When it comes to discovering late-round talent in the NFL Draft, no one does it quite like the Seattle Seahawks. In 2014, Seattle hoisted its first Lombardi Trophy, and was the second-youngest team ever to do so. The defense that irritated Peyton Manning and the greatest offense in league history at the Super Bowl was assembled with just two first-round draft choices. Aside from Earl Thomas and Bruce Irvin, guys like Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell, Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, and two others you’ll find on this list were all taken after round three.
Teams like Seattle and San Francisco were stuck near the basement of their division just a few years ago. Now they’re the two best teams in all of football. And they didn’t spend a high draft choice on a “franchise” quarterback like so many teams did, and regretted in the 2011 draft – I’m talking about you Blaine Gabbert. Instead, Seattle built a strong defense, replenished its offensive line, and handed Marshawn Lynch a lifetime supply of skittles, the perfect situation for a young quarterback to flourish, even an undersized third-rounder.
The ‘Hawks keep making the Draft process look easy, even when teams like Oakland continue to swing and miss on prospects. John Schneider grabs these studs in the late rounds, Pete Carroll gets them to play well beyond the value of their rookie contracts, and Seattle then has flexibility to spend on pieces like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to solidify its elite status.
Commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the podium at Radio City Music Hall on May 8 to announce the Houston Texans’ number one draft choice. But day three of the draft is when the magic happens. This is where teams try to strike Seahawk-like gold. The fourth round of the draft is here and you’re on the clock. It’s time to find your gem. Here’s a look back at the ten best late-round picks of the last decade.
10: Marques Colston – WR
7th Round – 2006
Punters are people too, and this list nearly started off with a couple of the league’s best. Andy Lee and Thomas Morstead have had terrific careers, but I can’t deny the magnitude of the Colston pick for New Orleans.
Receiver Joe Horn was 34 years old and nearing the end of his career in 2006. The Saints were in need of a new number one target. I can’t imagine they expected their 7th round receiver from Hofstra to be that guy, but look what happened. Colston hit the 1,000-yard mark in his rookie season, and he’s been one of the league’s most consistent receivers, registering five more 1,000-yard seasons in his first eight years in New Orleans.
9: Jahri Evans – G
4th Round – 2006
The 2006 draft turned out to be quite rewarding for the New Orleans Saints. Before snagging Colston in round seven, New Orleans selected Jahri Evans in round four. Evans has blossomed into the league’s top guard, and is a five-time all-pro. He was an integral part of his quarterback’s record-setting 2011 season. Drew Brees loves this guy.
8: Kam Chancellor – S
5th Round – 2011
The first of two “Legion of Boom” members makes the list at number eight. The bone-crushing safety sets the physical tone for this Seahawks defensive unit, while his partner in crime Earl Thomas patrols centerfield.
Kam Chancellor is more dynamic than your typical box safety. The Broncos tested him, and found out he can cover on Super Bowl Sunday. There’s nobody in Seattle that brings the boom like Chancellor.
7: Alfred Morris – RB
6th Round – 2012
Alfred Morris stormed onto the NFL scene in his rookie season, rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite the Redskins’ struggles last year, Morris kept his yards per carry average over 4.5 like he did in his first year. He gets the benefit of the doubt and lands at number seven, even with the fizzling interest in running backs around the league.
The acquisition of dynamic receiver DeSean Jackson coupled with a refreshed Robert Griffin III two years removed from ACL surgery should help Morris turn in another monster year and justify his spot on the list.
6: Kyle Williams – DT
5th Round – 2006
Playing in the trenches prevents some players from becoming household names. Playing in the trenches in Buffalo makes it virtually impossible. He hasn’t received an abundance of recognition, but Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams is one of the most underrated players in all of football.
After spending the majority of his career playing nose tackle, Williams had a career-high 10.5 sacks a year ago in Buffalo’s 4-3 defense.
5: Antonio Brown
6th round – 2010
In 2013, Brown became the first player in NFL history to record at least five catches and 50 yards in every single game. Think he’s just a one-dimensional speed guy? Check him out against one of the league’s best cover corners in Joe Haden last year. I hadn’t seen Haden struggle that much the entire season, and that includes a pair of matchups with AJ Green. Haden held Green to 9 catches for 58 yards. Brown lit him up for 15 and 179.
4: Geno Atkins – DT
4th Round – 2010
In his second season in the league, Atkins emerged as one of the NFL’s premier defensive tackles. You just don’t see interior linemen wreak havoc on quarterbacks as consistently as Atkins does.
He has the quickness of the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, Gerald McCoy, and more sacks with 29 than the second overall pick Ndamukong Suh. If the Rams had the opportunity to make their first pick again, Atkins might be their man.
3: Richard Sherman – CB
5th Round – 2011
The second member of Seattle’s feared “Legion of Boom” lands at number three on the list. Similarly to 2014 draft prospect Jadeveon Clowney, Sherman wasn’t given any praise from his college coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh. The only difference between the two is Sherman fell to the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, while Clowney likely comes off the board faster than Harbaugh can complete another push-up with a walrus.
A former receiver at Stanford, Sherman’s long frame, and athletic skill set is sought in this new age high-octane passing league. Sherman has been the best corner in football over the last two seasons, although playing behind Seattle’s dominant front-seven, and in front of the 12s at Century Link field definitely helps his climb to number three on the list. Two all-pro selections, 20 interceptions, and a Super Bowl ring in his first three seasons. And he’s only getting better.
2: Brandon Marshall – WR
4th Round – 2006
It hasn’t mattered where he’s played or who’s thrown him the football—Kyle Orton was the quarterback when he made 21 record-setting catches at Mile High in 2009— Brandon Marshall has bullied defensive backs with his size and strength since becoming a starter in his second year in the league in 2007.
Marshall will join the illustrious 1,000 receptions club by the time he hangs up his cleats. Five years after that, he might join this list’s number one in Canton.
1: Jared Allen – DE
4th Round – 2004
One thing is certain about the number one player on this list, he is going to the Hall of Fame. This list has highlighted the gems that were discovered in the late rounds of the NFL draft. However, seldom do any of them turn into hall of famers.
The former Chief and now Viking has terrorized quarterbacks to the tune of 128.5 career sacks, good for 12th on the all-time list. Allen is just 22 sacks shy of third on the list, and coming off an 11.5 sack season in 2013 at 32, expect him to achieve that feat before he heads to Canton.