- Seb Kennedy
Draft Pick Pay-Offs #10
While they might not all turn out as successfully as Marcus Allen, Rod Woodson, Jerome Bettis or Terrell Suggs, the tenth overall is still a top-10 pick. And some of these number 10 selections from the last decade have already enjoyed incredible levels of success in the NFL — others, not so much. This article is going to break down just how well Jacksonville, Buffalo, Tennessee, Detroit, St. Louis, New York, Kansas City, Arizona and Pittsburgh spent their respective10th overall picks between 2010 and 2019, shedding light on which of these franchises would happily reselect their college prospect if given the opportunity. And given some of the names on this list, there are definitely some organizations that would jump at the chance to do so.
2010 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Tyson Alualu, Defensive Tackle, California (Selected By Jacksonville Jaguars)
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Unequivocally the biggest surprise of his respective NFL Draft, Tyson Alualu probably couldn’t believe his luck when he found out he’d officially earned top-10 pick status on April 22nd, 2010 — especially when you look back at some of the names that came off the board after him. The Hawaiian manned California’s defensive line for four consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2009, where — after a true freshman season spent finding his feet in the Pac-12 — he truly came into his own as his college career progressed. The Golden Bears’ big man compiled 179 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, five defended passes, four forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown across his final three years at Memorial Stadium, which saw him pick up second-team All-Pac-10 honours as a sophomore, subsequently improving when making the conference’s first team the very next season. And after Alualu’s impressive showing at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars’ general manager Gene Smith had clearly set his eyes firmly on the defensive lineman — explaining all too well why the first round panned out the way it did. Brandon Graham, Earl Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mike Iupati, Maurkice Pouncey, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Devin McCourty were all taken within the first 32 picks of the 2010 NFL Draft, but not before Mr. Alualu. With the tenth overall pick, Jacksonville started their decade of predominantly disappointing draft selections by taking the kid out of Cali, who would join second-year starter Terrance Knighton on the interior defensive line. And while the Golden Bear didn’t exactly terrorize opposing guards and centers on his way to stuffing the box score, he roared his way right into the PFWA All-Rookie Team alongside Carlos Dunlap, Lamarr Houston and Ndamukong Suh — forming a formidable front four that could give any offensive line some serious trouble. But unfortunately, Alualu’s debut season proved to be as decorated and productive as his NFL career would get. Though receiving a new two-year, $6 million contract from the Jaguars at the conclusion of his rookie deal, he never quite took that next step that Gene Smith was hoping for and soon found himself being picked up by Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2017 — still yet to register a single Pro Bowl campaign (the least you can really ask for from a top-10 overall pick). Now 33 years old and competing for snaps on a defensive line featuring Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree and T. J. Watt, the tenth overall pick may struggle to make an impact for the remainder of his time in the pros but certainly does deserve a lot of praise for both his contribution and durability throughout his 11-year career to date — having missed just four total games in that time. However, so much more was expected from Alualu that this unfortunately has to go down as a big miss for Duval and not a draft pick pay-off. But it doesn’t even come close to the franchise’s infamous gaff the very next season…
2011 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Missouri (Selected By Jacksonville Jaguars)
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The man that Jacksonville traded up for to take with the tenth overall pick — allowing their AFC South rivals Houston to acquire all-time talent J. J. Watt — Blaine Gabbert will forever be compared to the premium pass-rusher, just not for the right reasons. Despite not receiving any accolades during his college career nor breaking a single school record while behind center at Missouri, the Tiger at least tore up the Big 12 for two consecutive seasons in 2009 and 2010 — simultaneously stuffing the box score. Gabbert compiled 6,779 yards and 40 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior years collectively, thereafter announcing his intention to forego his senior season and enter the 2011 NFL Draft, where — albeit with the benefit of hindsight — the Jacksonville Jaguars made one of, if not the biggest mistake in franchise history. After striking a deal with Bruce Allen to move up into Washington’s spot at number 10, Gene Smith decided to take a flyer on the six-foot-four quarterback in the hope that Gabbert would galvanize the offense and lead the organization to their first winning season in four years. What the Jaguars’ general manager didn’t take into account though, was the fact that his new signal-caller would have to deal with Watt coming off the edge — terrorizing tackles — not once, but twice every single season. As the Texans’ star hit the big time in just his second year as a pro — winning Pro Bowl, first-team All-Pro and NFL Defensive Player of the Year honours in 2012 — Gabbert simply hit the deck, being sacked a career-high 40 times as a rookie and failing to lead his team to