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NFL Draft steals: The best Round 3 picks since 2000

Sporting News logo Sporting News 4/24/2020 Sam Ficarro
a group of baseball players standing on top of each other © Provided by Sporting News

The NFL Draft has produced third-round picks who have become All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl champions.

With the 2020 NFL Draft taking place this week, here's a look at some of the best third-round selections since the turn of the century.

Honorable mention

Evan Mathis, G (No. 79 overall, 2005): The 12-year NFL veteran was selected to the Pro Bowl twice and was named an All-Pro in 2013. He became a Super Bowl champion in the 2015 season with the Broncos.

Brian Westbrook, RB (No. 91 overall, 2002): Westbrook rushed for 6,335 yards and 41 touchdowns with the Eagles and 49ers. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 2007.

Cliff Avril, DE (No. 92 overall, 2007): Avril had a very productive career with the Lions and Seahawks, totaling 207 tackles and 74 sacks. He won his only Super Bowl in the 2013 season, his first with Seattle.

Kirk Cousins, QB (No. 102 overall, 2012): Cousins has experienced an up-and-down career in Washington and Minnesota. He finally secured his first career playoff win last season against the favored Saints in the Superdome. The Michigan State product has thrown for 24,107 yards and 155 touchdowns (to 71 interceptions).

T.Y. Hilton, WR (No. 92 overall, 2012): The longtime Colt has 8,598 receiving yards and 45 touchdowns. He led the league with 1,448 receiving yards in 2016. Hilton is a four-time Pro Bowler.

Michael Gallup, WR (No. 81 overall, 2018): Gallup had a breakout sophomore season with 1,107 yards and six touchdowns for the Cowboys. He was also seventh in yards per catch (16.8) and sixth in receiving yards per game (79.1). Gallup and Amari Cooper could prove to be one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league.

Mark Andrews, TE (No. 86 overall, 2018): Andrews emerged last season as one of the best tight ends in the game. He totaled 64 receptions, 852 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Ravens' offense flourished under league MVP Lamar Jackson. His 10 receiving touchdowns ranked second in the NFL.

David Montgomery, RB (No. 73 overall, 2019): Montgomery led the Bears with 899 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns as a rookie out of Iowa State. 

10. NaVorro Bowman, ILB (No. 91 overall, 2010)

Bowman was part of a fearsome linebacker group in San Francisco along with Patrick Willis. The Penn State product finished his career with 585 tackles, 14 sacks and nine forced fumbles. He was named to three Pro Bowls and was a four-time All-Pro. He led the league with 154 tackles in 2015.

Of the 29 linebackers selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, Bowman has posted the most tackles. Only one linebacker in that draft class, Sean Lee, is still active. Lee is at 510 tackles.

9. Justin Houston, OLB (No. 70 overall, 2011)

Houston has been one of the game's most productive linebackers since entering the NFL nine years ago, with 352 tackles, 89.5 sacks and 16 forced fumbles. In 2014, he compiled 22 sacks, half a sack short of tying Michael Strahan's single-season record. He was named an All-Pro that year. Houston has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times. The Chiefs released the Georgia product in 2018, and he wound up signing a two-year contract with the Colts. 

Houston's 89.5 career sacks are the fourth-most among players in the 2011 draft class, behind Von Miller, J.J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan.

8. Alvin Kamara, RB (No. 67 overall, 2017)

Kamara has become arguably the most electrifying running back in the league. The Saints' dual-threat star has tallied 4,476 yards from scrimmage (2,408 rushing, 2,068 receiving) and 37 total touchdowns. He also has a kick return for a touchdown. The Tennessee product was voted the 2017 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 6.1 yards per carry. He been named to the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons.

Among players in the 2017 draft class, only Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has totaled more yards than Kamara. The NFC South stars are also the only players in the class to have gained at least 2,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving.

