The best seventh-round picks in NFL Draft history are truly some of the most amazing players with the greatest stories in league history. Granted, the seventh round wasn’t always the last round of the draft.
But even when it wasn’t, it was still late in the draft, so the players drafted in the seventh round always had a long road ahead of them.
Best seventh round picks in NFL Draft history
In a way, the best seventh-round picks in NFL Draft history have just as hard a path as the greatest undrafted players in NFL history. Unlike undrafted players, seventh-round picks don’t get to weigh their options or pick a team before embarking on the start of their career.
That’s why we wanted to create a special list dedicated to the 10 best seventh-round picks in NFL Draft history.
Not only did the Falcons get a great player when they drafted Jamal Anderson in the seventh round of the 1994 Draft but the NFL also got one of its most memorable dance routines. In his third season, Anderson had a breakout year, rushing for over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns.
Not long after that, everybody was doing the “Dirty Bird,” which became Anderson’s signature dance after every touchdown. He would go on to have three more 1,000-yard seasons, including a 1,800-yard, 14-touchdown campaign in 1998 when Anderson helped carry the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Taking Tom Nalen with the 218th pick in the 1994 NFL Draft turned out to be one of the best decisions the Broncos ever made. Between 1994 and 2008, Nalen played 194 games for Denver, starting 188 of them.
Nalen was the team’s starting center for more than a decade, going to five Pro Bowls along the way. More importantly, he helped them to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Needless to say, he’s a member of the Broncos Ring of Fame, playing his entire career in Denver.
It’s common to see kickers taken in the seventh round, although most who project as stars get selected earlier. In Anderson’s case, he was cut by the team that drafted him and still managed to spend over 20 years in the NFL.
His journey from South Africa to the NFL is also one of the most inspiring stories of any NFL player. Obviously, Vikings fans can only remember his famous miss in the NFC Championship Game. But Anderson was also on the NFL’s All-Decade Team in both the 1980s and 1990s, which says something about how good Anderson was throughout his long career.
Taken 79th overall out of Syracuse in the seventh round of the 1953 draft, Jim Ringo turned in a Hall of Fame career, playing mostly for the Packers. While undersized, Ringo used his quickness to become one of the best centers in NFL history.
He was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection during his career and eventually helped the Packers win back-to-back NFL championships in 1961 and 1962. In addition to being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ringo is also a member of the team Hall of Fame for both the Packers and Eagles. He was also named to the 1960s All-Decade Team and once made First-Team All-Pro in seven consecutive seasons.
Only the Patriots were smart enough to draft Julian Edelman in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. They took a college quarterback and turned him into an accomplished wide receiver and one of the best seventh-round picks in NFL Draft history.
Despite never making a Pro Bowl, Edelman spent more than a decade in New England, helping the Patriots to win three Super Bowls. He was even named Super Bowl MVP of Super Bowl LIII after collecting 141 yards on 10 catches in a defensive slugfest against the Rams. While it took Edelman a few years to find his role with the Pats, he ended up with three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in a career that would make any seventh-round pick jealous.
While playing with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers helped, Donald Driver deserves most of the credit for his outstanding career. Selected 213th overall out of tiny Alcorn State in 1999, Driver gave the Pacers 14 memorable seasons. His career ended with over 10,000 receiving yards and five Pro Bowl selections.
Somehow overlooked and sparingly used early in his career, Driver would eventually have seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons in an eight-year span. He was among the NFL’s most consistent receivers during the early 2000s and an absolute steal in the seventh round.
Technically, Bo Jackson was a seventh-round pick. The Bucs took Jackson first overall in 1986, only for him to choose baseball over football. The Raiders took a chance on him in the seventh round the following year. After owner Al Davis gave Jackson the option to play both sports, he signed with the Raiders and his NFL career began.
Of course, a hip injury cut short what could have been a special career in two different pro sports. However, Jackson still averaged 5.4 yards per carry and had 18 total touchdowns in his 38 career NFL games, which is a lot more than most seventh-round selections.
In 1964, Bob Hayes was picked in the seventh round of the NFL Draft and the 14th round of the AFL Draft. That was also the same year that Hayes won two Gold medals running track at the 1964 Olympics. His blazing speed helped him to become a Pro Bowler in each of his first three seasons in the NFL while leading the league in receiving touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Hayes was truly a unicorn at the time because of his speed, forcing teams to adjust by either playing zone defense or bump-and-run coverage. In other words, Hayes was a revolutionary figure in the sport and remains the only person to win a Super Bowl and an Olympic Gold medal. Also, Hayes and Jim Thorpe are the only Olympic Gold winners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960, Larry Wilson is one of the most successful seventh-round picks. In fairness, he was picked 74th overall, so he would have been a mid-third-round pick in today’s NFL. Nevertheless, most third-round picks today don’t turn into Hall of Famers the way Wilson did.
He also has a story worth telling because Wilson was undersized but made a huge impact, going to eight Pro Bowls and being a First-Team All-Pro six times. Wilson helped to revolutionize the game by becoming one of the first safeties used in a safety blitz. He was also toughness personified, once playing with casts on both of his hands because he had two broken wrists. They just don’t make players like Wilson anymore.
In modern times, Shannon Sharpe might be the best seventh-round pick ever. He’s certainly one of the few to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While technically a tight end, Sharpe was one of the first tight ends who could be easily confused as a wide receiver.
He was that good as a pass-catcher, explaining why he had three seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards, falling five yards short of a fourth season in 1993. Sharpe was also a key cog when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 90s and then won a third ring with the Ravens.
On his way to the Hall of Fame, Sharpe was also an eight-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.