anything more than a 5-11 regular-season record. Having already lost the starting job to the equally uninspiring Chad Henne by 2013, the mistake-prone passer was soon shipped out to San Francisco as Jacksonville cut their losses — receiving nothing more than a sixth-round pick in return. And after failing to make any sort of serious impact in red and gold, leading to subsequent single-season stops in both Arizona and Tennessee – where he was resigned to keeping the bench warm and filling a spot on the depth chart — it very quickly became apparent that not even the genie of the lamp could revive Gabbert’s NFL career. Now 31 years old and on his fifth franchise, the tenth overall pick is currently backing up Tom Brady on the Buccaneers and yet to surpass even 10,000 career passing yards despite ample opportunity — and it seems as though he never will. However, given Tampa Bay’s triumph this past month over Kansas City, at least Gabbert can now say he’s a Super Bowl champion — something J. J. Watt is yet to achieve in comparison. For Jaguars fans such as myself, Blaine Gabbert merely represents another name on the painfully long list of quarterback busts behind center in Duval. Needless to say, not at all what Gene Smith and Co were hoping for. This could barely be further from a draft pick pay-off, and the fact that we passed up the chance to draft a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, five-time first-team All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler, unanimous NFL 2010 All-Decade Team member and future first-ballot Hall of Famer in favour of him tells you all you need to really know.
2012 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina (Selected By Buffalo Bills)
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One of the most consistent cornerbacks of the last decade, Stephon Gilmore’s efforts have only recently started being recognized and duly rewarded since he made the move to New England in 2017 — despite displaying his prowess beforehand as a Buffalo Bill. The ball hawk spent his college career on the South Carolina Gamecocks where he enjoyed three prosperous seasons from the secondary — both statistically and decoratively speaking. One Hundred-eighty-one total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, seven sacks and a touchdown in garnet and black saw the defensive back earn both the CFN and Phil Steele Freshman All-American titles in 2009, win first-team All-SEC honours as a sophomore — as well as the following season as a junior — and be named to the AP All-American third team in 2011. After deciding to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility, Gilmore galvanized both scouts and team representatives from all 32 franchises at the NFL Combine when posting a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, a 6.61-second three-cone drill, a 10-foot-three-inch broad jump and a 36-inch vertical — finishing fourth, fourth, sixth and seventh among all 37 defensive backs in attendance respectively. With Morris Claiborne already packing his bags for Dallas, the Gamecock became just the second corner off the board as Bills general manager Buddy Nix selected Gilmore with the 10th overall pick — bringing him to Buffalo where he would join star safety Jairus Byrd in Dave Wannstedt’s secondary. And while Byrd balled out in 2012 as an All-Pro and Pro Bowler, the raw rookie somewhat struggled and registered just a single pick despite receiving 16 consecutive starts from head coach Chan Gailey but failed to earn a nod to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. However, despite sustaining a plethora of injuries and thus missing invaluable on-field experience, the robust Bill bounced back by averaging over three interceptions and 11 defended passes per season across the following four years at Ralph Wilson Stadium (renamed New Era Field from 2016). But with Sean McDermott at the helm as head coach in 2017, the Bills chose not to franchise tag Gilmore ahead of the upcoming campaign. Buffalo’s loss was New England’s gain as Bill Belichick picked up the plucky corner and paired him alongside established veteran Malcolm Butler in the Patriots’ secondary, signing him to a five-year, $65 million contract in the process. And after Gilmore had recorded his first Pro Bowl appearance in his final season in Buffalo, the 10th overall pick would go on to enjoy a further three at Gillette Stadium between 2018 and 2020 — as well as earning two first-team All-Pro honours and winning the coveted NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019 by registering a career-high six interceptions and 20 defended passes. Despite having joined the team as late as 2017, the former-Gamecock was named to the New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team — further highlighting both Belichick’s brilliant business mind and Gilmore’s exceptional on-field ability. Only just on the wrong side of 30 and with nine pro seasons and seven playoff games under his belt, Gilmore will retire — whenever he decides to — as a Super Bowl champion, playing a key role in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over Los Angeles two years ago where he picked off Jared Goff, notched five solo tackles, defended three passes and forced a fumble — all on the biggest stage in all of football. Not too bad, huh? While the 10th overall pick isn’t ever likely to receive a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his prowess across the last decade should not go unnoticed — and it’s reassuring to see that his efforts have been rewarded over the last few seasons. Born in South Carolina, made in Buffalo, successful in New England. I’m putting this down as both a draft pick and trade pay-off for the two respective parties, though I bet general manager Brandon Beane regrets ever letting him leave the building now.
