50 Biggest Steals in NFL Draft History

1210 jay berwanger university of chicago 560x271With the first pick of the 1936 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select Jay Berwanger, halfback, University of Chicago. The former Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Fame member never played a single snap in the NFL. 1936 not only marked the first draft in NFL history, it also marked the first time a player would holdout for more money, a negotiating tactic that rarely works in the league anymore. Bert Bell, Philadelphia’s owner, traded the rights of Jay to the Chicago Bears because he was afraid that he could not meet the demands of his request contract. George Halas, Bears owner, had about the same amount of luck negotiating. Jay demanded $15,000 per game, the biggest offer from Chicago was $13,500. Jay left the game and never played football again.

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That’s the NFL Draft, a crazy place filled with scouting reports, backdoor deals, trades, rumors, debates, and surprisingly shocking moments like when 198 players were drafted before Tom Brady. Today we take a look back at the players who were selected much lower than you would have imagined. This is a chance to see some of the athletes that were passed on, team after team, round by round, until finally someone took the gamble on them. And it paid off.

Before you go all postal on us, here are the things we considered when selecting our list.

  • Were they drafted? This isn’t going to be a list of undrafted players that made it big, that list will come out later this year. (Or when we have the time to put down our beers and turn off the Bears games)
  • No one in the first three rounds should be considered a steal. (We agree)
  • For every Dallas Cowboys player that makes the list, New York Giants fans will earn a free taco dinner courtesy of Jerry Jones. (Just go tell him to reimburse you)

That should be a good enough explanation that even the Atlanta Falcon fans will understand. Enjoy.

50. Marques Colston, WR, Saints

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Drafted: 2006

Round (Overall): 7th (252nd)

49. Zach Thomas, LB, Dolphins

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Drafted: 1996

Round (Overall): 5th (154th)

48. La’Roi Glover, DT, Raiders

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Drafted: 1996

Round (Overall): 5th (166th)

47. Dwight Clark, WR, 49ers

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Drafted: 1979

Round (Overall): 10th (249th)

46. Michael Sinclair, DE, Seahawks

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Drafted: 1991

Round (Overall): 6th (155th)

45. Donald Driver, WR, Packers

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Drafted: 1999

Round (Overall): 7th (213th)

44. Joe Klecko, DL, Jets

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Drafted: 1977

Round (Overall): 6th (144th)

43. Jeff Van Note, OC, Falcons

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Drafted: 1969

Round (Overall): 11th (262nd)

42. Mark Schlereth, OG, Redskins

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Drafted: 1989

Round (Overall): 10th (263rd)

41. Herbert Scott, OL, Cowboys


Drafted: 1975

Round (Overall): 13th (330th)

40. Billy Johnson, WR, Oilers

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Drafted: 1974

Round (Overall): 15th (365th)

39. Robert Mathis, LB, Colts

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Drafted: 2003

Round (Overall): 5th (138th)

38. Tom Nalen, OC, Broncos

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Drafted: 1994

Round (Overall): 7th (218th)

37. Adalius Thomas, LB, Ravens

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Drafted: 2000

Round (Overall): 6th (186th)

36. Dave Meggett, RB, Giants

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Drafted: 1989

Round (Overall): 5th (132nd)

35. Joe Horn, WR, Chiefs

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Drafted: 1996

Round (Overall): 5th (135th)

34. Jay Novacek, TE, Cardinals

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Drafted: 1985

Round (Overall): 6th (158th)

33. Rodney Harrison, S, Chargers

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Drafted: 1994

Round (Overall): 5th (145th)

32. Mark Clayton, WR, Dolphins

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Drafted: 1983

Round (Overall): 8th (223rd)

31. Bob Hayes, WR, Cowboys

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Drafted: 1964

Round (Overall): 7th (88th)

30. Kevin Greene, LB, Rams

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Drafted: 1985

Round (Overall): 5th (113th)

