With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching and everyone debating on whether or not the Rams will pick Carson Wentz or Jared Goff with the first pick, I wanted to celebrate those who weren’t looked at so highly in draft history. The sleepers in the draft are always the most fun to watch when they’re in the NFL, provide for some great storylines and, in some cases, win their teams Super Bowls. Here are the top six sleepers in NFL Draft history.
6. Johnny Unitas – Ninth Round
Johnny Unitas is one of the best to ever throw a football in the NFL, and some may not even realize he was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was cut before he ever played a game for them, and then was eventually picked up by the Baltimore Colts after a semi-pro stint. He then went on to win himself a Super Bowl title, 10 Pro Bowl nominations and five First Team All-Pro nominations. However, he’s so far back on the list because of the limited means of scouting and analyzing players back in the day, and therefore may have been passed on solely because of the time period.
5. Terrell Davis – Sixth Round
This one is crazy to think about. Terrell Davis wasn’t picked up until the Denver Broncos went after him in the sixth round. He then would go on to become one of the best running backs of all-time, and would lead his team to two straight Super Bowl wins, and was MVP in one of them. He was the fourth player to ever eclipse the 2,000 yard mark in a season, and is truly one of the greats to rush out of the backfield. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before TD makes his way to the Hall of Fame, but many critics believe his short career will hinder that.
4. Shannon Sharpe – Seventh Round
Some of these players actually surprised me with how low they got picked as I was researching them, and Shannon Sharpe is definitely one of them. He wasn’t picked up until the seventh round, but surely made a name for himself in the league as one of the greatest tight-ends of all-time. He finished his career with over 800 receptions, over 10,000 yards, and over 60 touchdowns, and is up there with Tony Gonzalez and Mike Ditka as true greats at his position. Not to mention he led his team to three Super Bowl wins, but who cares about that.
3. Roger Staubach – Tenth Round
I had a tough time putting this one this high on the list given the circumstances when Roger Staubach was drafted. Sure, he was good. He won the Heisman Trophy while playing at the U.S. Naval Academy, and was the top player in college football at the time. However, he had to serve four years with the Navy before he would be able to play in the league, which meant four years for whatever team would draft him of not playing him. Luckily for the Cowboys, they went after him in the tenth round, and they were rewarded with two Super Bowl wins, four Super Bowl appearances, and six NFC Championship appearances. Safe to say, Staubach was worth the wait.
2. Joe Montana – Third Round
This one isn’t as bad as some of the other misses on this list, but it’s up there. The second-greatest quarterback in NFL history somehow slipped to the third round, and gifted 49ers fans with years of success. Critics didn’t think he had the arm strength to succeed in the NFL, and he showed them that they were dead wrong. When Montana retired after his 16-year career of winning, he was considered (at the time) the greatest quarterback to ever step onto the field. Montana is known for a perfect 4-0 record in the Super Bowl, where he was a three-time MVP, and he came up in the clutch for the 49ers on multiple occasions. It’s crazy to think how well he did for a third-round pick.
1. Tom Brady – Sixth Round
You knew this was coming. Tom Brady, with no doubt in anyone’s mind, is the greatest sleeper in NFL Draft history. Six Super Bowl appearances, four Super Bowl wins, two-time NFL MVP, 11-time Pro Bowler, has led the Patriots to the playoffs in all but one season in his starting career, and was drafted in the sixth round. You’ve probably heard of the “Brady Six”: the six quarterbacks drafted before Brady in the 1999 NFL Draft. Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn. None of those players combined could match up with Brady’s stats. Brady delivered the New England Patriots organization an absolute gift, and is still chugging along at 38 years old.