Yesterday I listed each team’s biggest miss in the Draft. Today we’re going to be a little more positive. We’re going to take a look at the biggest steal for each team since 2000. Some ground rules for this. First off, the steal cannot come in the first two rounds, so Brett Favre and Drew Brees going in the second round will not qualify. The 2017 draft class will once again be excluded because even though guys like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara shined as rookies despite being later picks, we don’t know if they were just flashes in the pan yet. Later rounders will also carry more weight when I consider this, so a steal in the 7th will be worth much more than a steal in the 3rd. Also, their candidacy as a steal applies only for the team that drafted them. So even if Favre were eligible as a steal, he was drafted by the Falcons and traded after his rookie year. I will also be including some players who were taken before the steal in question that were much less successful in their careers to hype up the steal.
Cleveland Browns-Ahtyba Rubin-DL-Iowa State (190th Overall in 2008)
Not a flashy name by any means, but Rubin has quietly been one of the best interior defensive linemen for some time. He’s a space eater and made life for Browns linebackers much easier.
Players picked ahead of him: Glenn Dorsey-LSU, Sedrick Ellis-USC, Kentwan Balmer-North Carolina, Trevor Laws-Notre Dame, Andre Fluellen-Florida State, Marcus Harrison-Arkansas, Dre Moore-Maryland, DeMario Presley-North Carolina State, Jason Shirley-Fresno State, Carlton Powell-Virginia Tech
New York Giants-Justin Tuck-EDGE-Notre Dame (74th Overall in 2005)
I still get nightmares over Justin Tuck’s performance in Super Bowl XLII. He absolutely battered the Patriots offensive line in that game and, quite frankly, I think Eli Manning won Super Bowl MVP for that game due to quarterback bias. Tuck was the biggest reason the Giants pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory and he parlayed that success into an excellent NFL career.
Players picked ahead of him: Erasmus James-Wisconsin, Matt Roth-Iowa, Dan Cody-Oklahoma
New York Jets-Demario Davis-LB-Arkansas State (77th Overall in 2012)
During training camp of his rookie year, Davis was compared to Ray Lewis by his own head coach, Rex Ryan. Pretty high praise for a rookie third rounder out of tiny Arkansas State. Davis hasn’t quite been Ray Lewis, but he’s been one of the best linebackers in the game since he entered it in 2012.
Players picked ahead of him: Nobody ahead of him really sucked, 2012 was a REALLY good year for linebackers.
Houston Texans-Eric Winston-OT-Miami (FL) (66th Overall in 2006)
This was almost Glover Quin, but I had to go with Winston for two reasons. Number 1, he’s been one of the best right tackles in the game seemingly from the get-go. Number 2, he’s so well-respected around the league that he’s the player’s representative in the Players Association. He’s one of the main guys that negotiates new deals with the NFL. Hard to argue with that.
Players picked ahead of him: Winston Justice-USC, Daryn Colledge-Boise State, Marcus McNeill-Auburn
Denver Broncos-Malik Jackson-DL-Tennessee (137th Overall in 2012)
There were a lot of options for this spot, such as Brandon Marshall (the wide receiver) and Elvis Dumervil, but I’m going with Jackson just because he went much later than the other two. Jackson has been a dominant force on the interior defensive line for both the Broncos and the Jaguars.
Players picked ahead of him: Kendall Reyes-UConn, Jerel Worthy-Michigan State, Devon Still-Penn State, Mike Martin-Michigan, John Hughes-Cincinnati, Alameda Ta’amu-Washington
Indianapolis Colts-TY Hilton-WR-FIU (92nd Overall in 2012)
This could’ve been Pierre Garcon or Antoine Bethea, but Hilton hit the ground running as a rookie and he’s been the Colts’ best offensive player and one of the top receivers in the league. In fact, I would argue that he’s the Colts’ best player, period.
Players picked ahead of him: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State, Jonathan Baldwin-Pittsburgh, AJ Jenkins-Illinois, Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech, Ryan Broyles-Oklahoma, DeVier Posey-Ohio State
Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Kwon Alexander-LB-LSU (124th Overall in 2015)
Alexander is one of the most underrated linebackers in the game and he’s formed a deadly 1-2 punch with Lavonte David in Tampa’s linebacking group.
