Friday, April 4, 2008
Updated: April 18, 12:40 PM ET
Ward proves to be third-round bargain
NFL history is full of players taken after the first round who became stars. Look no further than New England's Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick who is now often mentioned in conversations about the best quarterbacks of all time.
And then there is Steve Largent. Taken in the fourth round by Houston and later traded to Seattle, he went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Seahawks.
Here are our top 50 draft steals. These lists reflect players selected since the NFL and the old American Football League merged drafts in 1967. For now, we'll leave off recent bargains such as QB Derek Anderson, WRs Anquan Boldin and Marques Colston, DE Osi Umenyiora and CB Asante Samuel until their impressive early careers play out.
1-15 | 16-30
|Selected in the third round by the Steelers in 1998 out of Georgia, receiver Hines Ward has a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award and four Pro Bowls on his resume.|
31. OL Bob Kuechenberg (Notre Dame)
Drafted by: Eagles, fourth round, No. 80 overall, 1969
Apparently, both the Eagles and the Falcons missed the boat on Kuechenberg, who was grabbed by Don Shula during his first season in Miami. A mere 14 seasons and 196 games later with the Dolphins, the one-time Golden Domer had played in four Super Bowls and was named to six Pro Bowls.
32. G Mark Schlereth (Idaho)
Drafted by: Redskins, 10th round, No. 263 overall, 1989
The standout offensive lineman out of little known Idaho overcame numerous surgeries, played a dozen seasons with the Redskins (six) and Broncos (six), was a member of three Super Bowl championship squads and went to the Pro Bowl twice.
33. WR Hines Ward (Georgia)
Drafted by: Steelers, third round, No. 92 overall, 1998
Ward flew under the radar coming out of college, mostly because he bounced around from wide receiver to running back to quarterback with the Bulldogs. His ability to play strictly receiver was a bit of an unknown. Four Pro Bowls later, everyone knows of Ward's skills as a receiver and blocker extraordinaire.
34. TE Mark Bavaro (Notre Dame)
Drafted by: Giants, fourth round, No. 100 overall, 1985
The former Golden Domer added grit and toughness to an already physical Giants team. In his nine seasons with New York, Cleveland and Philadelphia, Bavaro totaled 351 catches for 39 scores and was a huge part of Big Blue's championship teams of 1986 and 1990.
35. WR Keenan McCardell (UNLV)
Drafted by: Redskins, 12th round, No. 326 overall, 1991
McCardell was cut before playing a game with the Redskins. However, after slowly improving over three years with the Browns, he was signed to a big free-agent deal by the Jaguars in 1996. He would go on to top the 1,000-yard mark five times and make Pro Bowl appearances with the Jaguars and Bucs.
36. QB Trent Green (Indiana)
Drafted by: Chargers, eighth round, No. 222 overall, 1993
The Chargers were coming off a playoff season and were looking to add some depth at quarterback, but Green would never play a game with the Bolts. Currently the backup to Rams QB Marc Bulger, the former Hoosier has passed for 27,950 yards and 162 touchdowns.
37. LB Greg Lloyd (Fort Valley State)
Drafted by: Steelers, sixth round, No. 150 overall, 1987
Lloyd brought his own brand of intensity to Pittsburgh's defense, terrorizing opposing tackles with his quickness and athleticism, and could also be found downfield when it came to pass coverage. The five-time Pro Bowler had 49 sacks and 10 interceptions in his first eight seasons before a knee injury limited his effectiveness later in his career.
38. QB Marc Bulger (West Virginia)
Drafted by: Saints, sixth round, No. 168 overall, 2000
The Saints would be a playoff team in 2000 under then-head coach Jim Haslett and seemed set at quarterback with QBs Aaron Brooks and Jeff Blake. Bulger's tenure in New Orleans was short-lived and he wound up in St. Louis, where he has been a very productive quarterback and made two Pro Bowls.
39. CB Tyrone Braxton (North Dakota State)
Drafted by: Broncos, 12th round, No. 334 overall, 1987
Braxton was just one pick away from being the last pick in the 1987 draft. He responded by putting together a 12-year career with the Broncos and Dolphins, intercepting 36 passes, reaching a Pro Bowl and winning two Super Bowl rings in Denver.
