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NFL Draft: Best steals

The NFL's draft system has enabled the league to maintain a measure of competitive balance even though some teams have created dynasties through some sensational late-round steals.

One such example is the Tom Brady pick the New England Patriots made to completely change their fortunes in 2000, and the same can be said of the San Francisco 49ers' selection of Joe Montana 21 years before.

Here's a look at some of the biggest draft-day steals and how they came about.

Tom Brady

Round 6, Pick 199 (2000)

The Patriots were branded lucky for landing the quarterback who would go on to be arguably the NFL's greatest modern-day player with this famously late pick.

Brady was instrumental in helping the franchise win nine AFC titles and six NFL Championships in the next 20 seasons.

But New England were the only team that seemed to be that high on the tall triggerman with a somewhat un-athletic look coming out of college.

Bill Belichick's staff loved Brady's mental makeup and leadership skills, and they were willing to overlook some of the factors that put their rivals off - such as his stiff 40-yard dash at the Combine.

Of the 315 quarterbacks to run at the pre-draft event since, only three ran as slow or slower than Brady's fairly dire 5.28 clock.

Teams were also a bit dubious about Brady because his University of Michigan coach had never really seemed to be fully behind him as the starter.

But the Patriots had him on their radar from the third round onwards and were delighted to see him fall as far as the sixth.

In total, six quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Brady in the 2000 draft. Those six QBs combined to start 191 games and throw 258 touchdowns.

In comparison, Brady won 278 games in his career, seven championship rings, and threw 710 touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs, combined.

Joe Montana 

Round 3, Pick 82 (1979)

Despite being a national championship winner with Notre Dame and leading an epic comeback for the Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl, Montana was considered erratic and not a particularly hot prospect going into the 1979 NFL draft.

There were some negative reports from the scouts who, at one pre-draft combine, rated Montana a six-and-a-half out of nine overall, scoring him just a six for his arm strength.

So when it came to the draft, Montana was not among the most coveted quarterbacks available and he eventually became the fourth signal-caller taken, some way behind first-round picks Jack Thompson, Phil Simms, and Steve Fuller.

The 49ers were rumored to be interested in Simms and Fuller.

But they had lost their first-round pick in a trade for OJ Simpson and both target triggermen were gone by the time new head coach Bill Walsh got to make his first selection.

Walsh shocked 49ers fans by taking a running back with his second-round pick, gambling that Montana would fall into their hands in the third, which he did.

The NFL icon would go on to start and win four NFL Championships and became the first player to be named the game's MVP on three separate occasions.

Read more: Biggest surprises in NFL Draft history

Russell Wilson 

Round 3, Pick 75 (2012)

Wilson finished ninth in Heisman Trophy voting in his senior year after transferring from North Carolina State to Wisconsin, where he threw 33 TDs to just four interceptions and led the 11-3 Badgers to the Rose Bowl.

But concerns over his relative lack of stature saw him fall into the Seahawks' lap in the third round.

He was supposed to sit behind sought-after veteran acquisition Matt Flynn on the depth chart, but instead beat him out in training camp to start a storied career as Seattle's greatest-ever starting quarterback.

Wilson led the Seahawks to NFL Championship success in his second season as a pro, helping his team trounce Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8 before taking the team to the big game again a year later.

Tyreek Hill  

Round 5, Pick 165 (2016)

Hill was on probation following a domestic violence incident some 18 months before when the draft came around.

After being dismissed from Oklahoma State, he played his senior year at West Alabama, recording 1,403 all-purpose yards and scoring eight touchdowns.

Several analysts had suggested the speedster could go undrafted, but the Kansas City Chiefs did their homework and were rewarded royally for their belief that he was worth taking a chance on.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that Hill's counseling for anger management was a big reason why they did it.

As a rookie, he led the league with three kicks returned for touchdowns and racked up 593 receiving yards, but it wasn't until the arrival of Patrick Mahomes as starting QB that things really took off.

Hill quickly established himself as one of the best wide receivers in football and the best vertical threat. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2022, signing a $120 million extension, including $72.2 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid wideout in NFL history.

Read more: NFL Draft dates, schedule, venue, history and more

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