The 5 biggest NFL Draft hits from Arizona Football of the last 15 years

The last 15 years have been surprisingly solid in terms of Arizona football alum performing well in the NFL.
New York Jets v New England Patriots
New York Jets v New England Patriots / Jim Rogash/GettyImages
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2010 3rd round. 10. . 3. Earl Mitchell - DT. EM. . player. Arizona: 2006-09. Earl Mitchell - DT

Earl Mitchell
San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Mitchell's career is often overshadowed by his teammate and fellow Day 2 pick Rob Gronkowski. He spent his first two seasons on Arizona's roster as a tight end, and his usage dropped off significantly in his sophomore year in 2007 with Gronkowski's arrival. However, he made the switch to defensive tackle and, after spending a year getting his feet wet he erupted for six sacks, 31 solo tackles, and a forced fumble.

His despite his relative newness to the position, the Texans swung on the Houston native in the third round of the 2010 draft. He only missed one game over his four seasons with the Texans and notched at least 27 total tackles and more solo tackles than combined in all of them. He forced a fumble and broke up three passes in 2012 and logged a career-high 48 tackles along with 1.5 sacks in 2013.

He spent the next three seasons with the Dolphins, and he would post a career-high 2 sacks along with a pass defended in his first year in South Beach in 2014. His next two years were underwhelming, and he played just 21 of a possible 32 games before being released by the Dolphins and signing with the 49ers.

Earl Mitchell, Bryan Braman
Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans / Thomas B. Shea/GettyImages

He saw a slight resurgence in the tail end of his career, playing in 30 out of 32 possible games. In his first year in San Francisco, he logged a sack and 19 solo tackles, recovered a fumble, and defended four passes. After only logging 28 total tackles (17 solo) in 2018, he was released by the 49ers.

He couldn't find a spot on Seattle's practice squad in the 2019 offseason, and retired from football — for a few months. He was re-signed for the 49ers Super Bowl run later that season, and played in all three games where he posted two tackles and 0.5 sacks. He finally retired for good after playing for nine full seasons and one extra postseason.