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Stealing is wrong. Every child learns that before they learn to walk. Not only is it wrong, in most cases it's illegal. But sports are different. Stealing is often encouraged. Stolen bases, stealing the basketball, stealing a win, etc. But there is one place where stealing is the ultimate goal. That place is the NFL draft.
It can be huge for a team that gets a player in an unexpected spot. Take for example last year’s biggest steal. The New Orleans Saints grabbed running back Alvin Kamara in the third round with the 67th pick. He ran for 728 yards, had 826 yards receiving and scored 13 total TDs on his way to winning Offensive Rookie Of The Year honors. Who will be this year’s biggest steal? Let’s take a look at some of the contenders.
Rosen & Jackson Could Be Franchise QBs
The Arizona Cardinals lost quarterback Carson Palmer to retirement, and none of their backups were ready to step up. The Cardinals decided to trade up and select Josh Rosen (UCLA) with the 10th overall pick. That was a steal. Rosen had a solid career at UCLA as he threw for 9,340 yards and 59 touchdowns, despite playing in just 30 games. He is much more of an NFL-ready Wyoming's Josh Allen, who went 7th overall to the Bills. The Cardinals appear to have a franchise QB on their hands.
Despite still having Joe Flacco signed to a huge deal, the Ravens traded up to get Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. Many feel that he could be the bargain of the entire NFL draft after his stellar career at Louisville. He was projected to be a middle first-rounder but kept getting passed up, and the Ravens couldn't resist snatching him with the last pick in the first round. The Ravens have already stated that they will look to possibly use Jackson at multiple positions, which is not a bad idea as he is a truly gifted athlete. Some didn’t feel that he will make a good NFL QB, but he all the tools are there, especially if he improves on the 57% completion % he had in college.
Even the Cleveland Browns make the list. Florida wide receiver Antonio Galloway was 61st on the Pro Football Focus pre-draft board but the Browns were able to grab him all the way down at the 105th pick. The reason that he slipped so far was mostly due to the off-the-field problems that seem to follow him around, but on the field, he is a major talent at wideout. He should have gone higher in the draft than he did and as long as he stays out of trouble, the Browns have grabbed one of the bigger potential steals of the draft.
Defensive Steals For The Chargers & Raiders
The Los Angeles Chargers (still not used to saying L.A. Chargers) made great strides in their pass defense last year as they finished 3rd in the league, compared to 20th in 2016. That pass defense got even stronger with the drafting of safety Derwin James (Florida State) with the 17th overall pick. He was projected as a top-five pick before the draft. He is very versatile, and he can match up in man coverage against both the NFL’s big tight ends as well as the smaller, quicker slot receivers. He is also a good pass rusher and appears to have all the tools to make a significant impact for the Chargers this year.
The last of the potentially biggest steals in this year’s draft belongs to the Oakland Raiders. Pro Football Focus projected DT Maurice Hurst (Michigan) as a top-five selection, but because of some health concerns, he slid all the way down to the 140th pick. He just might be a potential game-changer on the defensive side. He is explosive off the ball and is equally adept at defending the run as well as rushing the passer. He was sent home early from the combine due to a heart ailment, but if his heart holds up then he could be one of the best defenders in the league this year. The Raiders quite possibly got a gift in the 5th round.
All of these players have the potential to have huge years for their respective teams as long as health or attitudes don’t get in the way. Next up are sis players who look poised to make the biggest impact in the league this year.