List of the Top 7 All-Time Late Round NFL Draft Sleepers
The NFL draft is often times what separates the great teams from the bottom feeders. Missing on players in the opening rounds can be devastating to a team’s future success.
At the same time, striking gold on a player in the later rounds can turn a franchise into a legit title contender. I’ve put together a list of some the best sleeper picks in the history of the draft.
#7 – WR John Stallworth – 4th round
The Steelers landed one of the best all-time receivers in the game in the 4th round of the 1974 draft. Stallworth won four championships with Pittsburgh over a 14-year career with the black and gold. Without a doubt one of the greatest Steelers receivers to play the game. Stallworth was eventually selected to the Hall of Fame (class of 2002).
Many believe Stallworth was part of arguably the greatest draft of all-time. In that same 74 draft, Pittsburgh ended up taking four future Hall of Famers. The others being Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster.
#6 – QB Johnny Unitas – 9th round
Unitas was 9th round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1955 draft. It’s well known that he was one of the best quarterbacks of his generation.
What a lot of people forget, is he was cut before he ever threw a pass in a regular season game. After playing for a mere $6 a game in semi-pro ball, Unitas was signed by the Baltimore Colts.
Needless to say the Colts hit the jackpot. Unitas went on to win the NFL MVP three times and guided Baltimore to a SB title. He was also a 10-time Pro Bowler and 5-time first-team All Pro.
#5 – QB Bart Starr – 17th round
Let’s just keep the QB’s coming. You can’t be overlooked anymore than Starr was. Teams should have just took his last name as an omen.
The statistics will never truly show what Starr brought to the game. Though he did lead the league in passing three times and was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1966.
He also won MVP honors in both Super Bowls I and II. Hard to believe that 199 players were taken before Starr was selected with the 200th pick in 1956.
#4 – RB Terrell Davis – 6th round
Let’s do it this way. Here are some of the backs that were taken ahead of Davis in 1995. Ki-Jana Carter (No. 1 overall) Larry Jones, Aaron Hayden and Travis Jervey. I’m guessing you haven’t heard or remember too many of those names.
However, I’m confident you know Mr. Davis. He led the Broncos to two consecutive championships, winning MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXII.
In a three-year span he rushed for 5,296 yards. That included his 2,008 yards back in the 1998 season. At the time, he was just the 4th player to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.
Injuries limited Davis to just seven seasons, but he definitely made his mark. His lack of longevity is arguably the only thing that has kept him out of the Hall of Fame to this point.
#3 – QB Roger Staubach – 10th round
How did the Heisman Trophy winner from the U.S. Naval Academy drop to the 10th round in the 1964 draft? Staubach had to serve a 4-year commitment to the Navy before he would be able to play. Whoever drafted him wouldn’t see him on the field until 1969.
The Dallas Cowboys decided to take a chance on Staubach and it paid off big. He ended up playing nine seasons with the Cowboys and delivered two Super Bowl titles in VI and XII. In his nine years Dallas played in six NFC Championship Games and a combined four Super Bowls.
#2 – QB Joe Montana – 3rd round
It’s hard to believe that Montana wasn’t drafted until the 3rd round. Scouts weren’t convinced he had the arm strength to make it in the NFL. It just goes to show you that you can’t put too much into the measurements.
Props the 49ers scouts for not letting Montana slip any further than he did. San Francisco selected him with 82nd overall pick in the 1979 draft.
When Montana retired after a remarkable 16-year career, most considered him the best quarterback to every play the game. Montana is known for a perfect 4-0 record in the big game (3-time SB MVP). He was also known as one of the most clutch quarterbacks of his time.
When it was all said and done Montana left with numerous records, two MVP trophies and 8 pro bowls. No surprise that his No. 16 jersey is retired in San Francisco. Montana was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2002.
#1 – QB Tom Brady – 6th round
You can’t talk about sleepers without starting your list with Tom Brady. Like Montana, Brady was completely overlooked coming out of Michigan. Scouts simply didn’t think he had what it takes to be a franchise signal caller.
No one could have guessed that Brady would end up where he is now. Luckily for the Patriots, they snagged him with the 199th pick in the 6th round back in 2000.
Brady has guided New England to six Super Bowl appearances. The most all-time by any quarterback. His Patriots won four of those trips, including the most recent title in 2015. Brady is a 3-time Super Bowl MVP, 2-time league MVP and 11-time Pro Bowler.
When it’s all over, Brady will be regarded as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.