NFL Career Milestones For The 2017 Season

  • Antonio Gates will become the all time leader in touchdown catches by a tight end when he catches his first touchdown of the season. He is currently tied with Tony Gonzalez with 111.
  • If Matthew Stafford just duplicates last year’s 24 touchdowns, he’ll move past Bob Griese, Ken Stabler, Norm Snead, Bobby Layne, Joe Ferguson, Steve DeBerg, Ken Anderson, Phil Simms, Roman Gabriel, Jim Everett, Randall Cunningham, Kurt Warner, Jay Cutler (assuming he stays retired), Kerry Collins, & Jim Hart for 34th on the career touchdown passes list with 211. He is currently tied with Sammy Baugh for 50th with 187.
  • Matt Ryan can pass Y.A. Tittle, John Hadl, Boomer Esiason, Tony Romo, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Dave Krieg, Joe Montana, & Vinny Testaverde for 15th on the career touchdown passes with another 38 touchdown season, which would put him at 278 for his career.
  • Fran Tarkenton, who is currently 6th on the career touchdown passes list with 342, will be 8th or 9th by the end of the season if the active quarterbacks approaching him stay healthy & play as well as last year. Eli Manning has 320 & had 26 last year, & Philip Rivers has 314 & had 33. Ben Roethlisberger has 301, and had 29 last year, but now has what might be the deepest receiving corps of his career, he could top 40 touchdowns & pass him as well. Aaron Rodgers will also be close behind, he has 297 & had 40 last year.
  • Adam Vinatieri can become the second kicker in NFL history with 2,500 points. He currently has 2,378, and had 125 last year. Morten Andersen is the league’s all time leader with 2,544 points.
  • Sebastian Janikowski can become the 10th kicker in league history with 1,900 points. He has 1,799 points, and scored 124 last year.
  • Drew Brees (66,111 career passing yards) can become the third NFL quarterback to throw for 70,000 yards in a career with 3,889 yards. He threw for 5,208 yards in 2016.
  • Eli Manning can pass John Elway for 6th on the career passing yardage list if he throws for 3,258 yards.
  • Ben Roethlisberger can also pass John Elway if he throws for 4,661 yards. That would be the second highest single season total of his career, but with the group of receivers he has, I think it’ll happen.
  • Jason Witten (1,089 receptions) needs only 11 receptions to become the 6th player with 1,100 career receptions, and he only needs 14 to pass Marvin Harrison (1,102) for 4th.
  • Brandon Marshall needs only 59 receptions to become the 15th player with 1,000 in their career.
  • Julius Peppers needs only 7.5 sacks to pass Chris Doleman for 4th on the career sacks list. He had 7.5 in 2016.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: The First Overall Pick

I am so lucky I put off this one for a few months. When I first started assembling this list, I was trying really hard to justify putting Andrew Luck in at the #10 slot. I thought the fact that he was already starting to break some of Peyton Manning’s team records would be enough to do it. In the end though,  I realized that putting a player going into his fourth season would be a stretch on a pick this high, with 80 years of history behind it.

In 80 years of NFL drafts, there have been 13 players selected first overall elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Orlando Pace was selected as I was writing this article). This doesn’t even include the two Hall of Fame AFL players drafted first overall before the AFL & NFL held a combined common draft: the Chiefs Buck Buchanan in 1963, and the Jets Joe Namath in 1965. Another one that I will be including is the first overall pick in the 1984 USFL Supplemental Draft: Buccaneers quarterback Steve Young. A lot of people don’t realize that draft produced three Hall of Famers in the first four picks: Young, offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman, and defensive end Reggie White. None of those three were drafted in any other NFL draft, so they’re included in my series.

There have been other supplemental drafts that produced good players, but the next best one drafted this high was Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, and he’s just not cracking the top 16 full of Hall of Fame players. Among the ones not in yet, Colts/Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the one sure thing left now that Orlando Pace got in. That brings us to a list of 17 players: Steelers RB Bill Dudley, Cardinals RB Charley Trippi, Eagles C/LB Chuck Bednarik, Packers RB Paul Hornung, Chiefs DT Buck Buchanan, Jets QB Joe Namath, Vikings OT Ron Yary, Bills RB O.J. Simpson, Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw,Buccaneers DE Lee Roy Selmon, Oilers RB Earl Campbell, Broncos QB John Elway, 49ers QB Steve Young, Bills DE Bruce Smith, Cowboys QB Troy Aikman, Rams OT Orlando Pace, and Colts/Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

When this list first started, the formula was pretty simple: one point for each season played, two points for each Pro Bowl selection, three additional points for each Super Bowl winning team they were on, and an additional four points if they were selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As we got further along, I had to find more ways to add points as tiebreakers. I started using the players inclusion on other all-time greats lists, like the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, as the equivalent to a Pro Bowl selection, points wise (two points). I also added the same amount of points for any player that won other NFL annual performance based awards, like NFL MVP, or Comeback Player of the Year. My newest bright idea was to use the player’s ranking on the NFL’s Top 100 to add more points, like 1 point for #100, 100 points for #1, and so on. The only other factor I hadn’t added in was record breaking performances, or becoming the first player to reach a new statistical height. The record breakers are awarded two points for  each record broken, while “pioneers” as I call them get five points for achieving a statistical first. The reason for the difference is that most of the modern record breakers end up sweeping their category, so they end up beating all of their predecessor’s records (Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith).

So, with all of that in mind, here is my top 10 NFL players drafted with the first overall pick:

10. New York Jets-Joe Namath, QB, Alabama, 1965                                                                     He achieved a significant first in his league by becoming the first AFL quarterback to lead his team to victory over an NFL team in the game now known as The Super Bowl. It helped disprove the theory that the AFL was inferior to the NFL, and probably helped make the AFL/NFL merger a lot smoother. At the time, he was also one of the few college superstars to choose the fledgling AFL over the stronger, more established league. I would bet that he probably picked the Jets over the NFL because he saw it as a chance to become the big star in the league, and in a major market.

Namath achieved a modern landmark in 1967, becoming the first quarterback in pro football history to throw for over 4,000 yards in a single season (4,007). He was named the AFL MVP in 1968, leading the Jets to an 11-3 record, and a battle against Johnny Unitas & the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. He became a household name by guaranteeing a Jets a victory when the Colts were favored by nearly three touchdowns, and backing it up with a 16-7 victory. The AFL & NFL merged just a few months after that victory, on May 17th.

 It was rather fitting then, that Joe Namath was the last AFL MVP in 1969, even though his numbers were nothing like 1967: 2,734 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. Injuries limited him to a total of 15 games in 1970, 1971, and 1973. He played in 13 games in 1972, throwing for 2,816 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. After missing alot of playing time during three of the past four seasons, he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1974, throwing for 2,616 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions.

His last full season as a starter was 1975, when he threw for 2,286 yards, 15 TD’s, and 28 INT’s. The team drafted Richard Todd in the first round in 1976, and the two shared the role that year. Namath signed with the Rams in 1977, where he was eventually replaced by Pat Haden en route to a 10-4 season. He retired after the 1977 season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

9. Dallas Cowboys-Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA, 1989                                                                        In his rookie season, he was given the difficult task of helping rebuild after the firing of the only coach in team history, Tom Landry. He went 0-11 in 1989, throwing twice as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns (9). The team went 1-15 that year, so in 1990 he had to compete for the starting job with Steve Walsh. Walsh was also coach Jimmy Johnson’s starting quarterback for the 1988 national champion Miami Hurricanes, and was a supplemental first round pick in 1989, when Dallas had the first overall pick. Aikman won the starting job, and Walsh was traded to the Saints.

Aikman had gone 7-7 as a starter in 1990, and had a chance at leading the team to the playoffs when an injury ended his second season. The team acquired veteran Steve Beuerlein from the Raiders to back him up in 1991, and had much better luck when injuries struck again. They had gotten off to a 6-4 start when the injury happened this time. Beuerlein was 5-0 during Aikman’s absence, leading some to believe that they should just stick with him.

The Cowboys kept Beuerlein in the lineup for the playoffs, leading to a road win in Chicago, followed by a loss in Detroit. Aikman was named to his first of six consecutive Pro Bowls at the end of the season (1991-1996), and it was enough for the team to let Steve Beuerlein leave in free agency. Aikman started all 16 games in 1992, completing 302 of 473 passes for 3,445 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII, leading the Cowboys to a 52-17 victory over the Bills.

In 1993 he led the team to a 12-4 record, nearly duplicating the previous season’s success. They advanced to Super Bowl XXVIII for a rematch with the Bills, although it was a closer one, winning 30-13. He missed two games to injury in 1994, but the Cowboys dynasty was mostly intact (minus former head coach Jimmy Johnson), and the team made it to the NFC Championship, losing to the San Francisco 49ers & their one-year rental All-Pro cornerback Deion Sanders. So, what does Jerry Jones do to get Troy Aikman & the Cowboys back in the Super Bowl the next season? Sign Deion Sanders, of course!

I think Jerry saw that his franchise quarterback was already getting beat up, and that his window for winning championships wasn’t going to be the typical 16 years you see in modern quarterbacks. So Jerry signs Deion, Dallas advances to Super Bowl XXX, beating Pittsburgh 27-17, and Aikman gets his third ring in four years. He only missed one game to injury in 1996, and had his second straight 3,000 yard season, but the team lost in the second round of the playoffs. He threw for over 3,000 yards for the third season in a row in 1997 ( then a team record), but the team finished 6-10.

Aikman helped lead the team to a 10-6 record in 1998, although he missed five games due to injuries along the way. They won their division, but suffered one of the biggest upsets of the year, losing 20-7 to Jake Plummer & the Cardinals in the wildcard round. He started 14 games in 1999, throwing for 2,964 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. They advanced to the playoffs as a wildcard, but lost in Minnesota.

The 2000 season would be Aikman’s last as a player. He threw twice as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns (7). He was in & out of the lineup due to concussions, sharing the job with Randall Cunningham. Even though he only played 12 seasons, he still accomplished what most don’t do in a typical, dragged out 16-18 year career you see from quarterbacks these days. He set a record for most wins by a quarterback in one decade, with 90 wins in the 1990’s (since beaten by Peyton Manning & Tom Brady). In 12 years he played in 165 regular season games, completing 2,898 out of 4,715 passes for 32,942 yards, 165 touchdowns, 141 interceptions, and had a career passer rating of 81.6. He was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2005, had his jersey #8 retired, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He was ranked #80 among the all time greats on the NFL’s Top 100 list.

8. Houston Oilers-Earl Campbell, RB, Texas, 1978                                                                      The term “man amongst boys” fits his scenario perfectly, there was no one like him in the league, even as a rookie. At 5’11” & 244 lbs, & clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40 yard dash, he had the size & speed to bulldoze through defenses like no one else. He led the league in rushing as a rookie, with 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns on 302 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also earned his first of five Pro Bowl selections (1978-1981, 1983) as a rookie.

He led the league in rushing again in 1979, with 1,697 yards and 19 touchdowns on 368 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He accomplished the feat in each of his first three seasons, doing it again in 1980, reaching carer highs in carries (373), yards (1,934), and yards per carry (5.2), while scoring 13 rushing touchdowns. Those first three seasons saw him earn virtually every award & accolade possible for a running back: he was named NFL MVP from 1978-1980, NFL Offensive Player of the Year from 1978-1980, AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1978, & 1978 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Even with a bit of a dropoff in yards per carry in 1981 (3.8), he still ran for 1,376 yards & 10 touchdowns. He had an even bigger dropoff in the strike shortened nine game season in 1982, with only 538 yards and two touchdowns on 157 carries, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. He returned to Pro Bowl form in 1983, rushing for 1,301 yards and 12 touchdowns on 322 carries, despite missing two games. After a slow start in the 1984 season (278 yards, 2.9 yards per carry thru 6 games), he was traded to the New Orleans Saints for their #1 pick in the 1985 draft (Houston picked cornerback Richard Johnson, 11th overall).

He did improve after joining the Saints in 1984, rushing for 190 yards on 50 carries in eight games (3.8 average). He did manage one last decent season in 1985, playing in all 16 games and rushing for 643 yards and one touchdown on 158 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He retired rather abruptly before the 1986 season, but it was pretty well timed, with rookies Reuben Mayes & Dalton Hilliard ready to take on the load. In eight seasons in the NFL, he played in 118 games, with 2,187 carries for 9,407 yards and 78 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. He was ranked #55 among the all-time greats in the NFL’s Top 100 Players list.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Steve Young, QB, BYU, 1984 USFL Supplemental Draft           He was ranked #81 among the all-time legends on the NFL Top 100 list. He began his career in the  USFL with the Los Angeles Express. He landed on this list because the NFL held a special draft in 1984 for players in the Canadian league & the USFL whose rights were not already controlled by an NFL team, and Young was the first player chosen in that draft. The first round of that draft had as much talent as a typical collegiate draft, with three Hall of Fame players ( Young, Gary Zimmerman, and Reggie White) chosen in the first four picks. The USFL folded in 1985, and Young reported to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately, the team gave up on him quickly after two losing seasons, and chose quarterback Vinny Testaverde with the first pick in the 1987 draft.

Young was traded to the 49ers for two picks in the 1987 draft: a second rounder (linebacker Winston Moss), and  a fourth rounder (wide receiver Bruce Hill). Young settled into a job as the backup and future successor to Joe Montana. He only started three games each season from 1987-1989, and only one game in 1990, but his performance in those games made him one of the league’s highest paid backup quarterbacks. He also earned his first two Super Bowl rings with the team’s wins in Super Bowl XXIII & XXIV.

No one knew it at the time, but he officially replaced Montana in the lineup when Montana suffered an elbow injury in the team’s NFC Championship loss to the Giants in January 1991. Montana went on to miss the entire 1991 season, leaving Young as the starter. He was 4-4 as a starter when his own injury took him out of the lineup for several weeks. While Young was out, backup Steve Bono went 5-0 as as starter, and Young didn’t get back in until Bono got hurt.

Young still led the league with a passer rating of 101.8 in 1991, and the team had a respectable 10-6 record, but missed the playoffs. The team kept Young, Bono, and a slowly recovering Montana around in 1992, but Young still managed to start all 16 games. The team got a better look at what he could do with a full season, completing 66.7% of his passes for 3,465 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, for a passer rating of 107.0, while adding 537 yards and 4 touchdowns on 76 carries (7.1 avg.). He became the first quarterback in NFL history to record back-to-back seasons with a passer rating of 100 or more.

The 1992 season was also the start of his 7 year run of Pro Bowl selections (1992-1998). He earned many awards for his performance in 1992: NFL MVP, AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, UPI NFC Offensive Player of the Year, and Kansas City Committee of 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Year. There was still one blemish on the resume in the eyes of niners fans: the team lost the NFC Championship game. His performance was still good enough to clear up the quarterback controversy: the team traded Joe Montana, safety David Whitmore, and a 1994 3rd round pick to the Chiefs for a #1 pick, which they traded down with & still turned into Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield.

He raised the bar for himself again in 1993, completing 68% of his passes, throwing for a career high 4,023 yards, 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, with a passer rating of 101.5 ( a new record three seasons in a row over 100), and rushing for 407 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, they suffered the same fate as the previous season: losing in the NFC Championship game to the Dallas Cowboys. The team made a key acquisition in free agency (Deion Sanders) in 1994, and Young reached new statistical heights, completing 70.3% of his passes for 3,969 yards, 35 touchdowns,10 interceptions, and a passer rating of 112.8 (his highest as a starter, & record 4th season in a row over 100), while rushing for 293 yards and a career high 7 touchdowns. The season had a storybook ending he could hardly imagine: throwing 6 touchdowns for the first time in his life in Super Bowl XXIX, and being named Super Bowl XXIX MVP.

That ending pretty much dwarfed the other accolades he received for the 1994 season: 3rd straight Pro Bowl, being named the NFL MVP by 5 different sports writers organizations, 1st team AP All-Pro 3rd year in a row, UPI NFC Offensive Player of the Year, & Kansas City Committee of 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Year. The team suffered some big losses in the offseason, and they just couldn’t duplicate that kind of magic again. Deion Sanders signed a multi-year contract with Dallas, Young’s mentor Mike Shanahan took over as the Broncos head coach, and he signed Ed McCaffrey in free agency. The team took a big gamble on draft day & traded up to draft a receiver whose stock fell because of his forty time (J.J. Stokes), and he was immediately seen as the second coming of Jerry Rice.

He missed 5 games due to injuries in 1995, but he still threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. He only missed 4 starts in 1996, and had his lowest yardage total as a starter: 2,410 yards, but also led the NFL with a passer rating of 97.2. His numbers were closer to normal in 1997, missing only one start, and completing 67.7% of his passes for 3,029 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, leading the NFL for the 2nd year in a row with a passer rating of 104.6.  Unfortunately, all three seasons ended with playoff losses to Brett Favre & the Packers.

Young still had one last great season left in him in 1998: he threw for a career high 4,170 yards, an NFL leading 36 touchdowns, & 12 interceptions, with a passer rating of 101.6. He also added on 454 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground, both second highest totals of his career. This time, however, they beat the Packers in the wildcard round, and lost to the eventual NFC Champion Falcons in the second round of the playoffs. Young did come back to play in the 1999 season, but he only lasted three games after suffering his second concussion of the season.

