Ward proves to be third-round bargain
From Tom Brady to Brian Westbrook, ESPN.com ranks the top 50 draft steals.
And then there is Steve Largent. Taken in the fourth round by Houston and later traded to Seattle, he went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Seahawks.
Here are our top 50 draft steals. These lists reflect players selected since the NFL and the old American Football League merged drafts in 1967. For now, we'll leave off recent bargains such as QB Derek Anderson, WRs Anquan Boldin and Marques Colston, DE Osi Umenyiora and CB Asante Samuel until their impressive early careers play out.
Apparently, both the Eagles and the Falcons missed the boat on Kuechenberg, who was grabbed by Don Shula during his first season in Miami. A mere 14 seasons and 196 games later with the Dolphins, the one-time Golden Domer had played in four Super Bowls and was named to six Pro Bowls.
The standout offensive lineman out of little known Idaho overcame numerous surgeries, played a dozen seasons with the Redskins (six) and Broncos (six), was a member of three Super Bowl championship squads and went to the Pro Bowl twice.
Ward flew under the radar coming out of college, mostly because he bounced around from wide receiver to running back to quarterback with the Bulldogs. His ability to play strictly receiver was a bit of an unknown. Four Pro Bowls later, everyone knows of Ward's skills as a receiver and blocker extraordinaire.
The former Golden Domer added grit and toughness to an already physical Giants team. In his nine seasons with New York, Cleveland and Philadelphia, Bavaro totaled 351 catches for 39 scores and was a huge part of Big Blue's championship teams of 1986 and 1990.
McCardell was cut before playing a game with the Redskins. However, after slowly improving over three years with the Browns, he was signed to a big free-agent deal by the Jaguars in 1996. He would go on to top the 1,000-yard mark five times and make Pro Bowl appearances with the Jaguars and Bucs.
The Chargers were coming off a playoff season and were looking to add some depth at quarterback, but Green would never play a game with the Bolts. Currently the backup to Rams QB Marc Bulger, the former Hoosier has passed for 27,950 yards and 162 touchdowns.
The Saints would be a playoff team in 2000 under then-head coach Jim Haslett and seemed set at quarterback with QBs Aaron Brooks and Jeff Blake. Bulger's tenure in New Orleans was short-lived and he wound up in St. Louis, where he has been a very productive quarterback and made two Pro Bowls.
The Seahawks passed on running backs such as John Avery and Skip Hicks but landed Green in the third round. Unfortunately, the Seahawks didn't know what they had. They traded Green to Green Bay, where he rushed for over 8,000 yards in seven years with the Packers.
When the Cowboys selected Brown in the 12th round in 1991, chances are they weren't expecting to land a future Super Bowl MVP. Brown became a starter for the Cowboys in 1991, was an integral part of their early '90s dynasty and was in the right place at the right time in Super Bowl XXX, picking off Pittsburgh QB Neil O'Donnell twice.
Although Glover's stay with the Silver and Black lasted a mere two games, he made a combined half-dozen Pro Bowl appearances for the Saints and Cowboys. Glover led the league in sacks during his 2000 season in New Orleans.
Bill Walsh made a habit of finding draft gems and found a great one in Sapolu. A starter at left guard in Super Bowls XXIII and XXIX and center in Super Bowl XXIV, Sapolu was also named to a pair of Pro Bowls.
While Lett's name always comes up around Thanksgiving and Super Bowl time thanks to his blunders, it's often forgotten that he was a quality defensive tackle who went to two Pro Bowls and was part of an unsung Dallas defense that helped win three Super Bowls in four seasons.
The Bengals have had one of the best receiving tandems in the league for a number of years, and Houshmandzadeh had his moment in the spotlight last season. In 2007, the former Beaver tied for the NFL lead with 112 receptions and went to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
The Pats have squeezed just about everything out of the former Marshall product, who was one of Bill Parcells' picks in his first draft in New England. Along with his 557 career receptions, Brown, who is currently unsigned, has contributed on special teams and defense, totaling three interceptions during the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXIX season.
The Packers have one of the young and emerging defensive units in the league, led by a deep line. But the key member of that front is the determined Kampman, who annually leads all Packers defensive linemen in tackles and has 27.5 sacks and a pair of Pro Bowl appearances in the past two seasons.