Players picked ahead of him: Stephone Anthony-Clemson, Paul Dawson-TCU, Ramik Wilson-Georgia
Chicago Bears-Jordan Howard-RB-Indiana (150th Overall in 2016)
This might be a little bit of a bias because we’re both IU guys, but Howard IS the Chicago Bears right now. The entire offense has revolved around him since he took over the starting job as a rookie, when he finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards.
Players picked ahead of him: Tyler Ervin-San Jose State, Kenneth Dixon-Louisiana Tech, Paul Perkins-UCLA
San Francisco 49ers-Frank Gore-RB-Miami (FL) (65th Overall in 2005)
I really wanted to pick NaVorro Bowman or Delanie Walker, mainly because Gore is the earliest pick in this steals list (he was the first pick of the 3rd round). But Gore is the all-time leading rusher for one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. That’s going to win out. Plus, most of Walker’s success came with the Titans.
Players picked ahead of him: Ronnie Brown-Auburn, Cedric Benson-Texas, Cadillac Williams-Auburn, JJ Arrington-California, Eric Shelton-Louisville
Oakland Raiders-Jared Veldheer-OT-Hillsdale (69th Overall in 2010)
Veldheer went to Hillsdale, a college I’ve never heard of, yet was still a third round pick. Not only that, but he’s been one of the best tackles in the game. There weren’t a ton of options for the Raiders, whose draft track record this millennium has been pretty poor. But Veldheer was definitely a steal.
Players picked ahead of him: Vlad Ducasse-UMass, Charles Brown-USC
Miami Dolphins-Lamar Miller-RB-Miami (FL) (97th Overall in 2012)
This was almost Jay Ajayi, however Ajayi got traded midway through last season to the Eagles after ineffectiveness and attitude, so Miller’s going to get the nod. He was able to turn his success with the Dolphins into a big contract with the Texans. This also could’ve been Olivier Vernon, but I thought Vernon’s best year came with the Giants this past season and he was kind of irrelevant for most of his Dolphins career.
Players picked ahead of him: Trent Richardson-Alabama, David Wilson-Virginia Tech, Isaiah Pead-Cincinnati, LaMichael James-Oregon
Buffalo Bills-Kyle Williams-DL-LSU (134th Overall in 2006)
Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles and personalities in the game and it says a lot about a guy when he was a 5th round pick in 2006 and he’s still with the team that drafted him. Williams finally made it to the postseason for the first time in his career last season and watching it unfold was a joy.
Players picked ahead of him: Brodrick Bunkley-Florida State, John McCargo-North Carolina State, Claude Wroten-LSU, Dusty Dvoracek-Oklahoma, Gabe Watson-Michigan, Orien Harris-Miami (FL)
Washington Redskins-Kirk Cousins-QB-Michigan State (102nd Overall in 2012)
Cousins never got the respect he deserved from the Redskins organization. He wasn’t even the first quarterback Washington took in that year’s draft (he went 100 picks after RG3) and they refused to give him the extension he wanted despite his being the best quarterback they’d had in some time. Cousins just got a huge deal with the Vikings, though so we’ll have to see how that goes.
Players picked ahead of him: Brandon Weeden-Oklahoma State, Brock Osweiler-Arizona State
Green Bay Packers-Mike Daniels-DL-Iowa (132nd Overall in 2012)
Daniels has been the enforcer on the Packers defense and has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines for years.
Players picked ahead of him: See Malik Jackson (Daniels was the DL taken right before Jackson)
Arizona Cardinals-Tyrann Mathieu-S-LSU (69th Overall in 2013)
This was ALMOST David Johnson, who might be my favorite runningback in the NFL. However Mathieu gets the nod because Johnson had one season of dominance before getting hurt last season while Mathieu had been doing it for 5 years. He just signed with the Texans, though. The Cardinals are going to miss him.
