The word "steal" has such a negative connotation in most cases, but not when it comes to the NFL draft.
There, the intentions behind the word morph into a positive. Franchises that can get prospects at a very much eye-of-the-beholder value are met with critical acclaim in the form of grades and the like.
Whether or not these values and steals are true in the eyes of NFL teams themselves is difficult to discern.
Alas, a few alleged steals stick out more than most in the court of popular opinion. Let's take a look.
|Arizona Cardinals||SS Deone Bucannon (27), TE Troy Niklas (52), DE Kareem Martin (84), WR John Brown (91), QB Logan Thomas (120), DE Ed Stinson (160), WR Walt Powell (196)|
|Atlanta Falcons||OT Jake Matthews (6), DL Ra'Shede Hageman (37), S Dez Southward (68), RB Devonta Freeman (103), LB Prince Shembo (139), CB Ricardo Allen (147), LB Marquis Spruill (168), LB Yawin Smallwood (253), LB Tyler Starr (255)|
|Baltimore Ravens||ILB C.J. Mosley (17), DT Tim Jernigan (48), S Terrence Brooks (79), TE Crockett Gilmore (99), DT Brent Urban (134), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (138), G John Urschel (175), QB Keith Wenning (194), WR Michael Campanaro (218)|
|Buffalo Bills||WR Sammy Watkins (4), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (44), LB Preston Brown (73), CB Ross Cockrell (109), G Cyril Richardson (153), LB Randell Johnson (221), T Seantrel Henderson (237)|
|Carolina Panthers||WR Kelvin Benjamin (28), DL Kony Ealy (60), G Trai Turner (92), S Tre Boston (128), CB Bene Benwikere (148), RB Tyler Gaffney (204)|
|Chicago Bears||CB Kyle Fuller (14), DT Ego Ferguson (51), DT Will Sutton (82), RB Ka'Deem Carey (117), S Brock Vereen (131), QB David Fales (183), P Pat O'Donnell (191), T Charles Leno (246)|
|Cincinnati Bengals||CB Darqueze Dennard (24), RB Jeremy Hill (55), DE William Clarke (88), C Russell Bodine (111), QB A.J. McCarron (164), LB Marquis Flowers (212), WR James Wright (239), CB Lavelle Westbrooks (252)|
|Cleveland Browns||CB Justin Gilbert (8), QB Johnny Manziel (22), OL Joel Bitonio (35), LB Charles Kirksey (71), RB Terrance West (94), CB Pierre Desir (127)|
|Dallas Cowboys||OT Zack Martin (16), DE Demarcus Lawrence (34), LB Anthony Hitchens (119), WR Devin Street (146), DE Ben Gardner (231), LB Will Smith (238), S Ahmad Dixon (248), DT Ken Bishop (251), CB Terrance Mitchell (254)|
|Denver Broncos||CB Bradley Roby (31), WR Cody Latimer (56), T Michael Schofield (95), LB Lamin Barrow (156), C Matt Paradis (207), LB Corey Nelson (242)|
|Detroit Lions||TE Eric Ebron (10), OLB Kyle Van Noy (40), C Travis Swanson (76), CB Nevin Lawson (133), DE Larry Webster (136), DT Caraun Reid (158), WR T.J. Jones (189), K Nate Freese (229)|
|Green Bay Packers||FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21), WR Davante Adams (53), DT Khyri Thornton (85), TE Richard Rogers (98), LB Carl Bradford (121), C Corey Lindsey (161), WR Jared Abbrederis (176), CB Demetri Goodson (197), WR Jeff Janis (236)|
|Houston Texans||DE Jadeveon Clowney (1), OG Xavier Su'a-Filo (33), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (65), DT Louis Nix (83), QB Tom Savage (135), DE Jeoffrey Pagan (177), RB Alfred Blue (181), RB Jay Prosch (211), CB Dre Hal (216), S Lonnie Ballentine (256)|
|Indianapolis Colts||OL Jack Mewhort (59), WR Donte Moncrief (90), DE Jonathan Newsome (166), LB Andrew Jackson (203), T Ulrick John (232)|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||QB Blake Bortles (3), WR Marqise Lee (39), WR Allen Robinson (61), G Brandon Linder (93), CB Aaron Colvin (114), LB Telvin Smith (144), DE Chris Smith (159), C Luke Bowanko (205), RB Storm Johnson (222)|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DE Dee Ford (23), CB Phillip Gaines (87), RB De'Anthony Thomas (124), QB Aaron Murray (163), G Zach Fulton (193), T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (200)|
