Rating the perfect NFL Draft picks of all time: Cameron Heyward headlines prime 5 taken at No. 31

We’re closing in on the 2021 NFL Draft and with it comes the injection of immense expertise and youth to the league. After all, this draft, specifically, is hyped due to who’s poised to be the No. 1 general choose and what his potential could possibly be on the subsequent degree. Whereas Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence deserves all that anticipation, game-changing expertise will be discovered all throughout the draft board. That brings us to our exercise as we speak. Beginning with the No. 32 general choice, we right here at CBS Sports activities have taken on the duty of discovering the perfect of the perfect who had been ever chosen in what’s now often known as the primary spherical (first 32 picks). 

We’ll be overlaying every spot within the first spherical all the way in which till we attain No. 1 general on the Tuesday earlier than the draft, which formally kicks off on Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET. To comply with alongside on who makes every prime 5, take a look at our hub of all of the motion right here

As for the No. 31 choose, it is a little more advanced than different alternatives that we’ll dissect as we go ahead. As a result of there weren’t 31 groups within the NFL at sure durations, a few of these alternatives that you will examine under weren’t even first rounders, however would have been had they entered the league as we speak. How we decided who really made the lower was a mixture of their influence to the league, longevity, accolades, and — extra merely — a intestine really feel of whether or not or not they’re worthy of getting into this unique class. 

This 12 months, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs are slated to choose No. 31 general. Our CBS Sports activities draft analysts have pegged the likes of Oklahoma State deal with Teven Jenkins, Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, Michigan deal with Jalen Mayfield, and USC deal with Alijah Vera-Tucker as a number of the potential candidates who could possibly be taken at that spot of their most up-to-date mock drafts. Might a kind of gamers at some point make it onto this listing? After all! Within the meantime, let’s examine who’re the highest 5 No. 31 picks of all time. 

2007 NFL Draft: Spherical 1, No. 31 general (Miami)
Staff(s): Chicago Bears (2007-2010), Carolina Panthers (2011-2019), Seattle Seahawks (2020)

Olsen entered the NFL as the most recent hyperlink in a series of extraordinarily productive tight ends out of the College of Miami. (Observe: This author was a classmate of Olsen’s throughout his time there.) Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow II got here earlier than him, every of them chosen within the first spherical of the draft. (Jimmy Graham adopted quickly after, however went later within the draft as a result of his lack of soccer expertise.) Olsen’s collegiate profession regarded a complete lot like that of every of his tight finish predecessors at The U, and since it did, the Bears deigned to make him the second-to-last choose of the primary spherical in 2007. 

The Bears, although, largely did not faucet into Olsen’s full potential as an offensive weapon. In 4 seasons with Chicago, Olsen averaged 50 catches for 511 yards and 5 touchdowns. His greatest 12 months there noticed him publish a 60-612-8 receiving line. On the finish of his fourth season, moderately than provide him a long-term contract, the Bears shipped him to Carolina in alternate for only a third-round choose. 

It was with the Panthers that Olsen’s profession took off, as he grew to become among the finest and most constant pass-catching tight ends within the league. He made three consecutive Professional Bowls from 2014 to 2016 and was named a second-team All-Professional within the latter two of these years — the height of a five-season span throughout which he averaged 77 catches for 969 yards and 5 scores a 12 months. He was Cam Newton’s prime goal throughout Newton’s MVP season in 2015, and caught 16 passes for 231 yards and a landing throughout the staff’s ultimately-just-short-of-a-Tremendous-Bowl run.

As soon as Olsen hit his mid-30s, his profession started to taper off. Accidents in back-to-back seasons sapped him of the explosiveness that made him a harmful weapon up the seam, and the declining play of Newton rendered him a extra inefficient intermediate goal than he had been up to now. He lastly put collectively a productive season (52 catches, 597 yards, two touchdowns) in 2019 at age 34, however by that point, it was Newton whose season was ruined by harm. The Panthers made him a salary-cap casualty in early in 2020, and he signed with the Seattle Seahawks. His one season alongside Russell Wilson was not very profitable as he once more struggled with accidents and performed extra of a complementary position when he was on the sector. 

