The Last 25 Years: Best Third-Round Picks – Offense


With our look at the second round complete, it’s obvious that some great players came out of that round.  Sure, it makes sense that some talent can be found on day one of the NFL Draft.  But what about day two?I think we’re going to find that not just good but great players can be found on both days and in every round.

No matter how much of a science scouting has been boiled down to by NFL teams, they can still miss on a few.

We look now at the best all-time third-round picks on offense.

Center – Olin Kreutz, Pick 64, 1998, Chicago Bears

How does a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro selection fall all the way to number 64?  That must mean that every team passed on him at least once.  Kreutz has been a tremendous pro over his ten seasons.  Add in the fact that he’s only missed one game in the last seven years and his durability also becomes evident.

Center – Mark Stepnoski, Pick 57, 1989, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys built a large portion of their 90’s championship juggernaut through the draft.  But don’t give JJ all the credit.  Stepnoski was drafted under Tom Landry’s watch.  The big center went to five Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade Team.

Others – Jerry Fontenot, Chicago Bears (#65, 1989); Mike Flanagan, Green Bay Packers (#90, 1996); Kirk Lowdermilk, Minnesota Vikings (#59, 1985).

Guard – Will Shields, Pick 74, 1993, Kansas City Chiefs

The consummate pro, Shields played for 14 years and made the Pro Bowl twelve times.  He was also a nine-time All-Pro.  Shields retired after the 2006 season and the Chiefs have been searching to find his replacement ever since.

Guard – Guy McIntyre, Pick 73, 1984, San Francisco 49ers

In thirteen years, McIntyre made the Pro Bowl five times and the All-Pro team three times.  He also played in three Super Bowls during his career.  His playing time took him through three NFL cities – San Francisco, Green Bay and Philadelphia.

Others – Mike Utley, Detroit Lions (#59, 1989); Travelle Wharton, Carolina Panthers (#94, 2004); Doug Brzezinski, Philadelphia Eagles (#64, 1999); Mike Gandy, Chicago Bears (#68, 2001).

Offensive Tackle – Roman Oben, Pick 66, 1996, New York Giants

Oben has played for four teams – Giants, Browns, Buccaneers, Chargers – and has even won a Super Bowl with the Bucs.  He mans a tackle spot at the weakest position among the third-round picks.

Offensive Tackle – Nick Kaczur, Pick 100, 2005, New England Patriots

Kaczur has to have some talent to start every game for this team since midway through the 2006 season.  That’s really saying something.  He’s yet to make the Pro Bowl but the accolades are sure to come.

Others – Max Starks, Pittsburgh Steelers (#75, 2004); Trai Essex, Pittsburgh Steelers (#93, 2005); Melvin Tuten, Cincinnati Bengals (#69, 1995).

Tight End – Jason Witten, Pick 69, 2003, Dallas Cowboys

As a rookie, Witten started off a bit slow with only 35 catches but since then he has had no less than 64 receptions and as many as 96 catches last year.  In only five years, he has totalled 348 catches, 3983 yards and 21 TD’s.  He has also been to four Pro Bowls and been voted to one All-Pro team.

Tight End – Chris Cooley, Pick 81, 2004, Washington Redskins

Cooley has been overshadowed in the NFC by Witten but has been to two Pro Bowls (one as an alternate).  His stats after four seasons are solid – 231 receptions, 2608 yards and 27 TD’s.

Others – Alex Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#71, 2005)

Running Back – Ahman Green, Pick 76, 1998, Seattle Seahawks

There was a time that every fantasy football player in the country wanted Green on their fantasy teams.  He’s run into some injury problems since then.  But his career has been solid, and at times spectacular – 1941 carries, 8751 yards, 56 TD’s, 364 receptions, 2833 yards, 14 TD’s.  He has added four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro selections to his accomplishments.

Running Back – Curtis Martin, Pick 74, 1995, New England Patriots

This is a guy who was probably the pro athlete out of this bunch who every player should model themselves after.  Not perfect but a very professional acting player.  Martin seemed to be forgotten far too often in conversations about the best running backs of the day.  However, his stats are impressive – 3518 carries, 14,101 yards, 90 TD’s, 484 receptions, 3329 yards, 10 TD’s.  He also has five Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams to his credit.

Others – Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles (#91, 2002); Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (#65, 2005); Kevin Barlow, San Francisco 49ers (#80, 2001); Justin Fargas, Oakland Raiders (#96, 2003); Terry Kirby, Miami Dolphins (#78, 1993); Reuben Droughns, Detroit Lions (#81, 2000); Duce Staley, Philadelphia Eagles (#71, 1997).

Fullback – Tom Rathman, Pick 56, 1986, San Francisco 49ers

Rathman helped to pave the way for another Nebraska alum while in the Bay Area, Roger Craig.  He didn’t receive a tremendous amount of credit (no Pro Bowls/All-Pro Teams) but was one of the key pieces of the Niners’ offense.  He was used as a blocker and a receiver out of the backfield finishing his career with 320 catches.  His 73 receptions in 1989 led the league among running backs

Others – None

Wide Receiver – Steve Smith, Pick 74, 2001, Carolina Panthers

Smith has lit up scoreboards around the league while burning up the stat sheets.  If not for losing nearly all of the 2004 season, his numbers would be even more impressive than they already are after only six seasons – 431 receptions, 5927 yards, 37 TD’s.  He has caught over 80 passes in a season four times and topped the 100 mark in 2005.  He has also added three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro selections to his resume.

Wide Receiver – Terrell Owens, Pick 89, 1996, San Francisco 49ers

He has been the poster child for attitude at times.  Owens hasn’t exactly ingratiated himself to fans but he has produced on the field – 882 receptions, 13,070 yards, 129 TD’s.  He also has six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro selections to his credit in his twelve NFL seasons

Wide Receiver – Hines Ward, Pick 92, 1998, Pittsburgh Steelers

There are flashier receivers and louder receivers but Ward has been a steady player.  His numbers are outstanding – 719 receptions, 8737 yards, 65 TD’s.  During his ten years, he has topped 80 catches four times while pulling in 112 catches in 2002.  Add four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections to his tally and his career becomes even more impressive.

Others – John Taylor, San Francisco 49ers (#76, 1986); Bernard Berrian, Chicago Bears (#78, 2004); Kevin Curtis, St. Louis Rams (#74, 2003); Don Beebe, Buffalo Bills (#82, 1989); Fred Barnett, Philadelphia Eagles (#77, 1990); Ricky Proehl, Phoenix Cardinals (#58, 1990); Jake Reed, Minnesota Vikings (#68, 1991); Laveranues Coles, New York Jets (#78, 2000); Darrell Jackson, Seattle Seahawks (#80, 2000).

Quarterback – Jeff Hostetler, Pick 59, 1984, New York Giants

The image of Hostetler in Super Bowl XXV will always be with Giants fans.  The team’s starter, Phil Simms, had been injured late that season.  Hostetler came in, led the team to two regular season wins and through the playoffs.  He started for the team the next season and eventually landed in Los Angeles with the Raiders where he would earn his first and only trip to the Pro Bowl.  He finished his career with 1357 completions, 2338 attempts, 16,430 yards, 94 TD’s and 71 ints.

Others – Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh Steelers (#70, 1990); Frank Reich, Buffalo Bills (#57, 1985); Brian Griese, Denver Broncos (#91, 1998); Matt Schaub, Atlanta Falcons (#90, 2004).

Tomorrow, we’ll take on the best defensive draft picks of the last twenty-five years from the third round.