He retired after the 1999 season, but he posted some pretty respectable career numbers for a guy that mostly sat on the bench for four years. In 15 seasons in the NFL he played in 169 games, starting 143. He completed 2,667 of 4,149 passing attempts (64.3%) for 33,124 yards, 232 touchdowns, 107 interceptions, with a passer rating of 96.8. He also ran 722 times for 4,239 yards (5.9 avg.), and 43 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, his career passer rating was  the highest in NFL history, it is now 4th. His 43 career rushing touchdowns were the most by a quarterback, but he is now tied with Cam Newton. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and the San Francisco 49ers retired his #8 in 2008.

6. Buffalo Bills-O. J. Simpson, RB, USC, 1969                                                                                  I know, I’m not exactly winning any popularity contests by putting him ahead of Steve Young, Earl Campbell, Troy Aikman, and Joe Namath (and the others that didn’t even crack the top 10), but he deserves mention here for what is still the greatest single season by a running back in NFL history. He started his career in 1969 with 181 carries for 697 yards & two touchdowns, and 30 catches for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns. His rookie season also earned him his first of 6 Pro Bowl selections (1969, 1972-1976). He played in only 8 games in 1970, and had 488 rushing yards. The 1971 season was a little bit better, with 742 yards.

His first 1,000 yard season came in 1972, when he led the league with 1,251 yards rushing on 292 carries with six touchdowns. He was named MVP of the Pro Bowl that year, with 16 carries for 112 yards & a touchdown, and 3 catches for 58 yards. His repeat league leading rushing performance in 1973 set records that are still standing: he became the first player in league history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season, with 332 carries for 2,003 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. He was named the 1973 NFL MVP, and 1973 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

The 2,000 yard rushing mark has been beaten several times since then: by Eric Dickerson in 1984 (2,105), Barry Sanders in 1997 (2,053), Terrell Davis in 1998 (2,008), Jamal Lewis in 2003 (2,066), Chris Johnson in 2009 (2,006), and Adrian Peterson (2,097). Even though they had a higher yardage total than him, he holds the advantage in one key area: yards per game (143.1). O. J. only needed 14 games to reach 2,000 yards, and he also set an NFL record by becoming the first player to rush for 1,000 yards in 7 games (1,025). If he had maintained that 143 yards per game average in a 16 game season, his single season total would be a still standing record total of 2,289 yards! Since the modern running game has turned into sort of a timeshare system for most teams, it has become even less likely that this record will ever be broken.

The 1974 was a bit of a dropoff compared to the previous season’s stats: 270 carries for 1,125 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was off to another record performance in 1975, rushing  for 1,005 yards through the first 7 games, tying his own record for fastest to reach 1,000 yards in a season( a mark later tied by Terrell Davis). Unfortunately he didn’t quite stay at that pace, but still led the league in rushing for the third time, with 1,817 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 28 catches for 426 yards and 7 touchdowns. He led the league in rushing for the fourth time in 1976, with 290 carries for  1,503 yards, and 8 touchdowns.

Injuries finally began taking their toll on him in 1977, limiting him to 7 games, with 126 carries for 557 yards. The Bills traded him to the 49ers in 1978 in a fleecing that was only about half as bad as the Cowboys/Vikings Herschel Walker trade. The 49ers gave up their 1978 2nd & 3rd round picks, 1979 1st & 4th round picks, and a 1980 2nd round pick. The 49ers, in return, got 593 yards and a touchdown in 1978, and 463 yards and 3 touchdowns in 1979, and O.J. retired after the season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All Time Team, and he was ranked #40 on the NFL’s Top 100.

5. Philadelphia Eagles-Chuck Bednarik, C/LB, Penn, 1949                                                        He was one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game. The Eagles won the NFL Championship game at the end of his rookie season. He was named to the Pro Bowl 8 times (1950-1956, 1960), he was the 1953 Pro Bowl MVP, and was a 10 time All-Pro (1950-1957, 1960, 1961). The Eagles won a 2nd NFL Championship in 1960, and his tackle of Jim Taylor on the 8 yard line ate up enough time to stop Green Bay from attempting one last shot at the end zone.

He spent his entire 14 year NFL career with the Eagles (1949-1962), and was one of the last great two-way players. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility. He was inducted into the initial class of The Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll (since re-named the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame) in 1987. He had his jersey #60 retired by the Eagles. He was named to the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary Team, the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, and was ranked #35 among the all time greats in the NFL’s Top 100 list.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers-Terry Bradshaw, QB, Louisiana Tech, 1970                                        He spent his entire 14 year career with the Steelers (1970-1983). It’s amazing that they kept him in the lineup based on his early numbers. As a rookie he completed only 83 of 218 attempts for 1,410 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. His completion percentage got better in year two, completing 203 of 373 attempts for 2,259 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions in 1971 . His completion percentage remained under 50% for the next three years, but with a strong defense, and a running game led by Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier, they won in spite of him, going 11-3 in 1972, 10-4 in 1973, and 10-3-1 in 1974.

His performance improved just in time for the team’s first Super Bowl appearance. He competed 9 of 14 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, with a passer rating of 108.4 as the Steelers beat the Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX. His improvement carried over into the 1975 season, when he threw for 2,055 yards, 18 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions, with a passer rating of 88.0. He also earned the first of 3 Pro Bowl selections (1975, 1978, 1979) in his career.

The Steelers went on to win their 2nd Super Bowl in a row at the end of the 1975 season, beating the Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X. Bradshaw was 9 of 19 for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns. He missed 4 games due to injuries in 1976, and was 92 of 192 for 1,177 yards, 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He threw for 2,523 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions in 1977, and was named the 1977 Pittsburgh Steelers MVP.

He was named the 1978 NFL MVP, when he threw for 2,915 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. He was also named the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers MVP, & the 1978 NFL QB of the Year. He led the Steelers to a 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIV, winning the Super Bowl MVP award by going 17 of 30 for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns, with 1 interception. He went on to win consecutive Super Bowl MVP awards by engineering a 31-19 win over the Rams in Super Bowl XIV, going 14 of 21 for 309 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.

After four Super Bowl wins in a span of six years, he still had three more productive seasons left in him after the team drafted his successor Mark Malone in the first round in 1980.He threw for 3,339 yards,24 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions in 1980, and  2,887 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in 1981. He finished tied for the league lead in touchdown passes with 17 in the strike shortened nine game season in 1982. He missed the first 14 games in 1983, and threw two touchdowns in what would be the last game of his career.

He spent his entire 14 year with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983). He played in 168 regular season games, completing 2,025 of 3,901 attempts for 27,989 yards, 212 touchdowns, and 210 interceptions, with a passer rating of 70.9. Although his regular season numbers seem rather pedestrian, he was incredible in the postseason, especially in the Super Bowl. In four Super Bowls he was 49 of 84 for 932 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions, with a passer rating of 112.7, and a record of 4-0.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the Pittsburgh Steelers 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, & the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team. He was selected to the Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame in it’s inaugural class in 2011. He was ranked #50 among the all-time greats on the NFL’s Top 100 list.

3. Buffalo Bills-Bruce Smith, DE, Virginia Tech, 1985                                                                 He had 48 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and four fumble recoveries as a rookie. He had 15 sacks in 1986, but somehow got left out of the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl voters made it up to him afterwards, as he was selected 11 times in the next 12 years (1987-1990, 1992-1998). He missed 11 games due to injury in 1991, but reached double digits in sacks every other season that he made the Pro Bowl.

He was named Defensive Player of the Year a total of five different times by four different sports writers organizations: by the Associated Press in 1990 & 1996, the Pro Football Writers Association in 1990, 1993, and 1996,  the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1990 & 1993, and the United Press International in 1987, 1988, 1990, & 1996. His best year was 1990, when he had 19 sacks, and helped lead the Bills to their first Super Bowl appearance (XXV). Even though people may mock their four Super Bowl losses, they were still the best team in the AFC for four seasons in a row. He missed 11 games due to a knee injury, then came back strong with 14 sacks in each of the next two seasons in 1992 & 1993.

Even after the knee surgery, he still came back strong, with seven straight seasons with 10 or more sacks, including 14 in 1998. So when he had only seven in 1999, the Bills made him one of their big name salary cap cuts. The Redskins made him one of their big name signings, and they mainly used him in pass rushing situations. He recorded 10 sacks in 2000, and a total of 29 in four seasons with the Redskins (2000-2003).

He spent a total of 19 years in the NFL, 15 years with the Buffalo Bills (1985-1999), and four years with the Washington Redskins (2000-2003). He surpassed Reggie White as the NFL’s all time sack leader in his final season, but it took him 19 seasons to do it, as us cheeseheads like to point out :p He became the first in league history to reach the 200 career sack mark, and no one else has gotten close yet. He was ranked 31st among the legends in the NFL Top 100, he was selected to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, he was selected to the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame, & he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

2. Baltimore Colts-John Elway, QB, Stanford, 1983

So I guess it’s quite unanimous now that he did the right thing by holding out & refusing to play for the Colts. He got traded to the Denver Broncos, where he lost three Super Bowls in a span of four years, then won two of them in the twilight of his playing career. After seeing them careen to an all time low during the Josh McDaniels coaching era, he took over as General Manager & guided them to two Super Bowls in the next four years, winning the most recent one.  He’s probably the most iconic figure in Broncos history now,  & he might not have been a Bronco if the Colts had played hardball.

Luckily he had baseball as a fallback option, and he threatened to join the Yankees if the Colts didn’t trade him. He was traded to the Broncos for offensive guard Chris Hinton (the 4th pick in the same draft as Elway), a #1 pick in 1984 (starting guard Ron Solt), and backup quarterback Marc Hermann. By his fourth season, he had the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, losing to the Giants, 39-20. He was the 1987 NFL MVP, & led them to the Super Bowl again, but it was another blowout, a 42-10 loss to the Redskins.

The team missed the playoffs in 1988, but Elway kept producing 3,000 yard passing seasons in spite of being stuck in a run based offense coached by Dan Reeves. The team just wasn’t building a good enough supporting cast around him, and I thought it was obvious they screwed up when they passed on WR Carl Pickens to get Tommy Maddox as Elway’s eventual successor. Elway missed four games due to injury in 1992, and coincidentally, they had undrafted rookie free agent Russell Freeman starting at left tackle that year. The team fired Reeves after the 1992 season, and they finally started putting better talent around him.

The Broncos treaded water for two more seasons under Wade Phillips, but the return of Elway ally Mike Shanahan as head coach in 1995 turned into the icing on the cake for Elway’s career.He set a career high with 26 touchdown passes in 1995, then tied that mark in 1996, and topped it with 27 in 1997. His first year with Shanahan as head coach also produced his second highest single season yardage total: 3,970. He led the team to a 13-3 season & the top seed in the AFC in 1996, but they were shockingly beat at home by the Jaguars.

 He started all 16 games in 1997, completing 280 of 502 passes for 3,625 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, with a passer rating of 87.5. He led the Broncos to Super Bowl XXXII, where they beat the Packers 31-24. He missed four starts due to injury in 1998, with 12 starts in 13 games played, completing 59% of his passes, throwing for 2,806 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He led the Broncos to Super Bowl XXXIII, beating the Falcons 34-19. Elway was 18 of 29 for 336 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and one rushing touchdown, earning the Super Bowl XXXIII MVP award.

After winning his second Super Bowl in a row, Elway retired on May 2nd. He played 16 years in the NFL, all with the Denver Broncos (1983-1998).  He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times (1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996-1998). He was voted the UPI AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1987 & 1993. He was named to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1999, and had his jersey #7 retired by the team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He was ranked #23 among the legends on the NFL Top 100.

1. Indianapolis Colts-Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee, 1998

I know there’s going to be some haters & critics that won’t agree with this pick. Just based on my standard scoring formula, he played 17 seasons (17 pts), he played in a record tying 14 Pro Bowls (28 pts), won two Super Bowls (6 pts), was the MVP of Super Bowl XLI (3 pts), ranked #8 on the top 100 of all time (92 pts),  first team all pro seven times (14 pts), second team all pro three times (6 pts), voted NFL MVP five times by the Associated Press (10 pts), AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice (4 pts), NFL Player of the Year in 2003 & 2004, the Bert Bell Award (4 pts), &  AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2012 (2 pts). If you compare his score in these areas with Elway’s, Manning is ahead by a score of 186-140. Even if you only gave him one point for each record set, he holds 48 NFL regular season records, 13 NFL playoffs records, five rookie records, four quarterback/wide receiver tandem records set with Marvin Harrison, 10 Pro Bowl records, 48 Colts franchise records ( breaking records set by Johnny Unitas in the process), and then breaking 17 franchise passing records in four seasons with the Broncos, he would have another 145 points just based on all of the records he broke!

He was selected to the 1998 NFL All Rookie Team. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl following the 1999 season, when he threw for 4,135 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, with a passer rating of 90.5. He was selected to the Pro Bowl a total of 14 times, in 1999, 2000, 2002-2010, and 2012-2014, and was the MVP of the 2005 Pro Bowl. He threw for over 4,000 yards 14 times in 17 seasons, and led the league in passing yardage three times, in 2000, 2003, and 2013. His best season was in 2013 with the Broncos, when he set the league’s single season records for completions (450), attempts (659), passing yards (5,477), and touchdowns (55), while throwing only 10 interceptions, with a career high passer rating of 115.1.

He led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2000, 2004, 2006, and 2013. He was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2004 & 2013. He was selected as the NFL MVP in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2013. He was a seven time first team All Pro (2003-2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, & 2013), & a three time second team All Pro (1999, 2000, & 2006).

He won the Bert Bell award (NFL Player of the Year) in 2003 & 2004. He won the AFC Offensive Player of the Year Award eight times: in 1999, 2003-2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the week 27 times. He was named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team. He also won quite a few Espy awards from ESPN: Best NFL Player in 2004 & 2005, Best Record Breaking Performance in 2005 & 2014, and Best Championship Performance in 2007. He was named the 2004 FedEx Express Player of the Year in 2004.

 By the time his Colts career came to an end in 2012, he was the team’s all time leader in passing attempts (4,682), completions (7,210), yards (54,828), touchdowns (399), and career wins (141). He missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery, and the Colts had to waive him in 2012 to clear salary cap space & a starting spot for the eventual top pick  in the draft: Andrew Luck. It wasn’t even certain he would be able to play again, but there was no shortage of teams willing to give him a chance. In the end, he chose his boyhood idol John Elway & the Denver Broncos.

We now know what a storybook finish it turned into for Peyton & the Broncos. His first season with them was incredible, winning 13 games while completing 400 of 583 passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, with a passer rating of 105.9. He won the award for NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2012, but the team lost a home playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. He was even better statistically in 2013, when he set most of the single season passing records, including 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. He was named the 2013 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. The team advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII, but lost to the Seahawks, 43-8.

 The team advanced to the playoffs again in 2014 in spite of a late season slump by Manning, but another playoff loss forced Elway to make some major changes. He fired veteran head coach John Fox, and brought in old friend & former Broncos backup quarterback & Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to be the new head coach. Kubiak  also convinced defensive coordinator & former Broncos head coach Wade Phillips to join him as the defensive coordinator in Denver. With the new coaching staff onboard, the team built a defense to win a championship. Even with Manning missing seven games due to injury, Brock Osweiler went 5-2 in his place. However, when Osweiler slumped in the season finale, Manning took over in the second half & led a comeback win, the Broncos won the rest of the way, and the rest is history.

