The best fourth round draft picks In NFL history

Profile Picture: Jason Ence

April 23rd, 2021

Everyone knows that Tom Brady was a sixth-round NFL draft pick, but many other great players have come from the later rounds over the years. While first-round picks get all the headlines, players taken in the middle rounds can build terrific careers for themselves—even ones worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Let’s take a look at the best fourth round draft picks in NFL history.

5. Harry Carson

Pick: 105th, 1976
Team: New York Giants
Accolades: Hall of Fame, Super Bowl champion, 9x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro
Years active: 1976-1988

Often overshadowed by the greatness that was Lawrence Taylor, Carson was a dominant force for the Giants during the 80s. He was drafted in the fourth round out of South Carolina State, a school in the MEAC, and eventually became the Giants’ captain for 10 years on defense as a dominant run-stuffer.

A part of the "Crunch Bunch," he and Taylor led the Giants under the tutelage of Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells and terrorized offenses around the NFL. Carson was named to the Pro Bowl in nine of his 13 years in the league, and was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006 after years spent criticizing how the selection process was handled.

4. Andre Reed

Pick: 86th, 1985
Teams: Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 7x Pro Bowl
Years active: 1985-2000

Reed was just the second player ever drafted from small Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. A key member of the Bills during their run of dominance in the late 80s and early 90s, he appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls for the team, and was Jim Kelly's primary receiver for most of his 15 years in Buffalo.

Reed’s career saw him finish ranked in the top 20 in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, and he ran the ball for more than 500 yards. He also holds the second-most career Super Bowl receptions behind only Jerry Rice, and the third most yards receiving in the big game.

Reed also famously caught three second-half touchdowns in "The Comeback" game against Houston in 1993. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 2014.

3. Cris Carter

Pick: Fourth round of 1987 Supplemental Draft
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 8x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro, NFL All-90s Team, 1999 Walter Payton Man of the Year
Years active: 1987-2002

This one is a bit of trivia, as Carter was not actually taken in the fourth round of the regular draft, but rather the Supplemental Draft. When a player is taken in the Supplemental Draft, the selecting team gives up their correlating pick in the following year’s draft, meaning the Eagles gave up their fourth pick in 1988 to take him in 1987. He is the only player taken as a supplemental pick to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Carter was a bust with the Eagles, and they waived him after the 1989 season. Claimed by the Vikings—making him not only the best supplemental pick ever but the best waiver claim as well—he eventually developed into a star, topping the 1,000 yard mark in eight consecutive seasons and recording the fourth-most receiving touchdowns in league history.

Carter is one of just three players to catch 120 or more passes in two different seasons, and is also one of just three receivers with 150-yard games in three separate decades.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013 after ending his career with, at that time, the second most receptions and touchdowns in NFL history.

2. Charles Haley

Pick: 96th, 1986
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 5x Super Bowl Champion, 5x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro, 2x NFC DPOY
Years active: 1986-1999

Before Brady, nobody had won more Super Bowl rings than Charles Haley. Drafted out of James Madison in 1986, Haley’s draft stock dropped after running a slow 40-yard dash, timing in the 4.8 second range. However, he immediately showed upon arrival that he was faster than that, registering 12 sacks in his rookie season. He was a key member of a 49ers defense that won two Super Bowls, and following his trade to the Cowboys he won another three rings.

Over a 13-year career, the defensive end racked up 100.5 sacks, and led the 49ers in sacks in each of his six years there to start his career. Haley dealt with back injuries that derailed his career, causing him to retire twice before returning, including coming back to the 49ers after a two-year hiatus.

Due to some of his off-field issues, Haley would have to wait until 2015 to enter the Hall of Fame.

1. Steve Largent

Pick: 117th, 1976
Teams: Houston Oilers, Seattle Seahawks
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 8x All Pro, 7x Pro Bowler, NFL All-1980s Team, 1988 Walter Payton Man of the Year, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Years active: 1976-1989

Largent was drafted in the fourth round by the Oilers, but never played a single game for them. The All-American was about to be cut after a preseason where he failed to impress, but instead the team dealt him to the Seahawks for an eighth round pick in the following draft.

His route-running and stellar hands saw him become an important piece of the expansion team’s offense. In 1978, Largent became the first Seahawk to be named to the Pro Bowl, and twice led the NFL in receiving yards in a season.

Upon his retirement, Largent held nearly every receiving record possible, including career receptions, yardage, and touchdowns as he became the first player to reach the century mark in scoring grabs.

Largent was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1995.