Which players went down as the biggest NFL draft steals of all time?
During the NFL drafts, all teams in the league sort to pick the best candidates enlisted to be signed. As the teams with the poorest record the previous season pick first, they have the advantage of selecting the most promising players eligible to be drafted. In this case, players who are drafted late are viewed as those with the least prospects.
As luck would have it though, some players who have earned late picks have made it to stardom, creating legendary statuses for themselves. In this article, we list the top-20 biggest draft steals in NFL history.
Here are the biggest NFL draft steals of all time
20. Andre Reed
NFL Draft: 1985, 4th round, 86th overall pick by Buffalo Bills
Andre Reed was the 86th overall pick of the 1985 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. Through his career, Reed went on to rule the NFL by winning seven Pro Bowls call-ups through the late 80s and early 90s. The receiver totalled 87 touchdowns, 951 receptions and about 13, 200 yards.
19. Kevin Greene
NFL Draft: 1985, 5th round, 113th overall pick by Los Angeles Rams
The aggressive-styled pass rusher was the 113th overall pick of the 1985 NFL draft. He is a 5-time Pro Bowl participant through 1985-2000 whilst totalling 160 sacks, 773 tackles and 23 forced fumbles for the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Greene is also a Hall of Fame inductee.
18. Jared Allen
NFL Draft: 2004, 4th round, 126th overall pick by Kansas City Chiefs
Jared Allen is the 12th highest sack holder with 136 sacks through his 12-year stint. The 5-time Pro Bowler debuted in 2004 following his selection in the fourth round by the Kansas City chiefs.
17. James Harrison
NFL Draft: 2002 Undrafted
James Harrison was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002. Many teams thought him to be too short at six inches to hold the line back role effectively. Harrison proved to the odds as he earned 5 Pro Bowl call-ups during his career. In 2008, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and helped the Steelers to win the Super Bowl twice (XL and XLIII).
16. Tony Romo
NFL Draft: 2003 Undrafted
Tony Romo is just another undrafted player who went on to earn prestige in the NFL. He was signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2003. He was spotted by the Cowboys’ scouts in Eastern Illinois and earned a regular starting post in 2006. Before his retirement in 2016, he had participated in 4 Pro Bowls through his 13-year career.
15. Richard Sherman
NFL Draft: 2011, 5th round, 154th overall pick by Seattle Seahawks
Sherman is regarded as one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time. Yet, he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks as the 154th overall pick in the 5th-round. Sherman described his experience as he was furious while watching the 2011 NFL draft at home. He was astonished to see players he regarded as inferior being selected before him. Sherman is a 4-time Pro Bowler and was one of the vital players in the Seattle Seahawks squad that won the Super Bowl in 2013.
14. Antonio Gates
NFL Draft: 2003 Undrafted
The Los Angeles Chargers’ man played basketball in Kent State but was signed by the Chargers in 2003 as a free agent. He was an all-round player who had a very selfless nature of the game. He would be remembered as one of the Los Angeles Chargers biggest legends.
13. Rob Gronkowski
NFL Draft: 2010, 2nd Round, 42nd overall pick by New England Patriots
A relatively early pick for the New England Patriots, the nature around his circumstances makes him a worthwhile mention. Rob Gronkowski had a back injury before his selection in the 2010 NFL draft but the faith bestowed upon him has paid off well for the Patriots as he is rated as the best all-round player of that draft. For the duration of his career, Gronkowski won the Super bowl thrice and has participated in 5 Pro Bowls.
12. Russell Wilson
NFL Draft: 2012, 3rd round, 75th overall pick by Seattle Seahawks
The 75th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft is one of the most respected quarterbacks and also one of the best NFL draft steals. In his rookie year, Russell Wilson helped the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl and has earned 6 Pro Bowl call-ups ever since.
11. Terrell Davis
NFL Draft: 1995, 6th round, 196th overall pick by Denver Broncos
Terrell Davis was selected in the 1995 NFL draft in the 6th round as the 196th overall pick. The lowly-drafted player is among the biggest draft steals in NFL history. Davis as a running back achieved a lot during his seven years of professional football. He was named the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1998 and had earned three Pro Bowl call-ups along with winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos twice. Davis’ career was ruined by injury and he was named to the Hall of Fame in 2017.
10. Antonio Brown
NFL Draft: 2010, 6th round, 195th overall pick by Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 NFL draft as the 22nd out of the 27 wide receivers drafted. He retired in 2019 having earned up to seven Pro Bowl call-ups and had been known as one of the biggest NFL draft-steals and best wide receivers.
9. Norm Van Brocklin
NFL Draft: 1949, 4th round, 37th overall pick by Los Angeles Rams
In the 1949 NFL draft, the Dutchman was selected in the 4th round. He was a quarterback who featured for the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. He participated 9 times in the Pro Bowl and was named the 1960 NFL Most Valuable Player. Van Brocklin who is considered among the NFL biggest draft-steals was in 2010 listed among the 100 greatest players in NFL history.
8. Roger Staubach
NFL Draft: 1964, 10th round, 129th overall pick by Dallas Cowboys
After attending the U.S Naval Academy, Staubach joined up with the Dallas Cowboys who had selected him when he entered the 1964 NFL draft and was the 10th round pick. Staubach who is a two times Super Bowl champion and six times pro-bowler is a Hall of Fame inductee as far back as 1985 and one of the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team revealed in 2019. Staubach who had a stellar career is among the biggest NFL draft steals in history. Popularly known by his nicknames ‘Captain Comeback’ and ‘Rodger the Dodger’, he is also listed as the richest NFL player of all-time.
7. Shannon Sharpe
NFL Draft: 1990, 7th round, 192nd overall pick by Denver Broncos
Sharpe is a Hall of fame inductee who featured in the top-flight league for the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens during the 90s. The legendary tight end was a 7th round selection in the 1990 NFL draft. Sharpe who won 2 Super Bowl championships with Denver Broncos and 1 with Baltimore Ravens played in 8 Pro Bowls.
6. Randy Moss
NFL Draft: 1998, 1st round, 21st overall pick by Minnesota Vikings
Having shown the calibre of player he would be during his college days; it was surprising that the promising Moss wouldn’t be grabbed among the first 10 picks of the 1998 NFL draft. Several teams passed on him, including Dallas Cowboys which he was a fan of and dearly wanted to play for. He was eventually drafted as the 21st overall but soon showed his worth as he became a Minnesota Vikings rookie star and had an illustrious career which earned him the Hall of fame induction.
5. Deacon Jones
NFL Draft: 1961, 14th round, 186th overall pick by Los Angeles Rams
Deacon Jones is a Los Angeles Rams legend and Hall of Fame inductee. He would be notably remembered as the player who spread the use of the term ‘sacks’. Jones was among the late selections in the 14th round of the 1961 NFL draft. Jones who played in 8 Pro Bowls and was two times NFL Defensive Player of the Year was named as one of the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.
4. Johnny Unitas
NFL Draft: 1955, 9th round, 102nd overall pick by Pittsburgh Steelers
Jonny Unitas was drafted in the 9th round of the 1955 NFL draft but featured in 10 Pro Bowls through his career. The Baltimore Colts were fortunate to have him join the team at this time as the Steelers’ head coach at the time believed he was not a smart QB. Unitas won the NFL MVP thrice in 1959, 1964 and 1967. He was dubbed ‘The Golden Arm’ and regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
3. Bart Starr
NFL Draft: 1956, 17th round, 200th overall pick by Green Bay Packers
In the University of Alabama, Bryan Bart Starr played college football before his eligibility but lasted till round 17 of the 1956 NFL draft. He became the 200th overall draft by the Green Bay Packers. Bart Starr was a vital figure in the successful Parkers winning squad of the late 50s through 60s, winning the Super Bowl championship as well as the Super Bowl MVP on two occasions. He also played in 4 Pro Bowls. After Starr’s retirement as a player in 1971, we went on to coach the team in 1972 and from 1975–1983.
2. Joe Montana
NFL Draft: 1979, 3rd round, 82nd overall pick by San Francisco 49ers
Undoubtedly one of the best and biggest NFL draft steals in history, Joe Montana was a crucial quarterback that led the San Francisco 49ers to 4 Super Bowls. He is tagged the ‘Comeback Kid’ and was famous for his extremely impressive passing records, tallying 3,409 passes for 40,551 yards through his career. He became the 1st NFL player to earn the Super Bowl MVP title thrice. With such striking stats, it is astonishing that Joe was among the late picks of the 1979 NFL draft as the 82nd overall pick.
1. Tom Brady
NFL Draft: 2000, 6th round, 199th overall pick by New England Patriots
Tom Brady is regarded as the greatest quarterback ever as well as the greatest and the biggest draft steal of all time. Brady began his 16-year NFL career in 2000 where he was among the late picks in the 6th round. The year 2000 199th overall draft by the New England Patriots has featured in 14 Pro Bowls, winning 6 Super Bowls and 4 Super Bowl MVP titles, the only player to have achieved that feat. It is expected that in years to come after his retirement, Tom Brady will be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What are your thoughts about this list? Which biggest NFL draft steals do you think should’ve made the list? Please share with us in the comments section below.