He’s done too much for me to justify putting any of the guys behind him any higher. In his 17 year playing career, he completed 6,125 of 9,380 attempts for 71,940 yards, 539 touchdowns, and 251 interceptions, with  a passer rating of 96.5. The play that really sticks out in my head was the one where he overruled coach Dungy & waved off the punt team, and basically said, “I GOT THIS!!!!,” telling coach Dungy he was absolutely sure he would convert the fourth down based on the coverage they were playing. He threw a fourth down completion to Reggie Wayne & kept the drive going. It’s plays like that that make guys say it was like having an offensive coordinator on the field when he was in at quarterback. He did things that no other quarterback could, there’s never been anyone else that could read a defense like him.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #2

I am so glad this series is almost finished, it’s getting more difficult to measure one legend’s career against another. I grappled back & forth between Lawrence Taylor & Sid Luckman for the top spot with this pick. Luckman revolutionized the passing game, leading the Bears to four NFL Championships along the way. Lawrence Taylor’s size & speed revolutionized the way outside linebackers are used, and sent every team in the league searching for someone that could do what he did.
It even led to a few highly drafted busts that were supposed to be the next Lawrence Taylor, like the first overall pick in the 1988 draft, Atlanta’s Aundray Bruce. There have been plenty of strikeouts at both positions, but in the end, I just went with the player that I considered to be the better of the two. So, here’s my ranking of the top 10 NFL players drafted with the second overall pick:
10. Philadelphia Eagles-Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse, 1999
It’s a little strange to look at a career like his & remember that he was booed by the Eagles fans at the draft because they wanted Ricky Williams. He did have a rough beginning, completing less than 50% of his passes as a rookie, going 106-216 for 948 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He did much better in 2000, going 11-5 as a starter, and throwing for 3,365 yards and 21 touchdowns. He went 11-5 again in 2001, throwing for 3,233 yards and 25 touchdowns.
He led the Eagles to the NFC Championship in 2001, but they lost to the Rams. McNabb went on to lead the Eagles to four straight NFC Championship games, and finally reached the Super Bowl at the end of the 2004 season. The team lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots, but it was close, with a final score of 24-21. He did earn recognition for his four straight NFC Championship game appearances, earning selection to five straight Pro Bowls (2000-2004).
He was banged up a bit over the next two years, starting nine games in 2005, and 10 games in 2006. He missed two games in 2007, but still threw for 3,324 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only seven picks. In 2008 he started all 16 games, going 9-6-1, and finishing with a career high 3,916 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He made the fifth NFC Championship appearance of his career, but lost 32-25 to the Cardinals.
In 2009 he missed two starts, but went 10-4 as a starter, completing 60.3% of his passes for 3,553 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, earning his sixth Pro Bowl selection. After the season, the Eagles traded him to the division rival Washington Redskins for a second round pick. He wound up with 13 starts, going 5-8 as a starter, completing 58.3% of his passes for 3,377 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. After his rough outing with the Redskins, they traded him to the Vikings in 2011 for a sixth round pick. As luck would have it, that sixth round pick produced running back Alfred Morris.
His luck with the Vikings wasn’t any better than it was with the Redskins. He started six games, going 1-5 as a starter, completing 60.3% of his passes for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. He was released by the Vikings in December so he could try to latch on with a playoff contender with an injured quarterback, since there were three teams in that predicament at the time. Ultimately, he didn’t sign with anyone, and wound up officially retiring with the Eagles in 2013. The team retired his jersey #5, and he was named to the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team. In 13 seasons in the NFL he completed 3,170 passes out of 5,374 attempts, throwing for 37,276 yards, 234 touchdowns, and 117 interceptions, with a passer rating of 85.6.

9. L.A. Rams-Tom Mack, G, Michigan, 1966
He spent his entire 13 year career with the Rams (1966-1978). He was selected to 11 Pro Bowls in his 13 seasons, only missing out in his rookie year of 1966, and the 1976 season. He was inducted into the St. Louis Football Ring of Fame in 1999, the same year as his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was named to the Los Angeles Rams 40th Anniversary Team. He never missed a game in his career, playing in 184 straight games.

8. Carolina Panthers-Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina, 2002
He burst onto the scene with 12 sacks as a rookie, and was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2002 by the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writers of America. The team turned itself around so quickly that they wound up in the Super Bowl only a year after picking Peppers with the second pick. They did wind up losing Super Bowl XXXVIII to the Patriots, but it was still an impressive turnaround. He was named to his first of three straight Pro Bowls (2004-2006), with 64 tackles (52 solo), 11 sacks, seven passes defensed, four forced fumbles, and two interceptions for 143 yards and a touchdown.
He had a streak of three years in a row with double digits in sacks, with 10.5 in 2005, and 13 in 2006. He missed two games in 2007, and was held to 2.5 sacks, but he came roaring back the next year. He was right back in the Pro Bowl in 2008, his first of five in a row (2008-2012), with 14.5 sacks. In 2009 he had the second interception returned for a touchdown in his career, and even with 10.5 sacks, the Panthers decided to let him leave in free agency the following year.
In 2010 he signed a six year deal with the Bears worth 90 million, and produced 54 tackles (43 solo), nine passes defensed, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. He had 11 sacks in 2011, and 11.5 in 2012. In 2013 he had only seven sacks, and was released after the season for salary cap space. He signed with the Packers just four days after being released by the Bears.
He was a big time difference maker in Green Bay, in spite of the fact that he was playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense for the first time in his career. He started all 16 games, and had two interceptions for 101 yards, returning both of them for touchdowns. He also had 54 tackles (34 solo), seven sacks, a career high 11 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. So far in his career, he’s played 13 years (2002-2009 Panthers, 2010-2013 Bears, 2014 Packers), starting 200 of the 202 games he’s played, recording 610 tackles (482 solo), 125.5 sacks, 75 passes defensed, 46 forced fumbles, 17 fumble recoveries for 131 yards and two touchdowns, and 11 interceptions for 293 yards and four touchdowns. He is the first player in NFL history with 100 sacks and 10 interceptions in his career.

7. Detroit Lions-Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech, 2007
He had a decent rookie season, starting 10 of the 15 games he played, and had 48 catches for 756 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 15.8 yards per catch. In 2008 he had 78 catches for 1,331 yards, and led the league with 12 touchdown catches. He missed two games in 2009, but still had 67 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns. In 2010 he had his first of five straight Pro Bowl selections (2010-2014), with 77 catches for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In 2011 he led the league in receiving yardage, with 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns on 96 catches. In 2012 he broke Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yardage record (1,848 yards). He led the league with 122 catches for 1,964 yards and five touchdowns. He wound up leading the NFC in receiving yardage three years in a row, with 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. He missed three games in 2014, but still had 71 catches for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns.
After eight seasons, he has played in 119 games, with 114 starts, and has 643 catches for 10,405 yards and 74 touchdowns, averaging 16.2 yards per catch. He has ranked in the top 10 in the NFL’s Top 100 list in each of the last four years, ranking third in 2012 & 2013, second in 2014, and sixth in 2015. He is tied with Chargers Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for most 200 yard games in a career, with five. That record is one of 15 NFL records he has set so far, and there’s still plenty of time for him to set more.

6. Dallas Cowboys-Tony Dorsett, RB, Pittsburgh, 1977
Even though he only started four of the 14 games in 1977, he led the team in rushing with 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns on 208 attempts. He had the league’s longest run of the season, an 84 yarder. He had 15 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys 27-10 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XII. I would bet that this lands him on a short list of Hall of Fame players who got a Championship ring as a rookie.
He followed his rookie season with his first Pro Bowl selection in 1978, rushing for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns on 290 carries. The Cowboys made it to Super Bowl XIII, but lost to the Steelers. He went over 1,100 yards in each of the next two seasons, with 1,107 yards in 1979, and 1,185 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1980. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the next three seasons (1981-1983).
He averaged more than 100 yards rushing per game in 1981, with 342 carries for 1,646 yards and four touchdowns. If it weren’t for the player strike limiting them to nine games in 1982, he likely would have had a streak of nine straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards rushing. He led the league with 177 carries in 1982, with 745 yards and five touchdowns, including a record setting 99 yard run. Things were back to normal in 1983, with his third straight Pro Bowl season, rushing for 1,321 yards and eight touchdowns.
He still had two more 1,000 yard seasons left: rushing for 1,189 yards in 1984, and 1,307 yards in 1985. He did see a reduction in his workload after USFL star Herschel Walker joined the team, and had 184 carries for 748 yards and five touchdowns in 1986. In 1987 he started only six of 12 games in the strike shortened season, with only 130 carries for 456 yards and a touchdown. He was traded to the Denver Broncos for a fifth round pick in 1989, and led the team with 703 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 181 carries.
He suffered a season ending injury before the preseason in 1989, and wound up retiring afterward. Overall, he played 12 years (1977-1987 Cowboys, 1988 Broncos), starting 152 of the 173 games he played. He had 2,936 carries for 12,739 yards and 77 touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He also had 398 catches for 3,554 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

5. Dallas Cowboys-Randy White, DT, Maryland, 1975
He served as a backup in his first two seasons, but became a “manster”(his nickname) in his third season. He moved from middle linebacker to defensive tackle in 1977, and earned his first of nine straight Pro Bowl selections (1977-1985). He & teammate Harvey Martin were the first co-MVP’s of a Super Bowl in the team’s 27-10 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XII. He started 165 of the 209 games he played in his career.
In 14 years he had 1,104 tackles (704 solo), 111 sacks unofficially (52 from 1982-1988, when the sack first became an official stat). His greatest single season was 1978, when he had 16 sacks. He played in six NFC Championship games, and three Super Bowls. He was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 1994, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, his first year of eligibility.

4. Indianapolis Colts-Marshall Faulk, RB, San Diego State, 1994
He was named the 1994 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by four different sports media organizations. He was also named to the pro Bowl as rookie, when he had 314 carries for 1,282 yards and 11 touchdowns, and 52 catches for 522 yards and one touchdown. Even with a so-called sophomore slump, he still had 1,553 yards from scrimmage in 1995: 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, and 56 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns. His rushing average dipped down to three yards per carry in 1996, with 198 carries for 587 yards and seven touchdowns, along with 428 yards receiving on 56 catches.
He rebounded nicely in 1997, with 264 carries for 1,054 yards and seven touchdowns, and 47 catches for 471 yards and a touchdown. In 1998, with rookie Peyton Manning as his quarterback, he led the league with 2,227 yards from scrimmage: with 1,319 yards rushing & six touchdowns, and 86 catches for 908 yards and four touchdowns. His 1998 season started a streak of five straight Pro Bowl selections (1998-2002). With the Colts concerned about a possible holdout, they traded him to the Rams for picks in the second & fifth round in 1999.
Faulk wound up setting a new NFL record with 2,429 yards from scrimmage, and helped lead the Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. He had 253 carries for 1,381 yards and seven touchdowns, and 87 catches for 1,048 yards and five touchdowns, becoming only the second player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing & receiving in the same season. In 2000 he had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the third straight season, with 253 carries for 1,359 yards and a league leading 18 touchdowns, along with 81 catches for 830 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2001 he became the first player in NFL history with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in four consecutive seasons. He had 260 carries for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, and 83 catches for 765 yards and nine touchdowns in 2001.
In 2002 he started 10 of 14 games played, and had 212 carries for 953 yards and eight touchdowns, along with 80 catches for 537 yards and two touchdowns. In 2003 he missed five games, finishing with 818 yards and 10 touchdowns, and 45 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown. With Faulk finally starting to show signs of wear & tear, and Trung Canidate not developing as planned, the team drafted Steven Jackson in the first round of the 2004 draft. The two of them split the load in 2004, with Steven Jackson rushing for 673 yards, and Faulk rushing for 774 yards.
Jackson became the full time starter in 2005, and Faulk had only one start, but still played in all 16 games. In his final season, he had 65 carries for 292 yards, and 44 catches for 291 yards and a touchdown. Overall, he played 12 years in the NFL, split between the Colts (1994-1998), and the Rams (1999-2005). He started 156 of the 176 games he played, with 2,836 carries for 12,279 yards and 100 touchdowns, along with 767 catches for 6,875 yards and 36 touchdowns. He was named the NFL MVP by multiple sports media groups in 2000 & 2001, he was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1999, 2000, and 2001, and he was the Rams MVP from 1999-2001. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011, he had his jersey #28 retired by the Rams, and was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Fame in 2013.

3. L.A. Rams-Eric Dickerson, RB, Southern Methodist, 1983
The “man amongst boys” analogy works here, with Dickerson leading the league in yards from scrimmage (2,212), carries (390), and rushing yards (1,808) as a rookie, and he added 18 rushing touchdowns, and two more as a receiver. He did the unthinkable and topped those numbers in his second year, breaking the league’s single season rushing yardage record, with 378 carries for 2,105 yards, and a league leading 14 touchdowns. He missed two games in his third season (1985), but still rushed for 1,234 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. He led the league in rushing again in 1986, with 404 carries for 1,821 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He was with the Rams for three games in 1987 before being shipped to the Indianapolis Colts in one of the biggest trades in NFL history. The Colts traded their unsigned first round pick from the 1987 draft, outside linebacker Cornelius Bennett, to the Bills for their #1 pick in 1988, their #1 & #2 picks in 1989, and running back Greg Bell. The Colts packaged it all together with their first round pick in 1988, their second round picks in 1988 & 1989, and running back Owen Gill for Dickerson. Dickerson went on to run for 1,011 yards and five touchdowns in the nine remaining games during the strike shortened 1987 season, with a grand total of 1,288 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games split between the Colts and the Rams.
In 1988 he was back to his usual self, leading the league in yards from scrimmage (2,036), rushing yards (1,659), and carries (388), all while adding 14 touchdowns on the ground. He missed one game in 1989, but still had 314 carries for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns, and earned his sixth Pro Bowl selection (1983, 1984, 1986-1989). He missed the start of the 1990 season because of a contract dispute, and was limited to 166 carries for 677 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games with eight starts. The 1991 season was a similar story, with nine starts in 10 games, with 167 carries for 536 yards and two touchdowns, with an average of only 3.2 yards per carry.
With the Colts suffering through a 1-15 season, and with Dickerson suspended in November 1991, the team traded him to the Raiders for picks in rounds 4 and 8 in the 1992 draft. He shared the workload with Marcus Allen & Nick Bell with the Raiders, and had 187 carries for 729 yards and two touchdowns. He was traded to Atlanta in July 1993, where he started two of four games, and had 26 carries for 91 yards. The Falcons tried to trade him again, but he failed a physical with the Packers, and then retired afterward.
He played a total of 11 seasons in the NFL with the Rams (1983-1987), Colts (1987-1991) Raiders (1992), and Falcons (1993). He was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, & he had his #29 retired by the Rams. In 11 seasons he played in 146 games, and had 2,996 carries for 13,259 yards and 90 touchdowns, along with 281 catches for 2,137 yards and six touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor in 2013. He was the second leading rusher of all time, behind only Walter Payton when he retired in 1993, but he has since been surpassed by Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jerome Bettis.

2. Chicago Bears-Sid Luckman, QB, Columbia, 1939
Even though he doesn’t have the numbers you’ll see from today’s perfected passing game with multiple 4,000 yard seasons, this guy is one of the most important innovators at his position. Before George Halas got this crazy idea to have the quarterback throw more often, there were only two quarterbacks in NFL history with more than 1,000 yards passing in a single season! The Packers’ Arnie Heber was the single season record holder, with 1,239 yards in 1936, followed closely by the Redskins Sammy Baugh’s 1,127 yards in 1937.
His numbers weren’t that great initially, but the team was winning more. He threw for 940 yards, four touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 1940. He led the team to the championship against the Redskins, and it turned into the biggest blowout win in NFL history, with the Bears winning 73-0. They were right back in the NFL championship the next year, this time beating the Giants 37-9. In 1942 he threw for 1,024 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, reaching a third straight NFL Championship, but this time losing to the Redskins 14-6.
In 1943 they reached their fourth NFL Championship in a row, beating the Redskins 41-21. Luckman led the NFL in several passing categories that year, leading the league with 2,194 yards, 28 touchdowns,and only 12 interceptions. His touchdown percentage of 13.9% (28 touchdowns in 202 attempts) is still a league record. He was also the first player with over 400 yards passing in a single game (443 yards), and the first to throw seven touchdowns in one game (in the same game with 443 yards). He was named the NFL MVP that year as well.
His military service cut into his playing time in 1944 & 1945, with only two starts in 10 games in 1945, but he still led the league with 1,727 yards and 14 touchdowns in 1945. He was back to being a full timer in 1946, leading the league with 1,826 yards and 17 touchdowns. He led the Bears to the 1946 NFL Championship, beating the Giants 24-14. In 1947 he threw for 2,712 yards and 24 touchdowns, but also led the league with 31 interceptions.
The 1948 season was his last year with over a thousand passing yards, with 1,047 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He had only one touchdown each year in 1949 & 1950, his last two seasons. In 12 years he played in 128 games, with 904 completions out of 1,744 attempts for 14,686 yards, 137 touchdowns, and 132 interceptions. He was a AP First Team All Pro from 1941-1944 & 1947, Second Team All Pro once (1946), won four NFL Championships (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946), led the league in touchdown passes three times, and was named to the NFL 1940’s All-Decade Team. His jersey #42 was retired by the Bears, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, which was only the third year of it’s existence.

