On Now
Coming Up
  • There are no Events to display in this category.

News

Print
RSS

Lucky Seven: Ranking the #7 Picks, Part 3

Posted Apr 26, 2018

We conclude our countdown of every player picked seventh overall since the merger, with a top 10 that includes a Buccaneer and ends with a Champ.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scheduled to pick seventh overall in the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday night, barring a trade. They have some very recent experience in using that spot to maximum effect.

Four years ago, in their first draft conducted under new General Manager Jason Licht, the Buccaneers selected Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. All Evans has done since has been to join Randy Moss and A.J. Green as the only players in league history to open their careers with four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Still just 24 years old, Evans has ranked sixth in receiving yards, tied for seventh in touchdown catches and fourth in first-down receptions since arriving in the NFL.

That already makes Evans one of the better wideouts drafted at #7 since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. He doesn't yet have the total career numbers to surpass Curtis Conway, Roy Williams or Ike Hilliard, but he's tracking those players down fast. He's definitely been a better pick than Troy Williamson, Mike Williams or Darrius Heyward-Bey. He definitely hasn't yet matched up to former Packer great Sterling Sharpe.

Is all that good enough to get Mike Evans in the top 10 of our countdown of all post-merger #7 picks? It's time to find out. You may first wish to review the picks leading up to the top 16; click here for the players ranked 48 to 33 and click here for the countdown from 32 to 17. Continue below for the true standouts, the best #7 picks in the post-merger NFL. It's a very diverse group that includes one quarterback, three offensive tackles and one of the best running backs in league history. At the top is a Champ in both name and deed.

As I have noted previously, my method was a mixture of objective and subjective reasoning. Borrowing from the record-keeping and analysis provided by Pro Football Reference, I've recorded the career "AV" for each of the 48 players. AV stands for "Approximate Value" and it is an attempt to quantify the overall contributions of every player, for the sake of comparison. Like WAR in baseball, it is a cumulative statistic; players compile a certain AV figure each year and those add up from season to season. It's a complicated form of analysis, and by no means the final word on the evaluation of any player, but it's a useful tool for comparison. To read up on the AV methodology, click here. Suffice it to say, higher numbers are better.

I've also noted the average AV each player had per season he played. This is an effort to help distinguish between players who had higher peaks and shorter careers and those who played longer and eventually racked up more AV. There's value in both; the best players had high AV totals and good per-season averages. I've also recorded the number of Pro Bowl invites and first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections for each player. All of those factors were taken into account in what at the end was a subjective ranking.

Obviously, the most recent #7 picks haven't had as much time to pile up statistics and honors. That was taken into account. A young player with a brief track record but much remaining promise might rank higher than an average performer who had a five or six-year career.

There are no busts or bad players in this part of the list. In fact, the top third begins with Pro Bowl-caliber performers and progresses right up to some likely Hall of Famers.

Ranking Every Post-Merger #7 Pick, Part 3: Picks 16-1

16. Kyle Turley, T, New Orleans, 1998

Career AV: 60

AV Per Season: 7.50

Pro Bowls: 1

All-Pro Selections: 1

Key Stat: Started 107 of 109 career games

Turley may be best known for the time he ripped Damien Robinson's helmet off and threw it down the field, but he was a very good blocker. His per-season AV average is the ninth-highest on this entire list, and he was credited with an incredible 16 AV in his All-Pro season of 2000. Turley had five very good seasons for the Saints and another one for the Rams before injuries caused him to miss two seasons. He came back with the Chiefs in 2006 and played two more yards but just 12 more games.

15. Andre Carter, DE, San Francisco, 2001

Career AV: 76

AV Per Season: 5.85

Pro Bowls: 1

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: Four different seasons with 10+ sacks

In contrast to Turley, Carter enjoyed a long career – 13 seasons in San Francisco, Washington, new England and Oakland and he continued to add to his overall numbers throughout the run. His four seasons with double-digit sacks came in his second, seventh, ninth and 11th seasons, and his first Pro Bowl was in 2011. At the age of 32, Carter had a 10-sack season for the Patriots, though he landed on injured reserve before New England played in that season's Super Bowl.

14. Hugh Green, LB, Tampa Bay, 1981

Career AV: 70

AV Per Season: 5.83

Pro Bowls: 2

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 34 sacks and six interceptions in his career

One could quibble about the rankings of Carter and Green here; they have similar profiles in terms of length of their careers (Green played 12 seasons for the Bucs and Dolphins) and their overall and per-season AV marks. Green was a do-it-all linebacker with 34.5 sacks and six interceptions along with high tackle totals. He played in one more Pro Bowl than Carter, making it in his second and third seasons, the latter after he had notched two pick-sixes. Green also had a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the playoffs for Tampa Bay in 1982.

