2011 NFL Draft: The Biggest Steal of Every NFL Draft Since 1995
It has been a while since I've written an article, and I have to do my annual article about the NFL draft, so, I thought what better choice than something I haven't seen too much of.
These types of lists are obviously opinion-based and there will be arguments. Please refrain from childish insults in your disagreements. Thank you. Let's continue with the article.
1995: Curtis Martin
There were a number of players who wound up surpassing expectations including Terrell Davis, Antonio Freeman, Derrick Brooks, Ty Law, and even Warren Sapp.
But Curtis Martin is easily the biggest steal of the draft. After being the 74th-overall pick in the 1995 draft, he went on to become arguably the best player of the entire class with an incredible amount of stats and awards including:
The Fourth All-Time leading rusher (14,101 yards),
Ed Block Courage Award (2001)
And FedEx Ground Player of the Year Award (2004).
He also had 102 career touchdowns and was even the oldest player to ever lead the league in rushing, at the age of 31, with 1,697 yards. That was also his last full year of play.
He even had a perfect passer rating.
He was a finalist for the 2011 Hall of Fame, but did not make it in. Both him and Cris Carter were both completely snubbed, in my opinion, since they are both among the greatest of all-time at their positions and remain very underrated.
1996: Terrell Owens
In one of the greatest drafts of all-time, there were plenty of players to choose from, including: Marvin Harrison, Muhsin Muhammad (Always one of the most underrated players in the NFL), Brian Dawkins, Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas, Tedy Bruschi, and Joe Horn.
But Terrell Owens is the biggest steal. Let me clarify quickly, this is not an article about the absolute best player from every draft. Otherwise, that might have to go to Ray Lewis. However, this article is entirely about getting more "Bang for your Buck," which I think teams got plenty of with Terrell Owens, who was drafted with the 89th pick of the 1996 NFL draft.
He is the only player in NFL history to score a receiving touchdown against every NFL team. Not only that, but he's scored two against every team.
He is the oldest player to have a 98-yard reception (two weeks before turning 36), 78-yard reception (a couple months from 37), and a 200-yard receiving game (also, nearing 37). It's incredible how in shape he is even though he's nearing his 40s.
Over his career, he has compiled a number of statistics and awards including:
He also compiled 1,078 receptions, almost 16,000 receiving yards, 152 touchdowns, and second all-time in receiving yards and touchdowns.
People talk about T.O. like he isn't even in the top 10 receivers of all time, because of his attitude. But as a player, I believe he is arguably in the top three. Personally, I would put him behind only Jerry Rice and Cris Carter. So clearly, he is one of the biggest draft steals of all time.
1997: Ronde Barber
Here, we have another draft with many notable players, such as Jason Taylor, Tony Gonzalez, Darren Sharper, Warrick Dunn (The dude has 15,000 yards rushing/receiving), Tiki Barber (Has even more than Dunn), Al Harris, Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, and Jake Plummer.
But without a doubt, Ronde barber is the biggest steal of the draft. He was drafted at the very start of the third round, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1997 NFL draft. And while some of you may argue that Tony Gonzalez, Darren Sharper, and possibly another player from the draft was a better player, no one was a bigger steal.
To date, Ronde Barber has done many things in his career, and yet he has remained extremely underrated. Just take a look at some of what he's done:
Most quarterback sacks by a NFL cornerback
He's scored touchdowns off of interceptions, fumble returns, blocked punts, and blocked field goals
And he's the only person in the history of the NFL to ever record 25 sacks and 40 interceptions in their career.
Also, if you look at his stat line, you have to be impressed, since he has had 1,165 tackles, 26.5 sacks, and 40 interceptions. Those first two statistics are absolutely insane for a cornerback. So, believe he is a sure-fire Hall of Fame player and more than deserving of this slide.
1998: Hines Ward
But the biggest steal of this draft was none other than Hines Ward. True, he probably isn't even the best wide receiver to come out of this draft, but considering he was the last pick of the third round, I think the Steelers have gotten more than what they expected.
He has done it all with the Steelers, including:
He has Steelers career records for receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs.
He has compiled 954 receptions, 11,702 yards, and 83 touchdowns in his career.
There weren't really any players drafted after him with that level of success, and the main reason he even fell so far was because of the discovery that he was missing an ACL. That turned out to be a non-issue, clearly.