Players picked ahead of him: Matt Elam-Florida
Baltimore Ravens-Marshall Yanda-OG-Iowa (86th Overall in 2007)
Yanda was drafted as a tackle but upon moving to guard, he flourished. Yanda is arguably the best guard in the NFL and has been for quite some time.
Players picked ahead of him: Arron Sears-Tennessee, Justin Blalock-Texas
Los Angeles Chargers-Keenan Allen-WR-California (76th Overall in 2013)
This very easily could’ve been Darren Sproles, but I think Sproles’ best years came with the Saints. As for Allen, he’s been terrific when healthy for the Chargers. Last season he got to prove it and one could argue he’s the Chargers’ best player.
Players picked ahead of him: Cordarrelle Patterson-Tennessee, Justin Hunter-Tennessee, Aaron Dobson-Marshall
Seattle Seahawks-Richard Sherman-CB-Stanford (154th Overall in 2011)
There are a LOT of candidates for this spot, such as Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor, but Sherman’s getting the nod here. Sherman has been arguably the game’s best corner and he’s become the prototype for big-bodied corners in today’s game.
Players picked ahead of him: Ras-I Dowling-Virginia, Brandon Harris-Miami (FL), DeMarcus Van Dyke-Miami (FL), Johnny Patrick-Louisville, Curtis Marsh-Utah State, Chimdi Chekwa-Ohio State, Jalil Brown-Colorado, Roc Carmichael-Virginia Tech, Robert Sands-West Virginia, Brandon Burton-Southern Utah, Rod Issac-Middle Tennessee State
Dallas Cowboys-Jason Witten-TE-Tennessee (69th Overall in 2003)
Another guy that went 69th overall. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose. But Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver despite being a tight end and he’s still going strong 15 years later. A first ballot Hall of Famer if ever there was one.
Players picked ahead of him: Bennie Joppru-Michigan, LJ Smith-Rutgers, Teyo Johnson-Stanford
Detroit Lions-Cliff Avril-EDGE-Purdue (92nd Overall in 2008)
This one might be a bit of a stretch because Avril’s best years are probably as a Seahawk, but he was playing very well with the Lions even before getting picked up by Seattle. This easily could’ve been DeAndre Levy as well but Avril was more consistent than Levy was.
Players picked ahead of him: Vernon Gholston-Ohio State, Derrick Harvey-Florida, Lawrence Jackson-USC, Phillip Merling-Clemson, Quentin Groves-Auburn, Chris Ellis-Virginia Tech
Kansas City Chiefs-Jamaal Charles-RB-Texas (73rd Overall in 2008)
Tyreek Hill was also considered here, but Charles wins out. Owner of the best career yards-per-carry of all time, Charles has been the most electrifying runningback in the game despite having been a third round pick.
Players picked ahead of him: Felix Jones-Arkansas, Kevin Smith-Central Florida
Cincinnati Bengals-Geno Atkins-DL-Georgia (120th Overall in 2010)
Atkins has been one of the most dominant interior defenders since he came into the league despite being considered undersized coming out of college. Despite the fact he just turned 30, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.
Players picked ahead of him: Brian Price-UCLA, Torell Troup-Central Florida, Terrence Cody-Alabama, D’Anthony Smith-Louisiana Tech
Los Angeles Rams-Richie Incognito-OG-Oregon (81st Overall in 2005)
Despite some apparent attitude concerns, Incognito has been one of the best guards in the league. He just retired a couple weeks ago. Incognito was a driving force on the offensive lines of the Rams, Dolphins, and Bills. This might’ve been a stretch because Incognito’s best years were probably in Buffalo, but there weren’t a ton of options to choose from for the Rams.
Players picked ahead of him: Marcus Johnson-Ole Miss
Carolina Panthers-Steve Smith-WR-Utah (74th Overall in 2001)
Josh Norman and Charles Johnson were considered here, but Steve Smith was the face of the Panthers when he was there. Smith was able to show that his diminutive stature didn’t matter, as his leaping ability more than made up for it. He was also one of the game’s best trash talkers and he will surely be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible.
