The biggest steals in NFL Draft history

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

April 21st, 2021

Lots of attention will be paid to the first round of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, and rightfully so. However, just as important are the late-round gems, the picks scouts can hang their hats on and boast about for generations.

We’ll take a look at five of them in this article, and while the top pick is no surprise, we’ve got some fantastic stories to tell before we get to him.

5. Bo Jackson

Pick: 7th round, 183rd overall, 1987
Team: Los Angeles Raiders
Accolades: 1x Pro Bowl
Years active: 1987-1990

Alright, I’m cheating a little. Bo was technically the No. 1 pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but never played a down for the Bucs due to his belief they compromised his baseball eligibility while a student-athlete at Auburn.

The next year, the Los Angeles Raiders selected him in the seventh round and got themselves a true weapon, one whose full potential was never truly realized due to a career-ending hip injury.

4. Donald Driver

Pick: 7th round, 213th overall, 1999
Team: Green Bay Packers
Accolades: 3x Pro Bowl, 1x Super Bowl champion
Years active: 1999-2012

It's very rare for any NFL player to carve out a 14-season career, especially one playing a high-contact position like wide receiver. However, Driver did just that after going to Green Bay in the seventh round of the 1999 draft.

He recorded six straight 1,000-receiving yard seasons from 2004 through 2009, finished with 10,137 yards in total, and won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2011.

3. Shannon Sharpe

Pick: 7th round, 192nd overall, 1990
Teams: Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 8x Pro Bowl, 4x All-Pro, 3x Super Bowl champion
Years active: 1990-2003

One of the best tight ends in NFL history was an afterthought heading into the 1990 draft. However, he made the rest of the league look silly after emerging as a stellar tight end with the Denver Broncos, who took him in the seventh round.

Sharpe made eight Pro Bowls, earned three Super Bowl rings, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

2. Richard Dent

Pick: 8th round, 203rd overall, 1983
Teams: Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 4x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl champion
Years active: 1983-1997

One of the stalwarts in Buddy Ryan’s famed 46 defense, Dent was an eighth-round selection by the Chicago Bears in 1983. He rewarded Chicago’s minimal investment by finishing his career with 137.5 sacks, and he, of course, helped the Bears shuffle to a Super Bowl victory following the 1985 season.

1. Tom Brady

Pick: 6th round, 199th pick overall, 2000
Teams: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Accolades: 14x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro, 3x MVP, 7x Super Bowl champion, 
Years active: 2000-present

The man many proclaim to be the greatest quarterback of all-time wasn’t the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth quarterback taken in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Tom Brady slipped all the way to the sixth round and pick #199 before being snapped up by the New England Patriots, and the rest, as they say, is history.