29. Leroy Kelly, RB, Browns

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Drafted: 1964

Round (Overall): 8th (110th)

28. Ken Houston, S, Oilers

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Drafted: 1967

Round (Overall): 9th (214th)

27. Marco Rivera, OG, Packers

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Drafted: 1996

Round (Overall): 6th (208th)

26. Terrell Davis, RB, Broncos

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Drafted: 1995

Round (Overall): 6th (196th)

25. Rosey “Roosevelt” Brown, OT, Giants

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Drafted: 1953

Round (Overall): 27th (321st)

24. Leon Lett, DT, Cowboys

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Drafted: 1991

Round (Overall): 7th (173rd)

23. Harold Carmichael, WR, Eagles

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Drafted: 1971

Round (Overall): 7th (161st)

22. Matt Birk, OC, Vikings

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Drafted: 1998

Round (Overall): 6th (173rd)

21. Andre Reed, WR, Bills

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Drafted: 1985

Round (Overall): 4th (86th)

20. Raymond Berry, WR, Colts

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Drafted: 1954

Round (Overall): 20th (232nd)

19. Cliff Branch, WR, Raiders

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Drafted: 1972

Round (Overall): 4th (98th)

18. Rayfield Wright, OT, Cowboys

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Drafted: 1967

Round (Overall): 7th (182nd)

17. Jackie Smith, TE, Cardinals

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Drafted: 1963

Round (Overall): 10th (129th)

16. Shannon Sharpe, TE, Broncos

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Drafted: 1990

Round (Overall): 7th (192nd)

15. Charles Haley, DE/LB, 49ers

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Drafted: 1986

Round (Overall): 4th (96th)

14. Mike Webster, OC, Steelers

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Drafted: 1974

Round (Overall): 5th (125th)

13. Lester Hayes, CB, Raiders

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Drafted: 1977

Round (Overall): 5th (126th)

12. Joe Schmidt, LB, Lions

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Drafted: 1953

Round (Overall): 7th (85th)

11. Steve Tasker, WR, Oilers

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Drafted: 1985

Round (Overall): 9th (226th)

10. Chris Hanburger, LB, Redskins

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Drafted: 1965

Round (Overall): 18th (245th)

9. Roger Staubach, QB, Cowboys

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Drafted: 1964

Round (Overall): 10th (129th)

8. Willie Davis, DE, Browns

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Drafted: 1956

Round (Overall): 15th (181st)

7. L.C. Greenwood, DE, Steelers

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Drafted: 1969

Round (Overall): 10th (238th)

6. Cris Carter, WR, Eagles

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Drafted: 1987

Round (Overall): Supplemental Pick following 4th Round

5. Richard Dent, DE, Bears

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Drafted: 1983

Round (Overall): 8th (203rd)

4. Bart Starr, QB, Packers

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Drafted: 1956

Round (Overall): 17th (200th)

3. Johnny Unitas, QB, Steelers

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Drafted: 1955

Round (Overall): 9th (102nd)

2. Deacon Jones, DE, Cardinals


Drafted: 1961

Round (Overall): 14th (186th)

1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

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Drafted: 2000

Round (Overall): 6th (199th)

There are so many reasons why Tom Brady belongs in this spot but we need to only give you one. In the 40 years before Tom Brady, The New England Patriots had two Super Bowl appearances, both were losses. (1985 to Chicago Bears, 1996 to Green Bay Packers) When Tom Brady got his chance to start after Drew Bledsoe got injured during the second game of the 2001 season, he led the Patriots to his first of many Super Bowl titles.

Over the past 19 years, the Patriots have made it to the AFC championship game thirteen times and won nine of them. Those nine Super Bowl appearances became six Super Bowl titles and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for Mr.Brady. Some players are winners but Tom Brady raised the bar when he single handedly transformed a franchise into a powerhouse. Can you imagine what the Patriots organization would look like without Brady behind center? Neither can they.