Olsen retired earlier this offseason to start a profession in broadcasting. He completed his profession with 742 catches for 8,683 yards and 60 scores, figures that rank eighth, sixth and and ninth all time amongst gamers at his place.

2013 NFL Draft: Spherical 1, No. 31 general (Wisconsin) 
Staff(s): Dallas Cowboys (2013-2019)

Frederick really acquired fairly a little bit of scorn originally of his profession — albeit by no fault of his personal. The Cowboys initially owned the No. 18 choose within the 2013 NFL Draft, and each followers and analysts alike had been anticipating that they’d take one among a number of high quality defenders nonetheless on the board: security Eric Reid, cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes, or particularly, defensive deal with Sharrif Floyd

As a substitute, Dallas traded right down to No. 31 … however acquired solely the No. 74 choose in return for doing so. It was a loss on nearly each draft worth chart — and fewer of a return than division rival Washington acquired when it traded down from No. 22 to No. 30 a couple of alternatives later. When the Cowboys then used the choose on a middle who was extensively considered a possible second- or third-round choice at greatest, the response was almost apoplectic. Frederick himself was even stunned that he went within the first spherical. 

All Frederick did then was carry out like arguably the perfect middle within the NFL in every of his first 5 seasons, making 4 consecutive Professional Bowls and three All-Professional groups (one first, two second). He was the lynchpin of what ultimately grew to become the perfect offensive line in soccer, because the Cowboys flanked him with Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin, plus Ronald Leary, La’el Collins, and Doug Free, who rotated by the left guard and proper deal with spots. They cleared the way in which for spectacular seasons from Demarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Romo and Dak Prescott

On the tail finish of 2018 coaching camp, nevertheless, Frederick was identified with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guillain-Barre is an autoimmune dysfunction wherein the physique’s immune system mistakenly assaults the nerves, leading to rapid-onset muscle weak point. The restoration time interval varies wildly, however fortunately the Cowboys and Frederick discovered it early, and he was capable of get well all through the 2018 season. He returned to the sector in 2019 and was nonetheless a stable middle, however not one of many prime gamers at his place. Unwilling to proceed taking part in if he could not reside as much as his personal lofty requirements, Frederick retired on the finish of the 12 months, at simply 29 years outdated.

He was, for all intents and functions, one thing like midway by a surefire Corridor of Fame profession throughout which he performed 100% of his staff’s offensive snaps earlier than an sickness took his peak years away from him — and us. 

3. Tommy McDonald, flanker

1957 NFL Draft: Spherical 3, No. 31 (Oklahoma) 
Staff(s): Philadelphia Eagles (1957-1963), Dallas Cowboys (1964), Los Angeles Rams (1965-1966), Atlanta Falcons (1967), Cleveland Browns (1968)

Standing simply 5-foot-9 and weighing solely 178 kilos, McDonald would have been misplaced as a large receiver throughout fairly a couple of eras of soccer. Fortunately for the Eagles, the Nineteen Sixties was not a kind of eras. He labored because the No. 1 goal for Norm Van Brocklin after which Sonny Jurgensen, serving to every of them attain an All-Professional degree and aiding Van Brocklin within the staff’s pursuit of the NFL Championship throughout the 1960 season. He caught three passes for 90 yards and a landing throughout the title recreation, serving to lead the Eagles to a 17-13 victory over the Inexperienced Bay Packers.

McDonald’s catch-per-season numbers might not bounce off the display screen in comparison with trendy receivers, however what his period lacked in quantity, he made up for himself in explosion. Considered one of simply 15 gamers with 400 or extra profession receptions on the time he retired, McDonald additionally ranked second amongst that very same group in yards per reception, gaining 17 yards per catch. He topped 1,000 receiving yards in three totally different seasons (together with main the league with 1,144 in 1961), making him one among solely 9 gamers to do this previous to the AFL-NFL merger. 

McDonald was additionally a prolific landing scorer. He led the league in receiving touchdowns twice, in 1958 and 1961. He scored at the very least eight groups in six consecutive seasons, and at the very least 10 instances in 4 in a row. His seven seasons of eight receiving touchdowns or extra tied him with Don Hutson and Don Maynard for essentially the most in NFL historical past on the time of his retirement. 

