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A history of NFL players drafted with the 49th overall pick

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What other notable players in the NFL have gone in the spot the Steelers are scheduled to make their first selection?

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“With the 49th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select…”

We are all patiently waiting for those words. While it is possible the Steelers could make a move forward or backward and have their first selection be at a different number, Steelers’ Nation has been plugged in and anxiously awaiting who their beloved black and gold will take with the 49th selection in the draft. As we are waiting the name of the player we can celebrate when the Steelers take the field for the 2020 season, what can we expect from said player? How well have other players taken 49th fared in their NFL careers?

First of all, the Steelers have only made a pick in the NFL draft in the 49th spot twice in their franchise history. The first was in 1947 when the Steelers selected C/LB Bryant Meeks out of South Carolina. Meeks played two seasons in the NFL, both of which were for the Steelers. In 1947 he played in eight games with zero starts and in 1948 he played in 10 games with three starts. The only stats attributed to him were two fumble recoveries.

The other 49th selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers is quite forgettable as defensive end Willie Fry was taken in the second round out of Notre Dame. Dealing with injuries his first two seasons, Fry only stayed in the NFL for three years and never appeared in a regular season game. But because he was on the team, Fry earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers.

Even though the Steelers have not had the best luck with their 49th selection, there are some other notable players around the NFL who have had great careers. First of all, there are no players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who were drafted in the NFL draft with the 49th selection, so perhaps the Steelers can change that trend in 2020 if another player does not get selected in the meantime. Probably the most notable player taken 49th who is still playing in the NFL would be wide receiver DeSean Jackson. With three Pro Bowl selections, Jackson is still in the league after being drafted in 2008 and has been credited with being a starter for 11 seasons. Jackson has 55 receiving touchdowns and over 10,000 receiving yards.

Limiting the field to players selected since the NFL merger in 1970, only four players out of the 50 selected with the 49th pick in the NFL draft have ever made first team All-Pro. The players are running backs Roger Craig and Delvin Williams, both originally of the San Francisco 49ers. The other two players are center Max Unger of the Seattle Seahawks and center Barret Robbins of the Oakland Raiders. Robbins is most notable for going missing right before Super Bowl XXXVII and was not able to play in the game.

When it comes to players making the Pro Bowl since 1970, there have only been eight selected with the 49th pick in the draft. Other than the four previously mentioned All-Pros as well as DeSean Jackson, the other players were wide receiver Brian Blades, running back Pete Johnson, and defensive back Eric Thomas. The player to play in the most games in the NFL would be linebacker Randall Godfrey who appeared in 170 games and made 149 starts with five different frnchises.

Of the 50 players drafted 49th from since 1970, 32 of them were considered a full-time starter for at least one season in their NFL career.

On the negative side, the only other player drafted since 1970 in the 49th position who did not play an NFL game other than Willie Fry was Cincinnati Bengals’ running back Kenny Irons. Selected in the 2007 NFL draft, Irons tore his ACL in the Bengals first preseason game. Irons was waived prior to training camp the next season and never played with another NFL football team.

So how important is this history lesson to the Steelers 49th pick in the 2020 NFL draft? Honestly, not at all. This exercise has really just been a piece of interesting trivia in preparation for the Steelers for selection in the 2020 NFL draft. Should the Steelers draft a player who is the likes of DeSean Jackson, Max Unger, or Roger Craig, I’m sure Steelers’ Nation would be quite happy with the selection. Although it may not be possible every season, there are plenty of times where a good playmaker was taken with the 49th pick.