20 years later, the impact players of the 1999 draft

Dayna O’Gorman,
Senior NFL Reporter

By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG

Currently, there are hundreds of articles about the upcoming NFL Draft. Mock drafts, team’s draft needs, draft surprises, the topics are endless. Well, I’m here to add another one to the list! However, I’m not talking about this year’s draft. Today, I’m going to take you back twenty years to 1999.

The Denver Broncos, led by quarterback John Elway, had just beaten the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII 34-19. You may remember that was the year when everyone was buzzing about Elway confronting his former coach, Dan Reeves, about comments he had made stating new head coach Mike Shanahan and Elway had conspired to have Reeves fired. Oh, the drama!

But when the new season started, all eyes were on the 1999 draft. The NEW Cleveland Browns had the first pick. It marked the first year, since 1995, the city of Cleveland had a football team. It was no surprise they went with a quarterback, selecting Tim Couch.

While Couch did manage to take the Browns to the playoffs during his 5 injury ridden years on the team, it was other players picked in that draft who would go on to make huge impacts, not only for their teams but in the NFL.

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted QB Donovan McNabb with the second pick. By the end of his 10-year career in Philadelphia, McNabb was considered an elite QB, taking the team to 8 playoffs, winning 5 NFC East Championships, going to 5 NFC Championship games, and 1 Super Bowl. Who knows what could have happened in Cleveland if they had taken McNabb instead of Couch.

While McNabb is without question a noteworthy pick, it’s the 4-7th selections that really caught my eye. These four gentlemen made such an impact on the league, its mind boggling to see they were all drafted right in a row.

Edgerrin James, RB
4x Pro Bowl
2x 1st team All Pro
2x 2nd team All Pro
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
2x NFL rushing yards leader
NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team

When James was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the 4th pick of the draft, there were some who criticized this choice because Indy took him over Heisman Trophy winner, Ricky Williams. James proved himself very quickly, winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 5 records with the Colts and is in their Ring of Honor. Oh, and on a personal note… hey HOF voters, Edge deserves to get in. Make that happen.

Ricky Williams, RB
Pro Bowl
1st team All Pro
Pro Bowl MVP
Heisman Trophy
NFL rushing yards leader
AP Player of the Year

Williams’ career was tumultuous, to say the least. Picked in the 5th spot of the 1999 draft by the New Orleans Saints, who traded all 6 of their picks to make sure they landed Williams. He was a dynamic running back, who struggled to live within the rules of the NFL. He spent 3 seasons with the Saints, then was traded to the Miami Dolphins. It was there he had his best season. Williams was a talented, fast, power back who was insanely fun to watch.

Tory Holt, WR
Super Bowl Champion
7x Pro Bowl
1st team All Pro
2nd team All Pro
2x NFL receiving yards leader
NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team

Six consecutive seasons with 1,300 yards or more. WOW. Holt was the 6th pick, drafted by the St Louis Rams. His 788 yards and six touchdowns during his rookie year helped the Rams reach and win the Super Bowl. Holt spent 10 years in St Louis, then spending a little time with the Jaguars and Patriots. When he retired in 2012, he was ranked 10th in league history in receiving yards with 13,382, and 13th in receptions with 920.

Champ Bailey, CB 
2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
12x Pro Bowl
3x 1st team All Pro
4x 2nd team All Pro
NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team
Denver Bronco’s 50th Anniversary Team

When the Washington Redskins drafted Bailey at number 7, they were adding to an already talented team. A team that included Deion Sanders and Darrell Green. But even in his rookie year, Bailey was a force. He had 5 interceptions and 1 touchdown. But it was his 10 years in Denver where he became the Hall of Fame player that he is. Over his career, he had 52 interceptions, 10 in 2006 alone. He has the record for most Pro Bowls for a defensive back, and the record for the longest interception return without scoring (100 yards)

While many drafts have numerous elite players, seeing all these names, right in a row, was impressive. All that talent, all those awards, in 4 sequential picks. It would have been a good year to have a top-10 pick 20 years ago.

Other names you may know from this draft? Joey Porter, Damien Woody, Daunte Culpepper, Chris McAlister, Patrick Kerney, Antoine Winfield, and then down in the 7th round, pick number 213, the one and only Donald Driver.

It will be fun to look back over top picks from the early 2000s to see if we find as impressive a grouping.

Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG

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