After four months and roughly 30,000 different “Is Mitchell Trubisky a franchise quarterback” debates, we’ve survived Round 1 of the NFL Draft. Many teams that picked Thursday made bold proclamations like “This guy is a franchise changer” and “He’s a better person than he is a player” – stuff we all know may not be true.
The good news, however, is that one round doesn’t define a draft, and whether you’re excited about your team’s first-round pick or down on it, there always is plenty of talent available after Round 1. A bunch of Hall of Famers came from Round 2 or later, not to mention some of the league’s current stars.
Here are the players we consider the best in the NFL drafted after Round 1:
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Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins (5th round, 2011)
Playing at FCS Costal Carolina, Norman was wildly overlooked on draft night — an NFL-wide mistake which didn't deter Norman. Last offseason he signed the richest contract for a cornerback in league history, after a 2015 season in which he was named first-team All-Pro.
Atkins has been one of the league’s most consistent defensive linemen for the past half decade, earning five Pro Bowl nods over the past six seasons, with two first-team All-Pro nominations as well.
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Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (3rd round, 2003)
Just how long ago was Witten drafted? Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller and Troy Polamalu were drafted the same season. Yet despite Witten’s advanced age (he’ll be 35 in May), he remains one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL, making 69 catches last season.
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Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks (5th round, 2010)
It’s been seven years since Chancellor was drafted, but it doesn’t change the incredible fact that somehow, someway, NFL clubs believed there were 132 players better than him available in 2010. Chancellor has spent his entire career proving the doubters wrong, making four Pro Bowl appearances and laying down some of the hardest hits in modern NFL history.
Sure Bell has created plenty of headaches off the field for Mike Tomlin and his staff, but when he’s on the field, few backs have been more productive than the fourth-year player from Michigan State. Bell rushed for 1,268 yards last regular season despite missing four games, then put up back-to-back performances of 167 and and 170 yards in the playoffs, helping the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game.
Landon Collins, S, New York Giants (2nd round, 2014)
Collins was the heart and soul of Alabama’s defense for two seasons, yet somehow fell to the second round of the 2014 draft, which many teams likely regret to this day. He tallied 112 tackles as a rookie before a breakout season last year which he finished with 125 tackles and five interceptions, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Year.
Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs (3rd round, 2011)
An ACL tear limited Houston to 11 games in 2016, but when he was on the field he showed why he was once the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history. Houston finished last season with 7.5 sacks in those 11 games, which is a nice number – until compared with the 22 he tallied in 2015. Now healthy and just 28 years old, Houston should get back to that 2015 form this fall.
The combination of playing alongside Odell Beckham at LSU and Les Miles’ anemic, 19th-century offense led Landry to fall to the second round in 2014. However, Landry’s since proved that it was much more the Tigers’ play-calling – and not his talent – which led to that fall. The third-year pro finished in the top 10 in catches each of the past two seasons, including last year when he grabbed 94 balls, tied for seventh most in the league.
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Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks (5th round, 2011)
Yes, his offseason has been filled with trade rumors, and no, they doesn’t change the fact that Sherman, one of the founding members of “The Legion of Boom”, still is one of the best corners in the league. The 2014 NFC Defensive Player of the Year and four-time Pro Bowler had four interceptions last season. L.O.B.!!
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Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (2nd round, 2010)
Back problems knocked Gronkowski to the second round in 2010, and injuries slowed him in 2016 – but what can’t be denied is that when Gronk is on the field, he is one of the most transformative talents the game has seen. The four-time Pro Bowler has tallied at least 1,000 yards three times and has caught at least 10 touchdown passes every season in which he’s played at least half of the games. Oh, and when he’s not busy dominating your team, he makes one hell of an assistant press secretary as well.
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Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (3rd round, 2012)
Because he doesn’t put up the monster stats of a Brady, Brees or Rodgers, it’s easy to overlook just how good Wilson has been since arriving in the league in 2012. After stealing the starting quarterback job from Matt Flynn, Wilson has gone to three Pro Bowls and led Seattle to the playoffs all five seasons he’s been a starter. And maybe the most important statistic surrounding Wilson is this: He has yet to miss a start.
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Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks (2nd round, 2012)
Noticing a trend here? Yeah, there are a lot of Seahawks – and Wagner might be their best player drafted after the first round. He has finished with at least 100 tackles in all five seasons, including an NFL-best 167 a year ago. In the process, he has played in three Pro Bowls and been named a first-team All-Pro twice.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (6th round, 2010)
Despite earning All-American honors twice at Central Michigan, Brown – thanks to his 5’10" frame – fell all the way to the sixth round in 2010. Shame on the NFL, as he has evolved into one of the most consistent receivers in the league. Brown has tallied at least 100 catches each of the past four seasons, including an NFL-best 136 in 2015. He also has the most lively Facebook account in the league.
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Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (2nd round, 2001)
The first pick of the second round in 2001, Drew Brees has firmly established himself as one of the all-time greats at the position. He’s currently No. 3 in passing yards (66,111) and third in career touchdown passes (465). The best part? He isn’t slowing down after throwing for an NFL-best 5,208 yards last season.
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Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (6th round, 2000)
Five Super Bowls wins. Four MVPs. Arguably the greatest of all time. Does anything else need to be said?