NFL Draft History – Top 5: The Best Deals
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Scouting is not an exact science. Some players not particularly considered as potential stars end up becoming unexpected leaders.
A few of these “steals” added their names to the list of the greatest players in history.
1. Tom Brady – Quarterback – 199th pick in 2000
Career stats: 14 seasons, 63.4% of passes completed, 359 touchdowns, 134 interceptions, 95.7 evaluation.
Notable rewards: 3 Super Bowls won, 2 times Super Bowl MVP, 2 times MVP, 9 Pro Bowl, 3 All Pro, 2 time offensive player of the year
If a definition was needed for the word « steal » in the dictionary, the photo of Tom Brady would serve to illustrate the article. What the Boy Scouts didn’t see in the Michigan college kid was his incredible leadership skills, composure and determination.
Tiptoeing into the cold of New England, the Californian was first stuck behind Drew Bledsoe, a franchise quarterback established. But everything changed when Bledsoe was seriously injured at the start of the 2001 season. Brady took control and would not let go.
A few months later, the Patriots shock the world of football by defeating the Rams during a Super Bowl which seemed promised to the “Greatest Show on turf” of Kurt Warner and Mashall Faulk.
Two titles are quickly added to the count of Brady and Bill Belichick. To these collective honors are then added individual records. In 2007, the number 12 threw 50 touchdowns in one season, the best mark in history at that time, but since beaten by Peyton Manning. Behind this momentum, the Patriots become a team focused almost exclusively on the pass and move on to a game of the perfect season.
After a blank year due to a knee injury in 2008, Brady comes back slowly the following season and even stronger in 2010 where he takes back the MVP trophy. With three titles and a record rain, and despite some failures in the playoffs in recent years, he has already secured his place in the Hall of Fame.
2. Joe Montana – Quarterback – 82nd overall pick in 1979
Career stats: 16 seasons, 63.2% of passes completed, 273 touchdowns, 139 steals.
Notable rewards: 4 Super Bowls won, 3 times Super Bowl MVP, 2 times MVP, 8 Pro Bowl, 6 All Pro
Recover the one who is still considered the best quarterback in history at the end of the third round? It’s a pretty good deal, isn’t it?
Already decisive with the university of Notre Dame, Montana had not convinced all the scouts who think that he is inconsistent and does not have a big enough arm. But once again, Bill Walsh saw the talent and the potential in which he was found. A new masterstroke from the 49ers coach.
In his second season, Montana was given the leadership of the attack. The first outings are not exceptional. The revelation comes in a game against the Saints where Montana leads a comeback of 14 points to a win. In all, number 16 will lead 31 winning comebacks in his career.
Thanks to his composure, his talent and the helping hand of a coach and a team of great talent, Montana has built a legendary career.
3. Deacon Jones – Defensive end – 186th overall pick in 1961
Notable rewards: 2-time defenseman of the year, 8 Pro Bowl, 5 All Pro
Deacon Jones coined the term « quarterback sack. » Literally! It was he who launched the term. Beyond the blah blah, he performed many. Unfortunately, statistics for this category were not kept at the time. In an unofficial count, the Pro Football Weekly site still counted 194.5, the third total in history. He would have signed a season with 26 sacks in 1967!
Discovered by chance by the Rams on videos of a runner they coveted, Jones was selected in the 14th round. He quickly became the terror of all opposing quarterbacks.
Nicknamed the « Defense Secretary », Jones overwhelmed the linemen with his speed and the slap he gave them at the start of the pass rush. He partly revolutionized his post.
4. Terrell Davis – Running back – 196th overall pick in 1995
Career stats: 7 seasons, 7,607 yards, 60 touchdowns
Notable rewards: 2 Super Bowls won, 2 offensive players of the year, 3 Pro Bowls, 3 All Pro.
Without Terrell Davis, John Elway might never have lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Broncos didn’t need a runner but they felt the right shot when Davis fell until the sixth lap. Bingo! At the end of the pre-season, the rookie had already won his starting place.
In the two seasons that Denver won the title, Davis ran for 1,750 then 2008 yards (and 21 touchdowns). He also exceeded 100 yards in the two Super Bowls won by his team.
What served Davis after graduating from college was his lack of speed. Numerous injuries cut short the runner’s career but he had time to fill his record and leave an indelible mark in the history of his franchise.
5. Shannon Sharpe – Tight end – 192nd overall pick in 1990
Career stats: 14 seasons, 815 receptions, 10,060 yards, 62 touchdowns
Notable rewards: 3 Super Bowls won, 8 Pro Bowls, 4 All Pro
What made Sharpe fall in the Draft, besides coming out of obscure Savannah State College, was that he was too slow to be a catcher and too small to be a tight end. Ultimately, it was this unusual combination for the time that made it successful.
Too fast for linebackers and too physical for corners, Sharpe quickly became a machine for accumulating receptions and yards. At the time of his retirement, he was the tight end that had captured the most balls in NFL history.
Collectively, Davis leaves with three titles. Two with the Broncos and one with the Ravens. He was introduced to the Hall of Fame in August 2011.
Honorable mentions: Bo Jackson, Roger Staubach, Bart Starr.
First published: April 2012, updated May 2014.