Hitting On 21

Posted Mar 15, 2011

A complete run-down of the 11 players selected 21st overall since 2000

If selecting 21st the NFL Draft is known for anything, it might be movement.

Sitting on or around the 21st pick has traditionally been a good place to swing a deal should a team choose to explore that route. If not, teams sitting on number 21 can take comfort in the recent history surrounding the pick. It’s arguable that the draft position is hitting over 80% since 2000.

This year, the Chiefs are the original holder of pick number 21.

Overall, four Pro Bowlers have come out of the 21st position during the past 11 drafts and, at a minimum, nine of those 11 picks went on to become regular starters for multiple seasons.

Of the 11 players selected 21st overall since 2000, just two are widely considered as busts. Both of those players were wide receivers and, unfortunately, one is former Chief Sylvester Morris.

With draft day coming up next month for the Chiefs, have a look at what the 21st pick has yielded in recent years.

Year: 2010

Player: TE Jermaine Gresham (Oklahoma)

Teams: Bengals (2010-present)

Years Active: 2010-present

Games Played (Started): 15 (10)

Stat Line: 52 catches for 471 yards with 4 TDs

Pro Bowls: 0

Despite missing his entire senior season at Oklahoma because of a knee injury, Gresham still entered the 2010 draft as the cream of the crop at the tight end position. It wasn’t a surprise when the Bengals made him the first pick at the position and the only tight end selected in the first round.  After just one season, it’s still too early to tell what type of player Gresham will become, but it looks like the Bengals landed a good one.

Year: 2009

Player: C Alex Mack (California)

Teams: Browns (2009-present)

Years Active: 2009-present

Games Played (Started): 32 (32)

Stat Line: N/A

Pro Bowls: 1 (2010)

Mack has started every game for the Browns since Cleveland selected him two years ago and earned his first Pro Bowl invite in 2010. He was the first interior lineman off the board in 2009 and the fourth lineman selected overall. Drafted ahead of Mack were tackles Jason Smith (2nd), Andre Smith (6th) and Eugene Monroe (8th).

Year: 2008

Player: T Sam Baker (USC)

Teams: Falcons (2008-present)

Years Active: 2008-present

Games Played (Started): 38 (35)

Stat Line: N/A

Pro Bowls: 0

Not a household name when it comes to offensive tackles, but Baker is effective none the less. Baker has started all 30 games he’s played in over the past two seasons, protecting Matt Ryan’s blind side and helping the Falcons become one of the league’s top offensive units.

Year: 2007

Player: S Reggie Nelson (Florida)

Teams: Jaguars (2007-09); Bengals (2010-present)

Years Active: 2007-present

Games Played (Started): 61 (48)

Stat Line: 227 tackles, 9 INTs, 27 PDs, 1.0 sack, 3 FFs and 1 FR

Pro Bowls: 0

Nelson came out of the gates hot, starting 15 games and setting a Jaguars rookie record with five INTs in 2007, but he’s only posted four INTs since. Nelson was a regular in the Jacksonville defensive backfield before being traded to Cincinnati in 2010 for CB David Jones (a fifth round pick in 2007).

Year: 2006

Player: RB Laurence Maroney (Minnesota)

Teams: Patriots (2006-09); Broncos (2010-present)

Years Active: 2006-present

Games Played (Started): 49 (17)

Stat Line: 618 carries for 2,504 yards with 21 TDs

44 catches for 459 yards with 1 TD

Pro Bowls: 0

Maroney spent the majority of his time in New England as a serviceable player. Though he never recorded a 1,000-yard season, Maroney did lead the Patriots rushing attack for two seasons (2007 and 2009). His most productive year came in 2007 as the primary rusher on New England’s 16-0 team (185 carries for 835 yards). In September, the Patriots traded Maroney and a sixth-round pick to Denver for a fourth-rounder in 2011.