Horn's pro career actually began in the Canadian Football League with the now-defunct Memphis Mad Dogs. In a dozen NFL seasons with the Chiefs, Saints and Falcons, Horn has caught 603 passes for 8,744 yards and 58 TDs. He has been named to four Pro Bowls.
The Eagles were in need of a running back and made the wise decision to pass on guys such as William Green and Ladell Betts in the first two rounds. Westbrook led the league in total yards from scrimmage a year ago and has recently been the Eagles' most consistent offensive weapon.
Russell S. Baxter, Ryan McCrystal, Jon D. Kramer, Jon T. Stewart, Chris Fallica and Paul Kinney of ESPN research contributed to this report.
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RANKING NFL DRAFT STEALS
Terrell Davis was selected by the Broncos in the sixth round of the '95 draft with little to no expectations. He finished his career with four 1,000-yard seasons and two Super Bowls titles. Below are ESPN.com's top 50 NFL draft steals. In Part 1, ESPN.com ranked draft busts.
• Top 50 draft steals: 1-15 | 16-30 | 31-50
• Kiper: 10 guys who surprised me
• Williamson: Waiting was hard for Sharpe
• Walker: Byner use 'Fumble' as coaching tool
• Mosley: Wright a respected ex-player, voice
• Sando: Houston keeps football, life in perspective
• Zoom Gallery: Notable steals
• SportsNation: Rank the top 10 steals
• Hashmarks: Draft steals for the ages, pre-1967
• Watch: Marcellus Wiley analysis
FROM BRADY TO WESTBROOK
1. Tom Brady, Patriots (2000)
2. Joe Montana, 49ers (1979)
3. Steve Largent, Oilers (1976)
4. Shannon Sharpe, Broncos (1990)
5. Ken Houston, Oilers (1967)
6. Terrell, Davis, Broncos (1995)
7. Andre Reed, Bills (1985)
8. L.C. Greenwood, Steelers (1969)
9. Charles Haley, 49ers (1986)
10.Rodney Harrison, Chargers (1994)
11. Charlie Joiner, Oilers (1969)
12. Art Shell, Raiders (1968)
13. Dan Fouts, Chargers (1973)
14. Richard Dent, Bears (1983)
15. Zach Thomas, Dolphins (1996)
16. John Stallworth, Steelers (1974)
17. Rayfield Wright, Cowboys (1992)
18. Harry Carson, Giants (1976)
19. Dwight Clark, 49ers (1979)
20. Seth Joyner, Eagles (1986)
21. Mark Clayton, Dolphins (1983)
22. Mike Webster, Steelers (1974)
23. Harold Carmichael, Eagles (1971)
24. Earnest Byner, Browns (1984)
25. John Taylor, 49ers (1986)
26. Clyde Simmons, Eagles (1979)
27. Hardy Nickerson, Steelers (1987)
28. Matt Hasselbeck, Packers (1998)
29. Jamal Anderson, Falcons (1994)
30. Karl Mecklenburg, Broncos (1983)
31. Bob Kuechenberg, Eagles (1969)
32. Mark Schlereth, Redskins (1989)
33. Hines Ward, Steelers (1998)
34. Mark Bavaro, Giants (1985)
35. Keenan McCardell, Redskins (1991)
36. Trent Green, Chargers (1993)
37. Greg Lloyd, Steelers (1987)
38. Marc Bulger, Saints (2000)
39. Tyrone Braxton, Broncos (1987)
40. Ahman Green, Seahawks (1998)
41. Larry Brown, Cowboys (1991)
42. Brian Sipe, Browns (1972)
43. La'Roi Glover, Raiders (1996)
44. Jesse Sapolu, 49ers (1983)
45. Leon Lett, Cowboys (1991)
46. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals (2001)
47. Troy Brown, Patriots (1993)
48. Aaron Kampman, Packers (2002)
49. Joe Horn, Chiefs (1996)
50. Brian Westbrook, Eagles (2002)
RANKING NFL DRAFT BUSTS
In the first of a special two-part report on the draft, ESPN.com's ranked the top 50 draft busts.
• Top 50 draft busts: 1-15 | 16-30 | 31-50
• Kiper: 10 guys I can't believe failed
• Walker: Shuler enjoying second stint in D.C.
• Mosley: Leaf now at peace with NFL failure
• Yasinskas: No room for football for Westbrook
• Zoom Gallery: Notable busts
• SportsNation: Rank the top 10 busts
• Watch: Marcellus Wiley analysis