40. RB Ahman Green (Nebraska)
Drafted by: Seahawks, third round, No. 76 overall, 1998
The Seahawks passed on running backs such as John Avery and Skip Hicks but landed Green in the third round. Unfortunately, the Seahawks didn't know what they had. They traded Green to Green Bay, where he rushed for over 8,000 yards in seven years with the Packers.
41. CB Larry Brown (TCU)
Drafted by: Cowboys, 12th round, No. 320 overall, 1991
When the Cowboys selected Brown in the 12th round in 1991, chances are they weren't expecting to land a future Super Bowl MVP. Brown became a starter for the Cowboys in 1991, was an integral part of their early '90s dynasty and was in the right place at the right time in Super Bowl XXX, picking off Pittsburgh QB Neil O'Donnell twice.
42. QB Brian Sipe (San Diego State)
Drafted by: Browns, 13th round, No. 330 overall, 1972
Six quarterbacks were selected before Sipe in the 1972 draft, including Jim Fassel, who became better-known for his coaching career than his playing days. Sipe would go on to reach one Pro Bowl and become the face of the Browns' "Kardiac Kids."
43. DT La'Roi Glover (San Diego State)
Drafted by: Raiders, sixth round, No.166 overall, 1996
Although Glover's stay with the Silver and Black lasted a mere two games, he made a combined half-dozen Pro Bowl appearances for the Saints and Cowboys. Glover led the league in sacks during his 2000 season in New Orleans.
44. OL Jesse Sapolu (Hawaii)
Drafted by: 49ers, 11th round, No. 289 overall, 1983
Bill Walsh made a habit of finding draft gems and found a great one in Sapolu. A starter at left guard in Super Bowls XXIII and XXIX and center in Super Bowl XXIV, Sapolu was also named to a pair of Pro Bowls.
45. DT Leon Lett (Emporia State)
Drafted by: Cowboys, seventh round, No.173 overall, 1991
While Lett's name always comes up around Thanksgiving and Super Bowl time thanks to his blunders, it's often forgotten that he was a quality defensive tackle who went to two Pro Bowls and was part of an unsung Dallas defense that helped win three Super Bowls in four seasons.
46. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Oregon State)
Drafted by: Bengals, seventh round, No. 204 overall, 2001
The Bengals have had one of the best receiving tandems in the league for a number of years, and Houshmandzadeh had his moment in the spotlight last season. In 2007, the former Beaver tied for the NFL lead with 112 receptions and went to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
47. WR Troy Brown (Marshall)
Drafted by: Patriots, eighth round, No.198 overall, 1993
The Pats have squeezed just about everything out of the former Marshall product, who was one of Bill Parcells' picks in his first draft in New England. Along with his 557 career receptions, Brown, who is currently unsigned, has contributed on special teams and defense, totaling three interceptions during the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXIX season.
48. DE Aaron Kampman (Iowa)
Drafted by: Packers, fifth round, No. 156 overall, 2002
The Packers have one of the young and emerging defensive units in the league, led by a deep line. But the key member of that front is the determined Kampman, who annually leads all Packers defensive linemen in tackles and has 27.5 sacks and a pair of Pro Bowl appearances in the past two seasons.
49. WR Joe Horn (Itawamba Junior College)
Drafted by: Chiefs, fifth round, No. 135 overall, 1996
Horn's pro career actually began in the Canadian Football League with the now-defunct Memphis Mad Dogs. In a dozen NFL seasons with the Chiefs, Saints and Falcons, Horn has caught 603 passes for 8,744 yards and 58 TDs. He has been named to four Pro Bowls.
50. RB Brian Westbrook (Villanova)
Drafted by: Eagles, third round, No. 91 overall, 2002
The Eagles were in need of a running back and made the wise decision to pass on guys such as William Green and Ladell Betts in the first two rounds. Westbrook led the league in total yards from scrimmage a year ago and has recently been the Eagles' most consistent offensive weapon.
Russell S. Baxter,
Jon D. Kramer,
Jon T. Stewart,
Chris Fallica and
Paul Kinney of ESPN research contributed to this report.