Part three of a nine-part series highlighting the best picks of each round over the past decade brings us to the beginning of the Day 3 picks—Round 5. There was some solid talent in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively, but the players in the fifth have proven to be stars on the field—two of whom could be considered the best at their respective positions.
Of these five players, two pairs were drafted to the same team, and the other is a country strong defender who, despite being one of the best at his position in the NFL, isn’t quite the best at his position on his team.
It’s surprising that only one has been selected as a first-team All-Pro. The careers they’ve enjoyed, in many ways, scream “All Pro.” But they can only play the game they love; they have no say in whether voters write their name on the ballot.
These five players are the best drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft over the past decade. Hands down. Write it in pen and go home.
5. Brent Celek, Tight End (Philadelphia Eagles, 2007, No. 162 overall)
Longevity is key for certain positions to be considered in this series, and tight end is one of them. Celek isn’t the best tight end from his draft class (Greg Olsen went 31st overall to the Chicago Bears), but he is a close second.
The Eagles have a long history of solid tight end play, and Celek is among the best the storied franchise has had. He is second in receptions (344), receiving yards (4,315) and receiving touchdowns (27) among Philadelphia tight ends, trailing only Pete Retzlaff in all three categories.
Celek isn’t only a solid receiving option—he’s a heck of a run-blocker, as well.
The Eagles have rewarded his talent and hard work. As of now, he has made the eighth-most money among active tight ends, coming in at $22.4 million, according to Spotrac. He will make another $4.8 million in 2015 and $5 million in the final season of a six-year, $29.3 million extension he signed in 2009.
His rookie deal was four years and $1.8 million, to give you an idea of what the Philly brass thinks of him.
4. Kyle Williams, Defensive Tackle (Buffalo Bills, 2006, No. 134 overall)
The only season Williams did not record five-plus sacks since 2010, he missed the majority of the season with a lingering foot injury that eventually forced him to the injured-reserve list. He is one of three defensive tackles to record at least five sacks in four of the past five seasons—the others being and Ndamukong Suh, who was taken second overall in 2010, and teammate Marcell Dareus (quite the duo, eh?).
It’s no mistake Williams has made the Pro Bowl each of those four seasons, because not only is he astute at getting to the quarterback, he plugs running lanes with regularity as well.
Williams and Dareus have made the Pro Bowl each of the past two years. It’s no wonder the Bills have led the NFL in sacks three of the past five seasons, including each of the past two. They are getting massive production up front from their former fifth-round pick, along with Dareus and defensive end Mario Williams.
3. Kam Chancellor, Strong Safety (Seattle Seahawks, 2010, No. 133 overall)
It took a year for Chancellor to take hold of the starting spot in Seattle, but since his sophomore season of 2011, he has started all but three games and become arguably the best strong safety in the NFL.
He is feared by all who have the misfortune of crossing his path on the field. Those who do and meet his wrath end up with snot bubbles percolating from their noses. Just ask Vernon Davis…
Chancellor has recorded at least 91 total tackles in every season since 2011 and averaged 119 over the past two. He has yet to be selected as a first-team All-Pro, but that day is coming, no doubt. It’s not a matter of if—it’s a matter of when.
Why? Chancellor’s game is about more than big hits and stopping the run. He is so long and athletic that he’s a natural in coverage outside the numbers on top of providing top-notch run support and coverage over the middle.
He is able to get his hand on the football from behind a bigger tight end because of his freaky long 33-inch arms.
2. Trent Cole, Edge Rusher (Philadelphia Eagles, 2005, No. 146 overall)
The Eagles have had success in Round 5 over the past decade, landing two of the top five spots. General manager Howie Roseman got out of Cole’s contract as soon as it financially made sense. The team felt more inclined to pay the younger Brandon Graham and released Cole, saving a healthy $8.4 million in cap space.
Philadelphia signed Graham to a four-year, $26 million extension less than a week after it released Cole.
Cole racked up 85.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the Eagles—second to Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White for most in franchise history—including 14.5 over the past two years since switching from defensive end in a 4-3 to outside linebacker in head coach Chip Kelly’s 3-4 scheme.
He found work quickly, signing a two-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Cole joins longtime star Robert Mathis, who missed all of 2014 with an Achilles injury after leading the NFL in 2013 with 19.5 sacks at age 32.
Combined, the two have 22 years of NFL experience and 196.5 sacks, but both are past their primes.
1. Richard Sherman, Cornerback (Seattle Seahawks, 2011, No. 154 overall)
Is there another choice? Not only is Sherman the best fifth-round pick of the past decade, he might be the best cornerback in the entire NFL after only four short years.
His loudmouthed demeanor on the field screams alpha male, and he backs it up with his play. His 24 career interceptions are the most in a player’s first four seasons since Ed Reed had 22 from 2002 through 2005.
His career coverage statistics look like something from a video game when you cheat by setting every attribute rating to 99. It’s quite amazing how good Sherman is, because he’s not the most athletic cornerback in the league—not the fastest and not the strongest.
But he might be the smartest cornerback in the league, and few—if any—defensive backs play with better footwork and overall technique. He is a confident technician who tells you how he is going to beat you and then does. Sherman has made the past three All-Pro teams, and there’s a very good chance that streak continues in 2015.
About the only receivers who give Sherman problems are smaller, faster ones with quick releases and cut-on-a-dime ability in and out of breaks. But even they rarely beat him.
He may go down as one of the best at his position ever to play the game—he may tell you right now he is the best, no questions asked.
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