13. Ken Ruettgers, T, Green Bay, 1985

Career AV: 68

AV Per Season: 5.67

Pro Bowls: 0

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 140 career starts, all for the Packers

Ruettgers is one of the two players in this top 16 who was never selected to a Pro Bowl, which is rather surprising in retrospect. Like the Buccaneers' Paul Gruber, Ruettgers was a very good offensive tackle who played on mostly struggling teams. Like Gruber, Ruettgers was very highly-regarded by his team and home-town fans; both former tackles are in their franchise's respective Ring of Honor/Hall of Fame. Ruettgers missed time to injury in 1990 and 1991, but after his rookie season he started every game in which he played for an entire decade.

12. Mike Pruitt, RB, Cleveland, 1976

Career AV: 71

AV Per Season: 5.92

Pro Bowls: 2

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 9,238 career yards from scrimmage

Pruitt backed up Greg Pruitt (no relation) in his first two seasons, then became a starter in 1978 and a Pro Bowler by the next year. Labelled a fullback for much of his career, he was very much the Browns' lead ballcarrier from 1979-83, a period in which he cracked the 1,000-yard barrier four times in five seasons. Pruitt's career marks include 7,378 rushing yards, an average of 4.0 yards per carry, 270 receptions for 1,860 yards and 56 total touchdowns.

11. Curtis Conway, WR, Chicago, 1993

Career AV: 76

AV Per Season: 6.33

Pro Bowls: 0

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 8,230 career receiving yards

Conway is the other player in the top 16 without a Pro Bowl on his resume, and he only surpassed 1,000 yards in three of his 12 campaigns. However, he was a consistent producer throughout his career, averaging about 50 yards per game and scoring 55 touchdowns (three on runs). He also started 144 of the 167 games in which he played. Conway has nearly the same amount of career AV as the highest-ranked receiver on this list (see #5) but not nearly as good of a per-season average.

10. Terry Glenn, WR, New England, 1996

Career AV: 82

AV Per Season: 6.83

Pro Bowls: 1

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 8,823 career receiving yards

Glenn also played 12 seasons in the NFL, finishing with a slightly higher yardage total than Conway but fewer career touchdowns (45). Injuries cut short a number of his seasons, which is how he played in 30 fewer games than Conway but surpassed him in yards, averaging nearly 65 per game. Glenn also spent a good amount of time with playoff teams in New England, Green Bay and Dallas, appearing in nine postseason games over six different seasons. He had 32 playoff receptions for 437 yards.

9. Bryant McKinnie, T, Minnesota, 2002

Career AV: 82

AV Per Season: 6.31

Pro Bowls: 1

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 162 career starts

McKinnie held out well into his rookie season but as soon he suited up he stepped right into the starting lineup and held down the critical left tackle spot for the Vikings for most of a decade. He didn't miss a start due to injury until his seventh season, and in his eighth he was selected for his first Pro Bowl. McKinnie later became a starter in Baltimore and finished with 162 starts in 179 career games. He finished with the most AV of any offensive lineman on this list. The Vikings' official website named McKinnie one of the 50 Greatest Vikings during his playing career.

8. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay, 2014

Career AV: 35

AV Per Season: 8.75

Pro Bowls: 1

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: Four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career

We ran down many of Evans' early-career accomplishments above. Obviously, he hasn't had enough time in the NFL yet to put up AV totals commensurate with the other players in the top 10 of this list, but the pace he has established suggests he will. Evans' per-season AV average is the fourth-best on the list and he would appear to be well-positioned to add significantly to his career totals. He won't turn 25 until the summer, he is paired with an equally young and promising quarterback in Jameis Winston and he is clearly the number-one option in Tampa Bay's passing attack.

7. Willie Buchanon, CB, Green Bay, 1972

Career AV: 71

AV Per Season: 6.45

Pro Bowls: 2

All-Pro Selections: 1

Key Stat: 28 career interceptions

The third Green Bay pick in our top 16, Buchanon had 28 interceptions in his career, including a nine-pick campaign in 1978 that won him AP All-Pro first-team honors. Like Ruettgers, Buchanon is in the Packers' Hall of Fame, and he was also named to the San Diego Chargers' 50th Anniversary Team in 2009. He was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and he made his first Pro Bowl appearance at the end of his third season. Most of Buchanon's playoff experience came during his five-year run in San Diego, and in 1981 he recorded both an interception and a fumble recovery in the postseason.