Year: 2005

Player: WR Matt Jones (Arkansas)

Teams: Jaguars (2005-09); Bengals (2010)

Years Active: 2005-08

Games Played (Started): 54 (15)

Stat Line: 166 catches for 2,153 yards with 15 TDs

14 carries for 36 yards

Pro Bowls: 0

Off-field issues can turn an extremely talented player into a bust. This was the case with Jones, who was arrested on felony drug charges in the summer of 2008. Jones would play that season and post the best numbers of his career (65 catches for 761 yards), but was arrested again in the spring of 2009 after a failed drug test. He hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since and his career as a professional football player looks to be over.

Year: 2004

Player: DL Vince Wilfork (Miami)

Teams: Patriots (2004-present)

Years Active: 2004-present

Games Played (Started): 106 (96)

Stat Line: 361 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 13 PDs, 1 FF and 6 FRs

Pro Bowls: 3 (2009, 2009-10)

Without question, Wilfork is the best player to be drafted at number 21 over the past decade. The three-time Pro Bowler is a rarity in the middle and the anchor of New England’s 3-4 defense. He was franchised in 2010 before signing a five-year contract to remain with the Pats.

Year: 2003

Player: C Jeff Faine (Notre Dame)

Teams: Browns (2003-05); Saints (2006-07); Buccaneers (2008-present)

Years Active: 2003-present

Games Played (Started): 102 (102)

Stat Line: N/A

Pro Bowls: 1 (2007)

Though he’s been plagued by injuries each of the past two seasons, Faine has put together a solid NFL career and also serves as a team captain in Tampa Bay. Scheduled to make $4.575 million next season, Faine remains one of the good guys of NFL football as he’s involved in numerous philanthropic events each year. He’s also performed at a Pro Bowl level.

Year: 2002

Player: TE Daniel Graham (Colorado)

Teams: Patriots (2002-06); Broncos (2007-present)

Years Active: 2002-present

Games Played (Started): 126 (110)

Stat Line: 222 catches for 2,465 yards with 24 TDs

Pro Bowls: 0

The 2002 NFL Draft was loaded with talented tight ends, seeing Graham, Jeremy Shockey and Jerramy Stevens all go off the board in the first round. Shockey was the first tight end off the board at #14 and has yielded the most production. Graham was second to go and has been more than a reliable player at the position for many years. The troubled Stevens, who was selected 28th, is out of the league.

Year: 2001

Player: CB Nate Clements (Ohio State)

Teams: Bills (2001-06); 49ers (2007-present)

Years Active: 2001-present

Games Played (Started): 150 (144)

Stat Line: 714 tackles, 33 INTs, 127 PDs, 3.5 sacks, 20 FFs and 6 FRs

Pro Bowls: 1 (2004)

Clements is entering the twilight of his career, but the above stat line speaks for itself. He’s been a 16-game starter for most of his career and inked a massive eight-year, $80 million contract before the 2007 season. No matter which way you cut it, 33 INTs and 20 FFs justify his selection at 21st overall.

Year: 2000

Player: WR Sylvester Morris (Jackson State)

Teams: Chiefs (2000-03); Buccaneers (2004)

Years Active: 2000

Games Played (Started): 15 (14)

Stat Line: 48 catches for 678 yards with 3 TDs

Pro Bowls: 0

What type of player would Morris had been if it weren’t for his vulnerable knees? Unfortunately, we’ll never know and that’s too bad. “Sly-Mo” blew out his knee during Dick Vermeil’s first off-season and is forever labeled a draft day bust because of it.

After turning in an admirable rookie campaign, the beginning of Morris’ knee issues occurred during mini-camp’s final offensive series in 2001. It was the first in a long line of leg injures for the wide receiver.

Morris was lost for 2001 and missed all of 2002 after suffering a setback. In 2003, Morris landed on IR with a hip injury before he was eventually waived. He staged a comeback with the Bucs in 2004, but tore his ACL while running untouched across the field during a practice that summer. He’d retire with just 15 NFL games to his credit.

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