In the NFL, talent is everything. All 32 teams share the same dream: Win a Super Bowl. That’s why each team selects college football stars all over America every year to play for their teams, and help them accomplish their Super Bowl dreams. Typically, the most accomplished college football stars get into the league first, and many do great things for their teams. But even those who are supposedly not as talented, who have to wait longer before a team selects them, will rise to greatness. The players are called Draft Steals. They are selected in later rounds, because teams do not expect them to have high talent, but will accomplish great deals of stardom in the NFL. Although several well-known draft steals have retired, several still remain in the NFL. Here are the biggest draft steals still active in the NFL today.
Marques Colston (WR for the New Orleans Saints)
Although Marques Colston was a college football superstar at Hofstra University, totaling 2834 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns, which are both all-time records for the university, he had to wait until the 7th Round of the 2006 NFL Draft to enter the NFL, when the New Orleans Saints selected him with 252nd overall pick. This was primarily of his 4.5 seconds needed to complete the forty-yard dash, his 37-inch vertical leap, and his 10’3″ long jump (all of which are considered poor by NFL standards). Guess what, NFL scouts? That same guy who you never thought would make it in the NFL now has more receiving yards, receptions, and receiving touchdowns than any one else who has played for the New Orleans Saints. He also recorded an NFL-record 168 receptions in just his first two seasons. He is one of the greatest active draft steals in the NFL right now.
Matt Hasselbeck (QB for the Indianapolis Colts)
Matt Hasselbeck had to wait until the Green Bay Packers selected him with the 187th overall pick in the 6th Round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Because the Packers were set with Brett Favre as their starting quarterback, Hasselbeck struggled to get snaps in three seasons in Green Bay, spending his rookie season on the practice squad before throwing for just 145 total yards the following two seasons. Before the 2001 season, he was traded to the young Seattle Seahawks. After outperforming Trent Dilfer in 2002, Hasselbeck was named the Seahawks’ opening-day starter in 2003. From that point, Hasselbeck ascended to become one of the NFL’s most prolific passers. He was voted to the Pro Bowl three times, and aided the Seahawks to six playoff appearances, including their first NFC Championship. Hasselbeck played ten seasons with the team, and in the end of it all, he had thrown more passing yards and completed passes than any other Seahawk. He also had fewer interceptions per pass attempt than any other Seahawks passer. Hasselbeck’s career has been characterized by talent and accuracy, but by work ethic that was underestimated in the 1998 Draft.
Maurice Jones-Drew (RB for the Jacksonville Jaguars)
Even after rushing for 1,007 yards his sophomore season in UCLA, Jacksonville Jaguars’ superstar-to-be Maurice Jones Drew did not get selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, but rather the second round, with the 50th overall pick. Even though he had limited playing time as a backup at the beginning of his career, he has averaged more than four yards per carry each season he has played. By the end of the 2012 season, he had been selected to the Pro Bowl three times, voted NFL Running Back of the Year twice, and had one season (2011) where he led the league in rushing yards and was voted NFL Player of the Year. He is also the Jaguars’ all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, kick return yards, and kick return touchdowns. With statistics of a player worth being a first overall pick, NFL teams wonder today why they didn’t select Jones-Drew with their first round picks.
Arian Foster (RB for the Houston Texans)
Arian Foster is one of millions of college football stars who participated in an NFL Draft. He is also one of the millions of college football stars who participated in an NFL Draft and was never selected. That’s right. Foster participated in the 2009 NFL Draft, only to become an undrafted free agent. This is perhaps one of the most demoralizing defeats a football player can endure. Even though he had rushed for almost 3000 total yards by the time he graduated from University of Tennessee, scouts took into account that it had taken Foster 4.68 seconds to complete the 40-yard dash (poor by NFL standards), and his vertical leap and broad jump were, respectively, 32 inches and 9’7″. But after he was signed to the Houston Texans offseason roster and eventually was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, he began to leave his mark on the Houston Texans and the NFL as well. In his following three seasons, he rushed for 1000+ yards in each of those years. Also, in each of those years, he was voted to the Pro Bowl, including one season (2010) where he led the league in rushing yards. Foster has left several NFL general managers with boxes of tissues, as they have regretted turning their backs on the player who became Houston Texans’ all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
Tom Brady (QB for the New England Patriots)
The dictionary definition of “draft steal” is not Tom Brady. But he is arguably the most accomplished draft steal on this list. In the beginning of his college career at Michigan, Brady struggled to earn playing time and considered transferring to a school where he could be a starter. At the 2000 NFL Draft, several scouts believed he could never be starter-caliber. The New England Patriots ultimately put Brady into their shopping cart, with their 199th overall pick in the 6th Round. In his first two seasons, he was a backup. But after becoming the Patriots’ starter midway through 2001 and helping the team to the Super Bowl, it was all uphill from there. Since 2001, Brady has not only been to the Pro Bowl eight times, but has been NFL MVP twice, and has won three Super Bowls for the Patriots, who voted him Super Bowl MVP in two of those victories. NFL scouts still wonder how Brady crawled from the woodwork and became one of the best passers in NFL History.
“Draft steal” does not have a dictionary definition, and this is because a draft steal can come in so many shapes or forms. These underestimated athletes evolve into becoming some of the first sports stars that pop up to our minds. A football player does not need a golden chariot to carry them into NFL stardom. They just need work ethic and determination, as well as a mindset that represents a person who wins no matter how many points they are down. This list mentions real NFL stars who had enough determination to leave permanent marks in sports history even as the world pointed and laughed. If a draft steal can rise from the woodwork, then it means every human in the world can be the best at what they do, not matter how many disadvantages they face.