6. Phil Simms, QB, N.Y. Giants, 1979

Career AV: 118

AV Per Season: 8.43

Pro Bowls: 2

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 33,462 passing yards and 1999 touchdown throws in his career

Simms is one of just four quarterbacks chosen at #7 overall since the merger, and he was the only one that really worked out long-term for the selecting team. He played all 15 of his years with New York, starting all but five of the 164 games in which he played. Simms made the Pro Bowl just twice – in 1985 and his final 1993 campaign – but he had six 3,000-yard passing campaigns. The absolute peak of Simms' career came on January 25, 1987, when he out-dueled the Broncos' John Elway in Super Bowl XXL, completing an incredible 22 of his 25 passes with three touchdowns to lead New York to a 39-20 win. Simms has the second-highest total AV mark on this list, just behind the man at the top of the chart.

5. Sterling Sharpe, WR, Green Bay, 1988

Career AV: 78

AV Per Season: 11.14

Pro Bowls: 5

All-Pro Selections: 3

Key Stat: Surpassed 1,100 receiving yards in five of his seven NFL seasons

The top five on this are clearly separated from the rest, even if the others in this section are all very good players. Starting with Sharpe, every player in the top five has at least four Pro Bowl selections and all of them were first-team All-Pros. They combined for 33 Pro Bowl selections and 12 All-Pro first-team nods, while the other 43 players on the post-merger list combined for 22 and 4.

As for Sharpe in particular, the only thing holding him back from the top spot or two is the fact that he retired in 1994, after averaging 1,285 yards and 14 touchdowns per season over the previous three years. He was forced from the game by a neck injury, but he never missed a game or a start in his seven years as a Packer, finishing with 595 receptions for 8,134 yards and 65 touchdowns. Only Jerry Rice had more catches or touchdown receptions in that same span. Sharpe's per-season AV average is second on this list only to the player who landed, well, second on this list.

4. Troy Vincent, CB, Miami, 1992

Career AV: 117

AV Per Season: 7.80

Pro Bowls: 5

All-Pro Selections: 1

Key Stat: 47 career interceptions

Vincent had a very long career and he had a long-lasting peak where he was clearly among the league's best at his position. He played 15 seasons overall for Miami, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Washington, and he had a five-year run of Pro Bowl selections (and one All-Pro nod) in Philly that coincided with great success for the Eagles. Vincent only played fewer than 13 games in a season once, save for his 2006 bow-out, and had at least two interceptions every year from 1992 to 2003. His final career totals included 47 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries and nearly 900 tackles. He also played in 14 playoff games and contributed four postseason picks. Vincent's

3. Bryant Young, DT, San Francisco, 1994

Career AV: 49

AV Per Season: 6.13

Pro Bowls: 2

All-Pro Selections: 0

Key Stat: 89.5 career sacks

One of the greatest 49ers of all time – which is saying a lot – Young was a fixture in the San Francisco lineup for 14 seasons, during which he rarely missed games. He was a force in the middle, racking up 89.5 career sacks, including two seasons in which he topped 11. Young played in 208 of a possible 224 regular-season games during his career, starting every one of them. He also started all 11 postseason games in which he appeared, earning a championship ring in Super Bowl XXIX. Though he had just the one first-team AP All-Pro nod, he was also named to the second team three more times, and he was selected for the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1990s.

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota, 2007

Career AV: 108

AV Per Season: 15.43

Pro Bowls: 7

All-Pro Selections: 4

Key Stat: Has averaged 92.3 rushing yards per game in the NFL

Peterson landed in the NFL as a fully-formed star, earning Pro Bowl selections in each of his first four seasons and six of his first seven. He had 1,341 rushing yards as a rookie, then a league-leading 1,760 his second-year on the way to the first of four first-team All-Pro nods. Peterson's average of 92.3 rushing yards per game is third in NFL history behind only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, and his career per-carry average is 4.8. Peterson also has 99 career rushing touchdowns (104 scores overall) and has a chance to push that and all of his other career totals higher. Peterson played for New Orleans and Arizona in 2017 after 10 years as a Viking and could look to continue his playing days in 2018. His average of 15.43 AV per season is by far the highest on this list, with Sharpe next at 11.14.

1. Champ Bailey, CB, Washington, 1999

Career AV: 150

AV Per Season: 10.00

Pro Bowls: 12

All-Pro Selections: 3

Key Stat: 52 career interceptions

As much as Peterson is ahead of the crowd in per-season AV, Bailey has far and away the best AV total. That's the result of playing for a very long time – 15 years – and being one of the league's best at your position for almost that entire time. Bailey's initial run of eight straight Pro Bowl selections began in just his second year, when he matched his rookie total with five interceptions. Near the tail end of that eight-year run – just after he had been traded to Denver in exchange for running back Clinton Portis – Bailey earned his three straight AP All-Pro honors, including one celebrating a 2006 season in which he picked off 10 passes. His career totals include 52 interceptions, 174 passes defensed and just over 900 tackles. Bailey Played in 215 career games and started 212 of them, eventually getting 12 Pro Bowl nods, the most of any player on this list.