All Sixth-Round Team: From Brady to Brown, the best lineup of NFL players drafted in Round 6
QB: Tom Brady
Brady may go down without an equal at his position in NFL history, let alone among QBs drafted in the sixth round. Since the 2000 draft, Brady has thrown for 61,582 yards in the regular season; all other quarterbacks selected in Round 6 (there have been 39) have combined for 55,578. The battle for No. 2 behind him is between Marc Bulger and Tyrod Taylor, which should give you some idea of the gap between Brady and the field. Brady has earned 12 Pro Bowl nods (including this year), has been Super Bowl MVP three times, regular-season MVP twice and is a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer after this playing career comes to an end.
RB: Alfred Morris
A tougher decision awaits at running back, where there was no superstar but several players with a case, including: Mike Anderson (2000 Rookie of the Year and 37 career TDs, most among sixth-round RBs in this window), Chester Taylor (7,064 total yards from scrimmage), even James Starks (2,500 career yards and a critical piece in Green Bay’s last Super Bowl run) or Latavius Murray (an average of nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage during his first three seasons. Morris, though, is just 44 yards away from 5K for his career and he has two of this group’s three Pro Bowl bids under his belt.
WR: Antonio Brown
This is almost as easy as dropping in Brady at QB. Brown has been one of the best offensive players in football, period, since his second season in the league (2011), when he earned the first of his five Pro Bowl honors. He has been a first-team All-Pro the past three seasons, while averaging a whopping 1,853.3 all-purpose yards, paced by a league-best 2,074 in 2015. Brown (8,377 career yards) should surpass John Stallworth (8,732) for second place on the Steelers’ all-time receiving list next season. Hines Ward’s record (12,083) is well within reach.
WR: Pierre Garcon
At least a handful of the sixth-round WRs drafted between 2000-16 are semi-household names, like Brandon Gibson, Joe Webb and Quincy Enunwa. David Tyree also was a sixth-rounder (2003), so he deserves at least a line mentioned here. Garcon, although he has yet to be rewarded with a Pro Bowl trip, has put together a career more illustrious than any of those players. He just posted 79 receptions for 1,041 yards this season, at age 30, his second-best year behind only 2013 (113 receptions, 1,346 yards). Garcon finished his four years as a Colt with 2,500-plus yards and he now has topped 4,500 in Washington.
TE: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
A wide receiver at Central Missouri State, Walker quickly transitioned to a versatile, do-everything sort of role upon landing with the 49ers in Round 6 of the 2006 draft. He since has developed into one of the most consistent pass-catching tight ends/H-backs in the league. Over his past three seasons with Tennessee, Walker has hauled in 222 passes for 2,778 yards. The sixth round actually has been a decent spot to find TE help, in general—Charles Clay, Mychal Rivera, Zach Miller, Brandon Myers and Ryan Griffin are among the active (and productive) players at that position found in Round 6.
OT: Jeromey Clary
There are positions relatively deep with Round 6 talent, and offensive tackle is not one. The sixth-round OTs since 2000 with the most career starts are Clary (93) and Charlie Johnson (115). Clary transitioned to guard for part of his last season, before a hip injury forced him into retirement. When he was healthy, though, Clary was a reliable option for the Chargers on the outside. He was never great, but he did give San Diego five-plus solid seasons as a starter. Given the other OT options, that’s enough.
OT: Charlie Johnson
As mentioned in Clary’s blurb, Johnson holds the most starts for any sixth-round tackle drafted from 2000 on. As with Clary, Johnson also shifted inside to a guard spot—he played there in 2012–14 before his career fizzled out with the Vikings. Spanning time in both Minnesota and Indianapolis, Johnson started 104 out of a possible 112 games during his final seven seasons.
G: Chris Myers
Of all the sixth-round linemen drafted since 2000, there have been a grand total of three Pro Bowl berths earned. Myers has two of them—they came back-to-back in 2011 and ’12, when he was a member of the Texans’ O-line. Granted, those performances (and most of Myers’s career) came with him lined up as a center. But he played guard for a spell in college at Miami, and then did so again briefly for the Broncos. There is more strength at center than guard in recent Round 6 history, so for the purpose of maxing out this imaginary roster, Myers is bumping over a spot.
G: Matt Slauson
A center himself these days, Slauson started all 16 games at that position for the Chargers this season. Most of his prior NFL history, however, came from a guard spot. After a quiet rookie season, the 2009 draft pick did not miss a game as a Jets starting guard from 2010-12. He also played every game for the Bears in both 2013 and ’15, before relocating to San Diego this past off-season. A strong, reliable blocker up front, Slauson even drew looks as a possible OT when he was on the free-agent market.
C: Jason Kelce
And this is why Myers is listed as a guard: to make room for Kelce, a 78-game starter for the Eagles since his selection back in 2011. The height of his career thus far came in 2013-14. He was the linchpin of Philadelphia’s league-best rushing attack in ’13, as the Eagles won the NFC East under Chip Kelly; the next season, he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl berth, despite missing four games. Kelce is among the more athletic interior linemen to come through the NFL in recent memory.
DE: Greg Hardy
Hardy’s NFL career has been ... checkered, to say the least. Before his string of awful off-field actions, though, he was an outstanding pass-rusher. In 2012, Hardy dropped QBs for a total of 11.0 sacks, then bumped that number up to 15.0 during his Pro Bowl campaign of 2013. Despite spending all but one game in 2014 on the commissioner’s exempt list and now likely being done for good, Hardy has 40.0 career sacks. That’s nine higher than the next closest Round 6 draft pick from 2000-now (Erik Walden, 31.0). He is the only defensive lineman from that ’00-16 Round 6 range with a Pro Bowl trip.