|Miami Dolphins||OT Ja'Wuan James (19), WR Jarvis Landry (63), T Billy Turner (67), CB Walt Aikens (125), TE Arthur Lynch (155), LB Jordie Tripp (171), WR Matt Hazel (190), DE Terrance Fede (234)|
|Minnesota Vikings||OLB Anthony Barr (9), QB Teddy Bridgewater (32), DE Scott Crichton (72), RB Jerick McKinnon (96), G David Yankey (145), CB Antone Exum (182), CB Kendall James (184), DT Shamar Stephen (220), LB Brandon Watts (223), CB Jabari Price (225)|
|New England Patriots||DT Dominique Easley (29), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (62), C Bryan Stork (105), RB James White (130), T Cameron Fleming (140), G Jon Halapio (179), DE Zach Moore (198), S Jemea Thomas (206), WR Jeremy Gallon (244)|
|New Orleans Saints||WR Brandin Cooks (20), CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (58), LB Khairi Fortt (126), S Vinnie Sunseri (167), LB Ronald Powell (169), T Tavon Rooks (202)|
|New York Giants||WR Odell Beckham (12), C Weston Richburg (43), DT Jay Bromley (74), RB Andre Williams (113), S Nat Berhe (152), LB Devon Kennard (174), CB Bennett Jackson (187)|
|New York Jets||FS Calvin Pryor (18), TE Jace Amaro (49), CB Dex McDougle (80), WR Jalen Saunders (104), WR Shaq Evans (115), T Dakota Dozier (137), LB Jeremiah George (154), CB Brandon Dixon (195), WR Quincy Enunwa (209), DE IK Enemkpali (210), QB Tajh Boyd (213), LB Trevor Reilly (233)|
|Oakland Raiders||OLB Khalil Mack (5), QB Derek Carr (36), OG Gabe Jackson (81), DT Justin Ellis (107), CB Keith McGill (116), CB T.J. Carrie (219), DE Shelby Harris (235), S Jonathan Dowling (247)|
|Philadelphia Eagles||DE Marcus Smith (26), WR Jordan Matthews (42), WR Josh Huff (86), CB Jaylen Watkins (101), DE Taylor Hart (141), S Ed Reynolds (162), DT Beau Allen (224)|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||OLB Ryan Shazier (15), DL Stephon Tuitt (46), WR Dri Archer (97), WR Martavis Bryant (118), CB Shaquille Richardson (157), C Wesley Johnson (173), LB Jordan Zumwait (192), DT Dan McCullers (215), TE Rob Blanchflower (230)|
|San Diego Chargers||CB Jason Verrett (25), OLB Jeremy Attaochu (50), G Chris Watt (89), DT Ryan Carrethers (165), RB Marlon Grice (201), WR Tevin Reese (240)|
|San Francisco 49ers||SS Jimmie Ward (30), RB Carlos Hyde (57), OG Marcus Martin (70), ILB Chris Borland (77), G Brandon Thomas (100), WR Bruce Ellington (106), CB Dontae Johnson (129), DE Aaron Lynch (150), CB Keith Reaser (170), CB Kenneth Acker (180), DT Kaleb Ramsey (243), FB Trey Millard (245)|
|Seattle Seahawks||WR Paul Richardson (45), OL Justin Britt (64), DE Cassius Marsh (108), WR Kevin Norwood (123), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (132), DT Jimmy Staten (172), T Garrett Scott (199), S Eric Pinkins (208), FB Kiero Smal (227)|
|St. Louis Rams||OT Greg Robinson (2), DT Aaron Donald (13), CB Lamarcus Joyner (41), RB Tre Mason (75), S Maurice Alexander (110), CB E.J. Gaines (188), QB Garrett Gilbert (214), T Mitchell Van Dyk (226), S C.B. Bryant (241), DE Michael Sam (249), C Demetrius Rhaney (250)|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||WR Mike Evans (7), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (38), RB Charles Sims (69), G Kadeem Edwards (143), T Kevin Pamphile (149), WR Robert Herron (185)|
|Tennessee Titans||OT Taylor Lewan (11), RB Bishop Sankey (54), DT DaQuan Jones (112), CB Marqueston Huff (122), LB Avery Williamson (151), QB Zach Mettenberger (178)|
|Washington Redskins||LB Trent Murphy (47), OT Morgan Moses (66), G Spencer Long (78), CB Bashaud Breeland (102), WR Ryan Grant (142), RB Lache Seastrunk (186), TE Ted Bolser (217), K Zach Hocker (228)|
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings (No. 32)
It was rather confusing to watch Teddy Bridgewater slide all the way to pick No. 32 after he ruled the No. 1 overall talk for much of the past calendar year.
