Prior to the 1936 season, the NFL Draft didn’t exist and draft picks weren’t a thing. As a result, college seniors were free to sign with any team they wanted – meaning a majority of the best rookies were joining the best teams in the league. This created a scenario where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
It wasn’t until Bert Bell – the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles – suggested a ‘Players Selection Meeting’ (now known as the NFL Draft) in 1935. It allowed the worst teams in the league to have first ‘dibs’ on the best college players – evening out the playing field and allowing bad teams to get more competitive over time.
Sure enough, the Philadelphia Eagles were gifted the first overall pick in the 1936 NFL Draft – the first of its existence. From that point forward, the NFL Draft continued to evolve into what it is today – one of the most exciting and most-watched events of the NFL offseason. And we have Bert Bell to thank for that!
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Who Are the Greatest 7th-Round Draft Picks in NFL History?
While a lot of the attention and buzz around the NFL Draft is reserved for the first round – and rightfully so, considering that’s where most of the best players are taken – it’s actually the later rounds where teams can truly build a roster that can compete for years to come. That’s where teams get a lot of value.
Since 1997, the NFL Draft has consisted of seven rounds and, while a majority of the players taken in this round don’t last long in the NFL, there have been instances where 7th-round draft picks stick around. Even before 1997, players selected in the 7th round weren’t necessarily guaranteed a long career.
That begs the question – who are the greatest 7th-round draft picks in NFL Draft history? Considering there are only nine Hall of Famers to be drafted in the 7th round (all of whom were drafted prior to 1997, when the draft was anywhere from 8-30 rounds), there aren’t a lot of players worthy of being on this list.
With that said, we’re going to run you through some of the most notable names to be drafted in the 7th round – regardless of the year they were drafted or how many rounds took place that year.
15. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the No. 250 overall (7th round) pick in the 2005 NFL Draft – the quarterback played college football at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He went on to spend 17 seasons in the league with nine different teams between 2005 and 2021.
Fitzpatrick was a journeyman backup who always seemed to be thrust into a starting role and handled his own – he wasn’t a superstar, but is one of the most beloved players of all-time. He retired with a 59-87-1 record as starter, throwing for 34,990 yards, 223 touchdowns, and 169 interceptions in 166 games played.
14. DB Lemar Parrish
Lemar Parrish was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 163 overall (7th round) pick in the 1970 NFL Draft – he played college football at Lincoln University. He went on to spend 13 seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Commanders, and Buffalo Bills between 1970 and 1982.
Parrish recorded 47 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, and 7 defensive touchdowns in 166 games played (151 starts) – he also had four punt return TDs and one kickoff return TDs in his career. He was an 8-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro First Team, and one-time All-Pro Second Team.
13. RB Jamal Anderson
Jamal Anderson was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the No. 201 overall (7th round) pick in the 1994 NFL Draft – he played college football at Utah University. He went on to spend eight seasons in the NFL – all with Atlanta – between 1994 and 2001. He retired after suffering a torn ACL during the 2001 season.
Anderson recorded 5,336 rushing yards, 34 rushing touchdowns, 156 receptions, 1,645 receiving yards, and 7 receiving touchdowns in 88 games played (64 starts). He was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro First Team with 1,846 rushing yards, 319 rushing yards, and 16 total touchdowns in the 1998 season. .
12. DE Jay Ratliff
Jeremiah ‘Jay’ Ratliff was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 224 overall (7th round) pick in the 2005 NFL Draft – he played college football at Auburn University. He went on to spend 11 seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys (8 seasons) and Chicago Bears (3 seasons) between 2005 and 2015.
Ratliff recorded 285 tackles, 58 tackles for loss, 35.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 15 passes defensed in 122 games played (102 starts) – he had a career-high 7.5 sacks during the 2008 season with Dallas. He was named to the Pro Bowl in four consecutive years (2008-2011) and was All-Pro First Team in 2009.
11. LB Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the No. 86 overall (7th round) pick in the 1953 NFL Draft – he played college football at the University of Pittsburgh. He went on to spend 13 seasons in the league – all with the Lions – between 1953 and 1965. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Schmidt recorded 15.0 sacks, 24 interceptions, 17 fumble recoveries, and 3 defensive touchdowns in 155 career games played (151 starts). He was named to 10 Pro Bowls (in 10 straight years), eight All-Pro First Teams, and one All-Pro Second Team. He was also in the top-five of MVP voting in 1957 and 1962.
10. OG Gene Hickerson
Gene Hickerson was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 78 overall (7th round) pick in the 1957 NFL Draft – the offensive guard played college football at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). He went on to spend 15 seasons in the league – all with the Browns – between 1958 and 1973.
Hickerson struggled with injuries for the first five years of his career, but didn’t miss a game between 1963 and 1973 (11 seasons). He was named to six consecutive Pro Bowls between 1965 and 1970, as well as three All-Pro First Teams and one All-Pro Second Team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
9. WR Bob Hayes
Bob Hayes was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 88 overall (7th round) pick in the 1964 NFL Draft – the wide receiver played college football at Florida A&M University. He went on to spend 11 years in the league with the Cowboys (10 years) and San Francisco 49ers (one year) between 1965 and 1975.
