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We take a look back at one of college football's best classes.
By Jake Veyhl
Scan the list of the 2001 NFL Draft first-round selections below and you’ll probably recognize quite a few of the biggest names from college football. There are future Hall of Famers, franchise staples who are still with the organizations that drafted them and guys who have bounced around the league. And of course, there are a few busts.
All in all, the decision makers involved in the 2001 draft got it right. An astounding 19 of the 31 players selected in the first round in 2001 played football in 2010 or are signed for 2011. That’s nearly two out of every three picks, a remarkable percentage for a sport where injuries alone end many careers prematurely.
As for the picks themselves, check out these tidbits:
• Only one quarterback was selected, and you’ll probably feel some sort of emotional twinge when you see who it was.
• Still don’t think there was enough talent to go around? The first five picks of the second round included four Pro Bowlers: Drew Brees, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Alge Crumpler, Chad Johnson. If those guys lasted until the second round, there must have been some pretty good players ahead of them. Without further ado, turn the clock back 10 years and relive the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
1. Atlanta: Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech
’01-06, Falcons; ’09-present, Eagles
You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about Vick in the last 10 years. On the field, Vick proved to be a fantastic athlete with dual-threat capabilities that made him one of the most exciting players in the game. Though his win-loss record is far from the NFL’s elite, he’s a four-time Pro Bowler who in 2006 became the first NFL quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. But Vick’s biggest headlines were made off the field following that season. In August 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to funding a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in Virginia and was later sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. He returned to the NFL as a backup with the Eagles in 2009, and in 2010 won the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award after passing for more than 3,000 yards, rushing for more than 600 and accounting for 30 touchdowns. He’s returning as the Eagles’ starter on a one-year contract in 2011.
2. Arizona: Leonard Davis, G, Texas
’01-06, Cardinals; ’07-10, Cowboys
The Cardinals paid Davis handsomely for his services, but aside from simply starting nearly every game in his six seasons in the desert, the former Longhorn didn’t live up to his draft position. He alternated between left tackle and right guard for the Cards, but he didn’t find his groove in the NFL until the Cowboys permanently made him a guard. The Cowboys signed the 6'6", 350-pounder as a free agent and were rewarded with three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons from 2007-09. Davis, however, was released shortly after the lockout ended.
3. Cleveland: Gerard Warren, DT, Florida
’01-04, Browns; ’05-06, Broncos; ’07-09, Raiders; ’10-present, Patriots
Even though Warren is the only top-six pick from 2001 not to reach at least one Pro Bowl, he has still put together a respectable career. A reliable but unspectacular defensive tackle, Warren has played for four different teams in 10 years, amassing 35.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
4. Cincinnati: Justin Smith, DE, Missouri
’01-07, Bengals; ’08-present, 49ers
Following a rookie contract holdout, Smith hit the field and hasn’t left it since. A 16-game starter from his second season on, Smith posted a Bengals’ rookie record of 8.5 sacks that stood until 2010. For his career, he has averaged 67 tackles, 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble per season, making consecutive Pro Bowls with the 49ers in 2009-10. Signed through 2013 on a six-year, $45-million deal.
5. San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, TCU
’01-09, Chargers; ’10-present, Jets
One of the best running backs ever to play the game, Tomlinson will one day enter the Hall of Fame with an extended list of credentials. The 2006 MVP is currently sixth in career rushing yards (13,404) and yards from scrimmage (17,727), second in rushing touchdowns (144) and third in total touchdowns (159), among numerous other accomplishments. Tomlinson has earned five Pro Bowl berths, four first-team All-Pro selections and began his career with eight consecutive 1,100-yard rushing seasons. Will back up Shonn Greene in New York this season.
