NFL Draft 2011: Top 25 Late-Round Draft Picks of All Time

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: Top 25 Late-Round Draft Picks of All Time

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    With this April's NFL Draft fast approaching, teams are taking time to figure out which players they want to add to their rosters in the upcoming 2011 season.

    While most of the hype around the draft comes in the opening rounds, there are often those diamond-in-the-rough players you can find if your lucky in the later rounds. In fact, some of the best players in the game today and in the past have been late-round draft picks.

    Guys like Tom Brady, Shannon Sharpe and Jared Allen were all late-round draft picks who have made huge impacts in the NFL. But where do these guys rank amongst the best?

    Let's break this down and take a look at the top 25 late-round draft picks in NFL history.

    Buckle up and get ready for the ride. This should be a fun one.

25. New England Patriots: Asante Samuel

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    Drafted: Fourth Round, 120th overall in 2003

    We have all heard how the New England Patriots are so well known for their late-round draft steals. Well, here is one of the better ones to start off the list at No. 25.

    Asante Samuel was a huge steal when he was selected late in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. After not even being sure if he was going to make the team, the cornerback out of Central Florida earned a spot on the roster and then wound up starting later on in his rookie season when Ty Law went down with an injury.

    Samuel went on to become the Patriots No. 1 corner later on in his career and helped lead the Pats to two Super Bowls. He is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and current member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

24. St. Louis Cardinals: Jay Novacek

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    Drafted: Sixth Round, 168th overall in 1985

    Jay Novacek was drafted near the end of the draft back in 1985 and, in return, he developed into one of the best tight ends in NFL history.

    After spending four unproductive years with the Cardinals, Novacek moved onto the Dallas Cowboys, where he caught 40-plus passes in each of his next six seasons. In 1995, Novacek had a career year with Dallas, hauling in 62 passes for 705 yards and five touchdowns.

    Novacek and Cowboy great Troy Aikman developed a great chemistry as the tight end became one of Aikman's most reliable targets over the middle during three Super Bowl runs.

23. New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston

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    Drafted: Seventh Round, 252nd overall in 2006

    This was a dificult choice because Colston might not have the career numbers yet that some of the top late-round receivers have put up, but when it's all said and done, he very well might pass them all. Add that to the fact that he was a few picks away from being the very last player selected in the 2006 NFL Draft, and the Saints got themselves one heck of a steal.

    Colston has posted over 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons in the NFL. He is the top target on a team filled with offensive weapons and he also played a huge role in the Saints' 2010 Super Bowl run.

    In fact, New Orleans had the second-overall pick in that 2006 NFL Draft when they selected Reggie Bush, and little did they know Colston would turn into the offensive weapon that every fan hoped Reggie Bush would have been.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: L.C. Greenwood

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    Drafted: 10th Round in 1969

    When you hear about the old Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain, L.C. Greenwood was the guy who anchored it all. And with the numbers this guy put up in his career, he has to go down as one of the biggest steals in draft history.

    He was drafted in the 10th round and spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 6'6", 250-pound defensive lineman was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time NFL Super Bowl champion.

    Greenwood is a member of the NFL's 1970 All-Decade Team.

21. Buffalo Bills: Andre Reed

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    Drafted: Fourth round, 86th overall in 1985

    When talking about the best receivers throughout the late 80s and early 90s, one has to mention Buffalo Bills wideout Andre Reed.

    In his 16-year career, he had four seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving, over 13,000 receiving yards total and 87 touchdowns. Reed was also selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls during his standout NFL career with the Bills.

    There were a lot of great draft steals at the receiver position, but it would be a darn shame to leave a guy like Reed off this list.

20. St. Louis Cardinals: Larry Wilson

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    Drafted: Seventh round, 74th overall in 1960

    The Cardinals have had plenty of good draft day steals over the years, but Larry Wilson very well could be the best of all of them.

    The former Cardinals defensive back is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and put up some monster numbers during his career. In his career, Wilson posted 52 career interceptions, including a league-leading 10 in 1966. 

    In addition to his outstanding numbers, Wilson was selected to eight Pro Bowls and made five first-team All-Pro squads.

19. Atlanta Falcons: Jamal Anderson

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    Drafted: Seventh round, 201st overall in 1994

    Next to Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and maybe Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson was the most popular running back during the mid-to-late 1990s.

    Anderson was a Pro Bowl selection in 1998—the same year he helped lead the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII and invented the ever-so-popular Dirty Bird dance.

    But after just seven years in the NFL, Anderson tore his ACL in 2001 and subsequently ended his career. He finished his eight-year career with 41 touchdowns and nearly 7,000 yards of offense.

    Many believe that Jamal Anderson probably could have cracked the top 10 of this list had it not been for the injury. But nonetheless, 7,000 yards rushing isn't too bad for a seventh-round draft choice out of Utah.

