“He was projected to go like rd2 but the Colts “reached” and took him at pick 11. Later another top-15 team said they were clearly planning to take him and thought they were safe based on mocks (the Cardinals I think),”WiSeIVIaN recollected. Freeney has one of the most incredible records on this entire list because he was so good throughout his career. He even won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.
But lots of players win Super Bowl rings just by being in the right place at the right time. Freeney demonstrated his talents consistently as he became a seven-time Pro Bowler. One of the best defensive ends of his generation, he was dominant and led the league in sacks in 2004. In hindsight, it is crazy to imagine that some teams thought they were taking a chance by pursuing him.
“Many draftniks had him ranked below Darnold, Rosen, and Allen yet he went No. 1 overall. It’s still a bit early to say he’s worked out but so far it is extremely promising,”benedictcumberpatch said. Mayfield is one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in recent NFL history because of his attitude and output on the field. His rookie season was excellent but his sophomore year was appalling.
However, he turned it around again in year three as he helped the Browns to a rare postseason appearance and brought joy to an entire city. Mayfield is undoubtedly gifted and had an incredible college career. But a lot of fans and analysts questioned him after that poor second year and doubted him. It is excessive to call him a steal but considering that Allen is the only other success story from the aforementioned names, the Browns will be happy.
“Marlon Humphrey, at least so far. Nobody had him going that early, but he looks like he’s blossoming into a top-tier corner,”hossboss69 commented. The Baltimore Ravens were happy to land their man in the first round of the draft and he didn’t let them down. His performances earned him Pro Bowl selections and made him a fan-favorite in Maryland. In short, it was an incredible steal.
In 2020, the Ravens signed him up to a contract worth almost $100 million. This was well-earned because he was so consistent and influential on the playing field. Alabama-born-and-bred, he gave everything to the Crimson Tide before he arrived in the NFL. Sports Illustrated considered him the fifth-best corner in the 2017 draft but he is out on his own as one of the best in the league.
“Todd Gurley. I mean, he was a consensus first-round talent, but due to position and his knee was thought to be a late first at best. The Rams got pretty panned for taking him at 10. Safe to say it’s worked out pretty well for us,”CB1984 reflected. While injuries eventually ended Gurley’s tenure in Los Angeles, it’s safe to say that the first few years were incredible for Gurley and the franchise.
He won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2015. Then, two years later, he picked up the Offensive Player of the Year award. Meanwhile, he led the league in rushing touchdowns on two occasions and made two Pro Bowl appearances. Gurley was electric at his peak before injuries took their toll. Finally, in 2020, he departed the Rams for the Atlanta Falcons in a bid to revive his fortunes.
“The best pick recently that fans thought was a reach for the Packers that I can think of was Kenny Clark. He turned out to be a beast,”GridironFootballer said. Clark was a late first-round selection in 2016. Nowadays, Green Bay fans believe it was a steal because he emerged as a ferocious nose tackle. Quite simply, Clark is like a rhinoceros in human form because he’s such a powerhouse.
Clark truly announced himself in 2018 when he outperformed his previous years with the Packers. Finally, after he completed his five-year rookie deal, they signed him up to a massive mega-money contract. This pleased many fans because they wanted to keep the popular former UCLA star in Wisconsin. Clark has the potential to be a mainstay in his position long into the future.
“I remember the 2011 NFL offseason like it was last week. I remember the anger Panther fans online felt after Luck stayed in school. There was a rumor that Harbaugh had advised Luck to avoid the Panthers a la Eli Manning. It got so big that Oliver Luck went onto local radio to denounce that rumor,”Sturdevant recollected. It’s safe to say that Newton wasn’t a bad option for the Panthers, at least initially.
Andrew Luck was one of the best talents of his generation but he wasn’t available. Then, Newton proved himself by winning the NFL MVP award. While injuries affected his later career with the Panthers and then the Patriots, there’s no denying his talent. “With Cam Newton, they didn’t see him as a reach so much as just a polarizing prospect. If you didn’t think he’d be a total bust, he was easily the 1st overall pick,”sfzen confirmed.