6. New England: Richard Seymour, DT, Georgia
’01-08, Patriots; ’09-present, Raiders
The Patriots hit it big by drafting Seymour with the sixth selection. In his first five seasons in the league, the Georgia product won three Super Bowls, went to four Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro three times by the Associated Press. He averaged nearly five sacks per season with the Patriots. Was traded to Oakland in 2009 where he made his sixth career Pro Bowl in 2010. Signed through 2012 with the Raiders, Seymour has a good shot at reaching Canton.
7. San Francisco: Andre Carter, DE, California
’01-05, 49ers; ’06-10, Redskins
Carter made the short trip from his college home in Berkeley to San Francisco but never quite lived up to lofty expectations. A standout pass-rusher at Cal, Carter has been a frustrating talent who never could string consecutive outstanding seasons together. In his 10 professional seasons, he’s registered at least 10.5 sacks three times but didn’t record more than 6.5 in the other seven. Never elected to the Pro Bowl, but in 149 games he has 66 sacks and 15 forced fumbles. Now a free agent after being released by the Redskins.
8. Chicago: David Terrell, WR, Michigan
’01-04, Bears; ’05 Broncos
Terrell recorded 1,602 yards and nine touchdowns in 53 games with the Bears. The first receiver taken in the draft, he certainly didn’t live up to expectations, but it’s hard to place all the blame on Terrell as the Bears’ passing game was in shambles. The organization shuffled through nine different starting quarterbacks while he was there. Injuries in Denver prevented his career from going further.
9. Seattle: Koren Robinson, WR, N.C. State
’01-04, Seahawks; ’05, Vikings; ’06-07, Packers; ’08, Seahawks
Troubles with alcohol and other off-field issues kept Robinson from living up to his potential. In his second year in the league, Robinson tallied a career-best 1,240 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and in ’05 he made the Pro Bowl with the Vikings as a kick returner. His career was marred by numerous run-ins with the law, jail time and a one-year suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Interestingly, during his second stint with the Seahawks, Robinson caught a 90-yard touchdown pass, the longest in franchise history.
10. Green Bay: Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State
Reynolds takes the cake as the biggest bust of the top-10 draft picks. A star pass-rusher at Florida State, Reynolds was hounded by knee injuries in his first two seasons, and a lack of ability brought his NFL career to a quick halt. His career ended after only 18 games (none started), three sacks and two forced fumbles.
11. Carolina: Dan Morgan, OLB, Miami
An excellent linebacker whenever he played, Morgan had a difficult time just staying on the field. In seven seasons with the Panthers, he averaged fewer than nine games played due to a variety of ailments. There’s no question Carolina’s defense was better when he was in the lineup. The organization made its first-ever Super Bowl during his third season. Morgan’s best season came in 2004 with 102 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and two recoveries, all in only 12 games.
12. St. Louis: Damione Lewis, DT, Miami
’01-05, Rams; ’06-09, Panthers; ’10, Texans
Lewis isn’t often the guy you hear broadcasters raving about, but he’s survived in the NFL for 10 years as a big-bodied run-stuffer. A starter for less than half of the 141 games in which he’s appeared, Lewis has accumulated 23.5 career sacks, four forced fumbles and five recoveries for three separate teams.
13. Jacksonville: Marcus Stroud, DT, Georgia
’01-07, Jaguars; ’08-10, Bills; Present, Patriots
Stroud was considered one of the league’s premier defensive tackles during his heyday with the Jaguars when he teamed with John Henderson to form an imposing interior D-line. Stroud reached three consecutive Pro Bowls from ’03-05 and ended his Jags career with 22 sacks and 22 passes defensed in 100 games. Traded to Buffalo, where he quickly became the best player on one of the league’s worst defenses. Was signed and then released this offseason by New England.
14. Tampa Bay: Kenyatta Walker, T, Florida
Walker started all 16 games at left tackle as a rookie, then moved over to the right side, where he started 56 games from 2002-05. Though never considered a great player, he was a productive part of the Bucs team that won the Super Bowl following the ’02 season. A knee injury cut his ’06 season short after three games and essentially ended his NFL career.
