NFL Draft: Ranking 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.
Charles Tillman, CB (No. 35 overall, 2003):Getting “Peanut” was one of the Bears’ best picks of the new century.
Davante Adams, WR (No. 53 overall, 2014): Adams has established himself as Aaron Rodgers’go-to guy in Green Bay. The former Fresno State star has gone to consecutive Pro Bowls on the strength of 35 receiving TDsfrom 2016-18.
Jarvis Landry, WR (No. 63 overall, 2014): Landry has been a literal slot machine and Pro Bowl fixture with his high volume of receptions, first in his time with Miami and most recently revving up for Cleveland.
Michael Thomas, WR (No. 47 overall, 2016): Thomas exploded as a rookie and has continued to dominate as Drew Brees’ best go-to wide receiver during his time in New Orleans with great routes and hands all the way through the red zone.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (No. 62 overall, 2017): JuJu, just 20 when he was drafted, grabbed the torch from Antonio Brown as the Steelers’ go-to wide receiver, crushing both from the slot and outside.
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.
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.
Portis was right there in the Miami 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.
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. Now the Jets will benefit from those skills.
Given how productive Shady has been “turning on a dime” for both Philadelphia and Buffalo as a workhorse, it’s shocking he went so late coming out of Pittsburgh. Some teams were worried he was more a pure speedy outside runner, but he has showed plenty of toughness with his pop.
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.
While some teams didn’t know exactly how Campbell would fit on a defensive line because of his monstrous, 6-8 frame, the Cardinals 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 put his size to good use in Jacksonville.
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 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.
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.
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 2004, but it looked past his size and spread offense questions to know he could be special in the NFL.