1999: Donald Driver
This draft had a large number of first-round pro Bowlers from Donovan McNabb and Champ Bailey, to Patrick Kerney and Antoine Winfield.
But the draft steal of this year is easily Donald Driver. Seriously, no one is even close. I mean, he was drafted in the seventh round, pick 213. This is a player who would eventually go on to become the Packers' All-Time leader in receptions, and soon to be leader in receiving yards. He has accomplished a number of things as a Packer including:
2002 Team MVP
2002 Packers "Walter Payton Man of the Year"
And while those aren't the most insane awards a player has ever had, you have to appreciate the fact he accomplished all of this after being passed over by every team six times.
2000: Tom Brady
This draft wasn't one of the greatest ever, but it did include great players such as Thomas Jones, Brian Urlacher, Shaun Alexander, and Keith Bulluck.
But the draft steal of the year is...Bubba Franks.
Just kidding, it's obviously Tom Brady. All I need to do is list some of his accomplishments:
Two-Time AP NFL MVP (2007, 2010)
Two-Time AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2007, 2010)
So, that's pretty decent for being the 199th pick in a mediocre draft, right?
2001: Adrian Wilson / Steve Smith
This draft had a number of very underrated players from my generation's LT to Reggie Wayne.
And this is also a draft where I honestly can't make a decision. This one is a tie between Steve Smith and Adrian Wilson. Both players, while past their primes, are still producing quite well on unsatisfactory teams.
People tend to forget about these two excellent players. Both play hard on every play, and it shows in their game.
There is video of Steve Smith making a catch against the Giants where he breaks his arm and drags a Giants player five yards to the end zone. That is a level of toughness that I just don't know how to describe.
They have both had fantastic seasons as well, like Adrian Wilson's in 2006 with 82 tackles (and an incredible 74 solo), five sacks, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles.
Or Steve Smith's 2005 season, where he had 103 receptions, 1,563 yards, 12 touchdowns, 70 first downs, and even a rushing touchdown.
Between the two of them, they've been to eight Pro Bowls, had five All-Pro selections, and Adrian Wilson is a member of the 20/20 club.
Tell me in the comments section which one you think is better.
2002: Clinton Portis
This was a defensive dream draft, with players such as Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, John Henderson, Ed Reed, Lito Sheppard, Aaron Kampman, and Albert Haynesworth.
Although I could argue that Brett Keisel is the steal of the draft, it would probably lead to an absurd amount of angry comments. So, I think I'll go with Clinton Portis. But before I get into that, I just want to throw a shout-out to David Garrard.
He really doesn't get enough respect. He's been dealing with a terrible team and horrid management since he was drafted, and I honestly believe he could have become one of the top 15-20 quarterbacks of all-time in a different situation.
But anyway, to return to Clinton Portis—some people might disagree with this choice. And while he hasn't been the same in a couple years, he was so amazingly good through the first few years of his career, he more than deserves this spot.
In his first two season, he ran for a total of 3,099 yards, 19 touchdowns, and a 5.5 average which would make that one of the best two consecutive seasons a running back has ever had. He was also the youngest player to ever score four touchdowns in a game, at the age of 21. And then the youngest to score five (yes, five) touchdowns in one game, at 22.
He would go on to have quite a bit of success (despite some injury issues over the years) with the Redskins, after being traded for Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. But he was never quite as efficient as he was with the Broncos.
While he has only played a total of 13 games in the past two seasons, here are some of his accomplishments:
2003: Robert Mathis / Anquan Boldin
This draft spawned a number of people who were either severely overrated or underrated, it seems. Like: Carson Palmer, Terrence Newman, Marcus Trufant, etc. But underrated ones like Terrell Suggs, Jordan Gross, and Nnamdi Asomugha have found plenty of success. And that's not even mentioning the plethora of successful undrafted players, like, ya know—Antonio Gates. One of the greatest receiving tight ends of all-time.
This draft is also one of the ones where I have a tough time deciding between two players. Those two being Anquan Boldin and Robert Mathis. Both of which have led excellent, steady careers, with another great player lining up opposite them.
Anquan Boldin is the fastest player to ever reach 600 catches and fifth-fastest to 7,000 yards. He is definitely one of those players who puts 110 percent effort on every down of every game.
