We have now reached the final installment of my “The 2007 Draft at ten” series. After going through the first round of this draft, it is certainly an interesting one to look back on as like any draft, it has a little bit of everything. While there are players who ascended to the highest of highs during their times as players, there are also draft busts of epic proportions. This last group of eight was very intriguing to me. Five of the eight players featured were selected to at least one Pro Bowl, with a few even earning some All-Pro accolades. Some of the players mentioned are still active and producing at a high level, but others are evidence of how quickly the lifespan of an NFL career can come to end. The other three installments of this series can be found here.
25. Carolina Panthers: Jon Beason, LB Miami (FL): Entering the draft, Beason appeared to be to next in line to continue the trend of great linebackers from “the U”. The early results were extremely promising. After a rookie campaign that would of taken defensive rookie of the year in most seasons, Beason was the runner up to Patrick Willis. He proved it wasn’t a fluke with the best stretch of his career in 2008-10. In that span, Beason made three Pro Bowls and was a first team All Pro in 2008 while being named to the second team in 2009.
Due to the extremely strong start to his career, the Panthers in 2011 agreed to terms with Beason on a deal to make him the highest paid middle linebacker in league history. Unfortunately, here is where we get to the point that football can be a cruel game. In the first game of the 2011 season, Beason suffered a torn Achilles tendon ending his season before it began. The Panthers in the first round of the 2012 draft then selected a linebacker by the name of Luke Kuechly who early on made it known he was a very special talent at Beason’s position. Beason only played four games in the 2012 season with the Panthers and was traded in the middle of 2013 to the Giants. Beason recorded 93 total tackles in the 12 games he played with the Giants in 2013, and it looked like he could slowly be rounding back into form after his Achilles injury.
That was never fully the case as Beason spent the 2014 preseason and some of the season dealing with a fractured bone in his toe before ultimately needing season ending surgery after only playing in four games. In 2015, Beason only played in five games before being placed on injured reserve. He also needed offseason knee surgery and noted at the time that he might retire if his body didn’t respond to rehab. That’s what ended up happening as Beason retired in February of 2016.
Considering his production and the accolades he earned right away, it’s fair to wonder what Beason could of been if he didn’t have to deal with the injuries he did. There’s also a chance that it drastically could of changed the Panthers franchise as they might not of selected Kuechly if Beason a then perennial Pro Bowler wasn’t coming off of a torn Achilles. While Beason had a very nice nine year run, he serves as another reminder that while football can bring along things like fortune and fame, the wear and tear players deal with can bring that to an end at anytime.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer, DE Purdue: After a very impressive senior season at Purdue, the Cowboys liked enough of what they saw to select Spencer and initially convert him to outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. While he started off as a rotational player in his first two seasons, he made a big impact in his first full year as a starter playing well against the run and getting to opposing quarterbacks.
That type of production continued and culminated in a 2012 breakout campaign. In that season, Spencer made his only career Pro Bowl by recording a personal best 11 sacks and continuing as a disruptor in the running game. Unfortunately, the upward trajectory didn’t continue for Spencer. After having the franchise tag put on him for a second year in a row, Spencer’s 2013 season came to a quick halt after it became known he needed microfracture knee surgery.
The Cowboys did bring Spencer back on a one year deal, but it took him a little bit of time to get fully back to form as a situational player. That form was on display as he was key disruptor in the Cowboys playoff victory over the Lions in 2014. In need of defensive line help, the Saints signed Spencer to a one year deal but was placed on injured reserve before the season began. Spencer was not with a team in 2016, so assuming that is the end, he finished up with a very serviceable career as a player who could stop the run and get to the quarterback. For his career, Spencer had 33 career sacks.
27. New Orleans Saints: Robert Meachem, WR Tennessee: Coming off an NFC Championship season, Meachem’s addition looked to make a talented Saints offense even more explosive. At 6’2″ with sub 4.4 speed, he offered yet another big play vertical threat with the ability to play on the outside opposite Marques Colston. Due to a knee procedure, Meachem missed all of his rookie season but got more involved with the Saints offense as time went on.
In 2008, Meachem wasn’t utilized often but was extremely efficient catching 12 of the 20 passes thrown his way for 289 yards (a 24.3 per catch average!) and three touchdowns. He saw a bigger role on the Saints team that won the Super Bowl in 2009 producing his best season as a pro. In that season, Meachem caught 45 of the 64 passes thrown his way for 722 yards and nine touchdowns. While his production game to game was inconsistent, he was clearly developing into the big play threat the team envisioned. The production continued for the 2010 and ’11 seasons before Meachem signed a free agent deal with the Chargers in 2012. In San Diego, Meachem figured to help replace the then recently departed Vincent Jackson, but things didn’t go according to plan. Meachem caught only 14 of the 32 passes thrown his way for 207 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers released him before the 2013 season began even though he was already guaranteed money and had three years left on his deal.
Meachem then made a return to New Orleans where he played the 2013 and ’14 seasons as a situational deep threat. While he was brought in for a look by the Lions and 2015, along with the Saints this past season, he was unable to catch back on with a team. Meachem was most recently in the news this February for being sentenced to serve 30 days in jail for failing to pay what was reported nearly $400,000 in child support. For his career, Meachem caught 178 passes for 2,914 yards and 27 touchdowns.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Joe Staley, T Central Michigan: When we look back at what started the 49ers run in the earlier part of this decade, the 2007 draft could be a big part of what helped jumpstart the team. Not only did they find a special middle linebacker in Patrick Willis in the first round, but also a cornerstone left tackle in Staley. While he had proven serviceable in pass protection and as a run blocker early in his career, Staley really turned it on in his fifth season. Not coincidentally, that 2011 season was also the first year of that 49ers stretch.