“Jerod Mayo of the Patriots was one,”finnwormser said. “He was considered a bit of a reach at #10 overall, but he had a bunch of above-average seasons and a few really good ones. Unfortunately, his career ended a little early because of injuries but I heard he’s back with the Patriots as a linebackers coach.” Mayo won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in his first season as he proved his ability.
But he also proved his incredible loyalty to the Patriots and Bill Belichick made him a member of his coaching staff after his retirement. A Super Bowl champion and a two-time Pro Bowler, Mayo had some superb success on the playing field. Mayo’s work ethic is the stuff of legend. He never took his draft status for granted and worked hard on and off the field. No wonder Belichick holds him in such high regard.
“Mahomes was seen as a Clelin Ferrell type reach (~15 spots higher than expected to go) in 2017. It’s turned out okay,”IIHURRlCANEII pointed out. It’s evident that Mahomes is a generational talent, but this was by no means a guarantee when the Chiefs picked him up in the first round. But they did the right thing and redshirted him for his rookie year. Then, he exploded into life in 2018 and turned Kansas City into a force.
“Great one. I do recall plenty of people ripping the Chiefs about taking a QB so early that was a developmental QB, and while they had Alex Smith under contract and playing well,”AKraiderfan noted. Andy Reid and his staff deserve immense credit for the manner in which they guided Mahomes and fine=tuned him for the NFL. A Super Bowl champion and multi-time Pro Bowler, they definitely pulled off a steal.
“Bruce Irvin was a huge surprise at 15 and played a key role in that Super Bowl,”ImanShumpertplus observed. Irvin had influential roles in more than one Super Bowl but at least earned one ring. He helped the Patriots overcome the Broncos in 2013 and was an integral presence on the field. However, he became the first player to suffer the indignity of a Super Bowl ejection when the Patriots defeated his Seahawks in 2014.
“Yeah, not a superstar like a lot of other players being mentioned, but he was a very productive player on our defense and was widely seen as a reach when we drafted him. We haven’t really been able to find a good 3rd LB since he left,”hendrix67 said. Irvin wasn’t the most glamorous player but he was a tremendous athlete and his effectiveness was incredible. Every Super Bowl-winning team needs this.
“I remember Texans fans getting really p***ed in 2011 “reaching” for JJ Watt. Everybody was so mad we would get an unathletic DE over Prince Amukamara. Gotta say that turned out to be a good “reach” on the Texans part,”RhoAlphaPhii said. Many Texans fans were in tears when Watt finally departed Houston for Arizona in 2021. This was because of his incredible commitment to the team.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year broke every meaningful Texans’ record during his time with the franchise. He also led the league in sacks on two occasions. Meanwhile, a quick glance at one of his workouts illustrates that Watt is an incredible animal. His ferocious tackling and superb positional play make him one of the best defensive ends out there.
“Kyle Long wanted to return to school for one more year to improve his skills and increase his value. but the NCAA turned him down for a medical redshirt and forced him to go pro, too,”Hyperdrunk said. He applied for one more year of eligibility but after the NCAA’s refusal, he ended up playing for the Chicago Bears. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the former Oregon star.
Many fans criticized the Bears’ decision but it turned out to be a good one. “Long was only a starter for like half a season in college, and it was due to an injury. His age was less of a factor than the fact that he was a major unknown with fairly limited tape,”TheManWhoWasNotShort recalled. He became a three-time Pro Bowler during this time in the Windy City so it was an incredible decision.
“This has to be the winner, Ed Reed is without a doubt the best safety to ever play,”andyzaltzman1 agreed. “Probably the best DB to ever play, and easily one of the best defenders of the last 30 years.” This is not an overstatement by any means. Reed was an incredible athlete and deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame. He is one of Baltimore’s greatest ever players and deserves his place at the top of this list.
A Super Bowl winner with the Ravens, he was also the Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. Reed was a nine-time Pro Bowler and led the league in interceptions. Meanwhile, he is also a massive personality and this endeared him to the fans. Every generation a player comes along who changes the game and Reed was one of these. Quite simply, he was outstanding and a top athlete.