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A note to start: No matter where a player is selected, he's not unqualified to be a steal. A steal, in my eyes, is a player who far exceeds expectations that were associated with where he was drafted. Just because a guy was picked in the first round, it doesn't prevent him from overachieving and outperforming his draft slot. With that in mind, here are five first-round steals.
Dan Marino, 1983, No. 27 to Miami: The sixth and final quarterback taken in the first round in 1984 (behind the likes of Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O'Brien), Marino went on to enjoy one of the most statistically decorated careers in NFL history. He went to nine Pro Bowls, won an MVP and took the Dolphins to a Super Bowl in 1984.
Aaron Rodgers, 2005, No. 24 to Green Bay: It took a while, but once Rodgers got his shot, he cashed in. And the Packers couldn't be happier for it. He's already won a Super Bowl and an MVP in four years as a starter, and to think that San Francisco hitched its wagon to Alex Smith with pick No. 1. And Jason Campbell was drafted just a pick behind Rodgers...
Ray Lewis, 1996, No. 26 to Baltimore: By the end of Week 1 of the 2012 season, Ray Lewis will have surpassed 2,000 career tackles. He's the undisputed leader of a Ravens defense that has been excellent for more than a decade and is perhaps the greatest middle linebacker to ever play the game.
Jerry Rice, 1985, No. 16 to San Francisco: If Jerry Rice had gone first overall, I'd still consider it a steal, as he's easily the greatest receiver in NFL history and perhaps the finest player to ever step onto the gridiron, regardless of position. The 49ers' track record of drafting was so superior during the 1980s, and no player exemplifies that more than Rice.
Jack Youngblood, 1971, No. 20 to the Los Angeles Rams: The Hall of Fame defensive end was a catalyst of the Rams' defense throughout his 14-season career, recording 151.5 sacks and earning five first-team All-Pro selections. It would have been an absolute treat to see him play in this era of dominant pass-rushers.