Why it took 30 years for a participant along with his resume — which incorporates six Professional Bowl alternatives and 4 All-Professional berths, along with the championship and statistical accolades — to be elected to the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame appears considerably past me, however McDonald did deservingly be part of these ranks in 1998. McDonald handed away in 2018, having lived simply lengthy sufficient to see the Eagles win a Tremendous Bowl for the primary time in franchise historical past, and a championship for the primary time since he helped them do all of it the way in which again in 1960.

2. Curley Culp, defensive deal with 

1968 NFL Draft: Spherical 2, No. 31 (Arizona State)
Staff(s): Kansas Metropolis Chiefs (1968-1974), Houston Oilers (1974-1980), Detroit Lions (1980-1981)

Culp can be undersized for a contemporary defensive deal with, not to mention one who performed on the nostril, as he did throughout the latter portion of his profession. However he labored simply high quality for the Seventies, and his distinctive talent set really led his former coach, Hank Stram, to play him at that spot throughout Tremendous Bowl IV — a transfer that finally helped the Chiefs neutralize the Minnesota Vikings‘ run recreation on the way in which to their first (and till 2019, solely) Tremendous Bowl victory. 

As Culp’s former teammate and former Chiefs secondary coach Emmitt Thomas stated of that recreation, “[Mick] Tingelhoff was among the finest facilities within the league on the specific time; Hank put Curley over his head and it was historical past.”

Culp’s prowess up the center fashioned the spine of the staff’s protection, a lot in order that his former teammate, Corridor of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, informed the staff’s official web site in 2013, “He had such energy and quickness. I keep in mind Jack Rudnay used to say that each middle within the league ought to need to go towards Curley, so as to know what it is wish to go towards the perfect.”

Sacks and tackles weren’t stored as official stats throughout Culp’s profession and so it is powerful to adequately describe all of his accomplishments, however he was revered sufficient to be chosen to 6 Professional Bowls and 6 All-Professional groups. (He had an unofficial complete of 68 sacks in his profession, a really excessive complete for an inside defensive lineman.) He helped the Chiefs to that Tremendous Bowl victory, and continued taking part in at a excessive degree even after being traded to the Houston Oilers in 1974. Coach Bum Phillips credited Culp with making his complete 3-4 protection work, noting that Culp was so sturdy that he necessitated two and even three gamers to dam him up the center. He was named the Defensive Participant of the 12 months by the Newspaper Enterprise Affiliation following his first full season in Houston, unofficially notching 11.5 sacks from his spot in the midst of Phillips’ stout defensive position.

Like McDonald, Culp needed to wait fairly a while for his Corridor of Fame induction, however he was lastly enshrined in 2013.

2001 NFL Draft: Spherical 1, No. 31 (Ohio State) 
Staff(s): Pittsburgh Steelers (2011-Current)

It takes quite a bit to face out among the many many nice defensive linemen in Steelers historical past, however Heyward has finished his half. In 10 NFL seasons, Heyward has notched 58 sacks and 86 tackles for loss, together with 138 quarterback hits. He is been named a Professional Bowler 4 instances and an All-Professional thrice, together with two instances to the primary staff. 

Heyward started his profession as a rotational contributor alongside Pittsburgh’s defensive entrance, however he is been a full-time starter for the final eight years, and has been the anchor of the Steelers protection for each one among them. His mixture of measurement (6-foot-5, 295 kilos), energy, size, and quickness has made him a terror for opposing offensive linemen to take care of, and has allowed the Steelers to shift him throughout their defensive entrance. He is lined up on the sting, as a deal with, on the nostril, and at the same time as a sort-of linebacker in amoeba-esque fronts. 

He is ranked inside the highest 10 in Professional Soccer Focus’ grading of inside defensive linemen thrice up to now 4 seasons, together with second behind solely the good Aaron Donald in 2019. Equally proficient towards each the cross and the run, he’s nonetheless close to the highest of his recreation, with no actual drop-off in sight. (He additionally notched his first profession interception this previous season, so maybe we now have extra of these to stay up for.) Signed with Pittsburgh by the 2024 season, Heyward ought to have a number of extra productive years in his future. Already named the perfect No. 31 choose in our mission final summer time, Heyward ought to have each alternative to solidify that standing sooner or later. 


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