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The 17th overall pick: A decade-long retrospective

A couple weeks ago we ran through the various 13th overall picks in the NFL Draft over the past decade. While we can discuss current draft info until we're blue in the face, it's safe to say we're quickly running into a wall as far as new topics.

There's obviously very little (if any) scientific validity to this since it's different teams with different needs. The 49ers have held the 17th overall pick just once in their history. In 1970, they drafted defensive back Bruce Taylor out of Boston University. Taylor spent eight seasons with the 49ers and went to one Pro Bowl, in 1971. He finished his career with 18 interceptions and was the 49ers primary punt returner in the early 70s. Not exactly a monster pick, but interesting nonetheless.

After the jump we run through the last ten #17 picks in the NFL Draft...

2000: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Florida State (Oakland Raiders) - The Raiders were mocked by some folks for taking a kicker in the first round. However, the reasoning behind the pick actually made a decent amount of sense. The 1999 Raiders had gone 8-8, with six of their losses coming by less than a touchdown, and Michael Husted clearly wasn't the answer (although, fun fact, Joe Nedney spent some time on that Raider team). In his decade with the Raiders, Seabass has certainly been a very good kicker. He's had his struggles at times (2005-2007), but he is still going strong, with 2009 being arguably the best season of his career. He finished with a career high 89.7% FG rate and hit a career long 61-yarder against the Browns. This pick hasn't been a bust, although I suppose it depends on how you factor in the idea of a kicker going in the first round.

2001: Steve Hutchinson, G, Michigan (Seattle Seahawks) - This pick could conceivably be the model for the 49ers grabbing Idaho guard Mike Iupati. Hutchinson has had a great career split between Seattle and Minnesota. The future Hall-of-Famer has made seven Pro Bowls and been named first team All-Pro five times. Hutchinson hasn't missed a start since 2002 and went nearly six years without being called for holding. He was also involved in a prominent use of the "poison pill" contract when he left Seattle and signed with the VIkings. A decade after being selected 17th overall, I think it's safe to say this pick was a homerun, even if the Seahawks only got half the value.

2002: Phillip Buchanon, CB, Miami, Fl. (Oakland Raiders) - Buchanon's career got off to a fairly solid start in Oakland as he was a very solid punt returner for them, and grabbed 11 interceptions in his 3 seasons with the Raiders (returning 4 for touchdowns). He was dealt to the Texans for a couple of picks, and his struggles in one season (no picks and lost a starting job rather quickly) led to his release following the 2005 season. He had a bit of a re-birth in Tampa Bay where he grabbed 7 interceptions in three seasons. After a year in Detroit, Buchanon signed with the Redskins this past offseason to fill a nickel role. Although his career started strong in Oakland, it's safe to say his career has not reached 17th overall pick value.

2003: Bryant Johnson, WR, Penn State (Arizona Cardinals) - Given some of the monster draft busts in the history the NFL, particularly at wide receiver, one could say Bryant Johnson hasn't had an awful NFL career. While never great, or really even all that good, he's been fairly consistent in his production over the years. In seven NFL seasons, his reception totals have ranged from 35-49, his yards have ranged from 438-740, and he's caught between 1 and 4 touchdowns every year. On the one hand, people have been expecting him to break out since day 1. On the other hand, people really should recognize that we know exactly what we're going to get from Johnson year-in and year-out. He certainly wasn't worth the 17th overall pick, but I suppose you could call him an adequate role player.

2004: D.J. Williams, OLB, Miami, Fl. (Denver Broncos) - Williams started out a bit inconsistent. He had a big rookie season (114 tackles, 2 sacks), but struggled a bit in 2005 and 2006. However, the last three years, even as the Broncos have changed defenses, Williams has put together some very solid seasons, including a monster 141 tackle season in 2007. He currently fills the Mike role in the Broncos 3-4 defense. If the Broncos continue with the Nolan-esque defense, Williams would maintain that role and the high tackle numbers that come along with it. All in all the pick has turned out solid for the Broncos. Not a superstar, homerun pick, but a safe pick that has worked out ok for the team.

2005: David Pollack, LB, Georgia (Cincinnati Bengals) - Pollack's career started out a bit slow as a rookie, but then took a turn for the worse in 2006. In week 2 of the season Pollack fractured his C6 vertebrae. Pollack was cleared to return to play in 2008, but decided to retire.

2006: Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa (Minnesota Vikings) - Greenway's NFL career got off to a tough start as he tore the ACL in his left knee during training camp of his rookie season. Greenway bounced back strong in his first full season on the field and has put up solid numbers in his first three seasons, with 2008 being his best season (115 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 FF). It's been an interesting run for him because of that rookie season injury. Although he's put up quality numbers each year, in reading through his Rotoworld News page, it seems like he's perpetually fighting to keep his job. While he hasn't been a superstar, he definitely hasn't been a bust. The next season or two will go a long way towards figuring him out.

2007: Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida (Denver Broncos) - Moss has only been in the league three years, but he's had a career worth of drama. He actually briefly considered retirement last season during training camp, before returning to the field. Rumor has it the team tried to shop him for a 7th round pick last offseason. He's never really fit in to the team's defensive philosophy as a defensive end, and has since moved to outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. Although it's only been three seasons, I think we can probably qualify Moss as a bust. It wouldn't shock me if he didn't make the team's roster out of training camp in 2010.

2008: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College (Detroit Lions) - Cherilus was a guy that many mocks had the 49ers considering at one point or another. Obviously he went before the 49ers 29th pick, and at this point the 49ers are probably happy with the result. Cherilus is still young and has plenty of tools to succeed, but his mechanics and ability to improve at the NFL level have not shown through. Over the course of two seasons, the big OT has been benched several times, the latest of which occurred this past December. It sounds like he'll get every chance to win the starting right tackle job in 2010, but he'll need to show some improvement in the mental aspects of the game. I won't rule him a bust yet, but if he struggles again in 2010, the bust label could probably fit.

2009: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) - It's only been one season, but I'd imagine Bucs fans are fairly pleased with Josh Freeman's rookie performance. His numbers were certainly not pretty, but for a rookie on a bad team he showed signs of being a guy they could build around long-term. The big step for him is to show improvement in year 2. He needs to improve his completion percentage and it will be interesting to see how he performs now that he won't exactly be sneaking up on people. Obviously we can't make any declarations as to his bust/boom status, but thus far he's on the right track.

After looking at the mix of talent at the 13th overall pick, I'd say the 17th pick has been a huge range. You've got a Hall of Famer in Hutchinson, a great player for his position in Janikowski, a promising rookie in Freeman, and a solid talent in D.J. Williams. On the other hand, you've got potential busts in Cherilus and Moss, a generally blah pick like Bryant Johnson, and Phillip Buchanon, who falls somewhere between near Johnson. Quite the range of production.