PFF’s Top 10 Fifth-Round Picks, 2008-2012

The past five years of the draft's later rounds have produced top-line NFL talent, particularly in the defensive backfield. Rick Drummond highlights a handful of the best.

| 4 years ago

PFF’s Top 10 Fifth-Round Picks, 2008-2012

Counting down through the top picks from each round in the past five years of the NFL draft has shown some interesting results (second round, third round, fourth round) — players who have lived up to lofty expectations and some who have far exceeded what was hoped for. Looking at five years of the fifth round shows the same, though as we get deeper into each draft class, the big hits understandably come along less frequently.

There were, however, a group of notable fifth-round picks who struck gold for the teams that selected them and some who, in their first years, have shown promise of great things to come. With that, this look at the Top 10 Fifth-Round Picks from the 2008 to 2012 draft classes:

1. Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints: No. 164 overall, 2008

Getting first-round production from a fifth-round pick is enough to make a success of an entire draft for an NFL team. That’s exactly what Carl Nicks gave the Saints in his first four years in the league, and was what prompted his sizable pay day as a free agent before the 2012 season. Nicks landed a Top 15 spot in our overall guard grades as a rookie before settling in comfortably to the Top 5 for the next three campaigns. Consistently solid in both run blocking and in pass protection, Nicks represents ridiculous value from the draft’s 164th slot and was on track for another exemplary year with his new team in Tampa Bay before falling to injury midway through the 2012 season. When people talk of draft steals, Nicks in the fifth should always be in the conversation.

2. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks: No. 154 overall, 2011

Richard Sherman burst on to the scene with eye-catching numbers as a rookie in 2011 — a 57.3 QB rating allowed being among them. Using size to his advantage, Sherman manhandled receivers after assuming the starting role and claimed his place in line for Darrelle Revis’ throne atop the cornerback kingdom. With Revis lost in 2012, the door was opened for suitors to state their cases and Sherman did so with conviction. A significant span ahead of the second spot in PFF coverage grades for corners, Sherman snared the lead role by lowering that QB rating against to 41.1, allowing just 47.1% of passes his way to be completed, and by coming down with eight interceptions. The NFL is certainly not too big for this fifth-rounder, and neither is the chase for the title of top CB.

3. Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks: No. 133 overall, 2010

Despite whispers that teams might be looking to draft Kam Chancellor as a linebacker, he fit into Seattle’s secondary and took over the starting strong safety spot in his second season. Ranking as our second-highest graded safety in coverage, Chancellor also finished 2011 with a Top 3 mark in Run Stop Percentage, cementing his position as an all-around standout. Chancellor’s 2012 season saw him slide a bit in both areas, but he remained among the league’s upper group of safeties and can be counted as further proof that top-level talent can be plucked from the draft’s fifth round.

4. Brandon Carr, Kansas City Chiefs: No. 140 overall, 2008

Judging by his performance as a rookie, there was no way Brandon Carr would ever find his way on to a list like this. In that 2008 season, he surrendered over 750 receiving yards and allowed more than 66% of passes in his direction to be completed on his way to a league-worst coverage grade of -17.7. It was his sophomore season, however, that started him toward consideration for this Top 10. Fresh from that brutal rookie year, Carr rebounded to post a coverage grade that marked his first of three consecutive seasons ranked among the Top 20 corners. Turning that sustained success into free agent dollars, Carr left Kansas City for Dallas prior to the 2012 season to take over as the Cowboys’ No. 1 CB.

5. Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins: No. 163 overall, 2010

As the fourth defensive back in the first five spots here, Reshad Jones is a somewhat different story. He didn’t produce the immediate impact of Sherman or the second-season success that Chancellor and Carr posted, instead, it was in Year 3 that Jones made his leap. Following a year in which Jones got a taste of starting play — as a free safety in place of fellow fifth-round safety Chris Clemons in 2011 — he vaulted to top of our safety rankings as a strong safety in 2012. Jones’ third-best overall grade (+22.1) reflected his high marks in both coverage and in run defense and shined deserving light on him as an up-and-coming safety to watch.

6. Orlando Scandrick, Dallas Cowboys, No. 143 overall, 2008

Yes, another DB (honest, other positions have been drafted in the fifth, you’ll see). Orlando Scandrick isn’t mentioned here because he has logged an outstanding season or because he has particularly stood out in one facet or another. No, Scandrick’s inclusion has much more to do with his contribution across five NFL seasons. Serving primarily as a slot corner, Scandrick hasn’t chipped in a season with more than 680 snaps, but there’s something to be said for finding year in, year out serviceable play from a fifth-rounder. Hovering up and down around the average coverage mark for corners during his tenure, Scandrick isn’t threatening for a Pro Bowl spot, but he has given Dallas more than reasonable bang for their 143rd overall buck.

7. Pernell McPhee, Baltimore Ravens: No. 165 overall, 2011

An excellent stretch in the middle of Pernell McPhee’s rookie year fueled a fantastic finish as our fourth-rated defensive tackle in 2011. With results not far from those produced by known standout Geno Atkins, McPhee’s disruptive upfield ability earned him the top spot in our Pass Rushing Productivity rating and he graded second only to Atkins as a pass rusher (McPhee: +21.3; Atkins: +23.2), doing so in roughly half the snaps. McPhee’s 2012 was marred by injury and added pounds, but he pulled things together in time to have a positive part-time impact on Baltimore’s title run.

8. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders: No. 148 overall, 2011

In another break from the DB run, we have a fifth-round receiver who made a splash in his inaugural season. Denarius Moore turned his status as a camp sensation into a season that included 10 deep-ball catches, five touchdowns, and a spot among the Top 20-graded receivers in 2011. A less-than-stellar 2012 followed — nine drops on 60 catchable passes, ouch — but Moore had shown what he was capable of as a rookie and that was good enough to secure a spot in this Top 10, for now.

9. Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins: No. 165 overall, 2009

The other half of Miami’s fifth-round back-line combo, Chris Clemons entered the league a year earlier than his running mate mentioned above, but time lost due to injury has his progression a year behind. Also seeing starting time as a second-year pro, much of Clemons’ third season was spent on the shelf before his breakout 2012. Clemons not only put up a Top-25 overall grade this past season, but a Top-10 rating in run D as well — all highlighted by an impressive Tackling Efficiency mark of 12.3 that was bettered by only five safeties.

10. Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens: No. 157 overall, 2010

The second young Raven defensive lineman on this list found his stride in the second half of 2012 after nondescript, limited-snap contributions in his first two seasons. Jones’ 10-week run from Week 12 through the Super Bowl produced an impressive line: an overall grade of +10.6, six sacks, seven QB hits, 10 hurries, and 19 stops. Expected to play a larger role in Baltimore’s new-look defense – possibly even in some sort of split with McPhee – Jones gave a glimpse of his potential.


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