1. New York Giants-Lawrence Taylor, LB, North Carolina, 1981
I teetered back & forth on this pick a couple of times, starting with LT at #1, and Luckman #2, then switching Luckman to #1 when I discovered that he was the first quarterback to use the forward pass as something more than a last minute desperation act. However, with Lawrence Taylor regarded by most as the greatest defensive player in NFL history, I had to switch it back to the original rankings. When the Giants made this pick, their utilization of his size, speed & skills made every other NFL team set out in search of “the next Lawrence Taylor”. There were quite a few that panned out over the next decade, like Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Cornelius Bennett, Tim Harris, and Pat Swilling, just to name a few.
In 1981 he was the first player to be named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, also earning a Pro Bowl selection with 9.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, and one interception returned for one yard. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year again in 1982, when he had 7.5 sacks during the strike-shortened nine game season. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl again that year, and added what might be the most impressive play of his career: a 97 yard interception return for a touchdown. He earned his third Pro Bowl selection in 1983, with nine sacks, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions returned for 10 yards.
The 1984 season was the first of seven consecutive double digit sack seasons: 11.5 sacks, and an interception with a one yard loss. He had 13 sacks and two fumble recoveries in 1985, earning his fifth straight Pro Bowl selection. He had 20.5 sacks in 1986, becoming only the second player in NFL history (after the Jets’ Mark Gastineau’s 22 in 1984) with 20 or more sacks in a season. That season also earned him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors for the third time in his career, as well as his sixth straight Pro Bowl selection. The Giants went on to beat the Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI, completing a virtually perfect season for him.
In the strike-shortened 1987 season he had three interceptions and 12 sacks in 12 games, earning his seventh Pro Bowl selection. He was suspended 30 days by the league for testing positive for cocaine in 1988, and the team went 2-2 in his absence. He returned and had the second highest sack total of his career: 15.5, in only 12 games, earning his eighth straight Pro Bowl selection. He started 15 of 16 games in 1989, and had another 15 sacks, and of course, his ninth straight Pro Bowl selection.
He started all 16 games in 1990, producing 10.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, and one interception returned 11 yards for a touchdown. The Giants went on to win Super Bowl XXV, 20-19, earning Taylor the second championship ring of his career. He earned a then record 10th straight Pro Bowl selection of his career (1981-1990). His numbers declined a bit when the regime change the team went through following the retirement of head coach Bill Parcells.
He had seven sacks in 14 games in 1991, and it marked the first time in his career that he wasn’t selected for the Pro Bowl. In 1992 he played in only nine games because of a ruptured Achilles tendon, and the team went 1-6 as he missed the final seven games. He came back to play one final season for new coach Dan Reeves in 1993, starting 15 of 16 games and recording six sacks. The official stat sheets for his career will only show 132.5 sacks, but that’s because sacks weren’t an official statistic until 1982, meaning his 9.5 sacks as a rookie aren’t recorded on the official listings. With those 9.5 sacks added, he would have 142, or a half-sack ahead of former teammate Michael Strahan’s 141.5, good for fifth among the all-time sack leaders. On the official listings, he is tied for 11th with Leslie O’Neal, with 132.5 sacks.
In 13 seasons he started 180 of the 184 games he played, recording 1,088 tackles, nine interceptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and 11 fumble recoveries in addition to all of the sacks. He was named to 10 straight Pro Bowls, won two Super Bowls, was the NFL MVP in 1986, won NFL Defensive Player of the Year award three times in six years, was the 1981 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, he was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, and had his jersey number #56 retired by the team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and was added to the Giants Ring of Honor when it was created in 2010. He was ranked third on The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players, behind only Jim Brown and Jerry Rice.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #3

This list started out with 41 of a possible 80 players on the list, which is probably the highest percentage of any pick yet. I don’t think that even the first overall pick started out with that many worth mentioning. Out of the ten players listed, nine of them are in the Hall of Fame, with the lone exception being former Texans turned Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson. The only Hall of Famer to miss the cut was Lions running back Doak Walker, who played for only six seasons (1950-1955).
So, here’s my list if the top 10 NFL players ever drafted with the third overall pick:

10. Seattle Seahawks-Cortez Kennedy, DT, Miami (Fla.), 1990
He became a 16 game starter in 1991, and also earned his first Pro Bowl selection, with 73 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He was basically a one man army in 1992, with 92 tackles, 14 sacks, four forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. His performance earned him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1992, in spite of playing for a hopeless Seahawks team that finished 2-14. He started all 16 games every year from 1991-1996, but was limited to eight games due to a broken left ankle in 1997.
He was right back in the Pro Bowl in 1998 & 1999, and had 6.5 sacks for the fourth time in 1999. He was limited to one sack in 2000, and retired after the season. He spent his entire 11 year career with the Seahawks (1990-2000), reaching the Pro Bowl eight times (1991-1996, 1998, 1999). He started 153 of the 167 games he played in, recording 58 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, and three interceptions for 26 yards.
He was named to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor in 2006, and had his jersey #96 retired by the Seahawks. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

9. Chicago Cardinals-Ollie Matson, RB, San Francisco, 1952
He was one of the great all purpose backs of the 1950’s, going over 1,000 all purpose yards in each of his first seven seasons. As a rookie he ran for 344 yards and three touchdowns, had 11 catches for 187 yards and three touchdowns, and added two more touchdowns and 624 yards as a kickoff returner. He also had nine punt returns for 86 yards, giving him 1,275 all purpose yards. He missed out on the 1953 season serving in the military, but came back strong in 1954.
He led the league with 1,666 all purpose yards in 1954, with 506 yards and four touchdowns rushing, 34 catches for 611 yards and three touchdowns, 11 punt returns for 100 yards and a touchdown, and 17 kickoff returns for 449 yards and a touchdown. In 1955 he led the league in punt return yardage (254), average yards per punt return (18.8), punts returned for touchdowns (2), and had the league’s longest punt return (78 yards). He also added 475 yards rushing 237 yards receiving, and 368 yards on kickoff returns, for a total of 1,325 all purpose yards. In 1956 he only returned five punts for 39 yards, but made up for it on kickoff returns.
He had 13 kickoff returns for 362 yards in 1956, including a career long 105 yard return for a touchdown. He also had career highs as a runner, with 192 carries for 924 yards and five touchdowns, and 15 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown, once again leading the league with 1,524 all purpose yards. In 1957 he went over 1,000 yards combined rushing and receiving for the third time in his career, with 134 carries for 577 yards and six touchdowns, and 20 catches for 451 yards and three touchdowns, for a total of 1,028 yards. He also had 54 yards on punt returns and 154 yards on kickoff returns, for a total of 1,236 all purpose yards.
His performances earned him selection in the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons (1952, 1954-1958). In 1958 he had 129 carries for 505 yards and five touchdowns, 33 catches for 465 yards and three touchdowns, and 497 yards and two touchdowns on kickoff returns, for a total of 1,467 all purpose yards. He was traded to the Rams for nine players in 1959, and paid immediate dividends for his new team. He had the second highest rushing yardage total of his career in 1959, with 161 carries for 863 yards and six touchdowns.
His playing time dropped in 1960, with only 484 all purpose yards, but he rebounded the next year. He had his second highest receiving yardage total of his career in 1961, with 29 catches for 537 yards and three touchdowns. He moved on to the Lions in 1963, but played sparingly, with only three kickoff returns for 61 yards. He rebounded nicely with the Eagles in 1964, with his highest yardage totals since joining the Rams five years earlier.
At the age of 34, when most running back are running on fumes, Matson had 96 carries for 404 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, along with 17 catches for 242 yards and one touchdown. Two years later, in his final season, he had 26 kickoffs returned for 544 yards, his second highest single season kickoff return yardage total. He played a total of 14 seasons in the NFL, six seasons with the Cardinals (1952, 1954-1958), four with the Rams (1959-1962), one with the Lions (1963), and three years with the Eagles (1964-1966). He had 1,170 carries for 5,173 yards and 40 touchdowns, 222 catches for 3,285 yards and 23 touchdowns, 65 punt returns for 595 yards and three touchdowns, 143 kickoffs returned for 3,746 yards and six touchdowns, and 51 yards on interception returns, for a grand total of 12,884 all purpose yards.
At the time of his retirement, the only player with more all purpose yardage was Jim Brown. He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 1987. He was added to the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor in 2006.

8. New York Giants (supplemental USFL draft)-Gary Zimmerman, T, Oregon, 1984
You might not find this selection on too many draft pick compilation articles like this one, but a lot of modern fans might not even know this draft ever happened. The NFL had a special supplemental draft in 1984 for players who signed with the USFL or the Canadian Football League, but had not yet been drafted by an NFL club. Since three of the top four players selected in that draft are now in the Hall of Fame (Steve Young, Zimmerman, and Reggie White), I think it’s worth including them here.
After the USFL folded, the Vikings traded two second round picks in 1986 to acquire the rights to Zimmerman. The Giants used those picks on cornerback Mark Collins & nose tackle Erik Howard, both starters on two Super Bowl winning teams, so it was a rare win/win trade deal. Zimmerman became the Vikings starting left tackle, and was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls (1987-1989). He was chosen for the Pro Bowl again in 1992.
The Broncos were in such dire need of a new left tackle, they traded their first & sixth round picks in 1994, and a second round pick in 1995 for Zimmerman. The Vikings turned the picks into cornerback DeWayne Washington, tight end Andrew Jordan, and ballhawk safety Orlando Thomas. Denver got three Pro Bowl seasons out of Zimmerman (1994-1996), and finally got a Super Bowl championship a year later, which turned out to be Zimmerman’s last season (1997). He was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, the USFL All-Time Team, the 50 Greatest Vikings, and the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

7. Washington Redskins-Charley Taylor, RB/WR, Arizona State, 1964
He was the UPI NFL Rookie of the Year in 1964, with 199 carries for 755 yards and five touchdowns, and 53 catches for 814 yards and five touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons (1964-1967). In 1965 he had 145 carries for 402 yards and three touchdowns, but averaged only 2.8 yards per carry. His receiver skills became his bread & butter, with 40 catches for 577 yards and three touchdowns.
In 1966 he spent more time at wide receiver, and led the league with 72 catches for 1,119 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the league in receptions again in 1967, with 70 catches for 990 yards and nine touchdowns. His production dipped to 48 catches in 1968, but he rebounded with 71 catches for 883 yards and eight touchdowns. In 1970 he had 42 catches for 593 yards, turning eight of them into touchdowns.
He suffered a broken leg in 1971, ending his season after six games, with 24 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns. He came back so strong, he was selected to the next four Pro Bowls (1972-1975). He had 49 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns in 1972. The Redskins reached Super Bowl VII at the end of the 1972 season, but lost a defensive battle to the Dolphins, 14-7.
He had 50 or more catches in each of the next three seasons, with 59 in 1973, 54 in 1974, and 53 in 1975. He became the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions in the last game of the 1975 season, with his 634th catch. He missed the entire 1976 season due to injury. He started only seven of 12 games played in 1977, finishing with 14 catches for 158 yards in his final season. He joined fellow Redskins legend Bobby Mitchell in the front office after retirement, and joined Joe Gibbs staff as the wide receivers coach in 1981, sticking around for three Super Bowl wins.
He spent his entire 14 year career with the Redskins (1964-1977). He played in 165 games and had 649 catches for 9,110 yards and 79 touchdowns, and 442 carries for 1,488 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, and the 70 Greatest Redskins. He was inducted into the Redskins Ring of Fame, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

6. Houston Texans-Andre Johnson, WR, Miami (Fla.), 2003
He started all 16 games as a rookie, and had 66 catches for 976 yards and four touchdowns. He had his first 1,000 yard season and first Pro Bowl selection in 2004, with 79 catches for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns. He had a slight dropoff with 63 catches in 2005, but he rebounded & led the league with 103 catches, producing 1,147 yards and five touchdowns in 2006. He missed seven games with injuries in 2007, but still had 60 catches in nine games.
In 2008 he led the league in receptions and receiving yards, with 115 catches for 1,575 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2009 he had 14 fewer catches (101), but still had 1,569 yards (only six yards less than 2008), and had a career high nine touchdowns. In 2010 he missed three games, but still had 86 catches for 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns. That season saw him earn the fifth of seven Pro Bowl selections (2004, 2006, 2008-2010, 2012, 2013).
He suffered a hamstring injury in 2011 that cost him nine games, and limited his performance in others, finishing with only 33 catches for 492 yards and two touchdowns. In 2012 he set a career high in receiving yardage, with 1,598 yards and four touchdowns on 112 catches. In 2013 he had over 100 catches for the fifth time in his career, with 109 catches for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns, topping 1,000 yards for the seventh time. In 2014 he missed one start, and had 85 catches for 936 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2014 he became the tenth player in NFL history with over 1,000 receptions in his career, and is currently at 1,012 catches. He is currently 12th in career receiving yardage, with 13,597 yards. He became a salary cap casualty after the 2014 season, and signed with the division rival Colts. At the very least he’s expected to be a strong #2 receiver opposite T.Y. Hilton.

5. Chicago Bears-Bobby Layne, QB, Texas, 1948
He spent his rookie season sitting behind Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack in Chicago,and wasn’t thrilled with being a third stringer. He was traded to the New York Bulldogs in 1949 for their first round pick in 1950. The Bulldogs won only one of 12 games played, and he was traded again the next season. He was traded to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Bob Mann, and it turned into possibly the greatest trade in the history of the Lions franchise.
In 1950 he led the NFL with 2,323 yards passing, and had 16 touchdowns. He was named to his first of six Pro Bowls (1951-1953, 1956, 1958, 1959) after throwing for 2,403 yards and 26 touchdowns in 1951. He followed that with 1,999 yards and 19 touchdowns in 1952, and together with former high school teammate Doak Walker helped the Lions win their first NFL Championship since 1935.
They duplicated the effort in 1953, with Layne throwing for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns, giving the NFL it’s first back-to-back NFL championships since the 1940-1941 Chicago Bears. He set a career high in completion percentage with a 54.9 in 1954, throwing for 1,818 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 1955 he led the league with a completion percentage of 53%, throwing for 1,830 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 1956 he went 9-3 as the starter, throwing for 1,909 yards and nine touchdowns.
In 1957 he went on to collect the third championship ring of his career, but suffered a broken leg in the seventh game of the season. His replacement, Tobin Rote, played well enough in the championship victory that the Lions traded Layne two games in the 1958 season. The Steelers gave up a younger quarterback, Earl Morrall, who was drafted second overall in 1956, and two draft picks. The Steelers were so sold on Layne that they traded Len Dawson to the Browns on New Year’s Eve in 1959.
Layne had four more solid seasons left in him before retiring with the Steelers after the 1962 season. At the time of his retirement, he was the NFL’s all-time leader with 26,768 yards and 196 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility. He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, and had his jersey #22 retired by the Lions.

4. Chicago Bears-Dick Butkus, LB, Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1965
As a rookie in 1965 he had a career high five interceptions for 84 yards. He was named the NEA NFL Defensive Player of the year in 1969 and 1970. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons (1965-1972), only missing out on it in his final season, 1973. He played in 119 games in his career, but played only nine games in his final season due to injury.
He spent his entire career with Da Bears, playing from 1965-1973. In nine seasons he had 22 interceptions for 166 yards, and 27 fumble recoveries, including seven as a rookie. He was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He had his jersey number #51 retired by the Bears, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility. In the NFL’s Top 100 countdown, he was rated as the 10th best player of all time.

3. L.A. Rams-Merlin Olsen, DT, Utah State, 1962
He alone held the record for most Pro Bowl selections in a career with 14 until the record was tied by Bruce Matthews, Tony Gonzalez, and Peyton Manning. He only had one interception in his career, a 20 yarder returned for a touchdown in his rookie year. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1962. He played in 208 games in his career, and was credited with 94 sacks along the way, but it isn’t considered official since it was before 1982.
He spent his entire 15 year career with the Rams (1962-1976). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility. He was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He had his jersey #74 retired by the Rams.

2. Cincinnati Bengals-Anthony Munoz, T, USC, 1980
He is considered one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, I see it as a toss-up between Munoz, John Hannah, and Joe DeLamielleure. He was the Bengals left tackle for both Super Bowl losses to the 49ers, and both games were close losses. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 years in a row, from 1981 to 1991, only missing out in his first & last years. He was named the Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1981, 1987, and 1988. He was selected to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, & the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1998. He was ranked as the 12th best player of all time on the NFL’s Top 100.

