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The Brandt Report

Top 16 late-round picks since the Tom Brady draft

Saturday -- April 16, 2016 -- will mark the 16th anniversary of what turned out to be a momentous occasion in NFL history: the selection of Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

In honor of this date, I've compiled a list of the 16 best players selected in the fourth round or later in the past 16 drafts. It was tough to narrow the group down, as we could easily expand this list to 50 players -- note that some recent standouts, like Panthers CB Josh Norman (a fifth-round pick), did not make the cut. Below, presented in reverse order, you can see 16 studs who were uncovered after the elite prospects in their class were snapped up.

16) Stephen Gostkowski, kicker

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 118 overall) in 2006 by the New England Patriots.

Team: Patriots, 2006-present.*

Gostkowski, who led the NFL in points scored in each of the past four seasons, is the only player since the merger to lead the league in scoring in more than two consecutive seasons. The future Hall of Famer's career field-goal percentage of 87.3 ranks third all-time, and he's tied for fifth (with Justin Tucker) in field goals made in a single season (38, in 2013).

15) Shane Lechler, punter

*Drafted: Round 5 (No. 142 overall) in 2000 by the Oakland Raiders.

Teams: Raiders, 2000-2012; Texans, 2013-present.*

For his first 13 NFL seasons, Lechler was punting mostly outdoors in windy Oakland (and in cold and windy Denver and Kansas City once a season), which makes his lifetime mark of 47.5 yards per punt -- currently the best all-time -- amazing. His career high of 51.1 yards per punt in 2009 is the second-best single-season mark in NFL history. He hasn't missed a game since 2002 and is probably the best punter of all time, as far as I'm concerned. I see Lechler becoming a Hall of Famer eventually. He's also a top-notch holder and, as a former high school quarterback, always a threat to run a fake.

14) Julian Edelman, receiver

*Drafted: Round 7 (No. 232 overall) in 2009 by the New England Patriots.

Team: Patriots, 2009-present.*

The former Kent State quarterback was successfully retooled by New England into a go-to receiver, someone to whom Tom Brady now looks when he needs a first down or a touchdown. He has just one 1,000-yard season, but since assuming a bigger role in the offense in 2013 in the wake of Wes Welker's departure, Edelman has accumulated 2,720 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. And don't forget that he can return punts.

13) Trent Cole, defensive end/outside linebacker

*Drafted: Round 5 (No. 146 overall) in 2005 by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Teams: Eagles, 2005-2014; Indianapolis Colts, 2015-present.*

When he was coming out of college, the question about Cole was, Is he big enough to play end or fast enough to drop into space? He was a pretty good athlete, posting a 37.5-inch vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine. The two-time Pro Bowler has 88.5 career sacks and 21 forced fumbles, and he has four seasons of double-digit sacks on his résumé. He's a classic 'tweener who got his weight up enough that he was able to play defensive end, an athletic guy who can rush the passer.

12) Elvis Dumervil, defensive end/outside linebacker

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 126 overall) in 2006 by the Denver Broncos.

Teams: Broncos, 2006-2012; Baltimore Ravens, 2013-present.*

Dumervil has 96 sacks (tied for 37th all time), highly unusual for a player who checks in at 5-foot-11. The five-time Pro Bowler is one of those never-give-up type of players who always makes himself a factor in the play; even if he gets knocked down or run out, he jumps back up and dives into the fray. Like the rest of the overachievers on this list, Dumervil -- who notched 17 sacks just two seasons ago -- rates highly in competitiveness.

11) Josh Sitton, offensive lineman

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 135 overall) in 2008 by the Green Bay Packers.

Team: Packers, 2008-present.*

The three-time Pro Bowler is one of the best offensive linemen ever to lace 'em up for the Packers, which is saying something for an organization that also employed guys like Forrest Gregg and Jerry Kramer. You don't hear that much about Sitton, but when you look at the tape, you see that his man hardly ever makes a play. He can fill in everywhere along the line, including left tackle and center. He's very durable and good in both the run and the pass. Nobody saw this coming when he was a prospect, but I think he's an All-Decade Team type of player.

10) Marques Colston, receiver

*Drafted: Round 7 (No. 252 overall) in 2006 by the New Orleans Saints.

Team: Saints, 2006-2015.*

Colston (currently a free agent) is not especially fast or quick, but he has great hands, and after 10 seasons of top-notch production in New Orleans, he holds the franchise mark in catches (711), receiving yards (9,759) and receiving touchdowns (72) -- and, of course, he made a lot of big plays over the years. Colston and Drew Brees had a great rapport, and I'm sure Brees helped bring Colston along, a la Roger Staubach with Drew Pearson in Dallas.

9) Michael Turner, running back

*Drafted: Round 5 (No. 154 overall) in 2004 by the San Diego Chargers.

Teams: Chargers, 2004-07; Atlanta Falcons, 2008-12.*

Turner spent the first four years of his career playing behind LaDainian Tomlinson, so no one ever really got a feel for how good a player he was. In his first year out from under Tomlinson's shadow, in Atlanta, Turner broke out with 1,699 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns (which remains a single-season franchise best) on a league-high 376 carries. Turner spent just four more seasons with the Falcons, but he's still the franchise leader in total rushing touchdowns (60) and is second in total rushing yards (6,081). He was a big guy with tremendous quickness, and his performance in Atlanta basically represents the best-case scenario for a free-agent pickup.

