Have you ever wondered where that player, that your favorite NFL team drafted in the first round years ago but did not pan out, ended up? How about that player your team let go in free agency a while ago?
With approximately 1,700 players on teams in the NFL today (53 players on 32 teams), it is too hard to keep up with who plays where. There are some players that you haven’t heard of in a while and then while you are watching a game, you hear the broadcaster say “so-and-so with the tackle” and you start thinking “he still plays?” You could even be playing Madden and all of a sudden a random player makes a play and you ask yourself “is that so-and-so?” It happens to the best of us. But some players were drafted with the hopes of bringing their team back from the cellar and they end up just being names to which people say “who is that?” whenever they’re name is brought up.
Here is a list of NFL players that you probably do not know and do not remember unless you’re an old timer. It consists of draft busts, retired players that do not get remembered, and players who still play but fans have forgotten they are getting it done on the gridiron.
Enjoy the list!
20. Akili Smith
With the third pick in the Ricky Williams draft (in 1999), the Cincinnati Bengals selected Akili Smith, quarterback out of Oregon. If this name does not ring a bell, it is quite alright. Akili Smith was selected with the third pick in the 1999 draft (the draft where everyone thought Ricky Williams would go #1) behind Tim Couch (#1 to the Browns), who is also on this list, and Donovan McNabb (#2 to the Eagles).
The Bengals were on the clock and they passed on Williams to take Smith. During his two years at Oregon, Smith threw for over 5,000 yards and threw 45 touchdowns to only 15 interceptions. With numbers like that, it is no wonder why he was picked so high. It is too bad he did not do so well in the NFL. He played four seasons with the Bengals and only played in 22 games before being let go. He tried to sign on with the Packers and Buccaneers, but was cut before the regular season on both occasions.
19. Lito Sheppard
With the Eagles defense doing so well so far this season, it has been compared to the defense when the late Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator. His secondary consisted of the great Brian Dawkins, but the other members of the secondary weren’t slouches either and three of them are on this list.
Lito Sheppard was drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Eagles and instantly became a part of the Eagles secondary. He was part of the team that made it to Super Bowl XXXIX that lost to the Patriots. He played seven seasons with the Eagles before playing a season with the Jets, Vikings, and Raiders each and then hanging it up in 2011.
It just goes to show that a great defense might be centered around one player, but there are other players that make as big of an impact.
18. Matt Flynn
Remember the guy the Seahawks signed to a three year, $20 million deal in the same off-season as they drafted Russell Wilson? That guy was Matt Flynn.
He began his career in the NFL after a pretty good collegiate career at LSU by backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. With Rodgers resting up for the playoffs, Flynn played in the last game of the 2011-12 season against the Lions and threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns, drawing interest from teams with questions at the quarterback position and because he was set to become a free agent in the off-season.
He signed with the Seahawks for what he thought was going to be a starting job, but with Wilson in the picture, Flynn was dumped into the backup role. He has been with the Raiders, Bills, Packers, Patriots, Jets, and Saints since his days with Seattle, but has not found a starting job in any of those stops.
17. Nick Barnett
We will stay in Green Bay for this one as well, but we will look at a player on the defensive side of the ball. Nick Barnett was drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2003 draft and after his first four seasons with the Pack, he got a contract extension worth close to $35 million.
He would go on to play eight seasons with the Packers, but dealt with injuries during his last few years with them, so they were forced to move on from Barnett. He signed a three year deal with the Bills in 2011, but even that only lasted two years there before being cut.
In 2013, he gave it one more chance at re-energizing his NFL career by signing with the Redskins, but, after one season, he was done. Over his eleven year NFL career, Barnett had 1,041 tackles and 20.5 sacks. Those are great numbers, but it is a shame that no one remembers his name.
16. Sheldon Brown
Like mentioned above with Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown was one of the players in Jim Johnson’s Eagles secondary. He was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2002 draft, a round after Sheppard.
He is mostly known for his hit on Reggie Bush in a 2006 playoff game when he blindsided him, causing the ball to pop loose and Bush to stay on the ground for a good long while. After eight seasons with the Eagles, he signed with the Browns, where he played three more seasons before retiring.
During his career, he gathered up 602 tackles, 8 sacks, and 26 interceptions. When fans of the Eagles think of the team from the early 2000s, the players that come to mind include the likes of Donovan McNabb, Duce Staley, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, and even Terrell Owens, but the players who are forgotten are some of the players that helped the team have the success it had like Brown.
15. Vinny Testaverde
And now we come across our first “old timer” on this list, Vinny Testaverde. He played in the NFL for 21 seasons with the Buccaneers, Browns, Ravens, Jets, Cowboys, Jets (again), Patriots, and Panthers.
Many of you “old timers” may remember Testaverde as being the 1986 Heisman trophy winner while he was the quarterback at the University of Miami. During the 1986 season, he won the Maxwell award, Davey O’Brien award, Walter Camp award, and Sammy Baugh award along with the Heisman, as well as being named Sporting News Player of the Year and the UPI Player of the Year.
