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Top 10 Best Under-the-Radar Picks in NFL Draft History

With the league continuously growing in popularity and worldwide reach, the NFL Draft has become one of the most important events in the league’s yearly calendar.

While before, the event was more devoted for league and team executives to go about their dealings, trying to snatch up the best available prospects out of college, nowadays everybody wants in on who the best NFL draft players are.

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots/Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

The funny thing about the draft is that sometimes, the most hyped prospects don’t usually end up shining brightest in the league. And furthermore, at times, teams can end up scoring immense draft wins with under-the-radar picks that initially don’t really offer that much value and end up becoming pivotal pieces for the franchises.

As we wait for the 2024 NFL Draft, let’s break down a list of the top 10 best under the radar picks in NFL draft history.


1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 6th Round, 2000 NFL Draft

Of course, this list had to start with not only the greatest football player of all time, but the biggest under-the-radar pick of all time as well – former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.

To this day it’s still mind boggling that 198 players were picked before Brady. We’re talking about a player who would go on to be a seven-time Super Bowl champion, five-time Super Bowl MVP winner, three-time NFL MVP Award winner, two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 15-time Pro Bowler and five-time NFL passing TD leader, among many, many other accolades.

As a New York Jets fan, I will always hate Brady. But as a football fan, there’s no discussion here. Brady is the GOAT, and the Patriots will always have bragging rights for snagging up the biggest under-the-radar pick in draft history.

2. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers, 3rd Round, 1979

Before Patrick Mahomes came along and gave the NFL GOAT debate a new outlook, whenever the question of who the NFL’s greatest player was arose amongst NFL news sites, the options would be Tom Brady or Joe Montana, the legendary San Francisco 49ers QB.

Montana, who was initially projected to go high in the 1979 draft, especially after leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the 1977 national title, ended up dropping to the 82nd overall pick in the third round of the 1979 draft.

Needless to say, after winning four Super Bowl titles with the Niners with three Super Bowl MVP awards as well, alongside two NFL MVP awards, three First-Team All Pro recognitions, eight Pro Bowl nods and plenty other awards, Montana made his mark as the best QB, and player in general to ever play the game.

At least until Brady, and now Mahomes, showed up.

3. Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys, 10th Round, 1964 Draft

Back in the 1964 draft, Roger Staubach, out of Navy, would be selected with the 129th pick of the draft by the Dallas Cowboys. What would come afterward would be history in the making as Staubach would help his franchise rise to end up becoming “America’s Team.”

Staubach, who had to go through a mandatory four-year military service that saw him be a part of the Vietnam War, would have to wait to join the league. But once he did, he would go on to win the Super Bowl twice, all while playing in the league title game a total of five times.

4. Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers, 17th Round, 1956

Continuing on with legendary QBs, how about a mention to Vince Lombardi’s main weapon with the five-time NFL champion Green Bay Packers – QB Bart Starr.

Being selected with the 200th – yes, I said 200th – pick in the 1956 draft by the Packers, Starr would go on to become a superstar, winning the MVP award in the league’s first two Super Bowls.

When looking at Starr’s career stats, one can’t help but wonder how teams would continuously pass up on him, leading to the Packers taking him as one of the best remaining players in the NFL draft in ’56. It’s 199 players before him we’re talking about here.

Good call on Green Bay.

5. Johnny Unitas, Pittsburgh Steelers, 9th Round, 1955

Another QB? Really? Well, it’s Johnny Unitas being mentioned here, aka football royalty.

Picked 102nd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the ninth round of the 1955 draft, Unitas would go on to become a game-changing passer, establishing in 1960 a record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass. That record would stand for over 50 years until Drew Brees broke it back in 2012.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the final drive in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” – the 1958 NFL Championship Game – was orchestrated and directed by Unitas as the Baltimore Colts would go on to defeat the New York Giants.

6. Andre Reed, Buffalo Bills, 4th Round, 1985

Who doesn’t remember that late 1980’s, early ‘90’s Buffalo Bills team that made it to the Super Bowl on a record breaking four straight occasions?

With players like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, James Lofton, Kent Hull and many others leading the pack, this was an almost unbeatable team.

Yes, I know, I said almost.

Those four consecutive Super Bowl trips would end up in four consecutive Super Bowl losses, a record that to this day haunts the team, its loyal fan base, and many NFL betting lines fans who lost a lot of money betting on the Bills.

