Five of the Best: Late Round NFL Draft Picks

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots

The NFL draft is one of the most exciting events in the American sporting calendar, as hundreds of prospects wait to see which professional team they will be signing for.

This year, the draft will go ahead from 23-25th April with selections taking place virtually through the phones and laptops of coaches and general managers.

With the best college players going in the early rounds, players in the later rounds are often not expected to become game-changing players, or even to make the final roster.

However, over the years some later round draft picks have been steals, with some going on to be greats and even Hall of Famers.

Here’s a selection of some of the best late round pickups:

5. Antonio Brown – 6th round, 195th pick (2010)

Despite currently being a free agent and having had a controversial couple of years, Antonio Brown remains an incredible pick up for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.

Brown had had a standard three-year college career and not much was expected of him.

In his first season, he didn’t start a game and only caught 16 passes although he did return a kick-off for an 89-yard touchdown.

The following season, Brown moved up the depth chart and topped 1,000 yards both receiving and returning, an NFL first.

He then went on to record six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons including 1,834 in 2015, which is the fourth highest of all time.

Brown currently has 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns whilst he looks for a new team.

4. Terrell Owens – 3rd round, 89th pick (1996)

The third round isn’t exactly a ‘late round’, but an exception can be made for Terrell Owens, who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1996.

He began his first season as a member of the special teams and only caught four touchdowns for 520 yards.

However, star receiver Jerry Rice tore his ACL in 1997 which led the way for Owens to be WR1 on the depth chart.

Owens topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his third year and, after a poor fourth year, only dropped below 1,000 receiving yards once in eight years which included a 16-touchdown season in 2001.

His career ended with 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns, the third most of all time in their respective categories, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.

3. Shannon Sharpe – 7th round, 192nd pick (1990)

Going back a few years, tight ends (TE) were predominantly pass blockers and occasionally caught a pass or two.

Shannon Sharpe is a prime example of a TE who was a fantastic offensive player and would often have to be double-teamed like a star receiver.

He progressively got more involved in the offense after his first season and his best year came in 1996 where he caught 10 touchdown passes and reached over 1,000 receiving yards.

Sharpe ended his career as a three-time Super Bowl champion, twice with the Denver Broncos and once with the Baltimore Ravens.

He was also the all-time leader in receptions (815), receiving yards (10,060) and receiving touchdowns (62) by a TE, until Tony Gonzalez broke all three records.

Sharpe now has a successful career in broadcasting and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

2. Joe Montana – 3rd round, 82nd pick (1979)

Similarly to Owens, third round isn’t necessarily late but it’s not a round you expect to pick up a legend like Joe Montana.

Now widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Montana wasn’t rated highly before the draft.

In his first season with the 49ers, he was primarily the backup to Steve DeBerg before becoming the starting QB midway through the following season.

The 1981 season was one of the 49ers best ever, as they won the Super Bowl which includes one of the most notable plays in NFL history made by Montana in the NFC Championship, where he tied the game with an off-balance pass to Dwight Clark.

Montana went on to win four Super Bowls, in three of which he was named MVP, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.

1. Tom Brady – 6th round, 199th pick (2000)

One of the most famous NFL picks of all time and arguably the biggest steal, Tom Brady was drafted 199th and is one of the greatest to ever play the game.

His physicality was considered a flaw before the draft and was fourth choice during his rookie year.

In 2001, starting QB Drew Bledsoe suffered a severe injury which saw Brady thrust into the starting QB position – and the rest is history.

Brady led the Patriots to a shock Super Bowl win that year and was also named MVP, which cemented his position as the starting QB – a position he held for almost 20 years.

Now 42-years-old, Brady has six Super Bowl rings including three MVP awards.

Other stats include how he has also never had a losing season as a starter, has tied the most Pro Bowl selections (14) and has the all-time record for passing yards and touchdowns including the post-season.

We’d be here all day if we listed off his achievements and records and Brady is without a doubt the best late-round pick in NFL history.

Jordan is a journalism graduate with a background in sports journalism covering football across a number of online publications, who now works in Gibraltar producing content for Mansion.
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