Hidden Gems: Shannon Sharpe, 1990
Most serious NFL fans know the story of Tom Brady: drafted in the 6th round (199th overall) in 2000, he epitomizes the idea that great players can be found in the late rounds of the draft. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to win a Super Bowl without getting some big contributions from the guys taken long after the big name prospects come off the board (or not taken at all). The 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers featured a number of such players: longtime WR Donald Driver (7th round), starting ILB Desmond Bishop (6th round), Pro Bowl starting CB Tramon Williams (undrafted) and valuable nickel back Sam Shields (undrafted). Hidden Gems is my look at guys who slipped through the cracks on draft day for various reasons (too small, too slow, small school, etc) and went on to have a lot of success in the league.
Drafted in the 7th round (192nd overall), Shannon Sharpe is one of the best hidden gems of all time. Slipping through the cracks as a small school (Savannah State) prospect, Sharpe went on to play for 14 years, racking up 815 receptions for 10,060 yards (both good for 2nd all-time for TE’s) and 62 TD’s (3rd all-time). He was voted to the Pro Bowl 8 times and was an All Pro 4 times. In 2011, Sharpe was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Not too bad for for 10th TE selected in 1990. The rest of the 1990 TE class didn’t amount to much. 1st rounder Eric Green was a solid, but unspectacular player for the Steelers. Jackie Harris, selected in the 4th round, was a reliable target for most of his 12 year career. Otherwise, the TE class of 1990 didn’t produce much:
How valuable was Sharpe? In 8 different seasons, he accounted for >20% of his team’s total receptions and 20% of the total passing yards. Only Tony Gonzalez has been better (11 seasons), and only 12 different TE’s have done it 4 or more times since 1970:
While the odds of finding the next Sharpe are minuscule, the average draft has 3-4 solid hidden gems just waiting to be unearthed by a scout, personnel man or general manager. 2011 yielded Denarius Moore (148th overall), 2010 produced Cody Grimm (210th), David Gettis (198th), James Starks (193rd) and Antonio Brown (195th). Who will be 2012’s late round surprise?