1. Detroit Lions-Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma State, 1989
He was the runaway choice as the 1989 NFL Rookie of the Year, with 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns. He rushed for over 1,000 yards each season in the NFL, and even his lowest season total was 1,115 yards in 11 games in 1993. He averaged over five yards per carry five times, and even his career average is five yards per carry, tied with Gale Sayers, Adrian Peterson, and Joe Perry for seventh highest in NFL history. He was the NFL MVP in 1991, missing one game but still finishing with 342 carries for 1,548 yards, and he led the league with16 rushing touchdowns.
The Lions reached the NFC Championship in 1991, but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Redskins. He started all 16 games in 1992, rushing for 1,352 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed five games in 1993, but still rushed for 1,115 yards. In 1994 he led the league in rushing yardage again, with what was then a career high 1,883 yards and nine touchdowns. The 1994 season started an incredible streak: he rushed for at least 1,500 yards for four years in a row.
In 1995 he had 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. In 1996 he led the league again, with 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 1997 he became the third 2,000 yard rusher in NFL history, with 335 carries for 2,053 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging an incredible 6.1 yards per carry. The 1997 season saw him win the NFL MVP award from five different news groups, as well as being named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year for the second time (1994, 1997), and the NFL Alumni Running Back of the Year for 1997.
In 1998 he had 343 carries for 1,491 yards and four touchdowns, ending his 1,500 rushing yardage streak. He was really quiet about his retirement in 1999, making the announcement through a fax to the newspaper in his hometown. At the time of his retirement, he was only 1,457 yards away from all-time leading rusher Walter Payton’s 16,726 yards. Even after Emmitt played his 10th season, he was still 1,307 yards away from Barry’s 10 year career totals.
He spent his entire 10 year career with the Detroit Lions (1989-1998). He had 3,062 carries for 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns, along with 352 catches for 2,921 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is currently ranked third in career rushing yards, behind only Walter Payton & Emmitt Smith. He was rated the #1 Most Elusive Running Back of All Time by nfl.com. He was named to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team. He had his #20 retired by the Lions, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #4

I had it narrowed down to 31 players initially, but with 12 Hall of Famers & four current stars, it didn’t get any easier. I got an idea for another article while reading about the 4th pick in 1972. Vikings legendary receiver Ahmad Rashad was once traded for quarterback Dennis Shaw. Maybe I should write an article on the most lop-sided trades in NFL history? Just imagine, we could have Earnest Byner for Mike Oliphant, Randy Moss for a fourth round pick, the draft day trade where the Eagles got Mike Mamula & the Buccaneers got Warren Sapp & Derrick Brooks, Denver’s Alphonso Smith trade that got the Seahawks Earl Thomas, and of course, the infamous Herschel Walker trade that built the Cowboys dynasty.
So I guess that’s an idea to explore after I finish the draft series. Today’s list left me with the usual dilemma of deciding which Hall of Fame players to leave out for the sake of a couple of modern legends who I think will eventually reach Canton. This time I had to leave out the 4th leading sacker in NFL history (Chris Doleman), & Bears Hall of Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton. I almost left out Jonathan Ogden, but with his resume, the least I could do is leave him in a tie with the other player that had the same score.
So, here’s my top 11 NFL players drafted with the fourth overall pick:

10 (tie). Baltimore Ravens-Jonathan Ogden, OT, UCLA, 1996
He began his rookie season as a guard, starting all 16 games. He moved to left tackle in 1997, and became a fixture there with the Ravens, starting 176 of 177 games played. Amazingly, he was selected to the Pro Bowl each year he started at left tackle for the Ravens (1997-2007). He earned a ring with the team’s win in Super Bowl XXXV. He was voted the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2002. He was named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor in 2008, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

10 (tie). Miami Dolphins-Bob Griese, QB, Purdue, 1967
He was an instant star in the AFL, starting 10 of 12 games as a rookie, and throwing for 2,005 yards and 15 touchdowns. He followed that with 2,465 yards and 21 touchdowns in 1968, and was selected to the AFL All Stars team in each of his first two seasons. He earned the first of six Pro Bowl selections (1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977 & 1978) when the AFL & NFL merged in 1970. In 1971 he was named the NFL MVP, throwing for 2,089 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. This was at a time when the touchdown/interception ratio was never that great, he had 12 touchdowns & 17 interceptions the previous year, and yet they were still a playoff team, going 10-4 in 1970.
In 1971 they made it to Super Bowl VI, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys. The team was off to a great start in 1972, but lost Griese to a broken leg in the fifth game of the season. Along came Earl Morrall, who won the next 11 games before being replaced by Griese in the AFC Championship against the Steelers. The Dolphins went on to win Super Bowl VII, completing what is still the only perfect undefeated season since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970.
As if that wasn’t enough, he led them back to the Super Bowl again, beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. He led the league in two different passing categories later in his career, leading the NFL with 22 touchdown passes in 1977, and a league best 63% completion percentage in 1978. He maintained a winning record as a starter for all but two of the 11 years he played for Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, going 92-56-3 as a starter. He remained the team’s starter until 1980, but even then started three of five games while mentoring Don Strock & David Woodley.
A shoulder injury in 1980 led to his eventual retirement. He spent his entire 14 year career with the Dolphins (1967-1980), starting 151 of 161 regular season games played. He completed 1,926 of 3,429 attempts, throwing for 25,092 yards, 192 touchdowns, and 172 interceptions, with a passer rating of 77.1. He was inducted into the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, both in 1990.

9. Chicago Bears-Gale Sayers, RB, Kansas State, 1965
I almost left him off of this list just based on how short his career was, it’s a good thing I did my research first. He had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history, scoring a then record 22 touchdowns in a 14 game season. He had 166 carries for 867 yards and 14 touchdowns, 29 catches for 507 yards and six touchdowns, for a total of 1,374 yards and 20 touchdowns on offense. He also added 16 punt returns for 238 yards and a touchdown, and 21 kickoffs returned for 660 yards and a touchdown, giving him 2,272 yards from scrimmage.
I guess we could say that he had a sophomore slump in 1966 because he “only” scored 12 touchdowns combined as a runner, receiver, and returner. He had 229 carries for 1,231 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, or 0.2 yards higher than the previous year. He also added 34 catches for 447 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80 yard catch, matching his longest from 1965. He only had six punts returned for 44 yards, but he still had 23 kickoffs returned for 718 yards and two touchdowns. Even with fewer punt returns, he still outdid his previous season’s total all purpose yardage, with 2,440 yards.
His workload was lightened a bit more in 1967, but he still produced more than 100 all purpose yards per game, with 1,689 yards in 13 games. He had 186 carries for 880 yards and seven touchdowns, including a career long 70 yard run. He was used as a receiver less, with only 16 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. He only had three punt returns, but produced 80 yards and a touchdown. He returned fewer kickoffs as well, but scored three touchdowns and gained 603 yards on only 16 returns.
He was leading the league in rushing again in 1968 with 138 carries for 856 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a career high 6.2 yards per carry, when he tore the ligaments in his right knee. Even with his season ended after nine games, he still produced 1,463 yards from scrimmage. He had 15 catches for 117 yards, two punt returns for 29 yards, and 17 kickoffs returned for 461 yards. He worked out & went through physical rehab with friend & teammate Brian Piccolo, and was right back in the lineup for the 1969 season.
He led the league with 236 carries for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns in 1969, but averaged “only” 4.4 yards per carry, his lowest so far in his career. He added 17 catches for 116 yards, and 17 kickoffs returned for 461 yards, but was no longer used on punt returns. In 1970, he injured his left knee after only two games, and had only 23 carries for 52 yards, and lost six yards on his only catch. He followed that with only two games in 1971, with 13 carries for 38 yards. His final comeback attempt ended with two fumbles on three carries in 1972 preseason.
In his seven year career he played in 68 games, with 991 carries for 4,956 yards and 39 touchdowns, and had 112 catches for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns. As a returner he had 27 punt returned for 391 yards and two touchdowns, along with 91 kickoff returns for 2,781 yards and six touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1977, and is still the youngest player inducted at the age of 34. He was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. In addition to setting the rookie scoring record, he also tied Ernie Nevers & Dub Jones single game touchdown record with six, as well as tying the single game return touchdown record with two, most recently tied by the Lions Jeremy Ross in 2013.

8. Indianapolis Colts-Edgerrin James, RB, Miami (Fla.), 1999
Colts fans were disappointed the team picked him over Ricky Williams, but he wound up as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1999, and was named to his first four Pro Bowls (1999, 2000, 2004, 2005). He started all 16 games as a rookie, and had 339 carries for a league leading 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 62 catches for 586 yards and four touchdowns. He led the league in rushing again in 2000, with 387 carries for 1,709 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 63 catches for 594 yards and five touchdowns. He was already at 4,442 yards from scrimmage after only his second season.
In 2001 he suffered a torn ACL only six games into the season, and finished with 151 carries for 662 yards and three touchdowns, and 24 catches for 193 yards. He started 14 games in 2002, but the effects of knee injury made some wonder if he would ever be back to his old self. He had 277 carries for 989 yards and two touchdowns, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. He was closer to his old self in 2003, starting all 13 games he played and finishing with 310 carries for 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was back above 4 yards per carry, with an average of 4.1.
In 2004 he started all 16 games for the first time since 2000, and had 334 carries for 1,548 yards and nine touchdowns, along with 51 catches for 483 yards, giving him more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage (2,031) for the first time since 2000. He wound up with back-to-back 1,500 yard seasons, with 360 carries for 1,506 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2005. He left the Colts in free agency in 2006, signing a four year, $30 million contract with the Cardinals. As it turns out, he left at just the wrong time.
The Colts went on to win Super Bowl XLI, but the team still gave him a ring because of his contributions to their success during the Peyton Manning era. He started all 16 games with the Cardinals in 2006, gaining more than 1,000 yards for the sixth time in his career, but he scored only six touchdowns and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. He did slightly better in 2006, starting all 16 games again, with 324 carries for 1,222 yards and seven touchdowns, but still only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. In 2008 he started only seven of 13 games, with 133 carries for 514 yards and three touchdowns, and only 19 yards receiving on three catches.
He spent the 2009 offseason away from football after the death of the mother of his four children, but signed a one-year, two million dollar deal in late August 2009. He played in only seven games, and was released after 46 carries for 125 yards. In 11 years in the NFL he started 135 of the 148 games he played. He had 3,028 carries for 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns. As a receiver he had 433 catches for 3,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor in 2012, but hasn’t been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet. I think he will eventually get in, he’s currently 11th in NFL history in rushing yards, ahead of Hall of Famers Marcus Allen (12,243), Franco Harris (12,120), Thurman Thomas (12,074), John Riggins (11,352), and O.J. Simpson (11,236). The only active players who are close are free agent Steven Jackson (11,388), Colts running back Frank Gore (11,073), and the Vikings Adrian Peterson (10,190). He is the Colts all-time leader with 9,222 yards and 64 touchdowns on the ground.

7. Oakland Raiders-Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan, 1998
He was an instant star with the Raiders, earning selection to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four years (1998-2001). He started all 16 games as a rookie, and had five interceptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. He only had one interception in 1999, but that’s probably because quarterbacks learned to stay away from him. He added on another four interceptions for 36 yards in 2000.
He recorded the first two sacks of his career in 2001, along with one interception for 64 yards. He missed eight games due to injury in 2002, starting seven of eight and recording only one interception. He missed one game in 2003, three in 2004, and 10 games in 2005 due to a broken leg. After two years of playing with a franchise player salary, the Raiders decided to let him explore free agency.
He signed with the Packers in 2006, starting all 16 games for the first time since 2000, and had a career high eight interceptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. He started 14 games in 2007, and had four interceptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. In 2008 he started an incredible run of four straight Pro Bowls (2008-2011), and had seven interceptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He was selected as the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year & the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, leading the league with nine interceptions for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2010 he had two interceptions for 48 yards and a touchdown, five forced fumbles, and two sacks. The Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers, but Woodson suffered a broken collarbone right before halftime. He was back to his usual self in 2011, tying for the league lead with seven interceptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. In 2012 he started and played in only seven games after breaking his collarbone.
He was released by the Packers in 2013, and signed on to return to the Raiders & play safety. He started all 16 games for them in each of the past two seasons, setting career highs with 97 tackles in 2013 & 113 in 2014. So far he has started 235 of 238 games played in 17 years in the NFL, recording 60 interceptions for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 32 forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries for 106 yards and two touchdowns, & 20 sacks. His career tackling statistics are inconclusive because of discrepancies between various websites, but according to nfl.com he had 929 (747 solo) not including 1998-2000.

6. Kansas City Chiefs-Derrick Thomas, OLB, Alabama, 1989
He was such a dominant pass rusher that he was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first nine seasons (1989-1997). He spent his entire 11 year career with the Chiefs (1989-1999). In his prime he was probably the best pass rushing linebacker since Lawrence Taylor. In 1990 he led the league with 20 sacks, becoming only the fifth player since the sack became an official statistic in 1982 to have 20 or more sacks.
He reached double digits in sacks seven times during his career, starting with 10 as a rookie. He set the single game record with seven sacks of Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg in a Monday night game in 1990. He followed his 20 sack performance in 1990 with 13.5 in 1991, and 14.5 in 1992. He had only eight in 1993, but teammate Neil Smith had 15 that year.
He alternated double digit sack seasons from 1994 to 1998, with 11 in 1994, 13 in 1996, and 12 in 1998. Even his career low season in 1999 produced seven sacks. I think he still would’ve had a few more years as a pass rushing specialist if he hadn’t died from injuries suffered in a car accident in January 2000. In 11 years he started 157 of the 169 games he played in, producing 126.5 sacks and 601 tackles. He was inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2001, followed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, and had his jersey number #58 retired by the Chiefs in 2009.

5. New England Patriots-John Hannah, G, Alabama, 1973
He is considered one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, usually mentioned in the same high regard as fellow Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz & Joe DeLamiellure. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 1976, and was selected a total of nine times in his last 10 years in the league (1976, 1978-1985). He spent his entire 13 year career with the Patriots (1973-1985), starting all 183 games he played in.
He was selected to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was selected as the NFLPA Offensive Lineman of the Year four years in a row, from 1978-1981, and was the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1984. He did get to play in Super Bowl XX, but announces his retirement after the Patriots loss to the Bears. He was the first player inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 1991, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers-Joe Greene, DT, North Texas, 1969
He was the first player selected by another eventual Hall of Fame Steeler, coach Chuck Noll. The team went 1-13 during his rookie year, but he was named the 1969 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also chosen for his first Pro Bowl as a rookie, and went on to be selected 10 times in his first 11 years (1969-1976, 1978, 1979). He was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 & 1974, and was also the NEA Defensive Player of the Year for those two years.
The Steelers went on to win four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, XIV) in a span of six years, and were probably the most dominant & balanced team in the NFL during the 1970’s. He had 78.5 sacks in his career, but it’s considered unofficial since the sack wasn’t officially recognized statistically until 1982, the first year after his retirement. He spent his entire 13 year career with the Steelers (1969-1981). He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, The Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team (50th Season), and the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team (75th Season). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, and had his jersey #75 retired by the Steelers during the 2014 season.

3(supp). Philadelphia Eagles-Reggie White, DE, Tennessee, 1984
He began his career with the Memphis Showboats of the short lived NFL rival United States Football League, and had 198 tackles and 23.5 sacks in two years (1984-1985). After the USFL folded, the Eagles had his NFL rights because of a special supplemental draft they did in 1984 for all of the current active players from the CFL & USFL. He was just as dominant in his first NFL season as he was in the USFL, with 13 sacks and 100 tackles in 1985.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 years in a row, from 1986 to 1998. His most impressive run of sacks from 1986 to 1988, recording 18 sacks in 1986, and 18 sacks again in 1988. His 1987 season was possibly the most impressive season from a defensive lineman in the modern era. He led the league with 21 sacks in 1987, and this was in spite of the fact that he & most other veterans only played in 12 games that year because of the players strike. At a pace of 1.75 sacks per game, he would’ve had 28 sacks in a 16 game season, well above the current single season record of 22.
He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987, and was also the UPI NFL Defensive Player of the Year that year. He led the league in sacks for the second year in a row with 18 in 1988. He reached double digits in sacks 12 times in his 15 year career, and had at least 15 of them five times. He surprised a lot of people when he chose to sign with the Green Bay Packers in the league’s first official unrestricted free agency period.
The Packers convinced White that with him on defense & Favre on offense, they would fulfill his goal of winning the Super Bowl. They did exactly that in 1996, with the Packers beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. White set an NFL record with three sacks in that Super Bowl, a record since tied by the Cardinals Darnell Dockett. In 1998, his final season as a Packer, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, with 16 sacks & four forced fumbles.
He retired after the 1998 season, but got the itch to play again after a year away. He signed with the Panthers in 2000, and added on another 5.5 sacks to his already league leading career total. In his career he started 228 of the 232 games he played. He had 1,112 tackles, three interceptions for 79 yards, 33 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries, and 198 sacks. He was eventually passed by Bruce Smith for #1 on the career sacks list (200), but Smith needed 279 games to do it, which is almost three additional full seasons. If you add in the 23.5 sacks he had in the USFL, he would be at 221.5 for his career, but the NFL will never add numbers from another league to theirs.
He was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All Time Team, and the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team. He died on December 26, 2004, from a cardiac arrhythmia. He was posthumously inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 2005, as well as the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2006, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Philadelphia Pro Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. he had his jersey #92 retired by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers.

