2000 – WR/RS Dennis Northcutt (Round 2: Pick 1, 32nd overall)
It’s not sad at all that Dennis Northcutt is the star of the class. Think about it, in today’s NFL, Northcutt would’ve been a first-round pick. The multi-purpose player was both a slot-receiver for the Cleveland Browns and a return specialist. During his time with the team, he put up some impressive numbers, despite only being 5’11 (some believe he’s closer to 5’9). Thus proving once again that size doesn’t matter in sports.
Northcutt became a favorite with his never-say-die style of running, and his ability to shift his weight and juke defenders out of their cleats. During his time running, catching and returning the ball, Northcutt put up 5,943 total yards combined. Arguably, he was the first great return man of the modern NFL alongside the Chiefs Dante Hall. They let Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester flourish in those roles, later on, with both men possibly earning future jersey retirements for the Browns and Hester’s team, the Chicago Bears.
Despite never making a Pro Bowl, Northcutt was the best player to take here. Even though future Pro Bowlers like offensive tackle Chad Clifton, wideout Lavernaues Cole and yes, the greatest quarterback ever – Tom Brady would all be on the board, what the team needed was a playmaker. What they got was a playmaker.
Maybe Northcutt will never get the same respect nationally that he got in Cleveland, but one can’t deny that Northcutt during his peak was one of, if not the best return man in the game, and his versatility was what made those teams fun during his tenure.