My last article was the greatest draft busts of all-time. These selections would often kill and destroy teams. My friends that helped me construct my last article picked Ryan Leaf as the unanimous decision for the number one draft bust of all-time.
This list however is the greatest draft steals of all-time. For one reason or another, Hall of Fame caliber players slipped through the cracks of the draft and often sparked dynasties. Bart Starr, Joe Montana, and Tom Brady are all in my top five and one of them is number one on my list. Instead of disgust, for these players I just felt awe.
10. Roger Staubach-10th Round Selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 1964.
How in the world did Staubach fall so low in the draft. He won the Heisman Trophy in college for crying out loud. It was probably because he was a Navy guy. Many teams were afraid to take Staubach because they knew they were not going to get a full career.
Staubach was no exception. He did not start his first season until he was 29, but when he got there he took the NFL by storm. He led the Dallas Cowboys(America's team) to multiple Super Bowls and won two of them. His passer rating is also remarkably high for his time and is number one among pre-1980 quarterbacks.
9. Andre Reed-4th Round Pick Selection by the Buffalo Bills in 1985.
A small school in Pennsylvania produced one of the NFL's all-time wide receivers. Andre Reed was featured at number three in my all-time QB to WR passing combinations with Jim Kelly. Reed has been one of the most productive NFL wide receivers of all-time and still ranks in the league's top 10 in receptions (951), receiving yards (13,198) and touchdown receptions (87).
8. Larry Wilson-7th Round Pick by the Arizona Cardinals(then St. Louis) in 1960
Today's safety gets to do a little bit of everything. The responsibilities range from blitzing, to dropping back into coverage, to guarding the tight end one-on-one. It didn't use to be that way. In fact the only thing yesterday's safety ever did was drop back in deep coverage and make sure he wasn't beat deep.
Larry Wilson changed the safety and defensive back position. He didn't make eight Pro Bowls by dropping back and doing nothing. His ability to blitz and disrupt the passing and running game with his pressure earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame and on my list. The ironic thing is that he has more interceptions than most with 52.
7. Dan Marino-1st Round Pick by the Miami Dolphins in 1983.
John Elway was the first overall selection and the first overall quarterback and led the Broncos to five Super Bowls. Jim Kelly dominated the AFC for four years straight, and Tony Eason led the Pats’ to Super Bowl XX, but Blackledge and O'Brien were terrible. Arguably the greatest quarterback of the 80's was selected last among these quarterbacks in the first round. Incredibly, the Pittsburgh Steelers passed up Marino even though he's lived in Pittsburgh and had a stellar college career at Pitt.
Marino obviously would go on to shatter records. With arguably the greatest season of all-time in 1984. He rewrote the passing yards and the passing touchdowns records in just one year. The Steelers took seven years to recover and in those seven years they only made the playoffs just one time.
6. Terrell Davis-6th Round Pick by the Denver Broncos in 1995.
Without Terrell Davis, John Elway doesn't win those two super bowls at the end of his career. Davis has quite a record: one MVP, 2000-yard rushing season, two rings, one Super Bowl MVP, four times was elected All-Pro, and he's part of the 1990's All-Decade team. To think he was selected in the sixth round is just so mysterious to me.
5. Joe Montana-3rd Round Pick by the 49ers in 1979.
Arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time was a part-time starter at Notre Dame. Many of the "so called experts" called Montana weak and frail. They looked at his lack of a giant rocket-arm. They forgot to mention his cool under pressure, his accuracy, his ability to read the defense, his not fast, but nimble feet, and his hard work and timing.
He led the 49ers to four Super Bowls and has three Super Bowl MVP awards. He even has won the regular MVP award once. Some call Montana the greatest quarterback of all-time. Even the most annoying old school football site ranked Montana number two on their all-time quarterback list. I don't know where I would rank Montana, but certainly higher than any other quarterback in that same draft.
4. Shannon Sharpe-7th Round Pick by the Denver Broncos in 1990.
In my list of all great tight ends, Shannon was #3 for his ability to catch passes no matter where he was at. But his greatest moments will always be in Denver where he was lucky enough to play under John Elway at the end of his career and helped lead the broncos to win 2 super bowls.
Sharpe's play making abilities were amazing. He wasn't the best blocker but the fear he struck into opposing defenses was pretty amazing. When you double cover a tight end that says a lot about the respect many teams give him and it lands him a #4 spot.
3. Bart Starr-17th Round Pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1956.
The 17th round pick from Alabama has been to the NFL championship more than any other player on this list. The MVP of the first two Super Bowls led his team to the Championship five times. A mark, which has only been passed by Otto Graham.
He had great Hall of Fame talent all around him(13 Hall of famers and still counting in this day and age) and the greatest NFL coach of all-time(Vince Lombardi), but Starr made it all happen. His best performances came in Championship games. Very few quarterbacks can compare to the kid from Alabama (Not Ken Stabler).
2. Deacon Jones-14th Round Pick by the St. Louis Rams in 1961.
The Minister of Defense is arguably the greatest pass rusher of all time. At 6 foot 5 and 250 lbs he was the smallest member of the rams fearsome foursome, but he was the fastest, leanest, and most feared. He resides in the hall of fame as one of the most athletic and feared defensive end that football has ever seen.
But he wasn't always like that. In fact coming out of college Deacon was actually overweight and out of shape. The rams hadn't invested much in him with a low paying contract and a 14th round pick. So, Deacon did what he did for most of his career. He scared the crap out of people. He famous head slap and hatred for quarterbacks got him a starting job not only on the rams but at multiple pro bowls.
1. Tom Brady-6th Round Pick by the NWE Patriots in 2000.
I feel so awful making this decision. My all-time favorite team is the Indianapolis Colts and my favorite all-time player is Peyton Manning. I have spent so much time arguing about why Manning is better than Brady. Yet as much as I hate the @sshole, I cannot dispute his greatness.
Tom Brady has lead his team to four Super Bowls and won three of them. He had arguably the greatest season of all-time by any position in 2007. He's lead three last minute drives in the Super Bowl. Yet he slipped to the sixth round in 2000.
At 199th overall pick only Bart Starr(200) was selected lower than Tom Brady. Of all-time quarterbacks that Tom reminds me of, he represents Joe Montana the most. Both are draft steals, dynasty quarterbacks, very accurate, and players with the ladies.
Yet, Joe is the gold standard for a draft steal. Brady is the platinum standard. The draft every single year will have blue chippers. But it's a draft steal like Tom Brady, which will really make the difference for a team.