He was drafted first overall by the Buccaneers in 1987. His NFL career stats are not as eye-popping as his collegiate achievements, throwing 275 touchdowns to 267 interceptions but he did throw for close to 47,000 yards in his twenty years of playing.
14. Domanick Davis
This is a simple case of a player who started his career out great and then just seemed to vanish. Domanick Davis was drafted out of LSU in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft by the Texans.
He started off red hot, running for over a thousand yards and scoring 8 touchdowns in his rookie season. It seemed like the Texans found their running back. His success during his rookie year landed him the NFL offensive rookie of the year award. The 2004 season was more of the same from Davis. He rushed for close to 1,200 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. In 2005, he rushed for 976 yards and scored 2 touchdowns, which is surprising because 2005 was the last season he played in the NFL, as he suffered a bad knee injury and was never seen again.
Since he last played, he changed his last name from Davis to Williams, so if you are looking him up, he is Domanick Williams now.
13. Chris McAlister
When you think of the Ravens stout defense of the late 1990s and early 2000s, does the name Chris McAlister ring a bell? If your answer is no, that’s a shame.
McAlister was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 1999 draft with the tenth pick. He made his presence felt right from the start, recording 47 tackles and 5 interceptions. His hard work earned him a place on College & Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie Team.
In 2000, the Ravens made it to the Super Bowl on the strength of their defense. McAlister had a key interception against the Giants in the Super Bowl to help seal the victory to bring Baltimore its first Super Bowl since the Colts left town for Indianapolis. McAlister went on to play eight more seasons with the Ravens before signing with the Saints for one season and hanging up his cleats.
During his career, he recorded 431 tackles, 26 interceptions, and he took 5 of those interceptions all the way back for touchdowns.
12. Michael Lewis
This is the third and last member on this list from Jim Johnson’s vaunted Eagles secondary. Like Sheppard and Brown, Lewis was drafted by the Eagles in the 2002 draft in the second round. But unlike Brown and Sheppard, he started only four games during his rookie season.
In 2003, he became the full time starting safety alongside Brian Dawkins and remained by Dawkins’ side until he left in free agency in 2006. In 2004, he was named to the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career while helping the Eagles get to the Super Bowl before losing to the Patriots.
Finally, in 2007, he signed on with the 49ers, where he played four seasons before playing his last days with the Rams. During his career, he recorded 681 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and had 12 interceptions.
11. Devin Hester
This might be the most familiar name on this list for most of you and that is because of the success he had returning kickoffs for touchdowns early in his career. But when was the last time you heard his name? That is exactly why he is on this list and, just to let you know, he is still playing.
Hester was drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft. He was originally drafted as a cornerback, but has found success in the NFL as a kick returner and wide receiver. He played eight seasons with the Bears before signing with the Falcons for a couple of years and he now plays with the Ravens.
During his career, he’s racked up 255 receptions for 3,311 yards and 16 touchdowns. Returning kicks, he has racked up 10,522 yards and taken 19 kicks back for touchdowns. With the NFL making it nearly impossible for kick returners to field kicks anymore, Hester has been one of the players the league made disappear.
10. Tim Couch
With the first pick of the Ricky Williams draft, the Cleveland Browns selected (not Ricky Williams) Tim Couch, a quarterback out of Kentucky. This was the Browns first draft since being brought back to Cleveland through expansion and they decided to pass on the amazing running back and instead opt to take their quarterback of the future, or so they thought.
His career with the Browns lasted five seasons before they decided to go in another direction. He tried to turn his NFL career around with the Packers and Jaguars, but did not even make it through the preseason. The team has been back in Cleveland for about 17 years now and it seems like every year, they have a new quarterback, whose confidence will be crushed by the end of the season and will be just another name on the notorious list of quarterbacks who have started a game for the Cleveland Browns.
That list started with Tim Couch.
9. Derrick Mason
Look what we have here! It is another “old timer.”
Derrick Mason spent fifteen seasons in the NFL as part of the Oilers/Titans, Ravens, Jets, and Texans before calling it a career. He was originally drafted by the Oilers (Titans now) in the fourth round of the 1997 draft.
During his career, he was a reliable receiver, who usually became the quarterback’s favorite target. He was part of the Titans team that fell a yard short of winning the Super Bowl against the Rams back in 1999. He was named to the Pro Bowl twice during his career, in 2000 and 2003.
He racked up 12,061 yards on 943 receptions and scored 66 touchdowns. He also returned kicks, earning 5,536 return yards and taking 3 back for touchdowns.
8. Cade McNown
And here is another terrible quarterback to come out of the 1999 draft. With the twelfth pick in the first round, the Bears selected McNown out of UCLA. During his time at UCLA, he started all four years while passing for over 10,000 yards and throwing for 68 touchdowns to 41 interceptions. Numbers like that make him worthy of a first round pick, right?
Well, he lasted only two seasons with the Bears before they were done with him and ready to move on. His career in the NFL lasted only two more seasons, one with the Dolphins and the other with the 49ers before he came to the reality that the NFL was not going to be his thing.
During his short career, he passed for over 3,000 yards and threw 16 touchdowns to 19 interceptions. At least, NFL teams realized he was not NFL material early on.
