History of the 17th Overall Pick

Baltimore Ravens NFL Draft
Nate Solder

Earlier today at the NFL Combine, the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys flipped a coin to determine draft position. The Cowboys won the toss and in turn, the 16th overall pick. This leaves the Ravens with the 17th overall pick in the first round. Each round this switches, so in the odd rounds, the Cowboys have the higher pick, but in even numbered rounds, it is the Ravens.

Now that it has been established that the Ravens have the 17th overall pick, it is time to look at some of the history of this pick.

I’m not going to cover all of the players selected here, but I will look at the most recent and the best. If you want a full list of the picks since1980, click here.

Now, lets begin with the five most recent players to be selected at 17th overall.

2013: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
One of the most highly-regarded pass rushers in last year’s draft class, Jones fell to the Steelers at 17 due to a medial condition known as spinal stenosis.

After suffering the injury at the University of Southern California, the doctors wouldn’t clear him to play football so he had to transfer to the University of Georgia where they would. He then proceeded to tear apart opposing offenses and was a two-time consensus All-American.

This year with the Steelers he rotated time at outside linebacker with Jason Worilds––an impending free agent. Starting eight games and playing in 14, Jones recorded 40 tackles and one sack in his rookie season. Playing in only one game against the Ravens, he had only two tackles.

With Worilds being a free agent and the Steelers not being in a relatively good cap position, Jones is expected to step up and be a full-time starter this season for the Steelers.

2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Sticking with the AFC North theme here, the Bengals took Kirkpatrick in 2012 out of the University of Alabama.

Standing 6’2″ tall, he is part of the new breed of NFL cornerbacks that are tall and lanky. However, he has had trouble reaching the field in his two seasons in Cincinnati playing a total of just 406 snaps and has three starts.

The main reason for this limited playing time is due to injuries. When he has seen the field though, he hasn’t looked good. Statistically, he has 34 tackles, one sack and three interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, he has graded negatively in all of his starts and was the 98th best cornerback in the NFL this season (out of 110 players).

With age starting to slow down some of the starters in the Bengals secondary, they need him to step up and become the player that they drafted him to be. This coming season is going to be a make-or-break year for him.

2011: Nate Solder, OT, New England Patriots 49ers

Nate Solder

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Taken out of the University of Colorado, Solder was the second offensive tackle selected in 2011 and has quickly become one of the best offensive tackles in the league.

Guarding the blindside for Tom Brady, Solder stepped in right away for the Patriots at right tackle making 13 starts his rookie season (three of these came at left tackle though). Entering his second season in the league, he was switched over the left side for good and has started 31 games over the last two seasons for New England.

This past season, he was the ninth best offensive tackle in the league and the 17th best in 2012.

Excelling in both run and pass blocking, Solder is a franchise left tackle who should be one of the best in the league for years to come.

2010: Mike Iupati, G, San Francisco 
Back in 2010, the 49ers had two first-round picks and they spent both of them on offensive linemen. The second of which was Iupati, a guard out of the University of Idaho.

Standing 6’5″ tall and weighing 331 pounds, he is one of the bigger offensive linemen in the game. An instant starter for the 49ers, he had started 60 straight games for the team at left guard. However, he missed four games due to injury late in the season. Even worse, he fractured his left ankle in the NFL Championship Game this season. This means he has a long recovery ahead of him this offseason.

A true mauler who dominates at run blocking, he was an All-Pro in 2012 and was selected to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. He has proven to be a dominant guard in the NFL, though he did struggle at times this season.

Despite his devastating injury, he is one of the better guards in the NFL right now. Assuming he can bounce back from this, he should help lead the 49ers to another playoff berth in 2014.

2009: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rounding out the last five players selected with the 17th overall pick is Freeman who the Buccaneers took out of Kansas State University.

At first, it seemed like this selection was a home run for Tampa Bay. In his first full season as the starter––second year in the league––he threw for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns, six interceptions and had a completion percentage of 61.4 percent. However, it all went downhill from there.

Since then, inconsistency has marred him. Following up his great season, he threw 22 interceptions and followed that up with 17. This past season, he clashed with head coach Greg Schiano which led to his release. (Schiano was fired at the end of the season). Picked up by the Minnesota Vikings, Freeman made one start and was an abysmal 20-of-53 for 190 yards. After this game, he didn’t make another appearance for the rest of the season.

Now a free agent, it is fair to say that he hasn’t worked out. He is likely to find work as a backup somewhere behind an established starter.

Going through these last five selections there are mixed results. Iupati and Solder are clear hits and Freeman is a clear miss. It is way too early to tell on Jones and while it still is a bit to early on Kirkpatrick, he is leaning towards the miss category.

Now that we have seen the last five players selected at the 17th overall pick, who is the best 17th overall pick in NFL history?

1967: Gene Upshaw, Guard, Oakland Raiders
In order to find the best player ever to be selected with the 17th overall pick, you have to go all the way back the AFL days. In 1967, the Oakland Raiders took Upshaw out of Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville).

While there were other good contenders for the best 17th overall selections (see two runners up below) I felt that Upshaw was the best choice.

Playing left guard for the Raiders, he made 207 starts and played in 217 games during his 15-year career. Spending his entire career in Oakland, he became the first player to ever make the Super Bowl in three different decades.

The anchor of the Raiders’ offensive line in an age where running the ball was more important than it is today, he was a constant on All-Pro teams back then. In his three seasons playing the the AFL, he was a three-time All-AFL player. When the AFL and NFL merged, he picked up right where he left off earning seven All-Pro nominations. During his time in the NFL, he was also a six time Pro-Bowl selection.

Thanks to his blocking, the Raiders found great success as a team as well as individually. They won Super Bowl XI and XV with him manning the left guard position.

Generally recognized as one of the greatest guards to ever play the game, he was named to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. In 1994, the NFL announced their 75th Anniversary All-Time team and he was one of three guards selected.

Naturally, he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

After his player career was over, he hung around football working with the NFL Players Association and was the Executive Director for a number of years.

Unfortunately, he died in 2008 shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. All teams wore a patch on their uniforms with “GU” and 63 (his number) on the left side of their jerseys during week one. The ensuing weeks, teams wore helmet decals with the same thing while the Raiders wore the jersey patch for the entire season.

Runners Up: Emmitt Smith (Running Back, Dallas Cowboys, 1990) and Steve Hutchinson (Guard, Minnesota Vikings, 2001)

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