The first few segments of this series covered the first four rounds of the NFL Draft through a historical perspective. Additionally, I looked at exactly where the 49ers were drafting this year and players selected at that slot over the last two decades.
In doing the research I found a lot of surprising information as it relates to what I was covering. For example, the 108th pick has been really team friendly over the last two decades. The likes of David Garrard, Jerricho Cotchery, Jahri Evans and Jacoby Ford have been selected at that slot. On that note, the entire 4th round has produces some incredibly productive players since 2005. Kyle Orton, Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs and Owen Daniels have all been selected there.
Today I am going to focus on the 49ers 141st and 174th picks while giving you a rundown of 5th round selections over the last six drafts. Once again, you are going to be surprised with the results. The entire notion that you cannot find impact players in later rounds is completely false.
1991: WR- Michael Jackson, Cleveland Browns: Jackson started 92 games for the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens franchise from 1991-1998, and was an extremely productive receiver. Despite only having one 1,000 yard season (1996: 1,201 yards and 14 TD), Jackson was an extremely consistent receiver. He had over 700 yards receiving five different times and caught 7 or more TDs another four times.
1993: CB- Doug Evans: It is too bad that Evans was never recognized as the truly great cornerback that he was for the Green Bay Packers during their formidable years of the mid 90s. He represented everything that you look for in a cornerback in the NFL. Over his 11 year career, Evans took away other teams top flight receivers and made it look easy. Evans compiled 28 career interceptions and had over 500 tackles. But, statistics alone cannot prove what he did for the Packers defense. On many occasions he completely blanketed other teams top threats, and took away a big part of the field.
1995: LB- Stephen Boyd, Detroit Lions: Boyd made the Pro Bowl in 1999 and 2000 while leading the Detroit Lions in tackles. Despite only playing seven seasons because of injuries (chronic back pain), Boyd made his mark against opposing offenses. He compiled 70 or more tackles all four seasons in which he was a starter. If it was not for injuries there is no telling how good of a player Boyd would have been in the NFL.
1996: OT- Fred Miller, St. Louis Rams: Simply put, Fred Miller was an absolute beast at the tackle position for a good 12 seasons. He started right from the beginning for the Rams in 1996 and helped protect Kurt Warner during the era of the "greatest show on turf". Despite starting a whopping 164 years in his career, Miller was never recognized as an Pro Bowl performer, rather he just dominated between the hashes in a quite manner. Unassuming in the offensive line, Miller was a player that represented hard work ethic and pure strength. I remember Bryant Young once calling him "a true dog". Which, is one of the better compliments you could pay to an opposing interior linemen.
2002: LB- Andra Davis, Cleveland Browns: Davis jumped into the NFL spotlight during his first season as a starter for the Cleveland Browns. That year he compiled 136 tackles and 5 QB sacks. Two years later, Davis broke that individual record with 149 tackles for the Browns. However, he has been unable to meet those high standards in recent years. That said, Davis has had 90 or more tackles five different years and has started 100 career games. Not a bad steal for what was then a 6th round pick.
2004: OT- Jake Scott: One of the most consistent offensive linemen over the last decade, Scott was first missioned to protect Peyton Manning for Indianapolis, and did a great job. He started 57 games in four seasons with the Colts, helping keep the future hall-of-fame QB upright. Since moving on to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, Scott has continued this consistency. In fact, he has now started 105 straight games since being implanted into the starting lineup for Indianapolis during week 7 of his rookie campaign.
2008: WR- Josh Morgan, San Francisco 49ers: Yes, I am putting Mr. Morgan on this list, and he deserves to be here. Although many 49er fans are going to question whether or not he can be a solid #2 WR in the NFL, there is no question that Morgan has shown flashes with the 49ers. Accordingly, he will probably go into the 2011 season as their #2 WR. Morgan has increased his yardage total all three seasons in the NFL ,topping out at nearly 700 yards in 2010.
Note: The Denver Broncos selected WR- Kenny McKinley from South Carolina with the 141st pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. What could have been a promising career was ended short when, at 24 years old, McKinley committed suicide. It was a tragic ending to a troubled life for the former Gamecock standout. I felt it necessary to mention McKinley in this post because his death just comes to serve as a representation of how fragile life is, and how football isn't everything; it is just a sport.
Best 5th Round Picks Since 2005
2006: DE- Kyle Williams (Buffalo Bills), LB- Parys Haralson (San Francisco 49ers), S- Dawan Landry (Baltimore Ravens)
2007: WR- Steve Breaston (Arizona Cardinals), TE- Kevin Boss (New York Giants), TE- Dante Rosario (Carolina Panthers), TE- Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles), DT- Derek Landri (Jacksonville Jaguars), CB- William Gay (Pittsburgh Steelers)
2009: WR- Johnny Knox (Chicago Bears), RB- Javon Ringer (Michigan State)
2010: S- Kendrick Lewis (Kansas City Chiefs), CB- Perrish Cox (Denver Broncos), TE- Andrew Quarless (Green Bay Packers)
Conclusion: I truly believe that teams are not only built through the first couple rounds of the draft, but later as well. Some of the best teams over the last quarter century have found all-pro performers in the mid-late rounds. The 49ers in particular were extremely good at this during their hey-day, and have actually been pretty good in the mid-round over the course of the last few seasons. Trent Cole and Brent Celek were 5th round picks for the Philadelphia Eagles, and they are prime examples of this. As are both Kendrick Lewis and Perrish Cox during the 2010 draft.
This years version of the draft has been criticized for not being one of the best classes in recent memory. However, in doing my homework I have come to the conclusion that this draft is pretty darn deep, especially at a few different positions; areas that are a concern for our 49ers. Corner, pass rushers and running back come to mind first.