Brown, T Penn State: After drafting Matt Leinart in the first round just a year before, the Cardinals wanted to shore up their offensive line. It’s also worth noting there was talk that the team was considering Adrian Peterson here, and the thought of Peterson in the backfield paired with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin out wide just makes me woozy.
Brown was in the NFL for seven seasons but played in six as torn triceps led him to be placed on injured reserve in 2012. After six seasons with the Cardinals, he was traded to the Steelers in 2013 where he played six games before once again tearing his triceps. That ended up being his final season in the NFL. While he wasn’t a dominant force that a team would expect from a top five pick, it is worth noting that Brown was a plus run blocker, and for the average player a seven year career is nothing to scoff at.
6. Washington Redskins: LaRon Landry, S LSU: A hard hitting physical specimen, the Redskins had big plans when they selected Landry to play strong safety alongside the ascending Sean Taylor. That duo was unfortunately short lived as Taylor was tragically killed in November of 2007. Due to his speed, Landry frequently showed some impressive range in both rush and pass defense. However, his Redskins career had an interesting ending as both his 2010 and 11 seasons were ended due to an Achilles tendon injury that he decided to treat with stem cell treatment rather than surgery.
Landry then signed a one year deal with the Jets in 2012 which was also his first Pro Bowl selection as a pro. He parlayed that into a four year deal with the Colts, but his tenure there is unfortunately best known for the numerous failed tests of the NFL performance enhancing drug policy. Even before the failed tests, there were whispers Landry could have been on something as photos from offseason workouts showed he was a hulking figure even amongst his peers. In November of 2015, Landry was suspended indefinitely by the league for a third failed test. Now 32 years old at the time of this writing, Landry has likely played his final NFL down.
7. Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma: From the time he was a freshman at Oklahoma, it was readily apparent that Peterson had a very bright future at the next level. He wasted no time showing it as he had 1,341 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on a whopping 5.6 yards a carry making him the clear choice for rookie of the year honors. That season included a 296 yard performance which is the record for most rushing yards in a single game.
In 2008, the Vikings made him their feature back and he responded in a big way recording his first of three rushing titles with 1,760 yards. His best work came in 2012 which happened to come less than a year after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL and MCL. Most backs would never be the same after those injuries, but Peterson responded with 2,097 yards on six yards a carry. That year also led to Peterson being named league MVP. The next four seasons are where it gets interesting for Peterson, as he has had two with his typical greatness, and then two where he played a combined four games.
The first shortened year occurred in 2014 where he was suspended as a result of a child abuse charges against him in what was one of the talking points of that NFL season. In 2015 however, Peterson was back as usual and led the league in rushing yards. This past campaign Peterson played in only three games as a result of a torn meniscus, but even beforehand he was struggling averaging less than two yards a carry. Due to the cap figure, there is a chance 2016 could have been Peterson’s last in a Vikings uniform.
To this point, Peterson’s 11,747 rushing yards rank 16th all time and he is less than 700 away from a spot in the top ten. With six Pro Bowl selections to go along with being named a first team All-Pro four times, Peterson should see himself in Canton eventually as the premier back of his era.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Jamaal Anderson, DE Arkansas: The Falcons acquired this pick after a trade with the Texans in which the teams swapped first rounders, and the Falcons traded their then backup quarterback Matt Schaub. At that point, Schaub had made all of 2 career NFL starts, so teams going all in to acquire quarterbacks off of small sample sizes certainly isn’t a new trend.
As a pass rusher, Anderson didn’t live up to the billing as he registered just 4.5 sacks in four years with the Falcons before they released him. He went on to play for the Colts in 2011 where he recorded three sacks which was a career high, before ultimately playing his final games with the Bengals in 2012.