The five biggest steals of the 2011 NFL draft

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray runs with the ball after making the catch against the...

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray runs with the ball after making the catch against the Buffalo Bills in the second half of their game in Arlington, Texas on November 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:40 AM ET

1. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Any time you can get your quarterback for the future in the second round, after having already got your wide receiver for years to come, you are in for a good draft and that’s exactly what the Bengals had. Coming out of TCU, Dalton had all the numbers but there were plenty of questions about his ability to be an NFL quarterback. The early indications are that outside of Cam Newton and possibly Christian Ponder, Dalton is the cream of the crop. But getting him in the second round, 35th overall, means the Bengals are getting a little more bang for their buck. Dalton’s QB rating is better than half the league’s starter through 10 weeks. That list includes Philip Rivers, Marc Sanchez, Michael Vick, Joe Flacco and last year’s rookie boy wonders Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy.

2. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys weren’t even necessarily looking to solve their running back of the future question in this draft, but grabbing Murray in the third round, 71st overall, they may have just struck gold. Murray’s opportunity came with both Felix Jones and Tashard Choice — since sent packing — injured. Murray announced his presence in a huge way rushing for 253 yards and a touchdown in his starting debut. He hasn’t reached those heights since, but few ever get there in the first place. In the three games since he had more than 130 yards in two games. Murray has already won over the vast majority of the Cowboys fan base. Jones is healthy again but Murray continues to get the bulk of the carries.

3. Jurell Casey, Tennessee Titans

Coming into the draft he was rated the ninth best defensive tackle. That has already gone up substantially. Selected 77th overall in the third round, Casey has started every game. He is one of four rookies currently starting in Tennessee’s defence that is coming off a season-best performance against Carolina where they held the vaunted Newton offence to just three points, sacked him five times while creating two turnovers. Casey isn’t a guy who will get a lot of publicity because he’s more a run stuffer than anything, but when it comes to stuffing the run few are as good. He has 29 tackles and a single sack through his first nine games. Not bad for a rookie getting his first taste of the NFL and pretty damn good considering where he was drafted.

4. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders are still trying to figure out how Moore slipped all the way to the fifth round where the Raiders got him with the 148th pick of the draft. Moore is a natural. He runs crisp routes, he has a nose for the ball and he catches just about everything thrown his way. Head coach Hue Jackson calls him a flat-out playmaker. He has 23 catches for 396 yards with 19 of those catches resulting in first downs. He has also picked up a rushing touchdown. He’s also extremely hot right now coming off a two-touchdown, 123-yard receiving effort in a win over San Diego.

5. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks already lost their first-round pick from the 2011 draft when James Carpenter tore his ACL. Fortunately, another member of that draft class is just now starting to blossom. Sherman was selected in the fifth round, 154th overall out of Stanford. The Compton, Calif., cornerback will make just his third start of the season this weekend against the Rams — he gets Rams No. 1 receiver Brandon Lloyd, but if the first two starts are any indication he should hold his own. In the past four games when his workload began to increase, Sherman has 18 tackles, one interception, and a forced fumble.


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