In the moment, the biggest storylines of the NFL Draft are usually those that are selected in the first round. It’s the players who were typically the most decorated during their college careers, and are expected to have similar success in the NFL.
But as it is with anything else, things change with time. Thats when we start to see the diamonds in the rough, ones that sometimes become better than we could have ever imagined.
These are the steals of the draft, and these are some of the best we’ve seen in NFL history.
2000: Tom Brady, Patriots. No. 199 pick in the 6th round
This is the crown jewel of all NFL Draft steals. Brady has cemented his legacy as arguably the best quarterback in NFL history, after having six quarterbacks taken in front of him. He’s the face of the NFL’s greatest dynasty, with five Super Bowls, three MVPs, 13 Pro Bowls, and three All-Pro nods.
Players picked over him at his position: Chad Pennington (No. 18), Giovanni Carmazzi (No. 65), Chris Redman (No. 75), Tee Martin (No. 163), Marc Bulger (No. 168), Spergon Wynn (No. 183)
2010: Antonio Brown, Steelers. No. 195 pick in the 6th round
The NFL’s best receiver the past four years is so damn good, we often forget he was a sixth round pick. He gives us so many other things to marvel over, that it’s easy to forget he was a sixth-round pick, and the 23rd wide receiver taken. Since then, he’s made six Pro Bowls, received four All-Pro nominations, and even got consideration for MVP in 2017 before falling to injury.
Players picked over him at his position: Demaryius Thomas (No. 22), Dez Bryant (No. 24), Arrelious Benn (No. 39), Golden Tate (No. 60), Damian Williams (No. 77), Brandon LaFell (No. 78), Emmanuel Sanders (No. 82), Jordan Shipley (No. 84), Eric Decker (No. 87), Andre Roberts (No. 88), Armanti Edwards (No. 89), Taylor Price (No. 90), Mardy Gilyard (No. 99), Mike Williams (No. 101), Marcus Easley (No. 107), Jacoby Ford (No 108), David Reed (No. 156), Riley Cooper (No. 159), Kerry Meier (No. 165), Carlton Mitchell (No. 177), Dezmon Briscoe (No. 191)
2011: Richard Sherman, Seahawks. No. 154 pick in the 5th round
Sherman was a part of what seemed like a bunch of misfits that formed one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen in the 2013 Seahawks, and one that was known as the “Legion of Boom.” The band got broken up this year, but Sherman and company went on a tear that gave the rest of the NFL nightmares for years. He was arguably the best cornerback in the game at one point, which is remarkable for a fifth-round pick.
Players picked over him at his position: Patrick Peterson (No. 5), Prince Amukamara (No. 19), Jimmy Smith (No. 27), Ras-l Dowling (No. 33), Aaron Williams (No. 34), Marcus Gilchrist (No. 50), Brandon Harris (No 60), Chris Culliver (No. 80), Demarcus Van Dyke (No. 81), Johnny Patrick (No. 88), Shareece Wright (No. 89), Curtis Marsh (No. 90), Curtis Brown (No. 95), Brandon Hogan (No. 98), Da’Norris Searcy (No. 100), Chimdi Chekwa (No. 113), Jalil Brown (No. 118), Rashad Carmichael (No. 127), Cortez Allen (No. 128), Davon House (No. 131), Buster Skrine (No. 137), Brandon Burton (No. 139), Josh Thomas (No. 143), Rod Issac (No. 147)
2012: Russell Wilson, Seahawks. No. 75 pick in the 3rd round
Wilson wasn’t exactly slept on like some of the other players on this list, but much like Deshaun Watson, college football fans couldn’t understand why NFL teams didn’t view him in a better light. That ended up working out for both him and the Seahawks, as he won a Super Bowl in his second year, and has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks ever since.
Players picked over him at his position: Andrew Luck (No. 1), Robert Griffin III (No. 2), Ryan Tannehill (No. 8), Brandon Weeden (No. 22), Brock Osweiler (No. 57)
2010: Jimmy Graham, Saints. No. 95 pick in the 3rd round
Graham played one season of college football out of Miami, after being a full-time basketball player. He then became a tight end that changed the game forever, making way for athletic pass catchers to become the norm at the position. The Saints got three, and nearly four double-digit touchdown seasons out of him, as well as two seasons of more than 1,200 yards receiving.
Players picked over him at his position: Jermaine Gresham (No. 21), Rob Gronkowski (No. 42), Ed Dickson (No. 70), Tony Moeaki (No. 93)
2006: Jahri Evans, Saints. No. 108 pick in the 4th round
There were 10 tackles taken over Evans, who had an incredible run with the Saints. From 2009 to 2012, he made the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro in each season. The Saints even got a Super Bowl during the 2010 season. He was a machine for them, playing in all 16 games for the first seven seasons of his career, and only playing in less than that twice. That’s what we call a good value, ladies and gentlemen.
Players picked over him at his position: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (No. 4), Winston Justice (No. 39), Daryn Colledge (47), Marcus McNeill (No. 50), Andrew Whitworth (no. 55), Jeremy Trueblood (No. 59), Eric Winston (No. 66), Paul McQuistan (No. 69), Rashad Butler (No. 89)
2012: Josh Norman, Panthers. No. 143 pick in the 5th round
Norman took a few years to develop, but came into his own in 2015 when he made his first Pro Bowl and got named to his first All-Pro team. It gave him a reputation as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL, and helped him signed a lucrative contract with Washington.
Players picked over him at DB: Morris Claiborne (No. 6), Mark Barron (No. 7), Stephon Gilmore (No. 10), Dre Kirkpatrick (No. 17), Harrison Smith (No. 29), Janoris Jenkins (No. 39), Tavon Wilson (No. 48), Casey Hayward (No. 62), Trumaine Johnson (No. 65), Josh Robinson (No. 66), Brandon Taylor (No. 73), Brandon Hardin (No. 79), Jamell Fleming (No. 80), Bill Bentley (No. 85), Jayron Hosley (No. 94), Omar Bolden (No. 101), Coty Sensabaugh (No. 115), Brandon Boykin (No. 123), Ron Brooks (No. 124), Christian Thompson (No. 130), Jerron McMillian (No. 133), Matt Johnson (No. 135), Robert Blanton (No. 139)
2005: Darren Sproles, Chargers. No. 130 pick in the 4th round
At 5’6, Sproles was almost immediately counted out despite being a talented player at Kansas State. He made a trio of Pro Bowls later in his career with the Eagles, but was still a great triple-threat in the air, on the ground, and in the return game for the Chargers and Saints for years.
Players picked over him at his position: Ronnie Brown (No. 2), Cedric Benson (No. 4), Carnell Williams (No. 5), J.J. Arrington (No. 44), Eric Shelton (No. 54), Frank Gore (No. 65), Vernand Morency (No. 73), Ryan Moats (No. 77), Maurice Clarett (No. 101), Marion Barber (No. 109), Brandon Jacobs (No. 110), Ciatrick Fason (No. 112), Manuel White (No. 120), Alvin Pearman (No. 127)