To effectively build a championship-caliber roster in the National Football League, it’s a necessity for teams to find impact players in more than just the first and second rounds of the NFL draft. While hitting a home run and landing a perennial All-Pro player in the first round is nice, it doesn’t always equate to success in the win/loss column. On the other hand, consistently hitting on middle- and late-round picks virtually ensures that a franchise will win a lot of games.
In today’s NFL landscape — where the league’s hard salary cap makes it nearly impossible to build a team through free agency — finding game-changing talent in rounds three through seven is pretty much a requirement for the long-term success of most franchises. Players who fall into this category typically carry salary cap hits that are slightly above league-minimum salaries.
If they turn out to be the type of player who Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick in 2016, is for the Dallas Cowboys, it gives teams a great deal of financial flexibility — at least until they must sign the player to a big-money contract extension. Additionally, if a middle- or late-round pick flops, teams can easily cut ties with him without taking on a huge dead-money salary cap hit.
There is a good chance that we’ll eventually remember guys like Prescott, Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (seventh round), Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (fifth round), and Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (fourth round) as some of the biggest steals in NFL draft history. But they still have work to do before joining our list. With that being said, these are the 25 biggest draft steals in NFL history.