2. Chicago Bears-Walter Payton, RB, Jackson State, 1975
Yeah, I know, leave it to a cheesehead to have Walter Payton only ranked second on a list of best players drafted with the fourth pick. You’ll notice it wasn’t a Green Bay related bias, as Reggie White was ranked third. The only player I could list ahead of him is the quarterback I consider to be the greatest of all time. The only possible knock against Walter is that his average rushing yards per game is only sixth (88.0), behind Eric Dickerson (90.8), Terrell Davis (97.5), Adrian Peterson (98.0), Barry Sanders (99.8), and Jim Brown (104.3).
He had a rather humble beginning to his career, playing for a Bears team that finished 4-10, and carrying the ball 196 times for 679 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. He had a breakout year in 1976, earning his first Pro Bowl selection with a league leading 311 carries, producing 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He was selected as the NFL MVP in 1976. He stepped up a notch again in 1977, leading the league with 1,852 yards and 14 touchdowns on 339 carries. He set the NFL’s single game rushing record with 275 yards in a game against the Vikings. That year he also led the league in rushing yards per game (132.3), rushing average (5.5), yards from scrimmage (2,121), and rushing & receiving touchdowns combined (16). He was selected as the 1977 NFL MVP by four different news organizations.
He led the league with 333 carries in 1978, rushing for 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had similar success in 1979, leading the league with 369 carries for 1,610 yards and 14 touchdowns. His numbers suffered a little before Mike Ditka took over as coach, with only six touchdowns in 1980, and another six in 1981. During the strike shortened 1982 season he only had 148 carries for 596 yards and a touchdown.
In 1983, Ditka’s first full 16 game season as head coach, Walter was back in the Pro Bowl after a two year layoff. He had 314 carries for 1,421 yards and six touchdowns in 1983, and followed that with 381 carries for 1,684 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1984. On October 7th, 1984, he surpassed Jim Brown as the NFL’s all time rushing leader. The Bears reached the NFC Championship in 1984, but were shutout by the 49ers.
The 1985 season was one of the greatest of Walter’s career, and for the Bears, as they went 15-1 with a record setting defense. Walter did his part with 324 carries for 1,551 yards and nine touchdowns, as the Bears went on to trounce the Patriots in Super Bowl XX by a score of 46-10. Even at age 32, he still had one more 300 carry season left, with 321 carries for 1,333 yards and eight touchdowns in 1986. He split the workload with Neal Anderson during his final season in 1987, with 146 carries for 533 yards and four touchdowns.
He spent his entire 13 year career with the Bears (1975-1987), starting 184 of the 190 games he played, with the only missed game in his career coming in his rookie season. He had 3,838 carries for 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns, along with 492 catches for 4,538 yards and 15 touchdowns, for a grand total of 21,264 yards from scrimmage, and 125 touchdowns. With another 539 yards on kickoff returns, that gives him 21,803 all purpose yards, surpassed by only Brian Mitchell (23,330 yards) and Jerry Rice (23,546 yards). He was the league’s all time leading rusher until being passed by Emmitt Smith in 2002.
He was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his career, in 1976-1980, and 1983-1986. He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, and had his jersey #34 retired by the Bears in 1988. He died from complications from bile duct cancer on November 1, 1999, but his passing helped inspire 13,000 people in the Chicago area to sign up as organ donors.

1. Detroit Lions-Otto Graham, QB, Northwestern, 1944
Other than the fact that I ranked him ahead of Walter Payton, the first thing most people will say is, “Otto Graham was drafted by the Lions?”. If you’re not familiar with him, then you need a history lesson. Graham was drafted by the Lions, but wound up serving in the military during World War II. Paul Brown was so impressed by his performance in college that he came & offered him $7,500 per year to play for the Cleveland Browns in a new pro league called the All-America Football Conference. The salary would not kick in until the season started in 1946, but Brown also offered him $250 per month to get by until then.
He reported to the Browns after his service in the military ended, and led the team to a 12-2 record. The Browns won the AAFC Championship in 1946, with Otto completing 54.6% of his passes for 1,834 yards, 17 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. His passer rating of 112.1 was the league’s highest until beaten by Joe Montana in 1989. He completed 60.6% of his passes for 2,753 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 1947, leading the Browns to another AAFC championship.
The team went undefeated & untied in 1948, becoming only the second team in pro football history to do so, winning their third championship in three years. His accuracy dipped a little in 1948, completing only 52% of his passes, but he still threw for 2,713 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. The team won it’s fourth championship in 1949, but the league dissolved after the season, with the Browns & two other teams joining the NFL for the 1950 season. It was assumed by some in NFL circles that the reason the Browns won so many championships was because the talent of their competition was so inferior. The Browns proved that theory wrong with the first game in 1950.
Graham threw for 298 yards & 4 touchdowns, as well as rushing for 99 yards on 12 carries, and the Browns won by a score 35-10. They went 10-2 in 1950, beating the Giants in the opening round of the playoffs to go on to face the former Cleveland Rams, who moved to Los Angeles after the Browns dominance drove away their hometown competitor. The Browns won by a score 30-28, marking their fifth year in a row with a championship win. Graham did have a rather down season compared to the first four years, throwing for 1,943 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
He was closer to normal in 1951, leading the team to an 11-1 record, and throwing for 2,205 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. The team did return to the NFL Championship, but this time they lost to the Rams by a score of 24-17. They went 9-3 in 1952, and once again wound up in the NFL Championship, this time against the Detroit Lions. They lost 17-7, with Graham throwing for 157 yards.
The team continued it’s usual excellence in 1953, starting the year with 11 straight wins, but then losing the season finale to the Eagles. The team advanced to the NFL Championship again, but lost a heartbreaker, to the Lions by a score of 17-16. Graham informed the team that the 1954 season would be his last. The team lost it’s first three games, but won the final eight to advance to the NFL Championship, once again against the Lions.
The Browns trounced the Lions in the 1954 Championship, by a score of 56-10. Graham was 9-12 for 163 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, and also ran nine times for 27 yards and three touchdowns. When the team could not find an adequate replacement for him for the next season, he was talked into playing one more year. He led the team to a record of 9-2-1 in 1955, and went on to beat the Rams in the 1955 NFL Championship by a score of 38-14.
In 10 years as a pro quarterback, Otto Graham took the Browns to the championship game every year, winning seven of the 10 championships. If that were to happen today, there would be absolutely no debate about who the greatest quarterback of all time is. However, since it started before the Browns were in the NFL, the league only recognizes the three championships they won since joining the NFL. It’s obvious to me how great they were, with Graham being one of six players from the original Browns teams inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, Bill Willis, Lou Groza,and Frank Gatski.
In 10 years between the two leagues, Graham played in 126 games, completing 1,464 of 2,626 attempts for 23,584 yards, 174 touchdowns, and 135 interceptions, for a passer rating of 86.6. He won the AAFC Championship in 1946-1949, and the NFL Championship in 1950, 1954, and 1955. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five times, from 1950-1954. He was the AAFC MVP in 1947 & 1948, and the NFL MVP in 1951, 1953, and 1955. He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary Team. He had his jersey #14 retired by the Browns, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #5

Just how talented is the list of players drafted fifth overall? Eight of the ten players are in the Hall of Fame, and Rams Hall of Famer Crazy Legs Hirsch wouldn’t have made the list if I hadn’t used the NFL’s all time Top 100 list to add more bonus points. Hall of Fame Giants tackle George Connor was ranked 12th based on my points system (1 point per year played, 2 points per All Pro/Pro Bowl selection or other all decade/all time greats team, 3 points per Super Bowl or AFL/NFL Championship win, and 4 points if selected to the Hall of Fame or the team’s Hall of Fame). Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson was ranked third before the top 100 made me re-shuffle the list. Ravens 2,000 yard rusher Jamal Lewis was one of two players not currently in the Hall to make the list, and even he was only ninth.
One new idea i’m trying this time, since it’s such a high pick, is The Almost List. This is how I ranked the remainder of the noteworthy players drafted with the fifth pick.

Tie-21st. Broncos TE Riley Odoms
Tie-21st. Colts/Cowboys DT John Dutton
Tie-19th. Chargers LB Billy Ray Smith Jr.
Tie-19th. Oilers LB George Webster
Tie-17th. Panthers/Saints/Giants/Raiders QB Kerry Collins
Tie-17th. Cowboys G John Niland
15. Colts T Bob Vogel
14. Bears QB Jim McMahon
13. Cowboys/Broncos QB Craig Morton
12. Giants T George Connor
11. Cardinals/Redskins DT Dave Butz

10. Green Bay Packers-Bob Gain, DT/DE/MG, Kentucky, 1951
Here’s an odd beginning to his story that you’ll never see in the modern NFL: he signed with the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders after being unable to come to terms with the Packers. He joined the Browns in 1952 after the Packers traded him for four journeymen. Gain went on to play 12 of the next 13 seasons with the Browns, with one year missed due to military commitments (1953). He started on three different NFL Champion Browns teams, in 1954, 1955, and 1964, and even missed out on one during his year in the service (1953).
He was only nominated as a first team All Pro once, but he was second team All Pro seven times. That’s still a franchise player type performance, top six in the league eight times in a 12 year career. I think six time Pro Bowlers are still the minimum bottom rung for Hall of Fame eligibility. He was only selected to the Pro Bowl five times, but he obviously excelled to earn eight All Pro selections in 12 years. He was named the Defensive Player of the year in 1957.

9. Baltimore Ravens-Jamal Lewis, RB, Tennessee, 2000
He came out with a roar as a rookie, rushing for 1,364 yards and six touchdowns. He helped lead the Ravens to a 34-7 victory over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown. He missed the 2001 season after blowing out his knee during the summer. He came back strong in 2002, rushing for 1,327 yards and six touchdowns.
In 2003 he became only the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, leading the league with 2,066 yards. That season saw him also break the NFL’s single game rushing record, rushing for 295 yards in a game against the Browns. That season earned him multiple accolades, such as his first Pro Bowl selection, 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 2003 NFL MVP, 2003 NFL Alumni Running Back of the Year, and the 2003 Washington D.C. TD Club AFC Player of the Year. He barely reached 1,000 yards rushing in 2004, missing four games but still rushing for 1,006 yards.
After finishing under four yards per carry in 2005 & 2006, Lewis was released by the Ravens. The team had hoped to re-sign him at a lower salary, but he was quickly signed by the Browns instead. He had a nice comeback in 2007, with 298 carries for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for the seventh time in his career in 2007, with 279 carries for 1,002 yards and four touchdowns. He missed seven games due to injury in 2009, rushing for 500 yards in what would be his final season.
He spent 10 years in the NFL, seven with the Ravens (2000-2006), and three with the Browns (2007-2009). He played in 131 regular season games, with 2,542 carries for 10,607 yards and 58 touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.

8. Cleveland Rams-Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, WR, Michigan, 1945
He spent his first three seasons with the Chicago Rockets of the AAFC, finishing with 44 catches for 730 yards and seven touchdowns in three injury filled seasons. He joined the Rams in 1949 after the two leagues merged, and became a starter in 1950. He had his breakthrough season in 1951, when he led the league with 66 catches for an NFL single season record 1,495 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Rams won the NFL Championship game that year, defeating the Browns by a score of 24-17.
He was such a deep threat that he made the Pro Bowl three years in a row (1951-1953), even though his reception total dropped to 25 catches in 1952. He came back with 61 catches for 941 yards and four touchdowns in 1953. He dropped down to 35 catches in 1954, but still had 720 yards and three touchdowns. That wound up being his highest reception total in his last four seasons, reaching 35 again in 1956.
His final season concluded with 32 catches for 477 yards and six touchdowns. In nine years in the NFL (1949-1957 Rams), he had 343 catches for 6,299 yards and 53 touchdowns, averaging 18.4 yards per catch. He was selected to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, & the NFL 50th Anniversary team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers-Len Dawson, QB, Purdue, 1957
He had the misfortune of starting out with a Steelers team that later traded for Bobby Layne, & then got traded to the Browns, where he sat behind Milt Plum. He signed with the Dallas Texans in 1962 after his release by the Browns. He became an AFL All Star in his first year in the league, leading the league in touchdown passes (29), and was named as the AFL MVP by the Sporting News. He led the Texans to the AFL Championship, defeating back-to-back defending champion Houston Oilers (1960 & 1961 AFL champs).
The team moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs in 1963, and Dawson went on to spend 14 seasons with the franchise (1962-1975). He wound up being named to the AFL All Stars six times (1962, 1964, 1966-1969), and was named to the Pro Bowl after the AFL-NFL merger, in 1971. He led the team to the AFL Championship again in 1966, but the team went on to lose Super Bowl I to the Packers by a score of 35-10. They did it again in 1969, but this time they beat the NFL’s representative, the Minnesota Vikings, by a score of 24-7.
Dawson was named the MVP of Super Bowl IV, completing 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He spent a total of 19 years in the two leagues, completing 2,136 passes out of 3,741 attempts for 28,711 yards, with 239 touchdowns and 183 interceptions. He had his jersey #16 retired by the Chiefs. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

6. San Diego Chargers-Junior Seau, OLB, USC, 1990
He was named to the first of 12 consecutive Pro Bowls (1991-2002) in his second year, when he had 129 tackles and seven sacks. He was named the 1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, when he had 102 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two interceptions for 51 yards. He helped lead the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX, recording 16 tackles in the AFC Championship win to get there. He had a career high 154 tackles that year, and was recognized as the 1994 AFC Player of the Year for his efforts.
He earned many accolades during the prime of his career with the Chargers. He was named a First Team All-Pro eight times, in 1991-1996, 1998, and 2000. He was named a second team All Pro in 1997 & 1999. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 & 1998. He was named the NFL Alumni NFL Linebacker of the Year four times, in 1992-1994, and 2000. He was also named the NFLPA AFC Linebacker of the Year three years in a row, from 1992-1994.
He missed three games due to injury in 2002, finishing with what was then a career low 84 tackles. He was traded to the Dolphins in 2003, starting 15 games and helping lead the team to a 10-6 record. He missed eight games with a torn pectoral muscle in 2004, but still recorded 68 tackles. He played in seven games and recorded 36 tackles in 2005, and finished the year on injured reserve.
He had retired in August 2006, but was talked out of it just four days later, and signed with the New England Patriots. He had 69 tackles and one sack in his first year with the team. He played in all 16 games in 2007, and had 74 tackles, three and a half sacks, and three interceptions for 28 yards. He appeared to be done playing during the next two seasons, but re-signed with the Patriots later in the year because of injuries to other players. He played in four games in 2008 & seven games in 2009 before finally hanging up the cleats.
Overall, he played 20 years in the league (San Diego Chargers 1990-2002, Miami Dolphins 2003-2005, and New England Patriots 2006-2009). He recorded 1,846 tackles (1,436 solo), 56.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries, and 18 interceptions for 238 yards. He was named to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, the San Diego Chargers 40th Anniversary Team, & the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team. He was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 2011. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He had his jersey number #55 retired by the Chargers during his public memorial.

5. Chicago Bears-Mike Ditka, TE, Pittsburgh, 1961
He had one of the best rookie seasons by a tight end in NFL history: 56 catches for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging an incredible 19.2 yards per catch. He didn’t suffer from the usual sophomore slump, following that with 58 catches for 904 yards and five touchdowns in 1962. He had 59 catches for 794 yards and eight touchdowns in 1963, and helped lead the Bears to a 14-10 victory over the N.Y. Giants in the NFL Championship. Four of his eight touchdowns came in a single game against the Rams, tying the team’s single season receiving touchdown record held by Harlon Hill.
He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Jack Concannon in 1967. He lasted only two seasons there before being traded to the Cowboys for wide receiver Dave McDaniels. He went on to spend four seasons with the Cowboys (1969-1972), and had one touchdown catch in the team’s 24-3 victory over the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. He was immediately hired to Cowboys head coach Tom Landry’s staff after retiring, and spent nine years there as an assistant (1973-1981).
He became the Bears head coach in 1982, lasting 11 years (1982-1992), and leading the team to victory in Super Bowl XX. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1988. He had his jersey number #89 retired by the Bears in 2013, and the team announced it was the last jersey number they would retire.

4. San Diego Chargers-LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Texas Christian, 2001
He carried the brunt of the rushing load in San Diego as a rookie, with 339 carries for 1,236 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2001. He earned his first of five Pro Bowl selections (2002, 2004-2007) in his second year, with over 2,000 combined rushing (1,683) and receiving yards (479), along with 14 touchdowns rushing & one receiving. He was the first running back in NFL history with 100 receptions & 1,000 yards rushing in the same season, with 1,645 yards rushing & 13 touchdowns, and 100 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns in 2003. He reached a new career high for touchdowns in a season in 2004, with 1,335 yards rushing, and a total of 19 touchdowns (17 rushing, two receiving).
He set new career highs for touchdowns in 2005, with 18 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns, along with throwing three touchdowns while completing three of four passes for 47 yards on trick plays. He set a new league record with 28 rushing touchdowns in 2006, as well as combined touchdowns in a season (31) with three more added as a receiver. He also set new career highs in rushing yardage (1,845) and added 56 catches for 508 yards for 2,353 combined yards. He had two more 1,000+ yard rushing seasons left in San Diego, with 1,474 and 15 touchdowns in 2007, and 1,110 and 11 touchdowns in 2008.
He still had 12 rushing touchdowns to go with 730 yards rushing, but he only averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2009. He became a salary cap casualty after the season, and spent the next two seasons (2010-2011) with the Jets. In 11 seasons in the NFL he played in 170 games, with 3,174 carries for 13,684 yards and 145 rushing touchdowns, along with 624 catches for 4,772 yards and 17 touchdowns. He completed eight of 12 passes for 143 yards and seven touchdowns, with no interceptions, for a passer rating of 146.9.
He set or tied a total of 59 different records during his playing career. He passed Keith Byars to finish third in career receptions by a running back, behind only Marshall Faulk & Larry Centers. He is currently fifth in career rushing yards, behind Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith. He is ranked second in career rushing touchdowns, behind only Emmitt Smith (164), and he’s ranked third in total touchdowns (162), behind only Emmitt Smith (175) and Jerry Rice (207). To give you an idea of how hard it is to reach numbers like that, his former teammate Antonio Gates is the highest ranked active player on the career touchdown list, ranked 22nd, with 99.
He was selected to the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 2015. He will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

3. Philadelphia Eagles-Steve Van Buren, RB, LSU, 1944
So how does a guy who only played eight years wind up ranked ahead of the #5 rusher in league history? He was an AP First Team All Pro in five of his first six years (1944, 1945, 1947-1949). He led the league in rushing for the first time in his second season, with 143 carries for 832 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He was limited to nine games in 1946 and had only 529 yards, but he rebounded the following season.
He became the NFL’s second 1,000 yard rusher in 1947, leading the league with 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns on 217 carries. He led the league in rushing again in 1948, with 201 carries for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns. He set a record with 196 yards rushing in the 1948 NFL Championship win over the Cardinals. He became the first two-time 1,000 yard rusher in NFL history in 1949, leading the league again with 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He went on to play two more seasons with the Eagles, retiring after the 1951 season. At the time of his retirement, he was the league’s all time leading rusher, with 1,320 carries for 5,860 yards and 69 touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He was named to the NFL 1940’s All Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 1987, and had his jersey number #15 retired by the team.