Hayes recorded 371 receptions, 7,414 receiving yards, and 71 receiving touchdowns in 132 games played (107 starts) – he averaged 20.0 yards per reception in his career. He was a three-time Pro Bowler, one-time Super Bowl champion, three-time All-Pro, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
8. FL/RB Bobby Mitchell
Bobby Mitchell was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 84 overall (7th round) pick in the 1958 NFL Draft – the flanker played college football at the University of Illinois. He went on to spend 11 years in the league with the Washington Commanders (7 years) and Browns (4 years) between 1958 and 1968.
Mitchell recorded 521 receptions, 7,954 receiving yards, 2,735 rushing yards, and 83 total touchdowns in 148 games played (128 starts). He led the NFL in receptions once, receiving yards twice, and receiving TDs once. He was named to four Pro Bowls in his career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame 1983.
7. OT Rayfield Wright
Rayfield Wright was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 182 overall (7th round) pick in the 1967 NFL Draft – the tight-end-turned-tackle played college ball at Fort Valley State University. He went on to spend 13 years with Dallas between 1967 and 1979 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Wright spent the first three years of his career playing three different positions – tight end, offensive tackle, and defensive lineman. He became a full-time starter at right tackle during the 1970 season and was a six-time Pro Bowl and five-time All-Pro at the position. He won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys.
6. WR Marques Colston
Marques Colston was drafted by the New Orleans Saints with the No. 252 overall (7th round) pick in the 2006 NFL Draft – the wide receiver played college football at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY. He went on to spend 10 seasons in the league – all of which with the Saints – between 2006 and 2015.
Colston recorded 711 receptions, 9,759 receiving yards, and 72 touchdowns in 142 games played (106 starts) with the team – including six seasons with at least 70 receptions and 1,000 yards. He was never named to a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, but he won a Super Bowl with the Saints during the 2009 season.
5. C Jim Ringo
Jim Ringo was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 80 overall (7th round) pick in the 1953 NFL Draft – he played college football at Syracuse University. He went on to spend 15 seasons in the NFL with the Packers (11 seasons) and Philadelphia Eagles (4 seasons) between 1953 and 1967.
Ringo was as reliable as it gets at the center position. Despite being considered small and undersized for a center, he made 126 consecutive starts for the Packers and 56 consecutive starts for the Bears. He’s a 10-time Pro Bowler, 9-time All-Pro, two-time champion, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.
4. RB Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson was originally drafted No. 1 overall (1st round) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986, but decided to play professional baseball instead. He was then drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders with the No. 183 overall (7th round) pick in the 1987 NFL Draft – the Raiders allowed him to play both sports.
He only spent four seasons in the league before suffering a career-ending hip injury, but he showed flashes of what could’ve been in those years. He had 2,782 rushing yards, 352 receiving yards, and 18 total touchdowns in 38 games played (23 starts) and was named to the Pro Bowl in the 1990 season.
3. DB Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals with the No. 74 overall (7th round) pick in the 1960 NFL Draft – the defensive back played college football at Utah University. He spent 13 seasons in the league – all with the Cardinals – between 1960 and 1972. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.
Wilson recorded 21.0 sacks, 1 safety, 52 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, and 7 defensive TDs in 169 career games played (163 starts). He made the Pro Bowl eight times in a nine-year span, was named to five consecutive All-Pro First Teams, and was the runner-up in AP Most Valuable Player voting in 1966.
2. WR Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman was drafted by the New England Patriots with the No. 232 overall (7th round) pick in the 2009 NFL Draft – the wide receiver played college football at College of San Mateo and Kent State University. He spent 11 seasons in the league – all of which with the Patriots – between 2009 and 2020.
Edelman recorded 620 receptions, 6,822 receiving yards, 413 rushing yards, and 36 touchdowns in 137 career games played (85 starts). He amassed 100 receptions twice and 1,000 yards three times. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots and won Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in 2019.
1. TE Shannon Sharpe
Shannon Sharpe was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the No. 192 overall (7th round) pick in the 1990 NFL Draft – the tight end played college football at Savannah State University. He went on to spend 14 years in the NFL with the Broncos (12 years) and Baltimore Ravens (2 years) between 1990 and 2003.
Sharpe is hands-down the greatest 7th-round draft pick of all-time. He recorded 815 receptions, 10,060 receiving yards, and 62 receiving touchdowns in 204 games played (169 starts). He was also an 8-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro, three-time Super Bowl champion (two with Broncos, one with Ravens), and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Famous Players Who Went Undrafted in the NFL Draft
The modern-day NFL Draft sees more than 250 players selected by a team, but not all of those players end up making it to a 53-man roster. Likewise, there are also several players every year that go undrafted and are signed as free agents – some of whom end up exceeding expectations and gaining a roster spot.
Some of the greatest undrafted free agents in NFL history include Arian Foster, Tony Romo, James Harrison, Victor Cruz, Antonio Gates, Wes Welker, Jeff Saturday, Justin Tucker, Adam Thielen, Kurt Warner, Dick Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Warren Moon, John Randle, Joe Perry, and Priest Holmes.
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The 2023 NFL Draft will take place between April 27 and 29 outside of Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri. Will any 7th-round draft picks impress us this upcoming season? How about any undrafted free agents? The answer is yes, but we’ll have to wait and see which players step up to the plate!
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