The 10 Biggest NFL Draft Steals Of The Decade So Far (SINCE 2020) (2024)

The 10 Biggest NFL Draft Steals Of The Decade So Far (SINCE 2020) (1)

We’re not even halfway through the 2020s decade, and yet we have already seen plenty of unexpected day two and three picks come out of nowhere to blossom into superstars. For this list, we’re focusing only on guys who were drafted in the middle of the second round or later. So with four NFL seasons down in the 2020s, let’s take a look back on the ten biggest draft steals of the decade.

Which biggest draft steal impressed you the most in the NFL?

Jalen Hurts

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It’s hard to believe now, but Jalen Hurts’s selection at No. 53 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft was highly scrutinized at the time.

The Philadelphia Eagles already had a veteran quarterback in Carson Wentz, who had signed a $128 million extension less than a year earlier. Hindsight is 20/20, but GM Howie Roseman hasn’t looked smarter since his making this move.

Wentz endured a miserable final season with the Eagles in 2020, and he was benched in favor of Hurts for the final four games. The Oklahoma product did just enough to secure the starting gig for 2021 under rookie head coach Nick Sirianni, and the Eagles have not looked back.

Fast forward to 2024. Hurts has led the Eagles to three straight playoff appearances, including a trip to Super Bowl 57. Philly narrowly lost a heartbreaker to the Kansas City Chiefs, a game they would have likely won if not for a horrible holding call against James Bradberry.


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Hurts has emerged as one of the game’s top dual-threat QBs, compiling 45 passing touchdowns and 28 rushing touchdowns over his last two seasons. Thanks to his rise to stardom, Hurts’ Eagles now have a wide-open Super Bowl window.

Not bad for a guy who watched 52 guys get taken before him, huh?

Amon-Ra St. Brown

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2021 marked the first year of what was supposed to be a painful rebuild for the Detroit Lions. They had a new starting QB in Jared Goff and a new head coach-GM regime in Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes.

But thanks to Holmes acing his first-round NFL draft pick of offensive tackle Penei Sewell, and thanks to his jackpot pick Amon-Ra St. Brown in round four, the Lions’ rebuild lasted no more than a single year.

St. Brown was selected 112th overall by Detroit that year, and little did the Lions know at the time that they had just secured their new franchise star wide receiver.

Goff and St. Brown emerged as one of the top duos of 2021, with the latter hauling in 90 receptions for 912 yards and five touchdowns. Proving it wasn’t beginner’s luck, he exceeded the 100-catch and 1,100-yard marks in 2022 and 2023.

St. Brown’s efforts helped Detroit to its first division title in 30 years. Then they defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round for their first playoff victory in 32 years. Then they took down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reach their first NFC title game in 32 years.

Detroit’s 2023 season ended with a heartbreaking loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. But that was still only the beginning of something special for a Detroit team that should compete for Super Bowls for years to come.

One simple fourth-round pick for Holmes in his first year as the Lions’ GM has made it all possible.

Brock Purdy

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You can call Purdy a game manager all you want. If you think he’s a product of the Kyle Shanahan system, that’s fine, too.

But this isn’t up for debate: Brock Purdy has been Shanahan’s best QB on the West Coast by a country mile. And he’s an awesome story as the 2022 Mr. Irrelevant — aka the guy who was drafted with the final pick at No. 262 overall.

After season-ending injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo in 2022, Purdy was forced to take over as the starter. All he did was win all five starts while throwing 13 touchdowns against only four interceptions.

Purdy led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, but he unfortunately suffered a torn UCL, which doomed the 49ers’ hopes as they fell to the Eagles in a blowout.

Proving 2023 was no fluke, Purdy led the 49ers to the NFC’s top seed after completing 69.4 percent of pass attempts for 4,280 yards and 31 touchdowns. Purdy also finished with the league’s best passer rating at 113.0. He led San Francisco to Super Bowl 58, where they dropped a heartbreaker to the Chiefs.

San Francisco has their new long-term quarterback in Purdy, who was supposed to be a second or third-stringer under Trey Lance. Not bad for a Mr. Irrelevant, huh?!

L’Jarius Sneed

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After winning Super Bowl 54 over the 49ers, the Chiefs selected Louisiana Tech cornerback L’Jarius Sneed in round four with the No. 138 pick.

Sneed emerged as a rock in the Chiefs’ secondary alongside Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu over his first two seasons. After Mathieu left in 2022 free agency, Sneed became the MVP of Kansas City’s defensive backs group.

Sneed took his game to another level over the 2022 and 2023 seasons, compiling five interceptions, 25 pass defenses, 3.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles during that period.

Sneed was vital in helping Kansas City win back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2022 and 2023 seasons, consistently shutting down the opposition’s top wide receiver. Facing a cap crunch, KC had no choice but to trade Sneed to the Tennessee Titans in the 2024 offseason.

Only time will tell if Sneed pans out in Music City as well, but regardless, he’s already one of the Chiefs’ all-time great NFL draft steals. A fourth-round pick and two-time Super Bowl champion shutdown corner? Sign us up.

Talanoa Hufanga

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How unfair is it that the 49ers have found all these franchise cornerstone players after round one? Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, Brock Purdy, George Kittle AND Talanoa Hufanga. Ridiculous, we know.

The former USC star was drafted by the 49ers in the second round — 180th overall — back in 2021. As the 49ers had one of the best defenses at the time, it was easy to overlook Hufanga and believe he’d merely be a second-stringer on their defense.

Hufanga saw limited playing time in his rookie year. But when the 49ers made him a starter in 2022, he relished the opportunity and immediately emerged as a superstar.