2013 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama (Selected By Tennessee Titans)
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One of the five starting offensive lineman that facilitated Chris Johnson’s final 1,000-yard rushing season in the NFL, Chance Warmack’s football career took him from three-star college recruit status to Super Bowl champion and represents an incredible story. After selecting to spend his pre-pro tenure at Alabama, the guard enjoyed four prosperous seasons at Bryant-Denny Stadium where — as is almost always the case with Crimson Tide and Nick Saban prospects — he achieved incredible levels of success and was duly rewarded. Not one, not two, but three National Championships, two SEC titles, a second-team All-SEC inclusion in his junior year, and both first-team All-SEC and unanimous All-American honours as a senior in 2012 — his final season of collegiate eligibility. And after graduating with a degree in communication studies as well, Warmack had a bright future ahead of him — whether it be on or off the field. The guard declared for the 2013 NFL Draft as the best interior lineman in his class and even drew comparisons from analysts to seven-time All-Pro Steve Hutchinson. And on the night of April 25th, 2013, Warmack would find himself being taken some seven spots higher than the Hall of Famer. With the 10th overall pick, Tennessee’s general manager Ruston Webster selected the Bama big man and slotted him straight into a Titans offensive line that had just graded the road for Chris Johnson’s five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing campaigns (including a 2,006-yard effort in 2009). And now boasting a new top-10 pick in front of him at guard, the ever-reliable running back was about to make that six for six. Warmack started all 16 games in his rookie season and played a key role in Johnson achieving the impressive feat, remaining the team’s starting right guard until 2016 when he sustained a Week-2 injury in what would ultimately prove to be his last game for the AFC South franchise. With the lineman soon leaving Tennessee after the front office had declined his fifth-year option, Howie Roseman flew him out to Philadelphia where Warmack put pen to paper on a one-year, $1.51 million deal — later signing an extension through the 2018 season — in a move that would immediately pay dividends. With the Eagles’ new #67 playing in 11 games in 2017, the franchise frolicked to a 13-3 division-winning record and enjoyed a Nick Foles-led playoff run for the ages. Philadelphia toppled New England by a score of 41-33 in Super Bowl LII as Warmack got his hands on his team’s first ever Lombardi Trophy. Having most recently signed yet never playing for the Seahawks after opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the now-29-year-old’s future NFL career prospects — which were once incredibly promising during his early Tennessee tenure — appear all but over. But who’s to say that the former-Bama baller doesn’t have another season or two left in him given that he currently remains on the right side of 30? Even if just as a back-up guard or veteran locker-room guy. However, for a 10th overall pick, if you’re the Titans you expected a much greater return than what Warmack gave you — not a single Pro Bowl honour to his name. This one was unfortunately a swing and a miss from Tennessee and not a draft pick pay-off. On the bright side, at least he’ll never have to buy another drink in Tuscaloosa ever again.
