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The Eleventh Overall Pick: A Brief History

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

For the second time in two years, the Buffalo Bills are looking to address a team need from spot 11 in the NFL Draft. Over the last 25 years, the eleventh pick has produced Pro Bowlers, Hall of Famers, All-Pro selections, and busts just like every other spot on the draft board. Here's a closer look at the players drafted eleventh overall in the last 25 drafts and what we can expect from the player we draft at that position this year.

#11 Picks, 1984-2008
2008 - Leodis McKelvin, CB, Bills
2007 - Patrick Willis, LB, Niners
2006 - Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos
2005 - DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys
2004 - Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
2003 - Marcus Trufant, CB, Seahawks
2002 - Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts
2001 - Dan Morgan, LB, Panthers
2000 - Ron Dayne, RB, Giants
1999 - Daunte Culpepper, QB, Vikings
1998 - Tra Thomas, OT, Eagles
1997 - Michael Booker, CB, Flacons
1996 - Alex Molden, DB, Saints
1995 - Derrick Alexander, DE, Vikings
1994 - John Thierry, LB, Bears
1993 - Dan Williams, DE, Broncos
1992 - Leon Searcy, OT, Steelers
1991 - Pat Harlow, OT, Patriots
1990 - Anthony Smith, DE, Raiders
1989 - Donnell Woolford, DB, Bears
1988 - Michael Irvin, WR, Cowboys
1987 - Shawn Knight, DE, Saints
1986 - Joe Kelly, LB, Bengals
1985 - Richard Johnson, DB, Oilers
1984 - Wilber Marshall, LB, Bears

There are some outstanding players on this list.  We can measure how many outstanding players there are by looking at individual honors like Pro Bowl appearances, All-Pro Team selections, and Hall of Fame enshrinement.  I think you'll like the results.

Pro Bowl
Every year the Pro Bowl takes the best players from each conference and plays them against one another.  Between 40 and 50 players are considered Pro Bowl players in a given year from each conference for a grand total of 80-100 players.  Here's the eleventh overall picks who have been selected to the Pro Bowl:

Patrick Willis (2007, '08)
Jay Cutler (2008)
DeMarcus Ware (2006-08)
Ben Roethlisberger (2007)
Marcus Trufant (2007)
Dwight Freeney (2003-‘05, '08)
Dan Morgan (2004)
Daunte Culpepper (2000, ‘03, '04)
Tra Thomas (2001, '02, '04)
Leon Searcy (1999)
Donnell Woolford (1993)
Michael Irvin (1991-'95)
Wilber Marshall (1986, '87, '92)

At the conclusion of every season, 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL select the All-Pro Team.  This is a much more exclusive honor than the Pro Bowl, however; 27 spots existed on the team in 2008.  Here are the All-Pro eleventh overall picks.

Patrick Willis (2008)
DeMarcus Ware (2007, '08)
Dwight Freeney (2004, ‘05)
Michael Irvin (1991)
Wilber Marshall (1986, '92)

Hall of Famers
The Hall of Fame is the greatest individual honor an NFL player may receive.  It takes into account your entire body of work throughout your career.  Of the thousands of NFL players and contributors in the league's rich history, only 247 people are currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The only Hall of Fame player who was drafted at number 11 is Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin, who was tearfully inducted in 2007.

Biggest Bust
By far, the largest eleventh overall bust was Shawn Knight.  He was drafted out of BYU by the New Orleans Saints in 1987 and played one year each for the Saints (10 games), Broncos (14 games), and Phoenix Cardinals (7 games, 1 start), recording exactly one stat - a fumble recovery.