Hufanga broke out with four interceptions, nine pass defenses, two forced fumbles, and a pair of sacks. His efforts helped the 49ers to their second straight NFC Championship Game, where they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hufanga was in the midst of a career year in 2023 before he unfortunately suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Hufanga had three interceptions and yielded just a 60.1 passer rating when targeted, according to Pro Football Reference.

If Hufanga didn’t suffer that ACL tear, who knows? Maybe he’s the difference in the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs?

The bottom line is that San Fran struck gold with this Hufanga selection. And with the USC product anchoring the secondary, their defense is in good hands for years to come.

Also Read: Power Ranking All 32 NFL Teams (Post-NFL Draft Edition!)

Creed Humphrey

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The Kansas City Chiefs’ banged-up offensive line left Patrick Mahomes with zero hope against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ ferocious front seven in Super Bowl 55. Mahomes was running for his life all game long, and KC was left humiliated with a disappointing 31-9 defeat.

The Chiefs decided that Mahomes would never go through that again. GM Brett Veach acquired superstar Orlando Brown Jr. via trade with the Baltimore Ravens and signed standout guard Joe Thuney in free agency.

But that was only part of the makeover. Veach then found two new superstars at the 2021 NFL draft, snagging two future stars in center Creed Humphrey and guard Trey Smith with the No. 63 and No. 226 selections, respectively.

Those four men all played instrumental roles in reshaping the Kansas City offensive line, but Humphrey’s impact as the middleman has been the most significant.

The two-time Pro Bowler has played a monumental role in the Chiefs’ rise to dynasty, helping them to consecutive Super Bowl championships in 2022 and 2023. Per Pro Football Focus, Humphrey only allowed ONE sack over his first two NFL seasons.

And this guy was a late second-round draft pick?!

Riq Woolen

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The Seattle Seahawks’ rookie class of 2022 would not let this team fall apart in year one of the post-Russell Wilson era. No, sir, they would not.

Charles Cross, Kenneth Walker III, Abraham Lucas, Coby Bryant, and Tariq Woolen all contributed significantly to Seattle’s unexpected return to the postseason in 2022.

But out of all those guys, Woolen — a fifth-round pick at No. 153 overall in 2022 — has been the most impactful up to this point.

Woolen finished with six interceptions — tied for the league lead — as a rookie to go along with 16 pass defenses. He allowed only a 51.5 completion percentage when targeted and a laughable 48.7 passer rating.

Woolen was again productive in year two, tallying two interceptions and 11 pass defenses. Those stats dipped a bit thanks to the rise of 2023 first-round pick Devon Witherspoon, who should form the next great cornerback tandem with Woolen.

We don’t wanna start the Legion of Boom 2.0 comparisons just yet…but…it’s hard not to think about it in the back of your mind.

Alex Highsmith

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Death, taxes, and the Pittsburgh Steelers finding hidden gems and future superstars on day two of the NFL Draft. The more that stays the same…

The Steelers drafted Charlotte outside linebacker Alex Highsmith in round three at No. 102 overall in 2020. In fact, that selection was a compensatory pick awarded to Pittsburgh after losing Le’Veon Bell and Jesse James in 2019 free agency.

Highsmith’s arrival has been a game-changer in the Steel City. They’ve made the playoffs in three of his first four NFL seasons — including an unexpected AFC North division crown in the 2020 campaign.

Highsmith, TJ Watt, and Cameron Heyward have emerged as a terrifying pass-rushing trio, giving the Steelers a chance to win on any given night despite little help from their offense.

With Watt missing seven games in 2022, Highsmith stepped up to the plate and racked up a career-high 14.5 sacks and a league-leading five forced fumbles. Since 2022, only 11 players have tallied more sacks than Highsmith — which is especially impressive when you consider Watt is getting most of the takedowns in Pittsburgh.

And to think 101 guys were drafted before Highsmith, who has quietly emerged as one of the best defensive “sidekicks” in the NFL.

Puka Nacua

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2023 was supposed to be a retooling year for the Los Angeles Rams, but their veteran stars and rookie class had other ideas.

Franchise cornerstones Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald led the way. Rookies Puka Nacua, Steve Avila, Kobie Turner, and Byron Young all exceeded expectations and propelled the Rams to a 10-7 finish and wild card berth.

But with Kupp missing time to injury, Nacua stepped up as the MVP of the Rams’ offense. He caught 105 passes for 1,486 yards — both single-season rookie records — and six receiving touchdowns.

So even with Kupp nearing the end of his prime years, the Rams can take comfort in knowing that they have a long-term WR1 in Nacua. For those who aren’t good at math, that’s not bad for a guy who was selected in round five at No. 177 overall in 2023.

Trevon Diggs

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Jerry Jones found not one, not two…but three Pro Bowlers in his 2020 NFL Draft class.

CeeDee Lamb was the crown jewel a No. 17 overall. Fourth-round pick and center Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin had one Pro Bowl campaign in Big D before he left for the Washington Commanders, too.

But Jones’ real steal in 2020 was Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs, who somehow slipped to the Dallas Cowboys in round two at No. 51 overall.

Diggs followed up a solid rookie year for the season of the ages in 2011. He racked up a league-leading 11 interceptions — including two pick-sixes — to go along with 21 pass defenses en route to First-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods.

Diggs tallied three picks and 14 pass breakups in 2022, leading Dallas to a second straight 12-win season and a playoff berth.

Though Diggs has been leaky in pass coverage, he makes up for it with his all-world ball-hawking skills. He’s made a significant difference on this Dallas defense, and they wouldn’t have a top-10 unit without the combination of Diggs and Micah Parsons.

Also Read: 10 NFL Draft Busts We All Wanted To Be Great

The 10 Biggest NFL Draft Steals Of The Decade So Far (SINCE 2020) (2024)
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