18. Miami Dolphins: Jason Taylor

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    Drafted: Third round, 73rd overall in 1997

    After being drafted midway through the third round, Jason Taylor just makes the cutoff as to what is considered to be a late-round steal.

    Coming out of the University of Akron, not many had high of expectations for Taylor. Boy were they ever wrong.

    Since being drafted by the Dolphins back in 1997, Taylor has established himself as one of the premier defensive ends in the league. He became a starter in his rookie season and he has put up great numbers ever since.

    A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Taylor has been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and currently ranks third all-time among active players with 117 career sacks. He is also the NFL's all-time leader in fumble returns for touchdowns. Sounds like a pretty hefty career for a late third-round draft pick.

17. Houston Oilers: Ken Houston

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    Drafted: Ninth Round, 214th overall in 1967

    Ken Houston was one of the best safeties of all-time, and the fact that he was drafted 214th overall really makes you think as to how these teams passed on him.

    Houston was a 12-time Pro Bowler and is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. He posted an eye-popping  49 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries in his career.

16. Kansas City Chiefs: Jared Allen

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    Drafted: Fourth Round, 126th overall in 2004

    Since being drafted in the fourth round out of Idaho State, Allen has developed into one of the league's best defensive ends.

    "Fear the mullet," is the popular phrase that goes along with Allen, but opponents do have plenty to fear about Allen's play on the field.

    Allen has posted 11 or more sacks in five of his past six NFL seasons. He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and still should have plenty of good years ahead of him to climb up this list.

15. San Francisco 49ers: Dwight Clark

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    Drafted: 10th Round in 1979

    After being selected in the 10th-round pick for the 49ers in 1979, Dwight Clark went on to have a memorable NFL career. But the top memory that will always be remembered with Clark is when he made   "The Catch" in the 1982 NFC Championship that advanced the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.

    Clark was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and, even more importantly, a two-time Super Bowl champion. Joe Montana had a special connection with Clark and will be forever remembered by 49ers fans across the nation.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Webster

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    Drafted: Fifth round, 127th overall in 1974

    Talk about knowing how to draft right. In the 1974 NFL Draft, four of the Steelers first five picks that year turned out to be Hall of Fame players. Leading the group was fifth-round pick Mike Webster.

    The hard-nosed center for the Steelers consistently opened holes for a rushing attack that seemed to always be among the league's best.

    Webster was part of four Super Bowl winning teams, starting in two of them (Super Bowl XIII and XIV). He was elected to nine Pro Bowls, five All-Pro squads and became a Hall of Famer in 1997.

13. Dallas Cowboys: Leon Lett

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    Drafted: Seventh round, 173rd overall in 1991

    What a big-time player this big-time individual turned out to be for the Dallas Cowboys.

    Former Dallas head coach Jimmie Johnson took DT Russell Maryland first overall in 1991 and then managed to snag Lett at the end of the draft, which paved the way for one of the best run-stopping defenses in NFL history.

    During his 10-year NFL career, Lett was named to two Pro Bowls and was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys.

    If you want to get a good laugh about Leon Lett, just search him on YouTube and you will be sure to find two of the biggest bone-headed plays in NFL history. Nonetheless, the guy was one heck of a football player.

12. St. Louis Rams: Deacon Jones

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    Drafted: 14th round, 186th overall in 1961

    Going way back in time, there weren't many pass rushers who can say that they had the type of success in the NFL that Deacon Jones had.

    At 6'5" and 250 pounds, Jones was one of the most feared linemen of all-time, playing with that St. Louis fearsome foursome.

    During his career, Jones won two Defensive Player of the Year awards, made eight Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

11. Miami Dolphins: Mark Clayton

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    Drafted: Eighth round, 223rd overall in 1983

    Mark Clayton was one of the most underrated receivers in all of football during his 10-year NFL career. A member of the Miami Dolphins, Clayton was Dan Marino's go-to guy and the other half of the "Marks Brothers," along with Mark Duper

    A five-time Pro Bowl player, Clayton finished his career with 582 catches for 8,974 yards and 87 touchdowns.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Herschel Walker

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    Drafted: Fifth round, 114th overall in 1985

    Herschel Walker has one of the most interesting stories of any NFL player around, after having one of the greatest college football careers of all-time.

    After a standout career at Georgia,  Walker saw an opportunity to do something then forbidden by NFL rules—turn professional after the end of his junior season rather than wait for his collegiate class to graduate the next year.

    Instead of going straight to the NFL, Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in 1983. He then went on to play for Dallas from 1986-1989 where he had some of the best years of his career. During that time with Dallas, he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and considered one of the great backs in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Roger Staubach

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    Drafted: 10th round, 129th overall in 1964

    The Dallas Cowboys have already appeared on this list a number of times, but snagging the great Roger Staubach in the 10th round of the 1964 NFL Draft might have topped the rest.

