Following New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman’s retirement, the topic now shifts to where he ranks amongst the NFL‘s best players. While his Hall of Fame candidacy is up for debate, where does Edelman rank amongst the best seventh-round draft picks of all time? Could we see any players from the 2021 NFL Draft class on this list in the future?
Julian Edelman proved where you’re drafted does not mean everything
Far too often, we think that a team’s success hinges on first-round picks. Sure, it helps if you don’t miss, but what builds championship-caliber teams is finding gems later in the draft. Edelman is the prime example of this, as he proved no matter where you are selected in the NFL Draft, talent and work ethic trump your draft slot.
The MVP of Super Bowl LIII, Edelman was one of the cornerstones of the Patriots’ dynasty through the 2010s. Edelman ranks second in Patriots history in receptions (670), fourth in receiving yards (6,822), and ninth in touchdowns (36).
Where he made his money, though, was in the playoffs. A three-time Super Bowl champion, his 118 postseason receptions and 1,442 career postseason yards are second all-time. He is fourth all-time in Super Bowl receiving yards with 337. Not bad for a QB out of Kent State who was drafted at No. 232 overall.
We can table the Hall of Fame worthiness debate for another day. For now, let’s focus on where Edelman ranks among the best seventh-round picks in NFL history.
The best seventh-round NFL Draft picks of all-time
10) Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, St. Louis Rams, 2005
A journeyman in every sense of the word, no list of the best seventh-round NFL draft picks would be complete without Ryan Fitzpatrick. Spanning over 16 seasons, Fitzpatrick has one of the most interesting careers after bouncing around nine different franchises. Making 146 career starts, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 34,977 yards and 223 touchdowns.
9) Gary Anderson, K, Buffalo Bills
Playing in 23 seasons, Gary Anderson goes down as one of the best seventh-round draft picks in NFL history. Seeing time on five different teams over his career, Anderson made four Pro Bowls and ranks third on the NFL’s all-time points list.
8) Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots, 2009
Without question, Edelman will go down as one of the best seventh-round draft picks in NFL history. Amazingly, Edelman was never selected to a Pro Bowl despite his accomplishments on the field. This is partially due to most of his success coming in the playoffs after voting concluded. At the end of the day, every team’s goal is to win the Super Bowl. And without Edelman, it’s hard to say whether or not the Patriots would have seen the success they did.
Edelman ends his career with 620 receptions, 6,822 yards, and 36 touchdowns while adding another 2,612 return yards and 4 touchdowns. Along with New England’s additions made in free agency, they could turn to the 2021 NFL Draft to find his successor.
7) Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints, 2006
A seventh-round pick out of Hofstra, Marques Colston found instant success with the New Orleans Saints, scoring 8 touchdowns with 1,038 yards in his rookie season. Playing 10 seasons, Colston generated six 1,000-yard seasons and 9,759 total receiving yards.
6) Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay Packers, 1999
As the Packers’ primary receiver, Donald Driver posted 1,000-yard seasons seven times. He still holds the records for career receiving yards (10,137) and receptions (729) in Green Bay. Driver was a four-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Super Bowl XLV-winning team.
5) Joe Schmidt, LB, Detroit Lions, 1953
Playing 13 years, Joe Schmidt enjoyed an incredible career with the Lions culminating in a trip to Canton in 1966. Schmidt was a 10-time Pro Bowler and an eight-time All-Pro selection. The NFL Defensive MVP in 1953 and 1957, Schmidt was named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
4) Jim Ringo, C, Green Bay Packers, 1953
Jim Ringo led the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line under Vince Lombardi to capture his first two championships. Ringo was a 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro selection. A member of the NFL’s All-1960s Team, Ringo was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
3) Shannon Sharpe, TE, Denver Broncos 1990
Quite possibly the greatest tight end in the 1990s, Shannon Sharpe was integral in the Denver Broncos’ success, leading to back-to-back Super Bowl victories. He was a Pro Bowler from 1992-1998 and retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards by a tight end. Sharpe went on to win a third Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and was a member of the NFL’s All-1990s Team.
2) Bo Jackson, RB, Oakland Raiders, 1987
One of the greatest athletes of all-time, Bo Jackson was a monster on the field. Winner of the 1985 Heisman Trophy, Jackson was initially the No. 1 overall pick in 1986 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but chose to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. He was then selected the following season by the Raiders in the seventh round. Although injuries shortened his career, Jackson is the only athlete to be named an all-star in two different sports.
1) Larry Wilson, S, St. Louis Cardinals, 1960
A member of the NFL’s All-1960s and 1970s teams, Larry Wilson was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019. Named to eight-straight Pro Bowls over a nine-year period, Wilson was an All-Pro from 1966 to 1970. He was enshrined in Canton in 1978 after a 13-year career with the Cardinals.
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