Gold: Top 10 Pac-12 NFL Draft steals since 2010
Even among its most overlooked stars, the Pac-12 has boasted Super Bowl MVPs and future Hall of Famers, Pro Bowlers and All-Pros alike. A low draft selection — or even none has all — has not spelled doom for this collection of talented afterthoughts.
From one of the league’s defining player of last decade to one of the game’s best kickers today, here is a look at the Pac-12’s top NFL Draft sleepers since 2010 …
Stanford CB Richard Sherman
Drafting Team: Seattle
Steals don’t get much more valuable than the original Legion of Boom leader. One of the game’s best defensive players during his prime, and one of the league’s most intelligent and outspoken spokesmen, Sherman was named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade team after earning 5 Pro Bowl nods from 2013-19. A Super Bowl winner and 3-time first-team All-Pro, Sherman started his career with 24 interceptions in his first 4 seasons. In 2013, he had a season for the ages, leading the league in picks and helping lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl XLVIII title.
USC DE Everson Griffen
Drafting Team: Minnesota
Griffen was an absolute beast at his peak, earning 4 Pro Bowl nods in 5 seasons between 2015-19. He finished his career with 85.5 sacks, 403 tackles and 10 forced fumbles. He averaged more than 10 sacks per season between 2014-17. Sadly, he began experiencing mental health issues late in his long career.
USC S Talanoa Hufanga
Pick: Pick 180
Drafting Team: San Francisco
A painful recruiting loss for his hometown Oregon State Beavers, the Corvalis kid was just a 5th-round pick despite earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2020 with the Trojans. But what a pick he was, as he earned his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selection last year after finishing with 97 tackles, 4 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. He is considered one of the league’s budding young defenders.
UCLA LB Eric Kendricks
Drafting Team: Minnesota
Anyone who watched Kendricks at UCLA knew he was an NFL starter from the first time he set foot in Westwood. After being drafted midway through the 2nd round by the Vikings, he became a fan favorite a locker room stalwart for 8 years before becoming a cap casualty this offseason and returning to Los Angeles with the Chargers. Kendricks was a first-team All-Pro in 2019 and is still producing at a high level — he combined for 280 tackles the past 2 years.
Oregon State S Jordan Poyer
Drafting Team: Philadelphia
Poyer has blossomed into one of the game’s top safeties, following up his first All-Pro honor in 2021 with his first Pro Bowl bid last season. The Bills’ star has 50 pass deflections, 24 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles and 7 fumble recoveries in his decade-long career.
USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Drafting Team: Detroit
Considered a bit undersized at a generous 6-feet, ARSB had an impressive rookie year in 2021, catching 90 passes for 912 yards and 5 scores, then topped the 1,000-yard mark for the first time last year, catching 106 balls for 1,161 yards and 6 scores. If he is fully healthy in 2023, he should contend for a 2nd consecutive Pro Bowl bid.
Arizona QB Nick Foles
Drafting Team: Philadelphia
No one on this list has a higher peak than Foles, whose 2017 late-season run in relief of Carson Wentz is one of the greatest stories in NFL history. Many wrote off the Eagles when Wentz was sidelined for the year with just a few games left in the regular season. But Philadelphia went 2-1 under Foles, then won 3 straight in the playoffs, including Super Bowl LII, during which Foles perfectly executed the “Philly Special” and was named MVP.
UCLA C Jake Brendel
UDFA Team: Dallas
One of the league’s most intelligent players, Brendel has finally carved out his spot, 8 years into his professional career. A 3-time captain for the Bruins, Brendel made spot starts and also spent plenty of time on practice squads before becoming the full-time starting center for the 49ers in 2022. He signed a 4-year extension with the 49ers during the offseason.
Washington LB Cory Littleton
UDFA Team: Los Angeles
Littleton cracked the Rams’ starting lineup in Year 3 and rewarded the team with a Pro Bowl nod and a second-team All-Pro designation as a special-teamer after notching 125 tackles, 4 sacks, 13 pass deflections, 3 interceptions (including a pick-6) and a forced fumble. The next year, he picked up a career-high 134 tackles, with 9 passes defended, 2 picks and 2 forced fumbles. He hasn’t been as effective since, as he’s now on his third team since 2020.
Utah K Matt Gay
Drafting Team: Tampa Bay
The Lou Groza Award winner for the Utes in 2017, Gay was a rare drafted kicker, and he lived up to billing after a shaky start to his professional career. He made just 77.1% of his field goal attempts as a rookie for the Bucs, who then released him before Year 2. He resurfaced with the Indianapolis Colts in September 2020, but was relegated to the practice squad, before being signed by the Rams in November 2020. He was a mainstay for the Rams from that point on, leading the league in field-goal percentage in 2021 (32-of-34) for the Super Bowl champions, then hit 28-of-30 last year. His accuracy landed him the richest contract for a kicker in NFL history, rejoining the Colts on a 4-year deal worth $22.5 million.