2. New England Patriots-Mike Haynes, CB, Arizona State, 1976
For those of you who weren’t around when he played, just picture him as the 1970’s version of Patrick Peterson. As a rookie he had eight interceptions for 90 yards, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. His rookie year also produced the first two punt returns for touchdowns in Patriots history, with 45 punts returned for 608 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that with five interceptions for 54 yards in 1977, and six interceptions for 123 yards and a touchdown in 1978.
He wound up being selected to the Pro Bowl in six of his first seven seasons (1975-1980, 1982). He only had four interceptions in 1982, but it was still an impressive total in a nine game season shortened by a player strike. He wound up joining the Raiders in 1983, and together with Lester Hayes formed an unbeatable cornerback duo. The Raiders went on to win Super Bowl XVIII the same season that they acquired him from the Patriots.
He was right back in the Pro Bowl the following season, with six interceptions for 220 yards and a touchdown in 1984. He was selected to the next two Pro Bowls as well, even with only four interceptions in 1985, and only two in 1986. His coverage skills earned him so much respect that he didn’t need flashy stats to earn recognition. He only had 18 interceptions in seven seasons with the Raiders, but it still helped pad the resume for the Hall of Fame for his eventual induction.
He played cornerback for 14 years in the league, split evenly between the Patriots (1976-1982) and the L.A. Raiders (1983-1989). He had 46 interceptions for 688 yards and two touchdowns, along with 14 fumble recoveries, along with 112 punts returned for 1,168 yards and two touchdowns. He was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, and had his jersey #40 retired by the Patriots.

1. Atlanta Falcons-Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State, 1989
He was off to a nice start as a rookie, with five interceptions for 52 yards as a rookie. His playmaking skills really showed in his second year, with only three interceptions, but they were returned for 153 yards and two touchdowns, including an 82 yarder. He was selected to his first of four straight Pro Bowls in 1991, with six interceptions for 119 yards and a touchdown, along with the only sack of his career. He missed three games in 1992, but still had three interceptions for 105 yards.
He had seven interceptions for 91 yards in 1993, and was selected as the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, and went on to have one of the greatest seasons by a defensive back in NFL history. He had six interceptions, and returned them for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He was the first player in NFL history to have two interception returns of 90 yards or more in the same season, and won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award for the second year in a row. He was also selected as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 1994 season.
The 49ers went on to win Super Bowl XXIX, so he needed a new challenge for the next upcoming season. The Cowboys made him the highest paid defensive player in the league in 1995, even though he was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery & didn’t even play until week nine. He only had two interceptions for 34 yards in nine games, and missed out on the Pro Bowl, but he did help the Cowboys win Super Bowl XXX. He spent the next four years in Dallas, and was selected to the next four Pro Bowls (1996-1999).
He joined a division rival once again, signing with the Redskins in 2000. He had four interceptions for 91 yards in his lone season with them, retiring after the season. He came out of retirement to join Ray Lewis & the Ravens in 2004, and wound up with his ninth career interception returned for a touchdown. That score left him tied with Ken Houston & Aeneas Williams for second in league history, behind only Rod Woodson (12).
He stuck around for one more season (2005) before finally calling it quits. He played a total of 14 years, recording 53 interceptions for 1,331 yards and nine touchdowns. He was ranked #34 on NFL.com’s top 100 players of all time in 2009. He was named to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, and was inducted into the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor in 2010. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #6

It’s a little strange having to rank such historical players like this, but I had to do it somehow. I did leave one Hall of Fame player off of the list, but the only non Hall of Famers on the list are ranked 10th and 9th. The player I had ranked second could probably be the #1 player on most other pick lists, but the one that beat him in my scoring formula was so great, there’s no room for argument. The guy I had ranked fifth is pretty high up on my own personal favorites list, and he’s not even a Packer.
So, here’s my list of the top 10 NFL players drafted with the sixth overall pick:

10. St. Louis Rams-Torry Holt, WR, North Carolina State, 1999
It took an incredibly productive decade to nudge a Hall of Famer off of this list. From 2000-2005 he produced at least 1,300 receiving yards in each season, setting an NFL record in the process. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times (2000, 2001, 2003-2007), and was named the Rams MVP in 2003 and 2005. He led the NFL in receiving yardage in 2000 and 2003, and was selected as the NFL Alumni Wide Receiver of the Year in 2003.
He posted his best single season numbers in 2003, with 117 catches for 1,696 yards and 12 touchdowns. After being released by the Rams, he moved on to the Jaguars for the 2009 season. His lone season with the Jaguars produced 51 catches for 722 yards, but no touchdowns. In 11 seasons in the NFL he had 920 catches for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns.

9. New England Patriots-Richard Seymour, DT, Georgia, 2001
This guy had an incredibly lucky beginning to his career, landing on a team that went on to win three Super Bowls (XXXVI, XXXVIII & XXXIX) in his first four years. He started a run of Pro Bowl selections after his second season (2002-2006), and was selected to two more (2010, 2011) after being traded. He was limited to nine games in 2007, but rebounded by tying his career high with eight sacks in 2008. In 2009 he was traded to the Oakland Raiders for their first round pick in the 2011 draft.
The Patriots turned the first round pick in 2011 into left tackle Nate Solder. The Raiders got four seasons (2009-2012) and 18.5 sacks out of Seymour. In 12 seasons as a pro, he was named to seven Pro Bowls, won three Super Bowls, was named to the New England Patriots All-2000’s Team, the New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, and the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team. He recorded 496 tackles (324 solo), 57.5 sacks, two interceptions for six yards, and four forced fumbles.

8. Chicago Bears-Joe Stydahar, T, West Virginia, 1936
This name is important to remember for sports trivia games: who was the first player drafted by George Halas & the Bears in the first ever NFL draft? I would call this pick a home run out of the park. He spent his entire playing career with the Bears (1936-1942, 1945-1946), and was an All-Pro or NFL All-Star in each of his first seven seasons. The Bears won three NFL Championships (1940, 1941, 1946) during his playing career, including a 73-0 trouncing of the Redskins in 1940.
He was named to the NFL 1930’s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He went on to win another NFL Championship as the head coach of the Rams in 1951, and as an assistant coach with the Bears in 1963. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

7. L.A. Raiders-Tim Brown, WR, Notre Dame, 1988
He didn’t really turn into a #1 wide receiver until a few years down the road, but he sure produced when he did. He was selected to his first two Pro Bowls as a kickoff returner in 1988 and 1991. He was selected to his first as a wide receiver in 1993, when he had 80 catches for 1,180 yards and seven touchdowns. That season was the first of nine 1,000 yard seasons in a row, along with 10 seasons of at least 75 catches (1993-2002).
He played for the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, but they lost to the Buccaneers. He was released after the 2003 season, and wound up catching his last touchdown, #100, in his only season with the Buccaneers in 2004. He became the Raiders all time leader in games played with the franchise, with 240, and set the team record by playing 16 seasons. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver from 1993-1997, 1999, and 2001, and played in nine total. In his career he had 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns. At the time he was ranked second in NFL history in yards, third in receptions, and tied for third in touchdown catches.

6. Green Bay Packers-James Lofton, WR, Stanford, 1978
His career got off to a fast start, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, when he had 46 catches for 818 yards and six touchdowns. He somehow missed the Pro Bowl with slightly better numbers in 1979: 54 catches for 968 yards and four touchdowns. He was right back in it in 1980, with a career high 71 catches for 1,226 yards and four touchdowns. His numbers were nearly identical in 1981: 71 catches for 1,294 yards and eight touchdowns.
The strike cost the league seven games in 1982, but Lofton still had 35 catches for 696 yards (19.9 YPC average) in nine games. He only had 58 catches in 1983, but he had a career high 22.4 yards per catch, producing 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. His numbers were similar in 1984: 62 catches for 1,361 yards (22 yards per catch), and another seven touchdowns. He had 69 catches for 1,153 yards and four touchdowns in 1985, giving him his fifth 1,000 yard season in six years, and his seventh Pro Bowl in eight years.
His numbers dropped off in 1986: 64 catches for 840 yards and four touchdowns. He was traded to his hometown team, the L.A. Raiders, for a third round pick in the 1987 draft, and a fourth round pick in 1988. He had 41 catches for 885 yards and five touchdowns in a strike shortened 12 game season in 1987. His numbers dropped even more after the team acquired another speedster, Willie Gault, in a trade with the Bears. He had only 28 catches for 549 yards, and was kept out of the end zone for the first time in his career.
He was cut by the Raiders on the team’s final roster cuts, and was unemployed to start the 1989 season. Thanks to a Bills player quitting during a game Lofton was watching on Monday Night Football, he called his former receivers coach with the Raiders, who was now working for the Bills, and arranged a workout. He didn’t play much during his first season with the Bills, but he made the most out of it. He only had eight catches, but got 166 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 20.8 yards per catch.
He took on a bigger role with the Bills in 1990, starting 14 of 16 games, and had 35 catches for 712 yards and four touchdowns. His big comeback happened in 1991, when he had 57 catches for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl selection since 1985. His average dropped a bit in 1992, with 51 catches for 786 yards and six touchdowns.
He split 1993 between the Eagles (nine games) and the Rams (one game), and had 14 catches for 183 yards in his last season. He played 16 years in the NFL, Playing for the Packers (1978-1986), Raiders (1987-1988), Bills (1989-1992), Rams (1993), and Eagles (1993). He had 764 catches for 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns, averaging 18.3 yards per catch. He was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, he was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

5. Detroit Lions-Y.A. Tittle, QB, LSU, 1948
The easy starting point for this story would be a comparison with the likes of Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, or Dan Fouts. He was a great quarterback who just never won the big one. I’m honestly a little confused about how he never played for the Lions after being drafted by them. He spent his first three seasons with the original Baltimore Colts franchise from 1948-1950.
After the original Colts team folded, the NFL placed their players into the 1951 NFL draft, and Tittle was drafted third overall by the 49ers. He played for the 49ers from 1951-1960, and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times with them (1953, 1954, 1957, & 1959). In 1961 he was still so highly regarded that the 49ers traded him to the Giants for a second year guard, Lou Cordileone, the 12th overall pick in the 1960 draft. He was named the NFL MVP four times in his career, in 1957, and 1961-1963.
The Giants won their division three years in a row after acquiring Tittle. He set an NFL record with seven touchdowns in a single game against the Redskins in 1962, a record that is still standing, though tied a few times. He also set a record with 36 touchdowns during the 1963 season. He retired after a dismal 1964 season, when he had 10 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
At the time of his retirement, he was the league’s all time leading passer, with 33,070 yards & 242 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. He had his jersey number #14 retired by the Giants, and he was inducted into the New York Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

4. Seattle Seahawks-Walter Jones, T, Florida State, 1997
He achieved one rare milestone in modern NFL history: he spent his entire 13 year career with the Seattle Seahawks (1997-2009). He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, in 1999, and 2001-2008. He started all 180 games he played in during his career, and gave up only 23 sacks. He was named the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2005.
He was on the Seahawks team that made it to Super Bowl XL, but they lost to the Steelers, 21-10. He was named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team, and the Seattle Seahawks 35th Anniversary Team. He had his jersey number #71 retired by the Seahawks in 2010, joining Cortez Kennedy & Steve Largent as the only Seahawks that had their number retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, his first year of eligibility.

3. Minnesota Vikings-Carl Eller, DE, Minnesota, 1964
He was the Vikings starting left defensive end in a defensive unit that would become known as “The Purple People Eaters”. He had a career high 15 sacks in 1969, and the Vikings went on to win the NFL Championship that year, but lost the Super Bowl to the Chiefs. The Vikings played in a total of four Super Bowls (IV, VIII, IX, & XI) during his career, but just couldn’t win the big one. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times (1968-1971, 1973, 1974).
He was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1971 by the Newspaper Enterprise of America. He played in 225 games during his career, and spent 15 of 16 years with the Vikings (1964-1978). He was traded with an eighth round pick to the Seahawks for Steve Niehaus, a defensive tackle drafted second overall in 1976. He had 130.5 sacks with the Vikings, and another three with the Seahawks, for a total of 133.5 in his career.
He was named to the Minnesota Vikings 25th Anniversary Team, the Minnesota Vikings 40th Anniversary Team, the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, and the 50 Greatest Vikings. If the NFL had recognized sacks as an official stat sooner, he may not have needed to wait so long to get inducted into the Hall. He was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor in 2002, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

2. Boston Redskins-Sammy Baugh, QB, TCU, 1937
If you don’t at least scroll down to see who’s ranked #1 on this list, you’re gonna see this name & go “NO WAY!!!! HOW DID SAMMY BAUGH END UP SECOND???!!!!” And then you’ll see the name further down & say “Oh, okay, that makes sense now.” Just wait until we get to pick #4, that one is going to be my biggest challenge in this series. In the meantime, check out some of the fun facts researching this bio.
He was the highest paid player in the league as a rookie, with an annual salary of $8,000. At the time, throwing the ball was still such a foreign concept, he set a record by completing 91 passes out of 228 attempts. He won the NFL Championship as a rookie, beating the Bears 28-21. He set more passing records in that game, completing 17 of 33 passes for 335 yards, including three touchdowns.
The team made it back to the NFL Championship in 1940, but they suffered the most lopsided loss in NFL Championship history: 73-0 to the Bears. They made it back to the game in 1942, and managed to beat the Bears 14-6. Baugh’s punting also made a big difference in the game, including an 85 yarder. He played quarterback, punter, and defensive back during his 16 year career. He spent his entire career with the Redskins, playing for them from 1937-1952.
He was the first quarterback in NFL history to use passing as a weapon, as opposed to a last minute desperation act. He was named an All Star, All-Pro or Pro Bowler 11 times in his career: 1937-1943, 1945, 1947, 1948, and 1951. He led the league in passing a record six times during his career, a record that still stands today. He was also the first player in league history to intercept four passes in a game while playing as a defensive back. As a punter he retired with the highest career average yards per punt (45.1), which stood until recently being broken by Shane Lechler.
He was named to the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 1940’s All-Decade Team, and the 70 Greatest Redskins. He had his jersey number #33 retired by the Redskins, and it is the only jersey number officially retired by the team. He was one of 17 players inducted in the charter class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. Just look below and you’ll see why he was only #2 on this list.

1. Cleveland Browns-Jim Brown, RB, Syracuse, 1957
He was light years ahead of everybody, a man amongst boys, rivaled only by Jerry Rice on most lists of the greatest players in NFL history, period. He only played nine years (1957-1965, all with the Browns), but he accomplished everything a guy could want to accomplish as a pro football player. He was named to the Pro Bowl in all nine years that he played. The AP & UPI both named him a first team all pro in eight of the nine years he played, leaving out 1962 for some reason.
He was so dominant as a rookie that he was named the 1957 NFL Rookie of the Year, and the 1957 NFL MVP. As rookie he played in all 12 games, and had 202 carries for 942 yards and nine touchdowns, and added another touchdown as a receiver. He was the NFL MVP again in 1958, with 257 carries for 1,527 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He led the NFL in rushing yards in eight of the nine years he played, only missing it in 1962.
The one year that he did miss out on leading the league in rushing was still impressive: 230 carries for 996 yards (4.3 average per carry) and 13 touchdowns, and another 47 catches for 517 yards and five touchdowns. That still gave him 1,513 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 games, so it’s still impressive for a “worst year ever”. He came back even stronger & clearly more motivated in 1963, with 291 carries for 1,863 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a career high average of 6.4 yards per carry. He also added 24 catches for 268 yards and three touchdowns that year, giving him more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage (2,131 to be exact). His 1,863 yards in 1963 is still the most in Browns history, making it the longest standing single season rushing record in the NFL.
He finally won an NFL Championship in 1964. By the time he retired after the 1965 season, he was the league’s all time leader in rushing yards (12,312), rushing touchdowns (106), total touchdowns (126), and all purpose yards (15,549). He was the fastest to reach 100 touchdowns (93 games), a record that stood until being toppled by Ladainian Tomlinson after 86 games. He remained the league’s all time leading rusher until 1984, when Walter Payton broke the record during his tenth season (Brown played only nine). His career rushing average of 5.2 yards per carry is still fifth in NFL history, outdone by only Michael Vick (7.0), Randall Cunningham (6.4), Marion Motley (5.7) and Jamaal Charles (5.5).
He is the only running back in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game in his career (104.3). He was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, & NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. He had his jersey number #32 retired by the Browns, and was inducted into the new Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor in 2010, when all 16 Hall of Fame Browns players were entered into the Ring.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #7

I already have one “captain obvious” type of comment to start with: Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans will eventually make this list. I thought it would come down to Adrian Peterson versus Champ Bailey, but as it turns out, Bulldog Turner was quite a legend as well. Champ Bailey helped drive up the Pro Bowl count on this list, he had 12 of the 46 Pro Bowl appearances by this group. The one oddity of this bunch is that only one of them is currently in the Hall of Fame. I think by the time their careers are over, the other two of the top three will be in the Hall of Fame.
On that note, these are my picks for the top 10 NFL players drafted with the seventh overall pick:

10. Green Bay Packers-Willie Buchanon, DB, San Diego State, 1972
He was voted as the 1972 NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 1973. He wound up being selected to the Pro Bowl three times in his career (1973, 1974, 1978). his best single season was 1978, when he had nine interceptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay traded him to the Chargers for the 26th pick in the 1980 draft (LB George Cumby), and a seventh round pick in the 1979 draft (LB Rich Wingo).
He spent four seasons with the Chargers (1979-1982), with his best season coming in 1981, when he had five interceptions for 31 yards. In 11 seasons in the NFL, he had 28 interceptions for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1993, followed by the San Diego Hall of Champions in 1994. He was named to the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team despite only playing with them for four seasons.