2014 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina (Selected By Detroit Lions)
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Tied for the third most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a single season with 13, Eric Ebron’s 2018 campaign in Indianapolis truly was one to remember as the 10th overall pick had a career year in blue and white. Prior to turning pro, the 6'4 pass-catcher enjoyed both a relatively productive and decorated college career at North Carolina – A three-year tenure at the tight end position that saw Ebron ultimately decide to forego his remaining season of eligibility. The Tar Heel’s 112 receptions for 1,805 yards and eight touchdowns at Kenan Memorial Stadium earned Ebron not only second-team All-ACC honours as a sophomore, but both first-team All-ACC and second-team AP All-American inclusions in 2013. And with an impressive NFL Combine showing to boot, the tight end declared for the 2014 draft as the consensus top prospect at his position and a welcome addition to any offense across the league. Come May 8th, 2014, those draft experts and scout projections would be proven true. The Tar Heel was taken at number 10 by Martin Mayhew and the Detroit Lions, with the next tight end not being selected for a further 28 picks. Evidently excited about immediately including Matthew Stafford’s new receiving option into the offense, head coach Jim Caldwell ensured Ebron saw action in 13 games as a rookie where — as the third chain-moving weapon behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate — he compiled 248 yards from 25 catches, scoring a single touchdown. Over his next two seasons in the Motor City, the tight end’s downfield production improved as Detroit received a positive uptick in both receptions and yardage from their 10th overall draft pick, but it soon seemed as though Ebron’s ceiling as a Lion had already been reached. After failing to top 711 yards in a single campaign at Ford Field — doing so in 2016 — the Tar Heel was released by the NFC North franchise in March of 2018 where he entered free agency. This was music to the ears of Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who subsequently signed #85 to a two-year, $13 million contract and brought him to Indianapolis where he began his time as the backup tight end to Jack Doyle. But Ebron’s time on the bench was short-lived. With Doyle out to injury, from Week 3 onwards the Colts’ latest pass-catching asset proved exactly why he was deserving of increased snaps as he emerged as one of the deadliest red zone threats in the entire league. No fewer than 750 yards and 13 touchdowns in just eight starts for Indy’s 2018 outfit saw Ebron not only etch his name into the franchise’s history books, but also earn his first ever Pro Bowl nod as an NFL player. Pretty exciting stuff. But unfortunately, the very next season he came back down to Earth. Ending the season on injured reserve, the player didn’t see his stint on the Colts extend beyond the conclusion of the 2019 season as Ebron — once again — entered free agency. Now one year into his contract as a Pittsburgh Steeler and turning 28 years of age next month, the once-heralded pass-catching prospect has been resigned to perfectly adequate tight end status — not what was expected of him coming out of college. Hoping to receive the next star at the position, Detroit’s tenth-overall-pick investment never really paid off here. But at least Colts fans will always remember those 13 touchdown celebrations Ebron gave them in 2018 in what will go down as one of the most productive red zone seasons of all time. Nice little two-year pick up here from Chris Ballard, but one that proved not so fruitful for Martin Mayhew.
2015 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia (Selected By St. Louis Rams)
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Indisputably one of the greatest running backs of the last half-decade, Todd Gurley’s five-year run as a Ram is one that will live long in the memory of fans of the franchise that are no strangers to elite-level rushing play. After spending his high school years splitting time at running back and defensive back — also performing exceptionally on the track — the four-star recruit committed to the University of Georgia in 2012 where he continued to impress. Despite starting his Bulldogs tenure backing up redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome, the true freshman racked up 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground (also contributing on special teams) to earn first-team All-SEC honours in his debut NCAA season. But Gurley’s pre-pro prowess didn’t stop there. Averaging 950 yards and 10 touchdowns across the next two years, the Georgia prospect won a second-team All-SEC inclusion in 2013 and declared for the NFL draft with a season of collegiate eligibility still on the table. Leaving absolutely no doubt in Les Snead’s mind that he was the real deal, Gurley’s level of play in the college ranks saw the Rams general manager select the running back with the 10th overall pick where he would enter the Edward Jones Dome ready to make an immediate impact. And do that he did. Over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground in just 12 starts for St. Louis earned the rusher not only PFWA All-Rookie Team status — winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award to boot — but also Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honours in his very first season of professional football. The bar had been set and all that remained was to ask whether or not Gurley could maintain it. Well, following a 2016 campaign in which #30 very nearly maintained his yards-from-scrimmage contribution under the dismal tutorage of Jeff Fisher, Sean McVay’s hiring as head coach ahead of the 2017 season would not only go on to propel the Rams but enable their reliable rusher to reach the next level. A combined 2,556 yards on the ground and 1,368 yards through the air over the following two years in McVay’s innovative offense saw Gurley achieve back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns, consecutive first-team All-Pro honours and even win the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award in 2017 as well as making it to the Super Bowl the following year. But just a year after, both exercising the fifth-year option on his rookie deal and subsequently signing Gurley to a four-year, $60 million record-breaking extension, the Los Angeles front office and their star player were already about to go their separate ways. After his least productive season for the Rams and the lingering injury issues that tainted his tenure on the team, the franchise released Gurley as he became a free agent for the very first time in his storied career — only to be picked up by Atlanta some 18 days later. Now one year into his time on the Falcons and already splitting carries after his new team adopted a running back-by-committee approach in 2020, the 10th overall pick’s time at the top of the league may already be over. Still, just 26 years old and possessing a lot of value given the low price he now demands, the reward may very well outweigh the risk associated with signing Gurley. But that being said, given his well-documented injury which he never seems to have quite recovered fully from, this acquisition comes with a buyer’s beware warning. While it’s tough to predict how the Bulldog’s future will look in the NFL, one thing that isn’t difficult to determine is whether or not Todd Gurley was a draft pick pay-off for the Rams organization. Because at his peak in both St. Louis and Los Angeles, he proved himself to be one of the very best backs of the last decade — an absolute lights-out pick by Les Snead here.