In those five years, Staley proved to be a premier left tackle and was named to the Pro Bowl five straight seasons, while being named second team All-Pro three years in that stretch. Staley still showed in 2016 that he was one of the league’s best in terms of run blocking despite missing three games due to a hamstring injury. While the 49ers could be in for a lengthy rebuild, it’s nice knowing they have stability at one of the most important positions in the game.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Ben Grubbs, G Auburn: Under Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have continuously been one of the best teams at drafting in the league. The selection of Grubbs certainly did not hurt their case. Despite being relatively new to the position coming into the league, Grubbs was able to hold his own as a rookie and continuously got better with time. While he struggled initially as a run blocker, Grubbs improved that part of his game and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2011.
In March of 2012, Grubbs left the Ravens as a free agent and signed a five year deal with the Saints. Grubbs played three of those years with the Saints and was named to one Pro Bowl in that span. In the 2015 offseason, the Saints faced a cap crunch and decided to trade Grubbs to the Chiefs for a fifth round pick. Unfortunately, seven games into his Chiefs tenure Grubbs suffered a season ending neck injury which led to the Chiefs releasing him in March of 2016. There were reports at that time saying that the injury was likely career ending which would make sense as if healthy, Grubbs was still showing enough to still have teams calling for his services.
Even though Grubbs’ career was cut short, lasting nine years in the NFL and being one of the best at your position during that time is something to take great pride in. In a draft that produced some very good players at the end of the first round, Grubbs may get lost in the shuffle when looking back on this class, but he should certainly be part of the conversation.
30. San Diego Chargers: Craig Davis, WR LSU: Playing with JaMarcus Russell and starting opposite Dwayne Bowe at LSU, “Buster” Davis showed the ability as a pass catcher and punt returner to make the Chargers select him in the first round. While the talent was there, unfortunately Davis’ body just wouldn’t fully cooperate.
In his rookie season, Davis was used as a reserve but hauled in 20 of the 34 passes thrown his way 188 yards and a touchdown. Over the next two seasons, he played just five games as a groin injury shortened his 2008 season and was often a healthy scratch in 2009. In 2010, Davis was showing some flashes, and caught 21 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Yet again though, the injury bug struck as another groin injury put him on injured reserve.
The Chargers released Davis in 2011 and he attempted to catch on with the Bills in that same year but injuries once again got in the way. For his career, Davis caught 51 passes for 558 yards and two touchdowns over four seasons. While injuries certainly played a part, fairly or not he is going to be remembered as one of the more underwhelming first round receiver choices in recent memory.
31. Chicago Bears: Greg Olsen, TE Miami (FL): Olsen was the only tight end selected in the first round of this draft and throughout his career has certainly lived up the billing. In the first two years of his Bears career, Olsen played in 30 games starting 11 but was still involved in the offense catching 93 passes for 965 yards and seven touchdowns in that span. Those numbers saw an uptick in 2009 as Olsen had a nice rapport with newly acquired quarterback Jay Cutler. In that season, Olsen caught 60 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much else of what Olsen would do with Cutler as the Bears brought in Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator in 2010. With Martz being famous for not having tight ends involved in the passing game, Olsen saw his numbers regress as the targets his way drastically declined and caught 41 passes for 404 yards and five touchdowns. In the 2011 offseason, the Bears traded Olsen to the Panthers for a 2012 third round pick in an effort to give their new franchise quarterback Cam Newton a safety valve in the passing game.
This traded ended up being a huge win for the Panthers as Olsen has not only seen an increase in targets each of his years with the Panthers, but he continues to perform at an extremely high level. In his last three seasons alone, Olsen has been named second team All-Pro twice, and selected to three Pro Bowls. That includes three straight years of over 1,000 yards which even in a pass heavy league is very impressive for a tight end. Entering his age 32 season, Olsen should continue to be a focal point of the Panthers offense in 2017 and beyond.
32. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Gonzalez, WR Ohio State: Coming off a Super Bowl win, the Colts wanted to add another weapon to Peyton Manning’s arsenal and thought they had it in Gonzalez. The first two years with the Colts went according to plan for Gonzalez and the Colts. In that span, he served as a secondary receiving option behind Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, but hauled in 99 passes for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns. Also impressive was that Gonzalez caught over 70 percent of the passes thrown his way in those two years.
Unfortunately, from that point on injuries came into effect and Gonzalez played in only 11 games from 2009 through 2011. After week one of 2009, Gonzalez needed an arthroscopic knee surgery which ended up getting him placed on injured reserve. In 2010, Gonzalez now say himself as fourth on the receiver pecking order as both Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie had emerged in his absence. That season he played just two games catching five passes for 67 yards as he missed extended time with a high ankle sprain before being placed on injured reserve for a PCL injury. In 2011, Gonzalez played in eight games but only had two passes thrown in his direction.
The Colts informed Gonzalez in the 2012 offseason they would not be bringing him back for his fifth season and ended up getting signed by the Patriots less than a week later. While it seemed like a low risk, high reward option for both sides, the team let Gonzalez go in May of 2012. Many believe this was due to the numerous injuries to his knees sapping his speed and short burst. In another world, Gonzalez probably has a long career as one of the more effective receivers the league. Unfortunately in football stories like this are just the nature of the beast.