7. Tyrann Mathieu, S (No. 69 overall, 2013)

When the Cardinals selected Mathieu in the third round seven years ago, experts pegged the pick as a risk because of his off-field issues at LSU. Mathieu has proved doubters wrong and become one of the premier safeties in the league. The LSU product has recorded 436 tackles (36 for loss), 17 interceptions and nine sacks. Mathieu was named to the 2010s All-Decade team, adding to his two All-Pro honors and one Pro Bowl appearance.

The Super Bowl champion (Chiefs last season) leads the 2013 defensive back draft class in tackles and is second in interceptions, just two behind Darius Slay.

6. Travis Kelce, TE (No. 63 overall, 2013)

Mathieu's Kansas City teammate has earned the title of NFL's best tight end. The former Cincinnati Bearcat has posted four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including 1,229 yards in 2019 for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. He is a two-time All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 2010s All-Decade team.

Kelce was the fifth tight end drafted in 2013 but has the second-most receiving yards (6,465) and touchdowns (37) of the entire draft class, behind only DeAndre Hopkins (8,602 yards, 54 touchdowns). 

5. Frank Gore, RB (No. 65 overall, 2005)

Gore, 36, has been a model of consistency and longevity. Last season, his 15th in the NFL, he helped the Bills reach the playoffs by rushing for 599 yards and two touchdowns. The former Miami Hurricane spent the first 10 years of his career with 49ers, tallying 11,073 rushing yards and 64 TDs. The five-time Pro Bowler was named to the NFL's 2010s All-Decade team.

Gore is the NFL's active rushing leader with 15,347 yards (he's third all time) and is third among active running backs with 79 touchdowns.

4. Marshal Yanda, G (No. 86 overall, 2007)

Yanda leaves the game as one of the greatest offensive linemen in Ravens history. The Iowa product, who announced his retirement in March after 13 pro seasons, was named to eight Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro. Yanda was one of eight unanimous selections to the 2010s All-Decade team. He exits with one Super Bowl ring (SB 47).

Yanda's next stop in his football journey could be Canton.

3. Jason Witten, TE (No. 69 overall, 2003)

Witten came out of retirement to rejoin the Cowboys before the 2019 season and then made a surprise move this offseason by joining the Raiders as a free agent. The 11-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro has tallied 1,215 receptions, 12,977 receiving yards and 72 touchdowns since leaving Tennessee. As he enters his 16th NFL season, Witten is fourth all time in career receptions and second among tight ends, behind only Tony Gonzalez.

In a draft class that included Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson and Dallas Clark, Witten is No. 1 in receptions and third in receiving yards, trailing just Boldin and Johnson. The next closest tight end to Witten in the Class of 2003 is Clark, who finished his career with 5,665 receiving yards. 

2. Steve Smith Sr., WR (No. 74 overall, 2001)

Smith played 16 seasons in the NFL; the first 13 were with the Panthers and the final three were with the Ravens. The former Utah Ute racked up 1,031 receptions and 14,731 receiving yards (eighth-most all time) in his career. He was voted Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 as he led the league in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,563) and receiving touchdowns (12) one season after breaking his leg.

Smith ranks first in his draft class in receiving yards and second in receptions and touchdowns (behind Reggie Wayne in both). The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro is one of the greatest players in Panthers history, and he presents an interesting case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1. Russell Wilson, QB (No. 75 overall, 2012)

By the time Wilson's career is finished, he could go down as one of the greatest steals in NFL Draft history. He was the sixth quarterback selected in 2012, taken from Wisconsin via N.C. State, but he has the most passing yards (29,734) and touchdowns (227) of the class. Wilson has also been a threat on the ground with 3,993 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, most among QBs in the draft class in both categories. Wilson led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl title in the 2013 season and has been named to the Pro Bowl six times.

He holds the second-best career passer rating in NFL history (101.2), behind only Aaron Rodgers. Wilson is also a trailblazer; he changed the image of a starting NFL quarterback by busting the myth that quarterbacks shorter than 6-0 can't be successful (Wilson is listed at 5-11). He paved the way for a player like the 5-10 Kyler Murray to be drafted No. 1 overall.

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