7. Eric Crouch
Many of you are probably coming across this name and thinking “Who the hell is Eric Crouch?” He was the dual threat quarterback before they were popular in the NFL and, with that, Eric Crouch did not have a chance in the NFL.
He won the Heisman trophy in 2001 and was exciting to watch during his time with Nebraska. He was constantly all over the field, giving opposing defenses fits. When it came to draft time, NFL teams saw him as a wide receiver because they felt he was too short to be a quarterback. He was drafted by the Rams in the third round of the 2002 draft, but insisted on wanting to play quarterback. He was cut by the Rams, so he went over to play in the now-defunct NFL Europe in hopes of showing teams that he could play quarterback. He tried two more times to make it into the NFL with the Packers and Chiefs, but was cut from both teams before the season.
He gave up on his NFL dream and settled for playing in the CFL and Arena Football League.
6. Terence Newman
Like Devin Hester above, this name is one of those that you have not heard of in a while, even though he is still playing. Newman was drafted by the Cowboys with the fifth pick in the first round of the 2003 draft. He was a pivotal part of the Cowboys secondary from the time he came into the league to the time he was released in 2011.
After his release by the Cowboys, he signed on with the Bengals where he reunited with former Cowboys defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, who was the Bengals defensive coordinator. He spent two years in Cincinnati before following Zimmer to Minnesota, where Zimmer was named the head coach. That is where he is currently.
During his career so far, Newman has racked up 819 tackles, 41 interceptions, and forced 8 fumbles.
5. Edgerrin James
Does anyone know the player who was taken fourth overall behind Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith with the pick in front of where Ricky Williams was taken in the 1999 draft? The answer is Edgerrin James.
Out of the first five picks in the draft, James and McNabb were the only two to actually have successful careers. Couch and Smith were busts from the start and Williams could not leave the pot alone. James was drafted out of Miami by the Colts to many fans’ dismay with the fourth pick in the 1999 draft and went on to play seven seasons with the Colts, being their featured running back every game during those six years.
After his time with the Colts, he signed with the Cardinals where he played two seasons before being released and joined the Seahawks, where he finished his career.
During his career, James racked up 12,246 yards and scored 80 rushing touchdowns. It is great to see that someone on this list from the 1999 draft class that actually had success.
4. Shawne Merriman
It is only fitting that this guy’s nickname was “Lights Out” because after he stopped playing, it seems like the lights went out on his fame.
Shawne Merriman was drafted by the Chargers with the 12th pick in the first round of the 2005 draft and quickly became a force on the defensive side of the ball. As a side note, he was drafted with the pick that the Chargers received in the Eli Manning for Philip Rivers in 2004.
During his rookie season, he recorded 57 tackles and 10 sacks, which led to him being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He would spend five more seasons with the Chargers before signing with the Bills and playing his last two seasons, which were injury-plagued, in Buffalo.
During his career, Merriman racked up 257 tackles, 45.5 sacks, an interception, and forced 8 fumbles.
3. Bobby Taylor
You have probably heard of Brian Dawkins and Troy Vincent (the head of the NFLPA), but have you heard of the name Bobby Taylor? Taylor played alongside Dawkins and Vincent in the Eagles secondary in the late 1990s into the early 2000s. The Eagles selected Taylor out of Notre Dame with the 50th pick in the second round in the 1995 draft. From the first time he stepped on the field for the Eagles, he was a force back there in the secondary that struck fear into the opposing receivers.
He played nine seasons with the Eagles before signing a deal with the Seahawks, where he spent the last two years of his career. During his career, Taylor played in 129 games, racking up 380 tackles and 19 interceptions.
2. Priest Holmes
This used to be the running back everyone knew until LaDainian Tomlinson stole the show and he was hit with the injury bug. Priest Holmes went undrafted out of Texas in 1997 before the Ravens picked him up. He played just four years with the Ravens, racking up over 2,000 yards combined and won a Super Bowl in 2000 over the Giants.
He signed with the Chiefs in 2001 and broke out in a big way, rushing for 1,555 yards. Over the next two years, he’d reach incredible heights, notching 3,035 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns. He amassed those numbers in only TWO seasons. From there, he’d deal with injuries, before retiring in 2007.
During his career, Holmes rushed for 8,172 yards and scored 86 rushing touchdowns. He is one of those players you cannot help but feel sorry for because if it was not for the injuries, who knows how much better Priest Holmes could have been?
1. Dwight Freeney
With the number one spot on this list comes a guy who was thought to be retired until he made his presence known during the Falcons’ Monday night game against the Saints. Yes, Dwight Freeney does still play.
He was drafted out of Syracuse in the first round of the 2002 draft with the 11th pick by the Colts. He had a long tenure with the Colts that ran from 2002 up until he was let go by the team.
During his time with the Colts, he was a member of the team that won the Super Bowl in 2007 over the Bears, a seven-time Pro Bowler, and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. After his time with the Colts was done, he has spent the last four seasons with the Chargers, Cardinals, and his current team, the Falcons. During his career, Freeney has racked up 322 tackles, 120.5 sacks, and forced 47 fumbles.
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