2016 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Eli Apple, Cornerback, Ohio State (Selected By New York Giants)
In complete contrast to his surname, Eli Apple’s professional career to date has been particularly unfruitful. But that’s not to say that his college tenure went the same way in the slightest. Over his two years on the field at Ohio State, the cornerback compiled 86 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one touchdown from the secondary across a Buckeyes career that saw Apple earn not only second-team All-Big Ten honours as a redshirt sophomore but a National Championship ring in 2015 too. And after deciding to forego his remaining two seasons of collegiate eligibility, the defensive back declared for the 2016 NFL Draft as one of the consensus top prospects at his position — a sentiment only further strengthened after he’d displayed his incredible athleticism at both the NFL Combine and Ohio State’s Pro Day. With Jalen Ramsey off to Jacksonville, Apple became just the second cornerback taken off the board as Jerry Reese selected the Buckeye with the 10th overall pick to join valiant veteran Janoris Jenkins and second-year stud Landon Collins in the Giants’ secondary. But while Jenkins and Collins would go on to enjoy both All-Pro and Pro Bowl campaigns in 2016, Apple appeared to have bitten off more than he could chew. Despite ample playing time, the ball hawk failed to record more than one interception across his entire New York career. A number of disciplinary issues between the 10th overall pick and both his teammates and coaches — that even went so far as Collins calling Apple a “cancer” who was not deserving of a roster spot in 2018 — spelled serious trouble for the corner who was soon shipped off to New Orleans where he would have similar levels of failure on the field. Neither the Giants nor the Saints were willing to keep Apple on their roster past the conclusion of his rookie contract, leaving Carolina to take a flyer on the defensive back when signing him to a one-year, $3 million deal ahead of the 2020 season — only to be subsequently released by the Panthers prior to the team’s Week 8 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Still just 25 and with plenty of potential years left in him, Apple may well be resigned to back-up status for the remainder of his NFL career due to a number of factors including his lack of production at the pro level, his injury issues and his off-field demeanour that has clearly rubbed a lot of his teammates the wrong way. Whether or not he was ever going to succeed in the NFL will forever be debated, but one thing that's certain is he destroyed any chance he had of doing so because of his personality. Now five years on from the draft in which Apple was selected 10th overall, this pick appears increasingly like a reach from Jerry Reese — particularly given that there remained a plethora of talent still yet to be taken. This was absolutely not a draft pick pay-off for New York here, and needless to say that this Eli was nowhere near as successful in The Big Apple (even if he does share his surname with the city’s famous nickname) as the former Eli. This one leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
2017 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Texas Tech (Selected By Kansas City Chiefs)