DE: Robaire Smith
An underrated contributor when he was healthy, the Michigan State product spent 11 seasons in the NFL, with stops in Tennessee, Houston and Cleveland. He had a career-high 4.5 sacks for the Titans in 2003, but he arguably was at his most effective playing as a 3–4 end with the Browns. The other main contender for the All-Round 6 Team DE slots: Jeremy Mincey (26.0 career sacks, including 8.0 in 2011).
DT: Ahtyba Rubin
A member of the Browns from 2008-14, Rubin jumped ship for Seattle in 2015, and he’s now doing the dirty work as a nose tackle for the Seahawks’ line. His stats never have jumped off the page (15.0 sacks in nine seasons), but that’s not really his role—he puts his 320-pound frame to use plugging gaps and helping to stuff the run.
DT: Corey Williams
Tough call on the second All-Round 6 defensive tackle slot. Up for debate, along with Williams, is current Redskins Kedric Gholston, who has played more games (142) than any of the Round 6 D-linemen drafted since 2000; ex-Packer Johnny Jolly, whose promising career was derailed by a string of drug arrests; and C.J. Mosley, a journeyman who has contributed at just about every stop. Williams gets the nod because of his ability to get to the QB—he wrapped his career in 2012 with 26.0 sacks to his credit. He spent time with Green Bay, Cleveland and Detroit, starting a total of 74 games along the way.
LB: Adalius Thomas
Taken 13 selections before Brady in the 2000 draft, Thomas produced Pro Bowl seasons for the Ravens in both 2003 and ’06—the latter also came with a first-team All-Pro spot. Second in sacks among 2000-16 Round 6 linebackers is the still-active Arthur Moats, with 16.5. Thomas concluded his 10-year career with 53.0. During that ’06 run, he set his career high in sacks (11.0), then left Baltimore the ensuing off-season to sign with New England.
LB: Dhani Jones
While never among the very top players at his position, Jones was ultra-reliable for a decade. Over his final nine seasons in the NFL (2002-10), he averaged 95.8 tackles per year, peaking during a 2008-10 stint with the Bengals to end his career—he averaged 118 tackles those seasons. At his best playing middle linebacker, Jones offered the versaility to slide outside when his team needed him to.
LB: Danny Trevathan
Before we move on to Trevathan, honorable mention to Moats, who probably would be the next linebacker on our list. He is now seven years into a steady NFL career. What he does not have that Travathan does is a Super Bowl ring. Trevathan scored his title last season as a member of the Broncos’ spectacular defense, and that unit definitely felt his absence this season after he signed with Chicago. The one thing preventing Trevathan from taking the leap from good to great has been his inability to stay healthy. He had 129 tackles for the Broncos in 2013 and another 109 in ’15, but he missed significant time in both 2014 and ’16.
CB: Jason McCourty
His last few seasons have not measured up to the bar he’d once set, but the slowdown should not take away from how well McCourty played from 2011-13. He played his way into a new contract with $20 million in guarantees ahead of the 2012 season, then kept right on exceling as a No. 1 cornerback for two more years. Injuries started to hinder him in 2014, and that’s become a recurring problem.
CB: Byron Maxwell
Round 6 produced a decent number of contributing cornerbacks in the past 16 years—Justin Bethel, Brice McCain, Chris Harris (of the Bears, not the Broncos), Frank Walker. It has not given the league a ton of CBs capable of matching up with top receivers. At his very best, the inconsistent Maxwell has been able to do that. He hit his peak as a member of the Seahawks’ 2013 and ’14 teams, both of which went to the Super Bowl. A massive free-agent contract, wildly disappointing season and a trade later, Maxwell showed signs of life again this season as a Dolphin.
S: Antoine Bethea
Bethea’s 19 career interceptions pace all the defensive backs taken from 2000-16, a list that spans 126 players. Thanks to his 110 tackles for the 49ers this season, Bethea also now has topped the 1,000-tackle mark for his career, which began back in 2006 with the Colts. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007, ’09 and ’14. Those earlier seasons, back near the start of his career, were his most impressive. Bethea always has been solid against the run and capable vs. the pass.
S: Yeremiah Bell
His 2009 Pro Bowl season aside, Bell always seemed to fly a bit under the radar despite being an effective, reliable box safety from about year three of his career (2006) until he retired after 2013. An Achilles injury set him back in ’07, but he followed that up by topping 100 tackles each of the next four seasons. He and Bethea were an obvious 1-2 safety tandem here.
P: Andy Lee
Punters are sixth-round draft picks, too! (And probably should be, in most cases.) Lee has been as good as the NFL has to offer at the position since San Francisco selected him in 2004. He was a Pro Bowler in 2007, ’09 and ’11, and a first-team All-Pro in 2007, ’11 and ’12. Lee led the league in yards per punt during that 2011 season with a 50.9 average, third-highest in NFL history behind only Sammy Baugh (51.4) and Shane Lechler (51.1). Also on Lee’s resume: two 80-yard punts.
K: Neil Rackers
Remember from an above mention how Adalius Thomas came off the board 13 picks before Tom Brady at the 2000 draft? The Bengals took Rackers 17 spots ahead of Thomas. Had Brady not wrecked the curve, Rackers may have wound up looking like a decent choice. OK, so he bombed in Cincinnati—he connected on just 65.7% of his field goals there over three seasons—but he made 83.7% of his kicks as a Cardinal and Texan. In three of those years, he topped 90%. With that, he fights off the likes of Mason Crosby, Greg Zuerlein and Nick Folk on our roster.