15. Washington: Rod Gardner, WR, Clemson
’01-04, Redskins; ’05, Panthers, Packers; ’06, Chiefs
The Redskins pegged Gardner as their impact player in the receiving game. A starter from the beginning, Garner averaged 16.1 yards per catch in his rookie year and broke the 1,000-yard mark in ’02, Steve Spurrier’s first as coach. That breakout season was the high point of his career as he recorded only 600 and 650 yards in ’03 and ’04, respectively. Traded to Carolina before the ’05 season but didn’t make an impact there or at his final two stops.
16. N.Y. Jets: Santana Moss, WR, Miami
’01-04, Jets; ’05-10, Redskins
A small (5'10"), but speedy receiver, Moss has topped 1,000 yards in a season four times with career totals of 593 receptions, 8,558 yards and 52 touchdowns. Has also scored three times and averaged 11.3 yards on 112 career punt returns. Moss made his only Pro Bowl appearance in ’05 after posting a career-best 1,483 yards receiving. Re-signed with the Redskins this offseason.
17. Seattle: Steve Hutchinson, G, Michigan
’01-05, Seahawks; ’06-present, Vikings
One of the best interior linemen ever to play, Hutchinson has put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career that included seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and five AP first-team All-Pro selections from ’03-09. Hutchinson blocked for 2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander and played in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XL loss to the Steelers that season. Signed with the Vikings through 2012.
18. Detroit: Jeff Backus, T, Michigan
The second consecutive Michigan offensive lineman drafted, Backus has never been recognized as a Pro Bowler like Hutchinson, but he’s been a steady presence as the Lions’ left tackle each and every week for the last 10 years, starting in all 160 possible games during that stretch. The Lions have him locked up through 2011.
19. Pittsburgh: Casey Hampton, NT, Texas
Hampton is a beast of a man (6'1", 320) who has been clogging up running lanes for the Steelers since he was drafted. A prototypical nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, Hampton has produced far beyond his nine career sacks in 144 games. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion will continue to create opportunities for the Steelers’ linebackers in 2011.
20. St. Louis: Adam Archuleta, SS, Arizona State
’01-05, Rams; ’06, Redskins; ’07, Bears
Archuleta recorded three interceptions, five fumble recoveries and three touchdowns during his five years with the Rams. He parlayed that decent — but far from elite — tenure into a six-year, $30 million contract with Washington before the ’06 season — the richest for a safety in NFL history at the time. Oddly, though, he didn’t seem to be in the coaches’ plans and played only one year in D.C. before being traded to Chicago, where he lasted just one year before being released.
21. Buffalo: Nate Clements, CB, Ohio State
’01-06, Bills; ’07-10, 49ers; '11, Bengals
A 2004 Pro Bowler, Clements made plays all over the field during his six-year tenure with Buffalo. He intercepted 23 passes, forced 13 fumbles and scored five touchdowns on defense while scoring twice more as a punt returner. That success led the 49ers to make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in the game with an eight-year, $80 million contract. Was released by the 49ers and signed by the Bengals this offseason.
22. N.Y. Giants: Will Allen, CB, Syracuse
’01-05, Giants; ’06-present, Dolphins
A notably competitive corner, Allen has started all but one of the 125 games he’s appeared in during his career, recording 15 interceptions, one touchdown and an impressive 106 passes defensed with two teams. Allen missed the entire ’10 season following knee surgery but will return to the Dolphins’ secondary — though probably not as a starter — with a restructured contract in 2011.
23. New Orleans: Deuce McAllister, RB, Ole Miss
McAllister battled injuries throughout his career but still ended as the Saints’ all-time leading rusher. The two-time Pro Bowler posted four 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-high 1,641 in ’03, en route to a career total of 6,096 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns. He added 1,720 yards and five touchdowns through the air. McAllister continues to be a Saints fan favorite, and the organization made him an honorary captain of the NFC Championship Game following the ’09 season.