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The most talented and naturally-gifted quarterback I’ve ever seen during my days as a fan of the NFL, Patrick Mahomes would have a very good chance of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he decided to retire tomorrow at the age of just 25 — given what the phenom has already accomplished in his short NFL career so far. Born to an MLB pitcher, athletic ability runs in the Mahomes bloodline which Patrick would definitively utilize during his college career at Texas Tech. His three years as a Red Raider saw the signal-caller romp to 11,252 total yards and 93 touchdowns passing for an average efficiency rating of 152, winning second-team All-Big 12 honours, the Sammy Baugh Trophy and the FBS Passing Yards Leader title in 2016. With absolutely nothing left to prove at the NCAA level where he broke two all-time single-game records against Oklahoma as a junior, the quarterback announced he would be foregoing his last year of collegiate eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft as a projected first or second round pick by the majority of analysts and scouts. But both Brett Veach and Andy Reid clearly saw something in Mahomes that the majority of others didn’t, as they traded up with Buffalo and slid into the ten spot to duly select the Texas Tech passer in what would prove to be one of the greatest intra-draft moves in NFL history. After a rookie season spent on the bench behind veteran thrower Alex Smith — seeing just one start in Week 17 — Mahomes was about to take the league by storm – a storm for which the other 31 franchises had no shelter. In his first year as a starter for Kansas City in 2018, the signal-caller notched over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns passing in an effort that earned the former-Red Raider first-team All-Pro honours, Pro Bowl honours, NFL Offensive Player of the Year and the coveted NFL Most Valuable Player Award. The Chiefs went 14-2 with Mahomes behind center and ended up being just a coin flip away from making it to Super Bowl LIII — a game in which they undoubtedly would’ve won given the Rams’ dismal three-point display on the night. Determined to prove that his first full campaign was no mirage, #15 put on another tremendous individual showing in 2019 by compiling over 4,000 yards once again and making it to his second Pro Bowl in as many seasons — this time getting his hands on the Lombardi Trophy as Kansas City reigned victorious over San Francisco at Super Bowl LIV (and there’s no prizes for guessing who won MVP on the night). Brett Veachs and Andy Reid’s confidence in the kid from Texas Tech had become very quickly vindicated, to the extent that ahead of the 2020 regular season, Mahomes signed a ten-year — yes, ten-year — $503 million contract that would keep him on the books at Arrowhead Stadium through 2031. The first contract of its kind in NFL history for a quarterback, and yet one that appears unequivocally justified given the talent possessed by the passer in question. Another All-Pro and Pro Bowl campaign in 2020 — in which the 10th overall pick threw for 4,740 yards and 38 touchdowns — gave Mahomes his second Super Bowl appearance in as many seasons, where he just so happened to fall short against the greatest quarterback of all time (the very same man that had prevented him reaching the big game back in 2018 by winning the coin flip in overtime of the AFC Championship Game, Tom Brady). It really is a challenge to put into words just how good this man is in the NFL, and while I’ve done my very best above, I still don’t think it does #15 justice. Patrick Mahomes has done things with a football that we’ve never even seen before and as long as he’s behind center in Kansas City, the Chiefs remain perennial contenders in a league featuring ever-changing contenders. Just 25 years old, I think it’s fair to say that the road to all of this decade’s remaining Super Bowls as an AFC outfit runs through KC — and there’s certainly a few more Lombardi Trophies heading to Arrowhead over the coming years. The Chiefs’ scouting department in 2017 better all have had their salaries increased after this 10th overall selection, because whether or not Patrick Mahomes is representative of a draft pick pay-off at this point is nothing more than a rhetorical question. Every team in the league wishes they had this man on their roster, but only Brett Veach and Andy Reid do. And it doesn’t get any better than that.