Perhaps it was a newly reported abnormal heartbeat at the NFL scouting combine that pushed him rapidly down the boards, as opposed to skinny knees and other silly jargon. Bridgewater himself spoke about the issue, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:
"I just had an abnormal heartbeat," Bridgewater said during the call. "I think it was 1 percent, or one beat, less than the normal beat. So, I came back up to Minnesota, got the physical, got the EKG and everything, got tested and it came back positive."
It's an interesting development, but it does not change the fact that Bridgewater was the most pro-ready quarterback in the class thanks to his astute attention to detail, comfort in a muddled pocket and ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes.
That would explain why the Vikings were comfortable moving up for Bridgewater at the end of the first round, and also scored a neat fifth-year option on his contract in the process.
Houston Texans: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (No. 83)
It was a widely held notion entering the draft that Notre Dame's Louis Nix was easily the best 3-4 nose tackle the class had to offer.
Yet he fell to the third round.
Why? Well for one, Nix is a mammoth, and there will always be questions about weight for a player his size (6'2", 331 pounds), especially when one factors in the fact he was hurt for a chunk of last season. But the biggest question mark the post-draft process reveled? His social media use, according to Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe:
Reading about draft. Weakness listed for DT Louis Nix was "excessive social media involvement.” That mean he Tweets from the field?— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) May 10, 2014
So a player having a fun-loving nature on Twitter and the like is a negative. Got it.
As a result of the oft-times silly draft process, Nix is quite the steal. As Seth Payne of CBS Sports illustrates, he has a surefire role in the already stout Houston defense:
Louis Nix can be used like Casey Hampton--get deep penetration and make RB cut back to a hungry Watt and Clowney. Good stuff.— Seth Payne (@PayneNFL) May 11, 2014
There was a time Nix was considered a first-round talent. He certainly played like it two years ago on tape. Now he teams with No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. Scary.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 118)
The 19th receiver off the board, Martavis Bryant may wind up having one of the biggest impacts of all when one looks back on the class.
Standing at 6'4" and 211 pounds with a 4.42 40-yard dash time at the combine, Bryant is a blend of pure athleticism and size that simply cannot be taught. There are fundamental issues, but nothing that solid coaching cannot correct. Lackluster stats can be explained by his playing with DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
Which is why the Steelers were all over Bryant in the fourth round and have already confirmed he will compete for a starting job, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Steelers WR coach Richard Mann says 6-4 Bryant will get a chance to start as a rookie. Seems to be a theme for them in this draft.— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) May 10, 2014
Translation—Bryant is in for a role as a deep threat in certain situations and will also be a major player in the red zone, where his release off the line, tall stature and leaping ability will create mismatches for his offense.
Storm Johnson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 222)
We get it, NFL—the running back position is devalued.
But this is ridiculous. After transferring from Miami, Storm Johnson made his way across the state and eventually had a breakout season with UCF last year to the tune of 1,399 total yards and 17 touchdowns.
On film, he's a shifty runner with great vision. On the field, he'll be an instant contributor as long as he can shore up issues in pass protection. Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler put it best:
Storm Johnson is going to annihilate people in the NFL. He and Gerhart are going to be a nice 1-2 punch.— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) May 12, 2014
Johnson is the definition of a steal in the seventh and final round. In an era where the majority uses a committee approach, it's quite dumbfounding that the UCF product, who can be a critical piece to any backfield, almost went undrafted.
Alas, Johnson rounded out what was an epic draft class for the team in Jacksonville.