Best late-round NFL draft steals since merger
- Published: April 18, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.
- Updated: April 22, 2012 at 02:42 a.m.
The late-round steal ... every club wants one, but so few get it. The media discusses who they'll be, but all of the brainiac draftniks in the world would have about as much shot as your 95-year-old grandmother.
NFL history features many great players, some HOFers, who waited and waited for their name to be called on draft day. Here are the 20 greatest since the first AFL-NFL Draft of 1967. Only sixth rounders or later were considered, and boy are there some good names.
20. Jay Ratliff, Cowboys, 7th Round pick in 2005
Perhaps this pick surprises you, but a lot of people out there don't realize that Ratliff has made four straight Pro Bowls. The disruptive nose tackle was taken towards the very end of the 2005 NFL Draft, but his quality play has allowed the Cowboys to play a 3-4 for the last six seasons.
19. Troy Brown, Patriots, 8th round, 1993
Julian Edelman, eat your heart out. Troy Brown was the Patriots' original Bob Villa, filling every possible need ... wideout, punt returner, defensive back, emergency quarterback, and playoff savior in both 2001 and 2006. Brown caught 557 passes in his career, but his strip of Marlon McCree after a Tom Brady interception in the 2006 playoffs showed the type of all-around player this eighth-round pick was.
18. Jesse Sapolu, 49ers, 11th round pick, 1983
Two Pro Bowls, eight NFC Championship Games, four Super Bowl rings, and 183 career games is a pretty stinking good resume for an ELEVENTH round pick. It's funny, the 1983 NFL Draft is known for Eric Dickerson, Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Darrell Green, and so on. But this versatile center (who could also play guard ) wasn't far behind those guys in talent.
17. Larry Brown, Redskins, 8th round pick, 1969
Larry Brown was an early '70s force for the Washington Redskins, George Allen's over-the-hill gang that featured a roster full of 30-somethings. Brown was the baby, gaining 1,125 yards as a 23 year old, and 1,216 yards in the Redskins' Super Bowl season of 1972. While Richard Nixon was authorizing break-ins and whatnot, Allen was being named All-Pro. ... an honor the eighth-round pick received twice.
16. Seth Joyner, Eagles, 8th round, 1986
For an eighth-round afterthought, Seth Joyner sure did have a heckuva career. Joyner played 13 years in the league, with the best of those being 1991, when he forced six fumbles, recovered four, picked off three passes and had 6.5 sacks. He finished his career playing for the Packers in 1997 and Broncos in 1998 ... both Super Bowl teams.
15. Harold Carmichael, Eagles, 7th round, 1971
Before Steve Largent and Jerry Rice were making their football cards worth something, this seventh-round pick out of Southern had the record for the most consecutive games with at least one catch (127). Carmichael would post three 1,000-yard seasons in his career, but is most remembered for his 6-foot-8 frame.
14. Matt Hasselbeck, Packers, 6th round pick, 1998
How can Matt Hasselbeck be a late-round steal if the Packers didn't get anything out of him? Because he could play. From 2003 to 2007, the Seahawks made the playoffs every year partially because of Hasselbeck's ability, as evidenced by his 118 touchdowns and three Pro Bowls during that time. As for the Packers, who cares. They had Brett Favre, who was never going to be out of the lineup.
13. Marques Colston, Saints, 7th round pick, 2006
If you watched any Saints games over the last few years, you probably have heard that Colston was a seventh-round draft choice out of Hofstra a time or two. It's much like hair-parted-to-the-side broadcaster reminding us that Kurt Warner worked in a grocery store. But Colston certainly deserves the attention with five 1,000-yard seasons and a Super Bowl ring under his belt.
12. Clyde Simmons, Eagles, 9th round, 1986
The 1991 Cowboys had high hopes when they hosted their home opener against the Eagles. Until Clyde Simmons, a former ninth rounder, threw around left tackle Mark Tuinei around like a balsa wood glider. Philadelphia beat Dallas 24-0 that day on the strength of Simmons' 4.5 sacks. He would get 13 sacks that year, 19.5 the next, and 121.5 for his great 15-year career. Yep, he was pretty good.