Players picked ahead of him: David Terrell-Michigan, Koren Robinson-North Carolina State, Freddie Mitchell-UCLA, Quincy Morgan-Kansas State, Robert Ferguson-Texas A&M
Tennessee Titans-Jurrell Casey-DL-USC (77th Overall in 2011)
People are just now starting to appreciate just how good Casey is and has been for the Titans. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and he wreaks tons of havoc in opposing backfields.
Players picked ahead of him: Phil Taylor-Baylor, Jarvis Jenkins-Clemson, Marvin Austin-North Carolina, Terrell McClain-South Florida
Atlanta Falcons-Devonta Freeman-RB-Florida State (103rd Overall in 2014)
Freeman broke out in his second season with the Falcons and is one of the quickest backs in the game. He and fellow draft steal Tevin Coleman form arguably the deadliest runningback 1-2 punch in the NFL. Freeman’s getting the nod over Coleman because Freeman went a round later and typically gets more touches.
Players picked ahead of him: Bishop Sankey-Washington, Tre Mason-Auburn
New Orleans Saints-Marques Colston-WR-Hofstra (252nd Overall in 2006)
The Saints’ all-time leading receiver was drafted 4th-to-last out of a school that doesn’t even have football anymore. Had Colston played one more season, he likely would’ve joined the exclusive 10,000 yards club (he’s 241 yards away).
Players picked ahead of him: Too many to list. 28 receivers were picked before him, only about 3 or 4 of them ended up being really good.
Pittsburgh Steelers-Antonio Brown-WR-Central Michigan (195th Overall in 2010)
What more can you say about Antonio Brown? Not a lot of people realize that the best wide receiver in the game today was drafted around the same spot as Tom Brady, just ten years later. 194 players went before a guy who makes extraordinary catches like it’s nothing.
Players picked ahead of him: Arrelious Benn-Illinois, Damian Williams-USC, Jordan Shipley-Texas, Armanti Edwards-Appalachian State, Taylor Price-Ohio, Mardy Gilyard-Cincinnati, Marcus Easley-UConn, Jacoby Ford-Clemson, David Reed-Utah, Kerry Meier-Kansas, Carlton Mitchell-South Florida, Dezmon Briscoe-Kansas
Jacksonville Jaguars-Telvin Smith-LB-Florida State (144th Overall in 2014)
Smith has been one of the league’s very best for a while now even though he didn’t start getting the recognition he deserved until the Jaguars broke out in 2017. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline tackler and is amongst the most athletic linebackers in the game.
Players picked ahead of him: Carl Bradford-Arizona State, Khairi Fortt-California, Prince Shembo-Notre Dame
Minnesota Vikings-Everson Griffen-EDGE-USC (100th Overall in 2010)
It took Griffen a couple of years to really get going, but now that he has he’s become the best pass rusher on arguably the league’s best defense. Stefon Diggs was also considered but I feel that Griffen is more valuable to the Vikings right now than Diggs is.
Players picked ahead of him: Alex Carrington-Arkansas State, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim-Washington
New England Patriots-Tom Brady-QB-Michigan (199th Overall in 2000)
Biggest draft steal of all time. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by trying to defend this pick any further than that.
Players picked ahead of him: Giovanni Carmazzi-Hofstra, Chris Redman-Louisville, Tee Martin-Tennessee, Spurgon Wynn-Texas State
Philadelphia Eagles-Trent Cole-EDGE-Cincinnati (146th Overall in 2005)
Cole was the premiere pass rusher for the Eagles for nearly a decade and for a while was the most dangerous player they had. Brian Westbrook was also considered here, but Cole’s lengthy run near the top of the pass-rushing charts gets him over the top.
Players picked ahead of him: everyone ahead of Justin Tuck as well as Vincent Burns-Kentucky, Chauncey Davis-Florida State, David McMillan-Kansas
I hope this blog was your friendly reminder that just because a guy was picked late doesn’t mean he doesn’t matter. Often times these are the guys that change franchises. So don’t sleep on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. You never know when your team picks a Tom Brady. Let me know what you think of these draft steals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.