8) Darren Sproles, running back

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 130 overall) in 2005 by the San Diego Chargers.

Teams: Chargers, 2005-2010; New Orleans Saints, 2011-13; Philadelphia Eagles, 2014-present.*

Sproles checks in at 5-foot-6, but he carries himself like he's 6-5 and gets big results. He was on the Playboy All-American Team in his K-State days -- and he was one of the most outgoing guys you could ever hope to meet, even though his mother had just passed away. He currently holds the record for single-season all-purpose yards (2,696 in 2011) and is 11th on the all-time list for career all-purpose yards (17,903). He can run, he can catch (which he learned to do after becoming a pro), he can block and he can return kicks, and he's a threat to go all the way on every play. He can pass protect, he can line up on third down, he can catch screen passes and run draws. He's an extremely talented player and an even better person.

7) Jahri Evans, offensive lineman

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 108 overall) in 2006 by the New Orleans Saints.

Team: Saints, 2006-2015.*

Very few great offensive linemen come out of small schools, but this Bloomsburg University product, who arrived in New Orleans the same year Drew Brees did, proved to be a crucial piece of the Saints' offensive dominance (they ranked in the top five in offense in nine of Evans' 10 seasons). Small-school O-linemen tend to be at a disadvantage in terms of technique coaching and competition level, but the six-time Pro Bowler -- a current free agent -- became a remarkable success story, thriving as both a run blocker and pass protector.

6) Antonio Brown, receiver

*Drafted: Round 6 (No. 195 overall) in 2010 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Team: Steelers, 2010-present.*

With just five seasons of serious targets under his belt, Brown is already succeeding at historic levels: In 2015, he became the first player in NFL history to post consecutive seasons with 125-plus catches. He ranks second (with 136 catches in 2015) and fourth (with 129 in 2014) on the all-time single-season receptions list, and fourth (with 1,834 yards in 2015) and eighth (with 1,698 in 2014) on the single-season yardage list. He can run every route, whether it's a crossing route or a deep route. His quickness is unparalleled. This is a special player.

5) Robert Mathis, defensive end/outside linebacker

*Drafted: Round 5 (No. 138 overall) in 2003 by the Indianapolis Colts.

Team: Colts, 2003-present.*

He does not seem as tall as listed; if there's such a thing as a short 6-foot-2 guy, Mathis is a short 6-2 guy. But he brings loads of speed and quickness, and plenty of competitive juices. Coming out of a small school (Alabama A&M), Mathis was kind of discovered at his pro day. The sack machine (he led the league with 19.5 sacks in 2013) is ranked here because of his production and longevity. Even after missing 2014 (suspension/Achilles tear), Mathis contributed seven sacks at age 34. Any time you can get 118 sacks (20th all time) out of anyone picked after the third round, you're doing well.

4) Richard Sherman, cornerback

*Drafted: Round 5 (No. 154 overall) in 2011 by the Seattle Seahawks.

Team: Seahawks, 2011-present.*

Sherman might have gone undrafted if he hadn't been a late addition to the Senior Bowl, where he really turned heads. The former receiver is a bright guy who clearly found his position, given that he has turned into a three-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL with eight picks in 2013. He also, of course, helped Seattle reach two Super Bowls and win one. If there's a true shutdown corner in the NFL today, it's Sherman.

3) Brandon Marshall, receiver

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 119 overall) in 2006 by the Denver Broncos.

Teams: Broncos, 2006-09; Miami Dolphins, 2010-11; Chicago Bears, 2012-14; New York Jets, 2015-present.*

Marshall's competitiveness stands out among receivers; not every pass catcher will fight for the ball like he should, but Marshall will hang on to the ball like it's a rope and he's dangling 70 stories above the ground. He just engulfs it, and once he does so, he's pretty tough to bring down. He's a fiercely competitive guy who has been a difference maker wherever he's been, notching six 100-catch seasons and eight 1,000-yard campaigns (with at least one on every team he's played for). The six-time Pro Bowler ranks 22nd all-time in receptions (882), 31st all-time in yards (11,273) and is tied for 25th in receiving touchdowns (79).

2) Jared Allen, defensive end

*Drafted: Round 4 (No. 126 overall) in 2004 by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Teams: Chiefs, 2004-07; Minnesota Vikings, 2008-2013; Chicago Bears, 2014-15; Carolina Panthers, 2015.*

He was added to the East-West Shrine Game as a deep snapper, just because we didn't have one -- he was kind of an afterthought. The Idaho State product, who retired in February, went on to collect 136 sacks, tied with Julius Peppers for ninth-most all time. He also is tied with Justin Houston and Mark Gastineau for the second-highest single-season sack total (22 in 2011). Notably, Allen was very good against the run, a relative rarity among guys who rack up sacks like he did.

1) Tom Brady, quarterback

*Drafted: Round 6 (No. 199 overall) in 2000 by the New England Patriots.

Team: Patriots, 2000-present.*

I invited Brady to the East-West Shrine Game. He was a thin-chested guy who didn't look like he'd worked very much on his body, but you knew he was a competitor because of the way he dealt with the pressure of fending off Drew Henson at Michigan. I thought he was a player, but nowhere in my wildest dreams did I ever think he'd achieve what he has. Outside of being a very smart guy who knows where to throw the ball, Brady possesses incredible competitiveness and a real will to succeed. He just keeps working. He's one in a heckuva lot more than a million.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter _@GilBrandt_.

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