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Top Ten Late Round Picks in NFL History

Find Out Which Late Rounders Will Be Remembered as the NFL's Best

2014 NFL Off-Season

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Stop the presses….it’s officially ONE MONTH until draft day. Seems like just yesterday we were watching the Seahawks effectively trounce the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Now that we’ve made it through 8 solid weeks without football (thank goodness for baseball, y’all), I thought now would be the opportune moment to look back at the top late round draft picks in NFL history. You never can tell who’s going to come out of the 7th round swinging in September. Who knows? One of this year’s picks could be topping this list in another decade. 


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Top Ten Late Round Picks in NFL History


1. Johnny Unitas (QB-Steelers) - Pittsburgh drafted Unitas during the 9th round of the 1955 draft. Theoretically, this was one of the best decisions the Steelers’ brass ever made, but they ended-up cutting Unitas before he even took the field during the regular season. Oops. Unitas was eventually picked-up by the Baltimore Colts, where he played for 18 seasons, accomplishing one remarkable feat after another. To this day, there are few who would argue that Unitas stands alone as the greatest QB to ever play the game. 


2. Tom Brady (QB-Patriots) - Brady, whose only current rival in regard to star power is Peyton Manning, will probably go down in NFL history as the best late round pick of the modern era. Brady is well on his way to the Hall of Fame and has 3 Super Bowl rings. Not bad for a 6th rounder.


3. Bart Starr (QB-Packers) - While Starr’s statistics don’t necessarily rival Unitas’s or Brady’s, he brought an undeniable presence to the field for the Pack. Sometimes intangibles are the most important things, people. Starr was drafted by Green Bay in the 17th round of the 1956 draft, almost as an afterthought. Starr went on to become the MVP of Super Bowls I and II (in 1962 and 1963, respectively) and the league MVP in 1966. 


4. Deacon Jones (DE-Rams) - The Rams picked-up Jones in the 14th round of the 1961 draft. Jones, a graduate of Mississippi Valley State, is often said to have developed the term “sack.” Even though the NFL didn’t officially tally sacks until 1982, Jones would still hold the 3rd spot on the list today with 194.5 sacks. In 1967 and 1968, Jones had 26 sacks and 24 sacks, which remain the most in the league’s history. 


5. Robert Mathis (LB-Colts) - The Colts took Mathis, out of Alabama A&M, in the 5th round in 2003. The kid from the little-known college took Indy by storm and has been one of the cornerstones of the Colts’ D ever since (the only bright spot some years, in fact). In every season of Mathis’s career, he has started in at least 12 games. Furthermore, in addition to going to the Pro Bowl every year since 2008, Mathis played an integral role in the Colts’ 2007 Super Bowl XLI win. 


6. Matt Birk (C-Vikings) - Minnesota took Birk during the 6th round of the 1998 draft. Birk, a Harvard grad, wasn’t expected to do much in the NFL, but turned into one of the NFL’s most memorable centers of all time, both on and off the field (Birk was a decided fan favorite). From 1998-2012, Birk started 187 out of 210 games and won the Vikes’ Man of the Year award a grand total of 6 times. 


7. Shannon Sharpe (TE-Broncos) - Sharpe was taken in the 7th round of the 1990 draft, joining the same Broncos team with which Terrell Davis won 2 consecutive Super Bowls. Sharpe was the first TE in league history to have over 10,000 career receiving yards. Though many of Sharpe’s records were broken by TE Tony Gonzalez, Sharpe changed the position forever and remains an all-time great. 


8. Joe Horn (WR-Chiefs) - Horn was drafted in the 5th round by Kansas City, but made his mark on the NFL during his time with the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans brought Horn on as a free agent in 2000 and he went onto have 94 receptions, 8 TDs, and 1,340 receiving yards during his first year with the club. Horn, a 4 time Saints Pro Bowler, is also a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. 


9. Terrell Davis (RB-Broncos) - Davis, drafted by the Broncos during the 6th round in 1995, went well after RBs like Aaron Hayden, Ki-Jana Carter, and Travis Jervey. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with those names, but I’d wager you remember Davis. Clearly the Broncos’ front office had the right idea when they signed the guy who wound-up amassing 5,296 over 3 years and became the MVP of Super Bowl XXXII.  


10. TJ Houshmandzadeh (WR-Bengals) - Cincinnati drafted Houshmandzedeh 204th overall in 2001, but he really hit his stride starting in 2004. During the 2004-2009 seasons, Houshmandzadeh had over 70 receptions and 900 receiving yards each year. After leaving the Bengals, Houshmandzadeh’s career took a tailspin, but he was still a great late round pick for Cincy’s club.

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