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Another great Kiper article

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  • Another great Kiper article

    This year will be the 30th year I've evaluated talent for the NFL draft (and my 25th year with ESPN) with my draft guide. There have been times when my evaluations of players matched what they would do in the NFL, and then there are those players who exceeded the kind of career I thought they would have after college.

    Here's a look at the 10 players (listed chronologically) I thought teams reached for too early or whom I projected to be career backups.

    1. 1979: Joe Montana, QB, Notre Dame -- Third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers
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    Joe Montana

    Malcolm Emmons/US Presswire

    Joe Montana was the fourth QB selected in the 1979 draft, behind Jack Thompson, Phil Simms and Steve Fuller.
    This was the year of my first draft book, and I thought Montana would be decent. He was a poised quarterback and clutch performer at Notre Dame, but he wasn't imposing and didn't have a big arm. Bill Walsh clearly saw something in Montana that no one else did and hit the jackpot, as Montana became one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game.

    2. 1988: Chris Spielman, LB, Ohio St. -- Second-round pick by the Detroit Lions
    I compared Spielman's attitude on the field to that of Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, but I projected him to go in the fourth round. (The rumor at the time was Spielman had a photo of me in his bedroom and used it as motivation.) Spielman started all 148 games of his career and was named to five All-Pro teams.

    3. 1988: James Hasty, CB, Washington St. -- Third-round pick by the New York Jets
    I thought the Jets were reaching when they drafted Hasty in the third round (I projected him to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick), but he turned out to be an outstanding pick. Hasty started 200 of the 205 games for the Jets and Chiefs from 1988 to 2000.

    4. 1993: Trent Green, QB, Indiana -- Eighth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers
    Green was drafted ahead of just two players in 1993 (222nd overall), and I thought he would be a solid backup. He bounced around and appeared to be the Rams' quarterback of the future before a preseason injury in 1999 opened the door for an unknown QB named Kurt Warner (see below). Green went on to become a two-time Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    5. 1994: Jeff Garcia, QB, San Jose St. -- Undrafted
    Because of his lack of size and arm strength, I thought Garcia would be overmatched in the NFL. He spent the first five years of his professional career in the CFL before being noticed by Bill Walsh. He signed with the 49ers and flourished in their system, being named to three Pro Bowl teams.

    6. 1994: Kurt Warner, QB, Northern Iowa -- Undrafted
    Warner was a standout in the Arena League, but I didn't think he could thrive on the NFL level. Warner got his chance when Green got hurt. Most thought St. Louis' season was over when Green went down, but Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory.

    7. 1995: William Henderson, FB, North Carolina -- Third-round pick by the Green Bay Packers
    While I liked Henderson, I didn't think he was a third-round-caliber fullback (a point Henderson brought up on the draft a few years back). I thought he was more of a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Henderson was one of the better fullbacks in the NFL during his 12-year career with the Packers.

    8. 2000: Marc Bulger, QB, West Virginia -- Sixth-round pick by the New Orleans Saints
    I thought he would be very good career backup, but he's done a very good job as a starter in St. Louis. Bulger didn't do anything with the team that originally drafted him (Saints), so his success has to be a surprise. When he left New Orleans, Bulger fell into the perfect scheme in St. Louis under Mike Martz's guidance.

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    Tom Brady

    NFL/Getty Images

    What do QBs Giovanni Carmazzi, Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn all have in common? They were picked ahead of Tom Brady in 2000.
    9. 2000: Tom Brady, QB, Michigan -- Sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots
    I had some good things to say about Brady when he came out in 2000, but no one could have expected him to be this good. The Patriots couldn't have expected him to be this good or they wouldn't have waited until the sixth round to draft a player who's going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. Brady did some good things at Michigan and I thought he might be able to start one day in the NFL. But an eventual Hall of Famer? That was definitely a surprise.

    10. 2002: Levi Jones, OT, Arizona St. -- 10th overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals
    I bring up Jones because I thought he was a reach with the 10th pick. At the time, Cincinnati needed picks and players, so I thought the Bengals should trade down, get more picks, and pick Jones later if he was still available. I liked Jones, I just thought it was a reach to draft him that high, but he's turned out to be a very good player.
    2014-2015 Kentucky Wildcats (38-1)

    Congrats to Wisconsin. Even more congrats to UK haters.