NFL Draft: The 10 best second-round picks since 2000
Superstars can come out of any round in the NFL Draft.
In some ways, the elite second-round picks are the most frustrating to the teams who passed on them in the first round. That’s because it means a team fell just short with its top prospect projections.
Led by three dominant passing game sensations but anchored by three popular running backs, here are the best Round 2 selections since 2000.
1 Drew Brees, QB (No. 32 overall, 2001)
Brees now would be the final pick of the first round, but this was a particularly brilliant move by the Chargers. Instead of sitting on Michael Vick at No. 1 overall, they ended up with two future Hall of Famers, Brees and first-round running back LaDainian Tomlinson after a pre-draft trade. Sure, San Diego would move on from Brees to Philip Rivers by the ’04 draft, but it looked past his size and spread offense questions to know he could be special in the NFL.
2 Rob Gronkowski, TE (No. 42 overall, 2010)
Gronk’s college career at Arizona was marred by injuries that caused him to slip well out of the first round, but leave it to the Patriots to see he had the size, blocking and receiving skills to be the dominant complete package. Of all the picks they have been made to directly help Tom Brady over the years, this was the absolute best.
3 Anquan Boldin, WR (No. 54 overall, 2003)
His Q score as a wideout prospect initially wasn’t very high because he had to play some quarterback at Florida State, but looking at his hands, size and toughness, the Cardinals recognized that he could be a very quick and productive receiver working the slot. He flashed with a monstrous debut vs. Detroit, but grew into an elite possession man over his several NFL stops.
4 Calais Campbell, DE (No. 50 overall, 2007)
Put the Cardinals in another win column, this time for a Miami Hurricane. While some teams didn’t know exactly how Campbell would fit on a defensive line because of monstrous 6-8 frame, they saw him being an unique 3-4 edge player who could do a little of everything, down to swatting passes. He had a great run in Arizona and has cashed in to try to put his size to good use in Jacksonville.
5 Eric Weddle, S (No. 37 overall, 2007)
Weddle had a good stat-stuffing resume coming out of Utah. For some teams it was hard to figure out whether he fit best at free or strong safety. The Chargers saw it didn’t matter where he played — he had the instincts to track down ball and ball carrier alike and finish well. The beard made him a little more intimidating, and the Ravens are now reaping his benefits.
6 LeSean McCoy, RB (No. 53 overall, 2008)
Given how productive Shady has been “turning on a dime” for both Philadelphia and Buffalo as a workhorse, it’s now shocking he went so late coming out of Pittsburgh. Some teams were worried he was more a pure speedy outside runner, but he’s showed plenty of toughness with his pop.
7 Le’Veon Bell, RB (No. 48 overall, 2013)
The Steelers got a steal in Bell for a couple reasons: He was younger than most typical draft prospects and, playing in a bit of committee at Michigan State, had limited wear and tear. They also saw that by him getting in little better shape, he could be a shifty power back who also produces well in the passing game.
8 Clinton Portis, RB (No. 51 overall, 2002)
Portis was right there in the Hurricanes heyday that also produced fellow NFL star running backs Frank Gore and Willis McGahee. The Broncos saw his potential to be awesome as a cutback rusher in their zone-blocking scheme, and he kept it up after the blockbuster Champ Bailey trade sent him to the Redskins.
9 Andrew Whitworth, T (No. 55 overall, 2006)
Before Whitworth moved for a late-career payday with the Rams, he gave the Bengals a solid decade out of LSU. Although Whitworth was a very accomplished left tackle, he proved later he could also help the team out at other line positions in a pinch.
10 Jordy Nelson, WR (No. 36 overall, 2007)
Nelson was a track star at Kansas State, and he was probably tabbed too much a speed receiver and return man as to why he wasn’t a first-rounder. That was ignoring that he also had a big strong frame to go up and get balls in the red zone — hello, back shoulder throw. The Packers saw his potential to be a top No. 1, and it didn’t take long for him to become that for Aaron Rodgers.
11 Honorable mentions
Derek Carr, QB (No. 36 overall, 2014). Carr is already paying dividends for the Raiders and just missed the cut even with a small sample size.
Charles Tillman, CB (No. 35 overall, 2003). Getting “Peanut” was one of the Bears’ best picks of the new century.
Alshon Jeffery, WR (No. 45 overall, 2012). If not for his durability issues, Jeffery would have easily cracked the top 10.
Matt Forte, RB (No. 44 overall, 2007). Between Tillman, Jeffery and Forte, Chicago really rolled in Round 2 for a while.
Bob Sanders, S (No. 44 overall, 2004). He couldn’t stay on the field consistently for the Colts, but when he could, he was a big defensive difference-maker.