FSU has produced late-round gems, undrafted stars

The attention of NFL fans is so often on the first- and second-round picks. Those are often viewed as players who will be starters and change the team.

But NFL front offices look at the big picture and the opportunity to evaluate the breadth of talent in college football and often build winning teams through the middle rounds while also looking for late-round gems.

With the draft now complete, we take a look at some of the top players in Florida State history who were selected in the fourth round or later. A few were taken in rounds that no longer exist (the NFL went to a seven-round format in 1994).

Here are Seminoles who turned out to be steals, players who went on to productive careers, whether they were late-round picks or free-agent signees:

Edgar Bennett (fourth round, Green Bay in 1992) – Bennett ran for 3,992 yards and 21 touchdowns but also had 284 receptions for 2,245 yards and 10 TDs from 1992-99 with the Packers and Bears.

Devonta Freeman (fourth round, Atlanta in 2014) – Freeman’s career got off to a quick start with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and ’16, followed by 865 yards in 14 games in 2016. While injuries have slowed him, Freeman is a free agent and still has time to build on his 3,972 career rushing yards.

Montrae Holland (fourth round, New Orleans in 2003): Holland played in 99 games (starting 60) in eight NFL seasons with the Saints, Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys.

Dexter Jackson (fourth round, Tampa Bay in 1999) – Jackson had 433 career tackles in 11 NFL seasons with the Buccaneers, Cardinals and Bengals. He was the Super Bowl MVP for the Bucs.

Leon Washington (fourth round, NY Jets in 2006) – A two-time Pro Bowler, Washington ran for 2,271 yards and 16 TDs. He also had 168 receptions for 1,286 yards and four TDs.

Telvin Smith (fifth round, Jaguars in 2014) – Smith had five straight 100-tackle seasons and nine career interceptions from 2014-18.

Ken Lanier (fifth round, Denver in 1981) – Lanier started 167 of 179 career games, playing for the Broncos (1981-92 and ’94) as well as the Raiders (1993).

Geno Hayes (sixth round, Tampa Bay in 2008): Hayes had 401 tackles in seven seasons with the Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars. He had a career-best 98 with the Bucs in 2009.

Orpheus Roye (sixth round, Pittsburgh in 1996) – Roye had 336 tackles and 18.5 sacks in a 13-year career. He had a career-high 88 tackles in 2005 with the Browns.

Vince Williams (sixth round, Pittsburgh in 2013) – Williams has started 55 of 107 career games for the Steelers, accumulating 409 tackles. He had a career-best 89 tackles in 2017.

Marion Butts (seventh round, San Diego in 1989) – Butts was a Pro Bowler in 1990 and ’91. He had 700 or more rushing yards in five straight seasons from 1990-94 and finished with 5,185 career yards and 52 touchdowns.

Brad Johnson (ninth round, Minnesota in 1992) – Johnson completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 29,054 yards and 166 touchdowns. He had five 3,000-yard passing seasons and helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl.

Martin Mayhew (10th round, Buffalo in 1988) – Mayhew had 618 tackles and 21 interceptions in eight seasons with the Redskins and Buccaneers.

Jesse Solomon (12th round, Minnesota in 1986) – Solomon was the 318th player drafted and had five 100-tackle seasons and 804 career tackles.

Top free-agent signings

Jamie Dukes (free agent, Atlanta in 1986) – Dukes eventually played 110 games for the Falcons and 124 total games.

Todd Fordham (free agent, Jacksonville in 1997) – Fordham started 44 of 114 career NFL games. He played for the Jaguars, Steelers and Panthers from 1997-2006.

Graham Gano (free agent, Washington in 2009): Gano has made 224 of 273 career field-goal attempts. He was part of NFC champion Carolina in 2015. He made a 63-yard field-goal attempt in 2018.

Christian Jones (free agent, Chicago in 2014): Jones has 382 tackles in six seasons, starting 60 games. He has 50 or more tackles in five of six seasons.

Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl with the Bucs.


  1. Jerry Kutz

    This would be an awesome discussion topic for the message board and the Happy Hour.

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