    After being drafted by Dallas, Staubach quickly developed into the face of the franchise and led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories while being named the MVP of Super Bowl VI.

    Staubach is second all-time on the Cowboys passing list which is filled with a lot of good ones. The most interesting thing here is that Staubach didn't even begin playing in the NFL until he was 29. Pretty good for an old man.

8. Chicago Bears: Richard Dent

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    Drafted: Eighth round, 203rd overall in 1983

    When having a conversation about the best pass rushers of all-time, Richard Dent has to be near the top of the list. And the fact that he was drafted in the eighth round makes his story that much remarkable.

    In just his second year, he logged 17.5 sacks, which ended up being a career high for him.

    During his 10-year stint with the Bears, Dent record double-digit sacks in eight of those 10 years. For his career, he posted 138 total sacks.

    After seven years of being snubbed as a finalist, Dent was finally elected into the Hall of Fame this past year.

7. Denver Broncos: Shannon Sharpe

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    Drafted: Seventh round, 192nd overall in 1990

    If you happened to grow up and watch football in the 1990s, then you know how darn good of a tight end Shannon Sharpe was during his NFL career.

    With 815 receptions, 10,060 yards and 62 touchdowns, he will go down as one of if not the greatest tight ends in the history of the game.

    Sharpe also has two Super Bowls, he made it to eight Pro Bowls, four All-Pro nominations and he was a Hall of Fame inductee this past year.

    That's quite a resume for a seventh-round pick.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Chris Carter

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    Drafted: Fourth round, 1987

    What an interesting route this NFL great took to get to the NFL.

    Carter was selected in the fourth round of the 1987 supplemental draft. He played for three years with the Eagles and then he was let go and signed by the Vikings.

    His career took off after that and, soon enough, this eight-time Pro Bowl receiver became one of the best receivers in the history of the league.

    Carter will always be remembered for having the best set of hands the NFL has ever seen. And to think that he had to wait until the fourth round of the supplemental draft to get picked.

5. Green Bay Packers: Bart Starr

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    Drafted: 17th round, 200th overall in 1956

    Starr was drafted in the 17th round of the NFL Draft! Wow, talk about the steal of the century.

    During his career, Starr won three NFL championships, two Super Bowl trophies, four Pro Bowl nominations, two first-team All-Pro selections and a league MVP in 1966.

    He is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and very few quarterbacks that have ever played the game can say that they had the type of career that this Alabama kid had.

4. Miami Dolphins: Zach Thomas

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    Drafted: Fifth round, 154th pick 1986

    Zach Thomas was not supposed to be anything big when he came out of college, but boy did this fearsome linebacker ever prove NFL teams wrong.

    Coming out of college, he was undersized at 5’11” so his draft-stock fell despite the fact that he was a consensus All-American. He spent 12 seasons with the Dolphins, going to seven Pro Bowls during that span with Miami.

    Thomas was arguably the greatest linebacker during the 1990s, totaling over 1,700 tackles in his career, which is more than any linebacker currently in the Hall of Fame.

3. Denver Broncos: Terrell Davis

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    Drafted: Sixth round, 196th pick 1995

    Davis spent his entire NFL career with Denver and was it ever a special one.

    In his eight-year career, Davis rushed for 7,607 yards, making him the Broncos' all-time leading rusher, which says a lot because we all know how many good running backs have come through that city.

    Davis is the winner of two Super Bowls, one Super Bowl MVP, an NFL MVP, two Offensive Player of the Year awards and he was a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.

    He is considered one of the greatest running backs of all-time and ranks No. 1 on the list of running backs who were the biggest steals in draft history.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Joe Montana

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    Drafted: Third round, 82nd overall in 1979

    Being drafted in the third round isn't outrageously low, which is probably why Montana isn't No. 1 on this list. But nonetheless, what player with the Super Bowl resume like Montana was ever drafted lower than the third round?

    During his time calling the shots for the 49ers, Montana led San Francisco to four Super Bowl wins and he was named to three All-Pro squads. He will always be in the discussion as being one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

    This Joe right here was certainly no "Average Joe."

1. New England Patriots: Tom Brady

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    Drafted: Sixth round, 199th overall in 2000

    We have all seen the commercials about how any team can get lucky late in the NFL Draft. Just look what the New England Patriots got handed when they selected Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.

    My question with this has and will always be, how in the world did all of the other NFL teams not see this coming?

    If this was a list of the best draft picks period, regardless of where they were selected, Brady would probably still top the charts.

    In his NFL career, which is still in its prime. Brady has already passed for more than 34,000 yards and 261 total touchdowns. He is a six-time Pro Bowl selection, and oh yeah, he has those three Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVPs.

    You just really can't beat that resume. Period, end of story.