11. Matt Birk, Vikings, 6th round pick, 1998
Sure, he's a center. But he's a six-time Pro Bowler who's played 14 seasons in the NFL at a very high level. A cerebral player, Ravens fans breathed a sigh of relief when Birk said he was coming back for the 2012 season.
10. Dwight Clark, 49ers, 10th round, 1981
The author of the league's greatest catch in history was just a 10th-round draft choice out of Clemson in 1979. The 49ers got Joe Montana earlier in that same draft in the third round. What music those two would make over the next nine seasons, as Clark caught over 500 balls and was named to two Pro Bowls. Oh yeah, and he won the 1981 NFC Championship game (and launched a dynasty) with a pretty good grab.
9. Donald Driver, Packers, 7th round pick, 1999
Surprised to see Driver this high? You shouldn't be. The man has been a model of consistency in his 13-year career. He has a Super bowl ring, 735 career catches, and seven 1,000-yard seasons to his name.
8. Jake Scott, Dolphins, 7th round, 1970
While a lot of fans have no idea who Jake Scott is, it's best to think of him as the Ed Reed of the '70s. Scott played a devastatingly good centerfield, and was as clutch as they come. A five-time Pro Bowler, Scott would snare 49 enemy tosses in just nine years on the job. He also picked off two passed in Super Bowl VII, earning MVP honors.
7. Joe Klecko, Jets, 6th round, 1977
If Jake Scott was Ed Reed, then Klecko was the Reggie White or Justin Tuck of his day, with the unique ability to play inside or outside. The former sixth-round choice out of Temple was named to the Pro Bowl at defensive end, defensive tackle and nose guard, where he was a first-team All-Pro. That's never been done in NFL history. If it weren't for injuries, Klecko would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
6. Terrell Davis, Broncos, 6th round, 1995
This one needs no explanation. Simply put, outside of a certain quarterback (spoiler alert), Davis was the best sixth-round draft choice in history. His run from 1995 to 1998 -- before injury struck -- was incredible ... like 1,600 yards per year incredible.
5. Rayfield Wright, Cowboys, 7th round pick, 1967
One of the most consistent performers in NFL history, this seventh-round pick from a football factory like Fort Valley State (not really) was supposed to be a tight end. That is, until Tom Landry switched him to tackle to take advantage of his athleticism and blocking ability. Six Pro Bowls and a Hall of Fame induction says that was a decent move.
4. Richard Dent, Bears, 8th round, 1983
If you've seen some moving pictures of Super Bowl XX, or any Bears highlights from the '80s, then you've probably caught a big 9-5 in navy and orange enveloping quarterbacks. A cornerstone of Buddy Ryan's 46 defense, this eigth-round draft choice had a 17 and 17.5 sack seasons back-to-back. He posted 12.5 sacks as a 33-year old rusher in 1993, and 137.5 for his career. What a player.
3. Ken Houston, Oilers, 9th round pick, 1969
The best last-round steal in the AFL era. After the AFL and NFL decided to have a joint draft in '67, the great college players would no longer be subjects of a bidding war. Houston was not a coveted safety, as evidenced by his ninth-round status. Pretty sure he's cool with that after being named to the NFL's all-time team. Twelve Pro Bowl selections and nine touchdowns off interceptions sealed that deal.
2. Shannon Sharpe, Broncos, 7th round, 1990
Arguably the NFL's greatest tight end ever, it's hard to believe Sharpe was a seventh-round draft pick out of Savannah State. While his brother Sterling was more famous, "little" brother Shannon made a career out of being a "tweener" (no, not a tweaker.) Too big to be a wideout, and a bit small for a classic tight end, all he did was snag 815 passes and make the Hall of Fame in 2011.
1. Tom Brady, Patriots, 6th Round pick, 2000
You know you love it. Even if you don't, and you're sick of hearing about him, Brady is the greatest late-round draft choice of the modern era. Period. Three Super Bowl rings, a 21-game winning streak, an NFL MVP, most consecutive passes without an interception (358), 50 touchdown passes in a season, on and on ... all for a guy who was considered a lesser prospect than the immortal Drew Henson.