2018 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA (Selected By Arizona Cardinals)
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The man possessing possibly the strangest career trajectory of any top-10 pick quarterback in recent memory, Josh Rosen’s name is one that will forever feature in the question “whatever happened to Player X?” The passer’s pre-pro career at UCLA saw him rack up 9,340 total yards and 59 touchdowns, equating to an average efficiency rating of 140.1 — particularly impressive given that the slinger missed half of his sophomore season due to a shoulder injury. That kind of production was good for the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year Award, an inclusion in the Freshman All-American team and second-team All-Pac-12 honours as a junior as Rosen declared for 2018 NFL Draft not only with a season of collegiate ability still remaining, but as one of the consensus top quarterbacks alongside Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. And after the three aforementioned signal-callers had already been selected by the Browns, Jets and Bills respectively, the Cardinals — also in need of a new man behind center — took their man at number 10. Rosen began packing his bags and headed for the desert as Arizona general manager Steve Keim entrusted the Bruin with the keys to the franchise. But it wouldn’t be long until the 10th overall pick would be returning them, as Kyler Murray soon took over. Prior to that though, Rosen played 14 games of the Cardinals’ 2018 season where he struggled mightily. Barely surpassing 2,200 passing yards despite receiving ample on-field opportunity and throwing more interceptions than he did touchdowns, it soon became clear that the UCLA prospect was not the answer the Bidwill family was looking for. So as Arizona went in an entirely different direction, so too did Rosen. Steve Keim and Chris Grier struck a deal that saw the second-year signal-caller headed to South Beach where he would serve as the back-up to 14-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the Cardinals receiving a second-round pick and a fifth-round pick in return. But unfortunately for Rosen — despite being handed a fresh start — he continued to fail to live up to expectations. Posting just a single touchdown and five interceptions in Miami, the disappointing Dolphin caused his franchise to — for the second time in as many seasons — decide that change was already needed at the quarterback position, which prompted Grier’s selection of Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Subsequent signings to Tampa Bay and San Francisco practice squads have been all Rosen and his agent could muster this past season, and it unfortunately seems very much as though this could be par for the course going forward. From achieving top-10 pick status to becoming a practice squad straggler in just two years, the steep decline of the once-heralded passer has been something truly extraordinary — it’s just a shame that use of the word ‘extraordinary’ here is wholly negative. I’d be very surprised to see Rosen ever taking snaps on an NFL field again given just how badly he’s fared with the opportunity so far, but much stranger things have happened. One thing that is easily determinable, however, is the extent to which this 10th overall pick paid off for the respective franchise that drafted him. The answer? Not in the slightest. Sorry, Cardinals fans but this was a huge bust — at least you now have dual-threat dynamo Kyler Murray behind center (in addition to thousands of Josh Rosen jerseys that will never be worn again). Steve Keim will be thanking his lucky stars that Murray can cut the mustard in the pros.
2019 NFL Draft’s Tenth Overall Pick - Devin Bush, Inside Linebacker, Michigan (Selected By Pittsburgh Steelers)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
The seemingly perfect replacement for the retiring Ryan Shazier whose career was very sadly cut short due to injury, Devin Bush has already made a great impression in Pittsburgh despite ending his 2020 season on injured reserve. Enjoying a three-year tenure at Michigan during his college days, the linebacker’s plethora of terrific performances from the middle of the Wolverines’ defense saw him not only pick up numerous accolades, but also stuff the box score as well. One-hundred-seventy-two total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 11 defended passes, 10 sacks and an interception at The Big House saw Bush earn both second-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honours as a sophomore, as well as first-team All-Big Ten and consensus All-American inclusions in 2018 — a junior campaign where the defender was named both Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and picked up the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award as well. And after deciding to forego his senior season at Michigan and subsequently balling out at the NFL Combine — posting a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a 40.5-inch vertical jump — Bush entered the 2019 draft as one of the consensus top linebackers in a class that had a lot of top-tier talent at the position. Looking to fill the Ryan Shazier-shaped hole in the Steelers’ defense, Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert selected the Wolverine with the tenth overall pick and added him to a linebacking corps featuring league-leading stars Bud Dupree and T. J. Watt. All of a sudden — as if #48 and #90 weren’t enough to handle — AFC North offenses now had to deal with the dominant Devin Bush in the middle of the field, not once but twice per season. Yikes. And the 10th overall pick hit the ground running at Heinz Field. One-hundred-nine tackles, nine tackles for loss, four defended passes, four fumble recoveries, two quarterback hits, two interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble and one touchdown in 16 games earned the 21-year-old a thoroughly deserved inclusion in the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Not only joining Devin White and Dre Greenlaw in the side but staking his claim as one of the best inside linebackers the league over. Looking to build on his incredible rookie-season effort, Bush’s 2020 campaign was unfortunately cut short as he suffered a torn ACL against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6 — a second-year showing in which the tenth overall pick was on pace to match his debut-season production. Soon to be fully healthy again as the 2021 NFL regular season kicks off this September and still just 22 years of age, Devin Bush is already performing at an exceptional level — one expected of a player five years his senior with a wealth of professional experience — and I don’t for a single minute doubt his ability to maintain the performances he’s given so far. For a number of reasons including his apt fit as Ryan Shazier’s Steelers successor, Devin Bush is undoubtedly representative of a draft pick pay-off. Half a decade from now, we could be looking at a perennial Pro Bowler — something not unfamiliar at that position in Pittsburgh’s long and prestigious history.
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