On May 8, hundreds of the country’s best collegiate athletes will be biting their nails, hoping they get selected by their favorite destinations amongst the teams at the 2014 NFL Draft.
For weeks leading up to the annual event, we’ve heard all about stocks going up and stocks going down with the future of potential rookies debated constantly.
That debate is important, too, because it is mostly based on what seasoned, professional scouts think. The higher a certain player’s capabilities are in their minds, the higher you can expect that player to go in the NFL.
But then there are the other players. The ones who break every expectation and every projection that has been set for them.
These players are the true gems of the draft and in this list we salute them. So, here are your 10 best players in recent memory who defied the expectations for late-round picks at the NFL Draft.
Richard Sherman - Seattle Seahawks
Today, you might know the Seattle Seahawks star as Richard “Don’t you ever talk about me!” Sherman, the superstar cornerback who is, most importantly, one of the reigning Superbowl champions.
Ahead of the 2011 draft, however, Sherman didn’t have the scouting report of a champion. In fact, he didn’t even have the look of a cornerback, period. Sherman was also a wide receiver at Stanford University, where he played with Andrew Luck.
He even admits that he doesn’t have the type of athleticism that usually wows professional scouts. What he does have though is an insane attention to detail and an unquenchable willingness to study the game. And he fully credits his success now to that desire.
Tom Brady - New England Patriots
There are no two ways around this one. For a decade now, Tom Brady has been the gold standard quarterback.
Simply put, he is just too good. But if you ever hear commentators give tidbits about his pre-NFL past, it never sounds like he had the most illustrious of amateur careers, at least for superstar standards. In high school, Brady was once a third-string quarterback on a winless football team.
At Michigan, he never had the type of numbers that were Heisman worthy. By the time he got drafted in the 2001 NFL by the New England Patriots, he was supposed to be nothing more than your average sixth round pick back-up.
Fast forward to an injury to Patriots starter Drew Bledsoe and, over a decade later, Brady has three Superbowl rings, numerous individual awards and a supermodel wife. What a come-up.
Donald Driver - Green Bay Packers
This former Alcorn State standout was cutting it awfully close to becoming “Mr. Irrelevant,” the title handed down to the last pick of the draft each year.
By the time Driver retired, though, in 2012, he was far from that. Driver was a model of consistency in Green Bay. A one-team man who had four Pro Bowl nomination spread across his career, Driver got his reward when he landed a Superbowl XLV ring a few years back.
As of now, he is the Packers’ all-time receptions leader and his record doesn’t look like it’ll be receiving any threats soon. Not bad for a seventh round pick.
Adalius Thomas - Baltimore Ravens
Thomas may have been part of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens championship season, but he was far from a huge factor in the game.
In fact, Thomas was mainly a special teams starter in Baltimore for three years before he claimed his starting spot in the heart of B-More’s defense. Once he established himself though, it became clear that he was a monster.
His performances earned him two NFL All-Pro selections, a result that defied his selection in the sixth round of the 2000 Draft.
Stevie Johnson - Buffalo Bills
Johnson is another wide receiver who leapt out of nowhere after being picked in the seventh round. The Buffalo Bills standout is quite simply the sleeper of all sleeper picks.
Since joining the Bills, Johnson has grown a reputation as a big-play receiver, averaging nearly 13 yards per catch during his young career, which has earned him a hefty new contract with Buffalo.
Few could have guess this outcome when he was selected at the 224th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Marques Colston - New Orleans Saints
Out of this list, Colston probably deserves the award for the quickest scouting reporting-defying breakout. From the first year he got drafted, in 2006 by the New Orleans Saints, Colston has been a standout.
Since his entry into the league as the 252nd (252nd!!!) overall pick, he has averaged over around 1,000 reception yards per season, making sure no one needs to ask “Who Dat!?” when he steps on the field.
We all know. HE is Marques Colston, a Saints standout and a Superbowl XLIV champion.
Robert Mathis - Indianapolis Colts
Oh, Mathis is a mean man. Rest assured, you wouldn’t want him running at you in the pocket. But ahead of the 2003 draft, few, if any, were predicting Mathis to be a monster of a D-Lineman.
His selection in the 5th round by a team that was notorious for having a poor defense, the Colts, didn’t help matters either. Since then, however, Mathis has gained four Pro Bowl selections.
Cortland Finnegan — Tennessee Titans
If you’re a fan who only judges players on Sportcenter highlights, you might remember Finnegan best for getting into a fist-fight on the field in a game against the Houston Texans.
But Finnegan is more than that moment. The 2006 7th round selection fought against the fate of getting cut by his team, and became one of Tennessee best players with great performances, the likes of which landed him 2008 All-Pro honors.
Shannon Sharpe — Denver Broncos
We’ve had to reach a little bit far back for this one, but the current CBS NFL anchor was a beast of a tight-end in his day. Today, we know him as Shannon Sharpe of the annoyingly good Denver Broncos.
Back in 1990, however, he was a relative nobody, and his 7th round selection in that year’s draft proved as much.
What did Sharpe do at that point? Oh, nothing, just landed himself on eight Pro Bowl teams, four All-Pro teams while copping three Superbowl rings. No big deal.
Elway to Sharpe FTW!
Michael Bennett — Undrafted
This former Texam A&M Aggie is one of a number of late round draftees who have stood out for the Seattle Seahawks.
His case, however, should come with an asterisk, as he was not drafted... period. Yes, Bennett went through the 2009 draft without having his name called at all, but you wouldn’t know it by his recent fortunes.
In the past two season, Bennett averaged 9.0 sacks per campaign, while his impressive performances for the Seahawks this year helped Seattle claim the label as the league’s no. 1 defense.
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