And Robert Mathis is one of the absolute most underrated players in the NFL to this day. He has been performing incredibly well, with 74 sacks and 36 forced fumbles. I honestly think that if he weren't sharing sacks with Dwight Freeney, he would have 12-plus sacks every year. Also, I think the fact he doesn't work the blindside really makes a difference.
Boldin had his best season in 2005, when he had 102 catches, 1,402 yards, and seven touchdowns. All of that in just 14 games.
Mathis had his best season in 2005 as well. He had 54 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and eight forced fumbles. Those are some legitimately fantastic numbers.
Between the two, they have been to six Pro Bowls.
I want you to tell me, in the comments section, which one is better, in your opinion.
2004: Jared Allen
This is easily one of the best drafts of all-time. It included two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, respectively. And one who is more than great in his own right, in Phillip Rivers. It was the draft with the late Sean Taylor, Steven Jackson, Larry FItzgerald, and Vince Wilfork.
This one was another draft where I had a hard time choosing between two players. Those two were Shaun Phillips and Jared Allen. But, to keep from being too indecisive, I am choosing Jared Allen. While Shaun Phillips has been one of the more underrated players in the league, since he was drafted, and both are huge steals from the draft, I don't believe he has outperformed Jared Allen.
Since he was drafted, Jared Allen has had 392 tackles, 83 sacks, 22 forced fumbles, and four interceptions.
His best season came in 2009, when he had 51 tackles, 14.5 sacks, an interception, and five forced fumbles. Definitely a great and well-rounded season.
Here are a few of the awards he's won in his career:
Mack Lee Hill Award (2005)
2005: Frank Gore
This draft wasn't quite as awesome as 2004 was, but still garnered a number of impressive players like DeMarcus Ware, Jammal Brown, Aaron Rodgers, and Roddy White.
This draft wasn't loaded with steals like the last couple have been. However, Frank Gore is definitely the best one. He was drafted at the top of the third round, 65th overall.
While he did get hurt two-thirds of the way into last season, he did put up very good numbers and was well on his way to yet another 1,000-plus yard season. It was the first time he didn't have one since his rookie season.
In his career, he has garnered 8,697 yards from scrimmage and 44 touchdowns. Those are great numbers, and it shows he's an all-purpose threat.
So far in his career, he hasn't received enough recognition for his skill but, he has accomplished a few things:
2006 NFC Rushing Champion
Look for him to continue producing great numbers for years to come.
2006: Brandon Marshall
The 2006 draft held a couple of excellent talents, such as Haloti Ngata, Vernon Davis, Mario Williams, Tamba Hali.
Although, the steal of this draft was Brandon Marshall—no doubt about it. He is one of only three players to catch 100 balls in three straight seasons. He is also the NFL record holder for receptions in a single game, with 21. A number of cornerbacks have talked about him, giving him the highest praise like Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers:
"Brandon Marshall is a defensive lineman playing wide receiver. He wants to inflict punishment on you. He wants you to try to tackle him so he can shove you off of him and get more yards."
And Nnamdi Asomugha saying he is "the toughest guy to bring down, one-on-one."
That should mean a lot coming from the best cornerback in the NFL. Here are only a few of his accomplishments in his short but eventful career:
Two-Time AFC Offensive Player of the Week - Week 2 (2008), Week 14 (2009)
Pudding Pie Award (2009)
413 receptions, 5,033, and 28 touchdowns
While the second two may not be the most prestigious of awards, he definitely deserves more for how remarkably consistent he has been. He's definitely top five in the NFL at WR, and based off his statistics, he's a magnet. If he can stay healthy (like avoiding stab wounds), he can really shine more.
2007: LaMarr Woodley
This draft had a large number of great first rounders, like Darrelle Revis, Patrick Willis, Calvin Johnson, etc., but there wasn't a whole lot in the later rounds outside of Ahmad Bradshaw.
Don't get me wrong, he's been very good, and has more than lived up to expectations since he was drafted 250th-overall. But, having said that, his fumble issues keep him from being the No. 1 steal of 2007.
That honor goes to LaMarr Woodley.
He was drafted with the 46th pick, so he wasn't the typical third or lower round choice. However, in just four seasons (three of which starting), he has compiled 186 tackles, 39 sacks, three interceptions, and seven forced fumbles.
