|Sixth-rounder Tom Brady might go down as the most valuable draft pick in NFL history.|
With the 2012 NFL Draft just weeks away, we're looking at the some of the greatest draft picks in league history.
The discussion of the best player to come out of the sixth round basically begins and ends with one name: Tom Brady. But other hidden gems have emerged from this round, which is almost, but not quite, the last chance for teams to uncover their own surprise future Hall of Famers.
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Mike Anderson: The 6-foot, 230-pound ball-carrier started 12 games for the Denver Broncos in his first season, rushing for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns to set career highs and win the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2000. Anderson topped 1,000 yards again in 2005, his final season in Denver, and played two more seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, finishing with 4,067 career rushing yards and 37 touchdowns.
Matt Birk: The center became a mainstay of the Minnesota Vikings offense in his third season, when he started all 16 games, and continued to be their anchor for the next seven years. The six-time Pro Bowl selection has spent the past three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, winning the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2011.
Tom Brady: Chosen by the New England Patriots with the 199th overall pick in 2000, Brady went on to become one of the best quarterbacks in the game and possibly ever. The seven-time Pro Bowl pick has taken the Patriots to the Super Bowl five times, winning three, and is on the all-time leader list in nearly every important statistical category for a quarterback, including single-season passing yards (second, with 5,235 in 2011), single-season passing touchdowns (first, with 50 in 2007) and career passing touchdowns (tied for fifth with 300). Not only is Brady the best sixth-round pick in history, he will likely go down as one of the most valuable ever.
Marc Bulger: Taken ahead of Brady in the 2000 draft (168th overall) by the New Orleans Saints, Bulger was waived before finding a home with the St. Louis Rams, where he had the thankless task of replacing Kurt Warner. Bulger started 15 games in 2003 and made the Pro Bowl, passing for 3,845 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading the Rams to a 12-3 record in his starts. He made the Pro Bowl again in 2006 after passing for a career-high 4,301 yards and 24 touchdowns before retiring after the 2009 season.
Terrell Davis: Taken by the Denver Broncos in 1995, Davis soon became one of the league's most dominant running backs. His 1998 season was one for the record books, literally; he ran for 2,008 yards, still the fourth-best season by a running back ever, and 21 touchdowns, tied for sixth-best all-time. Oh, he also helped Denver and John Elway win Super Bowl XXXIII. The three-time Pro Bowl selection spent his entire seven-year career in Denver, and his career per-game average of 97.5 rushing yards is third-best all-time.
Al Harris: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1997, he didn't play a game with them, landing with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998. He was a respectable defensive presence there, but it was when he joined the Green Bay Packers in 2003 that he truly came into his own, snaring 14 interceptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns and recording 87 passes defensed over seven seasons. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2008. The 37-year-old Harris spent 2011 with the St. Louis Rams and 2010 with the Miami Dolphins.
Grady Jackson: The Oakland Raiders picked him up in the 1997 NFL Draft and he eventually found his way into the starting lineup, collecting a career-high 8.0 sacks in 2000. He bounced around a bit the rest of his 13-year career, making stops in New Orleans, Green Bay, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Detroit, and finished with 35.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and 359 tackles.
Cato June: The Indianapolis Colts took a flier on the linebacker in 2003 and were rewarded with a 141-tackle season in 2006, leading the team in that category on its way to victory in Super Bowl XLI. June also made the Pro Bowl in 2005 after collecting 102 tackles and five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Jay Novacek: The tight end isn't far up on any all-time leaders lists, but Novacek ended his career on quite the high note, making the Pro Bowl five times and contributing to three Super Bowl victories in his final five seasons (1991-95) as a starter on the Dallas Cowboys. St. Louis drafted him in 1985 but he didn't become a full-time starter until joining the Cowboys in 1990. Novacek finished his career with 4,630 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns through stops in St. Louis, Phoenix and Dallas.
Adalius Thomas: The linebacker reached the pinnacle of the NFL as a rookie as a member of the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens in 2000, but the best was yet to come for him. He finally became a regular contributor in 2002, when he started 12 games and recorded 52 tackles and two interceptions, and went on to make the Pro Bowl twice, in 2003 and 2006. He played the last three years of his career with the New England Patriots (2007-09) and finished with 513 tackles and seven interceptions.