On February 7th, Tom Brady, at the age of 43, led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the 2nd Super Bowl title in franchise history, in his first year with the team. It was his 7th Super Bowl win, and 5th Super Bowl MVP award. Not bad for a guy picked in the 6th round of the NFL draft once upon a time.
In honor of TB12, here are the five greatest draft steals in the history of American professional sports.
Tom Brady (6th round, 199th overall selection)
So, he’s had a nice little career. Promoted to the starting job in the Fall of 2001 after Drew Bledsoe got hurt, Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title over the heavily favored, Greatest-Show-on-Turf Rams and never looked back. Nobody in the history of professional football has had more success, and few have worked harder to maintain it (his off-season workout regimen is legendary). Combining the greatest quarterback of all time with the greatest coach of all time (Bill Belichick) is apparently a solid foundation for a franchise (who would have guessed?), and the football fans of New England were more than well compensated for the many, many years of frustration that preceded the pairing.
Here’s a few Tom Brady factoids to help illustrate his greatness:
- Brady has more Super Bowl rings than John Elway, Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning combined.
- He has more regular season wins than the Houston Texans franchise.
- He’s thrown for more touchdown passes than the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise.
- He has fewer playoff wins than the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. So yeah, that means he has more than EVERYBODY ELSE.
Kobe Bryant (1st round, 13th overall selection)
The only first round pick on my list, Kobe Bryant turned out to be one of four Hall of Famers in the 1996 draft class. Allen Iverson was the easy top pick, and the first round also included two time MVP Steve Nash and sweet shooting Ray Allen. But Kobe was of course the greatest prize of that draft, and he was overlooked by teams that went with such luminaries as Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker, Eric Dampier, Todd Fuller and Vitaly Potapenko. Ouch.
He was an All-Star in his second season (and 15 times overall), and if you were too young to have seen Michael Jordan in his prime, well, watching Kobe was the next best thing. Just like Jordan, he was an incredible two-way player, shutting down the opposing team’s best guard in addition to filling up the stat sheet on the offensive end. Like Jordan, he was maniacally competitive and obsessed with winning. Like Jordan, he played for and won championships alongside brilliant coach Phil Jackson, often while paired with another first-ballot Hall of Famer (Shaquille O’Neal for Bryant, Scottie Pippen for MJ). Only the Portland Trail Blazers are remembered for their stupidity in failing to pick Jordan in 1984 (nobody blamed the Rockets for taking Hakeem Olajuwon), but Kobe was passed up by 12 other teams (13 if you include Charlotte, which picked him and then traded him to Los Angeles), and I’m sure the executives of those franchises have had more than a few sleepless nights as a result.
Deacon Jones (14th round, 186th overall selection)
Perhaps the NFL’s first real sack king (known as the Minister of Defense), Deacon Jones terrorized quarterbacks and offensive lines for 14 seasons (one for each round of the 1961 draft during which he hung around, waiting to be selected). He teamed with Merlin Olson and Rosie Grier (and the lesser known Lamar Lundy) to form the Fearsome Foursome, the anchor of one of the best defensive lines in NFL history. Jones was an All-Pro 5 straight years and second team for 3 others. He made 7 straight Pro Bowls and 8 overall.
What’s really amazing is that he was 6 foot 5 inches tall, weighed 250 pounds, and was fast. Which, you know, would make him, today, a slightly smaller Rob Gronkowski. Who does a nice job playing tight end. The game has CHANGED, people.
Mike Piazza (62nd round, 1,390th overall selection)
I haven’t gone back and checked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 3 or 4 of my friends were chosen ahead of Piazza in the 1988 Major League Baseball draft. I mean, there were one thousand three hundred and eighty-nine people judged to be better baseball players than Mike Piazza, who only went on to become the greatest hitting catcher of all time (assuming you don’t spend any time thinking about Josh Gibson of course). He was famously selected by the Dodgers as a favor by Tommy Lasorda to Piazza’s father, and it DID take 5 years for him to make it the major leagues, but once he did, he won the 1993 Rookie of the Year, finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting on 4 different occasions, and hit more homeruns as a catcher than any player in baseball history (again, with a slight nod to Mr. Gibson and his career homerun total which has been estimated at nearly 800). Steroid rumors notwithstanding, Piazza is certainly one of the 10 best catchers of all time (I would probably put him 4th behind only Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez), and I’m pretty certain that 100 years from now he will still be the only superstar ever selected in the 62nd round of anything.
Albert Pujols (13th round, 402nd overall selection)
Like Kobe Bryant, Albert Pujols showed almost immediately what a steal he was going to be. Manager Tony La Russa said he could tell he was a star early in his first Spring Training, and his rookie year Pujols hit 37 homers with a slash line of .329/.403/.610 for a 1.013 OPS, good enough to win Rookie of the Year and finish 4th in the MVP race. Baseball fans under the age of 20 (there still ARE some young baseball fans, right?) may remember him as the old guy who signed that terrible contract with the Angels, but older fans remember him as the absolute beast who finished in the Top 5 of MVP voting 10 of his first 11 years (he finished 9th in his one “bad” season).
Certainly one of the 5 best hitting first baseman of all time, he was also a great fielder and baserunner during his younger days, and was the heart and soul of 2 Cardinals pennant winners and one World Series Championship.
Commercial Real Estate Broker/Sports Fan
Staff writer at Six Feet Apart, commercial real estate broker for CBRE, Inc., and most importantly, a father of two.