If you have ever seen him play, you'll notice he gets constant double or triple teams if he doesn't already have to deal with a tackle. Despite all the attempts to block him, he just powers right through all of the protection to the quarterback. It's really crazy to watch him at his absolute best.
But, here are some of his accolades:
2006 Lombardi Award winner
2006 Chuck Bednarik Award finalist
As you can probably tell, he is one of the most talented players from this draft. I look forward to seeing his progression in the future.
2008: Jamaal Charles
At this point, there hasn't really been enough time for the late-round talents to progress, so this list may eventually change next year or the year after.
However, for now, it's Jamaal Charles, who was drafted 73rd overall. In his career, while only starting (playing in 47) 18 games, he has rushed for 2,944 yards, and 12 touchdowns, at six yards per carry. That's incredible. And he's also had 1,037 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Not to mention that he has 1,246 yards off of kick returns and one touchdown there.
Pretty impressive that, over three seasons, someone could have 5,127 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns.
Here are a few of his accolades in football:
Four-Time Collegiate All-American in Track (60m indoor, 100m outdoor, 200m outdoor, 4x100m relay outdoor)
He's clearly a very talented running back and he will be producing for the Chiefs for years to come, without a doubt.
2009: Mike Wallace
One of the more talented defensive classes, there were a number of Pro Bowl-caliber players taken in the first round, such as Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, and more in the future.
While there aren't a whole lot of actual Pro Bowl players from this class just yet, someone that will come to shine in the future will most definitely be Mike Wallace, who was drafted 84th overall.
People have a tendency to just look at Mike Wallace as an exclusive deep threat, and he is undoubtedly one of the best at it. His speed is arguably top five in the NFL, and he is great at separating from his man. However, people don't see how good he showed he can be with his route-running. He has come to run his routes crisply and to perfection. Not to mention how tough he is, since he really does seem to enjoy going over the middle.
His blocking is getting much better as well, no doubt because of Hines Ward. So, he runs great routes, is more than willing to risk getting hit going for the ball, blocks well, and he does a great job shedding tacklers if they can catch him. Looks like he's actually turned into one of the top two or three receivers, at the least, from this draft.
His numbers are also great, which you can see here:
and a career average of 20.3 yards per reception.
Those are excellent statistics, especially since he had 60 receptions, 1,257 yards, and 10 touchdowns from last season alone. The interesting thing about it is that most people would put DeSean Jackson ahead of him in a list of receivers, despite the fact that Wallace's numbers were significantly better, outside of yards per catch. Just saying, Mike Wallace has a very bright future ahead of him, and I can't wait to see him blossom into one of the best in the league, if he isn't already.
2010: Maurkice Pouncey
The 2010 draft produced a few great performers like Ndamakong Suh and Sam Bradford, among others.
But arguably the second-best player in the draft was Maurkice Pouncey. Now, at this point, it seems like I'm just being a homer, but I honestly believe these were just work of excellent drafting by Kevin Colbert. Not just me trying to talk about the Steelers.
Most people know, by now, how good Maurkice Pouncey was. That's why Mike Pouncey is going to be drafted way too high—because people expect him to do as his brother did.
The thing that makes it hard for me to defend my choice of Pouncey is that you can't represent a lineman with just statistics. You need to see the games, or least see the awards they've received for blocking. If you watch his game tapes, you will see just how stellar he was all season.
He was pretty much the only constant on the offensive line, and he was the only reason it wasn't the worst in the NFL. When he was injured and out for the Super Bowl, you could see just how different the line was. And odds are next season he will only show improvement. But anyway, to make my point to people who haven't seen many Steelers games, here are a few of his awards:
First-team All-SEC (2009)
Rimington Trophy winner (2009)
Joe Greene Great Performance Award (2010)
All of these, including the fact that his Steelers teammates said that if they could have a re-vote, they would have voted him as one of the Team Captains. That really says a lot about how great this kid is.
This upcoming draft is filled with a ton of uncertainty, as are all NFL drafts, but I have narrowed the next big draft steal down to two players.
Martez Wilson and Aaron Williams. Both of them show a lot of skill and they have tons of raw talent. Both are NFL-ready, and if they go into the right system, they can be coached into perennial Pro-Bowl players. Of that I am sure.
But to conclude, the draft is always full of surprises, and I can't wait to see what awaits us all this weekend!
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