Coming back to a positive note, with the 86th pick of the 1985 draft, the Bills would go on to select one of the best wide receivers to ever grace their uniform in Andre Reed.

Having earned seven Pro Bowl nods, all while raking up 87 receiving touchdowns and 13,198 receiving yards on 951 receptions, Reed was the epitome of excellence for Buffalo’s offense back in the day.

7. Deacon Jones, Los Angeles Rams, 14th Round, 1961

I’ll give a dollar, or even two on a good day to whoever can tell me who coined the term “sack” in the NFL?

No? No answer? It was former Los Angeles Rams legend Deacon Jones, the 186th overall pick in the 1961 draft.

Spanning most of his career with the Rams, Jones would become a generational legend at defensive end for the Rams and a living nightmare for all opposing quarterbacks who faced him. In his career in the pros, Jones would win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award twice as well as earning five First-Team All Pro honors, eight Pro Bowl nods and the honor of being named to the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.

8. Richard Dent, Chicago Bears, 8th Round 1983 Draft

How could I skip out on putting former Chicago Bears legend Richard Dent here? Not only did Dent form a part of that 1985 Super Bowl-winning team that gave the Patriots a whooping of a lifetime (46-10). He was the game’s MVP, and had a solo performance in the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video.

Dent, who was picked up by the Bears with the 203rd pick in the eighth round of the 1983 draft, was one of the best pass rushers in the ‘80s, especially after coming up through Buddy Ryan’s “46 defense” system.

Leaving the Bears 10 years after being drafted, he would join the 49ers and would once again win a Super Bowl.

So in short, to add to those two Super Bowl titles and one Super Bowl MVP award, add one First-Team All Pro recognition and four Pro Bowl nods, all for the kid coming from Tennessee State University.

9. Shannon Sharpe, Denver Broncos, 7th Round, 1990

Yes, you might know him as the loud-mouth sports commentator, because nowadays that’s what he’s mostly famous for. But there once was a time when Shannon Sharpe wasn’t all about running up NFL rumors of fights in Lakers games. Before all that, he was arguably one of the best, if not the best tight end of his era.

Having won three Super Bowl titles, two with the Denver Broncos, who would select him with the 192nd pick in the seventh round of the 1990 draft, and a last one with the Baltimore Ravens, Sharp was a force to be reckoned with on and off the field.

10. Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos, 6th Round, 1995

I’ll throw down with whoever wants to say that Terrell Davis wasn’t the best running back of the late 90s. If injuries hadn’t cut his career short, we would probably be talking about Davis as a top-three choice for best running backs of all time.

I dare you to prove me wrong. Heck, I’ll put up a cool chunk of change to bet on NFL action to whoever can prove me wrong.

Thankfully, with his stats and awards, which include two Super Bowl rings, one Super Bowl MVP title, an NFL MVP award, two NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards, three First-Team All-Pro recognitions, as well as three Pro Bowl nods, any argument gets automatically trumped.

Selected by the Broncos with the 196th pick in round six of the 1995 draft, Davis was almost too good to be true. If only he would have gotten a few more years to play.

Honorable Mention: Cris Carter, Philadelphia Eagles, 4th Round, 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft

Many remember Cris Carter from his time with the Minnesota Vikings.

I know I do.

I was a year old when Carter was drafted in the fourth round of the 1987 NFL supplemental draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Having three good but not great nor memorable seasons with the Eagles, it was in 1990 where Carter would pull off the move that would change his life forever.

After being released by Philly and joining the Vikings, Carter would go on to have an incredible stretch of eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, eight Pro Bowl nods and a couple of first-team All-Pro honors. He would tally 130 receiving touchdowns and over 13,000 receiving yards in his career.

There was a time in the ’90s when the Vikings were the hottest NFL betting ticket in town, and it was mainly because of Carter’s production numbers.

Needless to say, Carter is the only supplemental draft pick that has made it to the NFL Hall of Fame.



Questions Of The Day

When Is The 2024 NFL Draft?

The 2024 NFL Draft will be held April 25-27 around Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza in Detroit, Mich.

Which Player Has The Best Odds To Go First In The NFL Draft?

According to BetUS Sportsbook, Caleb Williams, former USC QB, has the best odds to be selected first overall in this year’s NFL Draft.


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