24. Denver: Willie Middlebrooks, CB, Minnesota
’01-04, Broncos; ’05, 49ers
One of the few busts in the draft, Middlebrooks started only two games in his NFL career and earned much of his playing time on special teams. Issues off the field, including a 2005 New Year’s Day assault charge, helped expedite his exit from the league. Latched on with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, where he was a starter at cornerback from ’08-10.
25. Philadelphia: Freddie Mitchell, WR, UCLA
An outspoken receiver known as “FredEx”, Mitchell is best known for catching the Eagles’ 4th-and-26 pass in the final minute of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against Green Bay following the ’03 season, which the Eagles won in overtime. Also part of the Eagles’ ’04 Super Bowl team. His subpar career ended with 90 receptions for 1,263 yards and five touchdowns.
26. Miami: Jamar Fletcher, DB, Wisconsin
’01-03, Dolphins; ’04-05, Chargers; ’06, Lions; ’07, Texans; ’08, Bengals
Played eight years in the league for five different teams but never became a full-time starter. In 105 games (12 starts), Fletcher recorded seven interceptions, 26 passes defensed and 193 tackles. Best season came with the Lions in ’06, when he picked off three passes, scored his only career touchdown and recovered one fumble.
27. Minnesota: Michael Bennett, RB, Wisconsin
’01-05, Vikings; ’06-07, Chiefs; ’07-08, Bucs; ’08-09, Chargers; ’10, Raiders
Bennett became a Pro Bowl running back in his second season, posting 1,296 yards and five touchdowns with the Vikings. Since then, he’s remained in the league by becoming one of the NFL’s most reliable third down options, playing for four different teams after his rookie contract expired with the Vikings. Currently a free agent with career totals of 3,703 rushing yards, 1,294 receiving yards and 19 total touchdowns.
28. Oakland: Derrick Gibson, DB, Florida State
This selection was particularly painful for Raiders’ fans considering the productive careers of the players chosen immediately afterward. Injuries and ineffectiveness limited Gibson’s career in Oakland. The Florida State product played five seasons at safety (missing the entire ’04 campaign), recording 194 tackles, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed and one forced fumble.
29. St. Louis: Ryan Pickett, DT, Ohio State
’01-05, Rams; ’06-present, Packers
Pickett became a starter in his second season with the Rams and has been a productive part of the defensive lines of both the Rams and Packers since. The 6'2", 340-pounder has recorded 454 tackles and 9.5 sacks in his career and was a key part of the Packers’ Super Bowl championship run during the 2010 season. Signed through 2013.
30. Indianapolis: Reggie Wayne, WR, Miami
The best receivers of all time often go hand-in-hand with the best quarterbacks. Wayne is no different, matching up with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis since he became the fourth Miami Hurricane drafted in the first round in 2001. A five-time Pro Bowler who stepped out of Marvin Harrison’s shadow to become the Colts’ No. 1 target, he has topped 1,000 yards in seven consecutive seasons. Wayne continues to climb up the career receiving charts with 10,748 yards, 69 touchdowns and a Super Bowl championship in his pocket. Entering the final year of his contract.
31. Baltimore: Todd Heap, TE, Arizona State
The then-reigning Super Bowl champions selected Heap with the final pick of the first round, and he didn’t disappoint, remaining an integral part of the Ravens’ offense throughout the entire decade. Heap is a two-time Pro Bowl tight end with more than 5,400 career receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. Was released by the Ravens following the lockout.
First 5 Picks of Second Round
1. Drew Brees, QB, Chargers
2. Quincy Morgan, WR, Browns
3. Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE, Cardinals
4. Alge Crumpler, TE, Falcons
5. Chad Johnson, WR, Bengals
Late Round Notables
3. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
4. Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals
4. Ryan Diem, RT, Colts
7. Renaldo Hill, DB, Cardinals
7. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals