The magnitude of a “steal” is not determined solely by a player’s performance. It’s determined by distance between the performance and the original expectations. And the “expectations” are different depending on the position. For example, since quarterbacks are more valuable commodities, the 3rd round for them is like the 6th round for a center.
You also have to consider external factors that affect a player’s draft position. For example, was a guy coming off an injury that made teams wary, or did he have serious legal issues that made teams wonder if he would even play? Being selected late in the draft because of things like this is not the same as being selected late because teams overlook your inherent value.
With all this laid out, here are some guys that merited consideration for this list of the biggest NFL draft steals but didn’t quite make the cut:
- Bo Jackson – 7th Round, 1987
- Dan Marino – 1st Round, 1983
- Thurman Thomas – 2nd Round, 1988
- Isaac Bruce – 2nd Round, 1994
Jackson is one of the greatest all-around athletes of the modern era and might have been a Hall-of-Famer if his career wasn’t cut short by injuries. However, he’s not one of the biggest draft steals because he actually went 1st overall in 1986 but wouldn’t sign with the Buccaneers. As for the other three, they are all some of the best to ever play their respective skill positions. However, you can’t really say that they got snubbed in the draft. Sure, some guy named Todd Blakcbridge got drafted ahead of Dan Marino, but so did Hall of Famers’s John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Mathews, and Jim Kelly.
The players who actually made the cut here are all bigger steals than these guys…so let’s have a look.