Brady, Prescott, Kelce: Top 10 of the biggest steals in NFL Draft history

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots

This year’s NFL Draft will be taking place in Las Vegas, a place where sometimes a gamble can pay off in a very big way.

Whilst a lot of focus will be drawn to the early rounds of the draft, there will always be some players who slip past the major names and fall to the later rounds.

But whilst they may have had a rough time getting into the NFL, often those players that slip down the pecking order can go on to have incredible NFL careers, much like the guys in our top ten steals of the draft. 

For this list we will only be looking at players who were taken in the third round or later and after the year 2000:

10. Frank Gore

Drafted at 65 by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005

It seems only fitting that we start this list off with someone who has just recently retired from the game and who goes down as one of the most productive running backs in NFL history. Across his 16-year NFL career, he racked up a total of 16,000 yards, which ranks 3rd all-time amongst all NFL players. 

He was also named on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2010s and was elected to five Pro-Bowls, making him one of the best to ever play the position and certainly more than worth the third-round pick that the San Francisco 49ers used to acquire him. 

9. Dak Prescott

Drafted at 135 by the Dallas Cowboys in 2016

Whilst a lot of the talk going into the draft in 2016 circulated around Jared Goff & Carson Wentz, who would go numbers 1 and 2 respectively, falling all the way into the 4th round was the Mississippi State Bulldog Prescott to the Dallas Cowboys.

Whilst initially brought in to back up veteran Tony Romo, an injury in preseason gave the rookie a chance to take over, and he never looked back.

He took the Cowboys to the playoffs and earned himself NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honours, ahead of his teammate Ezekiel Elliott, and has settled himself as the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future. 

8. Robert Mathis

Taken at 138 by the Indianapolis Colts in 2003

Whilst the Indianapolis Colts sides of the 2000s onwards were mainly talked about because of Peyton Manning, on the other side of the ball was someone who had almost as much impact on the team’s success in those days.

The outside linebacker/defensive end, a 5th round pick, kept opposing offences at bay by making close to 600 tackles in the regular and postseason to go along with 129.5 sacks and 59 forced fumbles (leading the league in that stat three times) on his way to winning one Super Bowl in 2007 and making five Pro Bowls.

Credit to Colin Telesz

7. Jared Allen

Taken at 126 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004

Someone who spent over a decade striking fear into the heart of opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks, there was arguably nobody better at grabbing sacks than the Kansas City Chiefs’ 4th round pick out of Idaho State during his spell in the NFL. 

136 times he managed to put the quarterback into the ground, racking up double digits in 8 out of 9 seasons between 2005 and 2013, including an impressive 22 in 2011 whilst with the Vikings where he spent the best part of his career.

Whilst he never won a Super Bowl, he was named first-team All-Pro four times, and led the league in sacks twice. 

6. Travis Kelce

Taken at 63 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013

When it comes to players making an impact in recent years in the NFL, other than quarterbacks, there are arguably none who have had a bigger impact on their side than the tight end from Kansas City out of the University of Cincinnati.

Whilst it does help to have Patrick Mahomes throwing you the ball, his numbers for a tight end have made him one of the most feared pass catchers in the league. Averaging 12.8 yards a reception, he has put up over 10,000 yards in the regular season on his way to 69 touchdown receptions in the regular and postseason. 

The 5th tight end taken in the 2013 Draft, he’s certainly proved himself the most productive member of his class so far. 

5. Richard Sherman

Taken at 154 by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011

A 5th round pick out of Stanford University, the cornerback became an integral part of the ‘Legion of Boom’ defence that helped turn the Seahawks into one premier teams in the NFL and put their defence into the discussion as one of the best of all time.

His role in the ‘Immaculate Deflection’ also sealed a trip to the team’s second-ever Superbowl where the Legion of Boom suffocated the league’s best offence that season on way to a 43-8 rout of the Broncos.

An intimidating lockdown corner, Sherman put up 41 career interceptions, leading to 3 touchdowns to go along with 116 pass deflections which made opposing QBs think twice about throwing his way. 

4. Antonio Brown

Taken at 195 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010

Having started off his career incredibly slowly coming out of Central Michigan, mainly being utilised as a punt and kick off returner during his early days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown was given the chance to take on a more prominent role in his second year.

He became an incredibly explosive receiver and one of the best in the game, racking up over 12,000 yards and 93 total touchdowns to go with 4 first-team All-Pro honours and 7 Pro Bowl appearances whilst also being named in the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2010s.

Whilst off-field issues have taken their toll and seen his career fizzle out to some extent, there is no doubt that at his peak, Brown was one of the best receivers in the game and certainly a gem when you consider how low he started out. 

3. Julian Edelman

Taken at 232 by the New England Patriots in 2009

A player who has pretty much spent his whole career ‘under the radar’, but when you look at what he brought to the Patriots, there’s no doubting how crucial he has been to their success over the past decade.

Whilst he didn’t get the attention and fame of a Rob Gronkowski, Edelman put up over 6,800 yards and 36 touchdowns, playing a critical role in two of their Super Bowl victories.

He made a ridiculous catch in Super Bowl LI to help them get the game-tying touchdown, before putting up 141 yards on 12 catches to win MVP of Super Bowl LIII, all of which has helped push him to a potential spot in the Hall of Fame following his retirement last year. 

2. Russell Wilson

Taken at 75 by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012

Much like 2016, the 2012 draft was all about Andrew Luck v Robert Griffin III at the top of the order. Meanwhile Wisconsin Badger Wilson slipped past both of them, as well as Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler to the Seahawks in the 3rd round. 

He was given the backup duty to the recently signed, and presumed starter Matt Flynn, but after beating him out in training camp, he never let the role slip and became one of the premier quarterbacks in the league.

He has racked up over 37,00 passing yards and 292 touchdowns, helped guide the Seahawks to back to back Super Bowls in 2014 and 2015 and has been named to 9 Pro Bowls.

Whilst he’s no longer a Seahawk following his trade this offseason to the Denver Broncos, you can certainly say that they got fair value for him based on where they initially picked him up. 

1. Tom Brady

Taken at 199 by the New England Patriots in 2000

There’s nothing that can be said about Tom Brady that hasn’t been said already during his illustrious career that despite his age still isn’t over just yet.

All of his accomplishments and numbers speak for themselves, which makes it all the more surprising that he dropped as low as he did, with as many as six QBs taken ahead of him in the 2000 draft. 

What makes it stranger is that it wasn’t as if he was an also-ran at a minor college, he was a two-year starter at Michigan and put up over 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Wolverines.

No doubt those teams, and indeed everyone else in the league, have spent the past 20-plus years kicking themselves for passing up on the G.O.A.T when they had the chance. 

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