Sleeper picks to superstars: Day 3's top success stories

Brock Purdy, the "Mr. Irrelevant" of the 2022 NFL Draft, has become the latest in a long line of stars picked on Day Three. Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the NFL draft provides teams with blue-chip prospects that immediately make their mark in the league.

But the draft doesn't end Thursday night. Undervalued talent abounds in the later rounds, with smart teams picking up key players to little fanfare.

Here's a look at some of the best players selected on Day 3 -- Rounds 4 through 7 -- of the draft since the seven-round format was adopted in 1994.

Brock Purdy

Draft year: 2022

Pick No. 262

Few active NFL players have a story quite like Purdy, who was selected with the final pick of the 2022 draft. "Mr. Irrelevant" -- as the draft's last pick is dubbed each year -- quickly proved to be quite relevant for the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries caused the Iowa State Cyclones product to rise to a starting role, where he helped lead the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

Purdy took over as full-time starter in his second season and rewarded the 49ers faith in him with a 12-4 regular-season record and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Amon-Ra St. Brown

Draft year: 2021

Pick No. 112

St. Brown has never shied away from his status as a player who slipped down draft boards, with the former USC Trojan once reciting all 16 wide receivers drafted ahead of him from memory.

Now part of the Detroit Lions, St. Brown's career has continually improved over the past three years. After emerging as a starter during his rookie season, St. Brown has caught 100-plus passes each of the past two seasons, earning an All-Pro nod this past fall.

George Kittle

Draft year: 2017

Pick No. 146

A product of the Iowa Hawkeyes' tight-end factory, Kittle's statistical résumé in college didn't turn heads -- 48 catches and 10 touchdowns, mostly across his final two seasons. But the eventual fifth-round pick did make a name for his stellar blocking.

The San Francisco 49ers got far more than quality blocking out of Kittle, as he developed into one of the best tight-ends in the league. He has made five Pro Bowls and caught 460 passes and 37 touchdowns across seven seasons in the league.

Tyreek Hill

Draft year: 2016

Pick No. 165

Now one of the most electrifying receivers in the NFL, Hill played for three different colleges before eventually landing in the 2016 NFL draft. A fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, Hill's blazing speed helped him quickly carve out a role on one of the league's top teams.

Currently with the Miami Dolphins, Hill has made the Pro Bowl every year he's been in the NFL (though his selection in 2016 was as a return specialist, not a wide receiver) and was a key part in Kansas City's 2019 Super Bowl victory.

Stefon Diggs

Draft year: 2015

Pick No. 146

Diggs was a three-year standout with the Maryland Terrapins, catching 14 touchdowns during his career in College Park. The Minnesota Vikings picked him up in the fifth round, and it took Diggs less than a season to work his way into the team's receiving rotation. He'd ascend to an every-game starter and then star, eventually moving to the Buffalo Bills, where he'd string together four consecutive Pro Bowl campaigns. Diggs is now on the move once more, joining C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans this offseason with over 800 career receptions under his belt.

Richard Sherman

Draft year: 2011

Pick No. 154

One of the most feared defenses in NFL history was built in large part with Day Three selections. The "Legion of Boom" Seattle Seahawks were a nightmare for opposing offenses, helping the Seahawks lift the Lombardi Trophy in 2013. Among the most important members of the Legion was cornerback, who was the 24th cornerback taken in the 2011 draft out of Stanford.

Jason Kelce

Draft year: 2011

Pick No. 191

The recently retired Kelce leaves behind a long track record of stellar play with the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Cincinnati Bearcat rewarded the team that took him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He had 193 career starts across a 13-year career that included six All-Pro nods and a Super Bowl in 2018.

Jahri Evans

Draft year: 2006

Pick No. 108

Evans entered the 2006 NFL draft with a low profile, having plied his trade at the collegiate level for Division II Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. However, he wasted no time establishing himself as a mainstay for the New Orleans Saints once joining the team, starting all 16 games as a rookie.

Evans would go on to start 169 games in New Orleans, including a stretch of six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons from 2009 to 2014. He also helped the Saints capture Super Bowl XLIV.

Jared Allen

Draft year: 2004

Pick No. 126

An Idaho State Bengals alum, Allen entered the draft on the back of a mammoth senior campaign that included 17.5 sacks and over 100 tackles.

Allen fell to the Chiefs in the fourth round and quickly carved out a role, including a prolific 2007 campaign that saw him record a league-high 15.5 sacks. Allen would join the Vikings that offseason, and followed the move up with six consecutive seasons with at least 10 sacks.

Tom Brady

Draft year: 2000

Pick No. 199

The greatest late round pick of them all, it's difficult to find an achievement Brady didn't compile over the course of a remarkable 23-year career. He had 15 Pro Bowls, three league MVPs, five Super Bowl MVPs and of course seven total rings, the most of any individual player in league history.

Brady is the league's all-time leader in passing yards, total completions and passing touchdowns, amassing the vast majority of his stats across two decades with the team that drafted him, the New England Patriots.

Zach Thomas

Draft year: 1996

Pick No. 154

Thomas made his name with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and an average combine outing caused him to fall down draft boards. But Thomas' consistent college production proved more than translatable to professional ranks, as he was named defensive rookie of the year.

Thomas would go on to start 168 games for the Dolphins, earning seven Pro Bowl nods in the process. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023.

Terrell Davis

Draft year: 1995

Pick No. 196

The 1998 NFL MVP wasn't selected until the sixth round of his draft. Davis made his mark quickly with the Denver Broncos, rushing for 1,117 yards and 7 touchdowns as a rookie.

He'd continually improve until he would reach the peak of his powers with his stellar 1998 campaign -- he'd become one of just eight players to rush for over 2,000 yards in a regular season, leading the Broncos to a second-straight Super Bowl victory.

Davis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.