9. Green Bay Packers-Sterling Sharpe, WR, South Carolina, 1988
He would’ve been ranked much higher on this list if it weren’t for a career ending injury that shortened his career. As a rookie, he had 55 catches for 791 yards and a touchdown. His breakthrough occurred in his second season, 1989, when he led the league with 90 catches for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns. That year was also his first of five Pro Bowl selections (1989, 1990, 1992-1994). His numbers were down a bit with Pro Bowl quarterback Don Majkowski banged up, but they rebounded nicely in the next year with a new quarterback.
He became only the sixth player in NFL history to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, with 108 catches for 1,462 yards and 13 touchdowns. His 108 catches also broke Art Monk’s previous single season record of 106 in 1984. As if that wasn’t enough ,he broke the record himself in 1993, this time with 112 catches. In 1994 he had 94 catches for 1,119 yards and 18 touchdowns, which was the second highest receiving touchdown total in NFL history, behind Jerry Rice’s 22 in 1987.
After playing all 16 games in 1994, a neck injury that was aggravated in the last game of the year turned out to be career ending. In six seasons in the NFL he had 595 catches for 8,134 yards and 65 touchdowns. If he would’ve had the now “typical” wide receiver career of 15 years, he would’ve been up there with Jerry Rice & Tony Gonzalez on the all time receiving charts. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2002, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

8. San Francisco 49ers-Aldon Smith, LB, Missouri, 2011
He began his career looking like the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, setting the 49ers rookie sack record with 14. In 2012 he was chosen for the Pro Bowl & named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, when he had 66 tackles, 19.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception returned for six yards. That year saw him reach several milestones, he surpassed Reggie White as the fastest to reach 30 career sacks, doing it in 27 games. He set a Monday Night football record with 5.5 sacks in a game against the Bears. His 19.5 sacks also set the 49ers single season record, and combined with the 14 in 2011, set another record for the most sacks in a player’s first two seasons.
He was already at 4.5 sacks after three games in 2013, but missed five games after going into rehab because of an off the field incident. He didn’t start again until week 13, but added another five sacks for a total of 8.5 in 2013. He was suspended for nine games in 2014, and only recorded two sacks when he came back for the remaining seven games. He should be able to play in all games again for the first time since 2012, and I wouldn’t have him this high on the list if I didn’t expect big things from him this year.

7. Miami Dolphins-Troy Vincent, CB, Wisconsin, 1992
He had a good start to his career in Miami, missing only seven games in four years, and picking off 14 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. He signed with the Eagles as a free agent in 1997, and stuck around long enough to sign another contract before the original one was up. He was involved in the longest interception return in Eagles history, when James Willis intercepted Troy Aikman four yards deep into the end zone, lateraled the ball to Vincent, who then ran the remaining 90 yards for a touchdown. That play was the third year in a row where he returned an interception for a touchdown.
He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1999, with a career high seven interceptions for 91 yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five years in a row, from 1999-2003. He signed with the Bills in 2004, and stuck around there until an injury sent him to the injured reserve list after only one game. He was waived off of injured reserve at mid-season, and was signed by the Redskins.
He only played in eight games with the Redskins, but one of them turned into one of the biggest of his career. In a game against the Cowboys, he had six tackles and a crucial blocked 35 yard field goal attempt. That block and a 15 yard penalty combined to give the Redskins an opportunity for a field goal with no time remaining, giving the Redskins a 22-19 victory in a game now known as the “Hand of God” game. He retired after being released by the Redskins in February 2007. In 15 seasons in the NFL he had 47 interceptions for 711 yards and three touchdowns. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 2012.

6. San Francisco 49ers-Bryant Young, DT, Notre Dame, 1994
He pulled off something extremely rare during the modern era, spending his entire 14 year career with the same team (1994-2007). He was selected as the 1994 UPI NFL-NFC Rookie of the Year, recording six sacks, which is unusual for an interior lineman. He earned a Super Bowl ring as a rookie with the 49ers victory over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. He earned his first of four Pro Bowl selections (1996, 1999, 2001, 2002) in 1996, when he had 11 sacks and two safeties. Although his sack production dropped in 1997, the double teams he faced helped free up teammate Dana Stubblefield, who had 15 sacks & won NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
In 1998 he was leading defensive tackles with 9.5 sacks when he suffered a grisly leg injury that cost him the rest of the season, and required them to insert a metal rod into his leg. He came back to start all games in 1999, recording 11 sacks and a safety on the way to his second Pro Bowl selection. He followed that with 9.5 sacks in 2000. Even when his sack numbers dropped, he still earned enough respect from his peers for two more Pro Bowl selections, despite having only 3.5 sacks in 2001 & two sacks in 2002.
He still had a decent amount of sack production left at the end of his career, with eight sacks in 2005, 5.5 in 2006, and 6.5 in his last season, 2007. In 14 years in the NFL he had 89.5 sacks, good enough for fourth among defensive tackles, behind only Trevor Pryce, Warren Sapp, and John Randle. Out of those three, only Pryce isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet. He was selected to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team. He was nominated for the Hall of Fame in 2012, but he hasn’t been inducted yet. I think he does have a decent chance at getting in eventually, but first we have to get some of the other great pass rushers like Kevin Greene in.

5. Chicago Bears-Chuck Howley, LB, West Virginia, 1958
One interesting point to start with in his case: he’s still the only member of the losing team to win Super Bowl MVP. He spent only two seasons with the Bears when he suffered what was thought to be a career ending knee injury during training camp in 1959. When he decided to try to make a comeback in 1961, the Cowboys gambled and traded picks in rounds two and nine to acquire him. The Cowboys defense ranked in the top seven during 10 of his thirteen seasons with the team, with Howley playing in 165 games in 13 years.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times in a span of seven years (1965-1969, 1971). He did help lead the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl the year after losing Super Bowl V. The team won Super Bowl VI, but he lost out on the MVP award to quarterback Roger Staubach. By the time he retired after the 1973 season, he was regarded as one of the greatest pass coverage linebackers to play the game. He had 25 interceptions for 399 yards and two touchdowns, along with 18 fumble recoveries for 191 yards and a touchdown. In 1977 he became only the fourth player to be inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.

4. N.Y. Giants-Phil Simms, QB, Morehead State, 1979
When you look at his numbers, it’s amazing the Giants were patient for so long during his development. He was a surprise first round pick in 1979, so much so that the 49ers had originally planned on drafting him in the third round, and had to settle on Joe Montana after Simms was off the board. He did okay as a rookie, throwing for 1,743 yards and 13 touchdowns, going 6-4 as a starter. He was named to the All Rookie Team in 1979, and was the runner up for the Rookie of the Year award.
He went through the dreaded sophomore slump in 1980, completing only 48% of his passes, and throwing for 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, with a passer rating of 58.9. He was off to a decent start in 1981, throwing for 2,031 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, when a separated shoulder sidelined him in week 10. While he was out, backup Scott Brunner took over & led them on a playoff run, advancing to round two of the playoffs. As if that wasn’t enough, Simms suffered a torn knee ligament in the preseason in 1982, and missed the entire season.
If a story like that happened today in the era of the salary cap, his career would’ve followed the similar parallel of guys like Trent Dilfer, Matt Leinart, Jake Locker, or Blaine Gabbert. Alex Smith is one of the few cases where a guy’s career gets off to a rough start but the team doesn’t give up on him after year four. In Simms’ case, Bill Parcells took over as head coach & kept him around as insurance in case Brunner got hurt. He went in to relieve Brunner in week six in 1983, and had another unlucky, unfortunate season ending injury, when he broke his thumb on a players helmet, and the bone was sticking through the skin.
He started watching more game film after the injury, and his studying made him a better quarterback. In 1984 he became only the eighth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 or more yards in a season. In 1985 he threw for 3,829 yards, and led the team to 10 victories, which was their highest win total since 1963. The 1986 season was incredible: he led the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XXI, defeating the Broncos by a score of 39-20. Simms was named the MVP, completing 22 of 25 attempts for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He set Super Bowl records for accuracy (88%), passer rating (150.9), and consecutive completions (10). If it weren’t for two incompletions caused by drops by the receivers, his already incredible numbers would’ve been even better.
The Giants had a rough year during the strike shortened 1987 season, but Simms still had a passer rating of 90.0, good enough for second in the NFC. The team just couldn’t topple the 49ers in 1988 & 1989, but they wound up right back in the Super Bowl after the 1990 season. Simms had led them to an 11-3 record when a broken foot sidelined him. Jeff Hostetler took over at quarterback, and the team went on to win Super Bowl XXV.
After the “retirement” of Bill Parcells, new coach Ray Handley named Hostetler the team’s starting quarterback. Simms played in only six games in 1990, and the team went 8-8. He won the starting job back in 1992, but suffered a season ending injury after only four games. In 1993 he started all 16 games & went 11-5, throwing for 3,038 yards, 15 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. The team made it to the playoffs & beat the Vikings in the opening round, but that was it. The team went into rebuilding mode like the 1989 Cowboys, and Simms was cut after their season ended. He spent his entire career with the Giants (1979-1993), completing 55.4% of his passes, and throwing for 33,462 yards, 199 touchdowns, and 157 interceptions. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1985 & 1993. He was added to the N.Y. Giants Ring of Honor in 2010, and his #11 retired by the team.

3. Washington Redskins-Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia, 1999
He started all 16 games as a rookie, and had five interceptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in only his second season, with another five interceptions for 48 yards. The annual trip to the Pro Bowl became a regular occasion for him, being selected 12 times in his career (2000-2007, 2009-2012). In spite of being selected to four Pro Bowls in his first five years, he was given permission to seek a trade when his rookie contract was up. The Redskins wound up trading him & a second round pick (which turned into running back Tatum Bell) for Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis.
The Broncos had a long history of finding running backs that ran for 1,000 yards during head coach Mike Shanahan’s run of success with the team. The opportunity to trade one for a Hall of Fame caliber cornerback & a second round pick was impossible to turn down. Bailey remained a shutdown corner for pretty much his entire career. His best statistical seasons came back-to-back, in 2005 & 2006.
In 2005, he had eight interceptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that with 10 interceptions for 162 yards and a touchdown in 2006. His interception totals never went higher than two or three per year after that, but his coverage skills remained intact.
He did finally get to play in a Super Bowl after Peyton Manning’s arrival, but the Broncos lost Super Bowl XLVIII to the Seahawks. He wound up being a salary cap casualty afterwards, and wound up retiring after being released by the Saints. He played 15 years (1999-2003 Redskins, 2004-2013 Broncos), was selected to 12 Pro Bowls (a record for a cornerback), playing in 216 games and recording 909 tackles, three sacks, seven forced fumbles, and 52 interceptions for 464 yards and four touchdowns.

2. Chicago Bears-Bulldog Turner, C/LB, Hardin-Simmons, 1940
If you were to build a list of the greatest Chicago Bears players of all time, this would be a good name to start with. He spent his entire 13 year career with the Bears, and was a two time Pro Bowl selection (1950, 1951), two time NFL All Star selection (1940, 1941), and an eight time All Pro selection (1940-1944, 1946-1948). The Chicago Bears won four NFL Championships (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946) during his playing career. In 1942 he led the league with eight interceptions.
In 13 years he played in 138 games, and finished with 17 interceptions for 298 yards and two touchdowns, along with five fumble recoveries for 34 yards and a touchdown. He was named to the NFL 1940’s All-Decade Team, & the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966, and had his jersey number #66 retired by the Bears.

1. Minnesota Vikings-Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma, 2007
I knew this guy was the real deal when, as a rookie, he broke the single game rushing record once owned by Walter Payton (296 yards). His 296 yard performance was actually the second 200 yard game of his season, which was a record for a rookie. As a rookie he started nine of 14 games he played, and had 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns. He earned his first of six career Pro Bowl selections (2007-2010, 2012, 2013) at the end of his first season. He became the first rookie since Marshall Faulk in 1994 to win Pro Bowl MVP, with 16 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
Peterson wound up leading the league in rushing in 2008, with 1,760 yards, which at the time was the second highest rushing total by a second year back, behind only Eric Dickerson’s single season record 2,105 yards in 1984. He had some of the focus taken off of him in 2009 by Brett Favre’s arrival, but he still had 314 carries for 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Vikings beat the Cowboys to advance to the NFC Championship, but lost to the eventual Super Bowl winner Saints.
The 2010 season was a little more challenging, with Favre finally showing his age, but A.P. Still ran for 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He encountered his biggest obstacle yet in 2011, when he suffered a torn ACL & MCL in a game against the Redskins. He not only came back from the injury, he came back in better shape, coming within eight yards of Eric Dickerson’s single season record. He ran the ball 348 times for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging six yards per carry, and tacked on 40 catches for 217 yards and a touchdown. The accolades came rolling in: he was the Comeback Player of the Year, NFL MVP, his second NFL rushing title, NFC yards from scrimmage leader, FedEx Ground Player of the Year, and the Bert Bell Award.
He came back down to Earth a little in 2013, with “only” 1,266 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He only got in one game in 2014 before his indictment on felony child abuse charges got him placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, keeping him away from team activities for the rest of the season. He has been reinstated for the 2015 season, and he’s more determined than ever to come back & produce. So far, in nine seasons he’s played in 104 games, with 2,054 carries for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns, along with 208 catches for 1,715 yards and five touchdowns.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #8

I love writing an article like this with so many offensive linemen included in the top 10. When I write about offensive skill position players, it sometimes takes a lot of writing to cover their best seasons. Lenny Moore’s bio in the last article took six paragraphs, and Larry Csonka’s bio in this one isn’t much smaller (five paragraphs). When it’s an offensive lineman, there isn’t any stats to share, and sometimes it’s harder to even write a paragraph. This particular article had four offensive linemen and two defensive linemen, and one of them played before sacks were an official statistic, so his bio wasn’t that long either.
So, here’s the top 10 NFL players I found that were drafted eighth overall:

10. New York Jets-James Farrior, LB, Virginia, 1997
It’s strange to say that he was initially seen as a bust with the Jets, but he had only started 27 games at outside linebacker after his fourth season there. He started all 16 games in 2001, and had 142 tackles, three forced fumbles, one sack, and two interceptions returned for 85 yards. The Steelers, who rarely even sign unrestricted free agents, were so impressed that they signed him to a three year, 5.4 million dollar deal. His signing is now ranked up there with Ryan Clark as the best free agent signings in Steelers history.
He went on to start at left inside linebacker for the next 10 years, starting all 154 games he played in. He never missed more than two games in a single season with the Steelers, missing two games three times while with them. He got within one tackle of his career high in 2003, with 141 total tackles. He followed that with his first Pro Bowl selection in 2004, when he had 94 tackles, three sacks, eight passes defensed, and a career high four interceptions for 113 yards and a touchdown.
He finished second to Ed Reed for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He was selected as the Pittsburgh Steelers Team MVP for the 2004 season. Farrior led the team with 119 tackles in 2005, helping lead the team to it’s first Super Bowl win in the Roethlisberger era, beating the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. He hit triple digits in tackles again in 2006, with 128.
His tackling numbers were down in 2007, with only 94, but he also had 6.5 sacks that year. The overall team defense was ranked first in 2008, allowing only 13.9 points per game, and only giving up 237.2 yards of offense per game. The team was also second in the league in sacks with 51, and even Farrior had 3.5 of those. Farrior was selected to his second Pro Bowl that year, finishing with 133 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and five passes defensed.
The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XLIII, beating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. Farrior led the Steelers with eight tackles in the game. The team made it back for Super Bowl XLV, but they lost to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 31-25. The team started a rebuilding phase after losing to the Broncos in the playoffs in 2011, and Farrior was among the veterans cut during the roster purge. In his career he played in 230 games, producing 1,415 tackles (983 solo), 35.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and 11 interceptions for 225 yards and a touchdown.

9. St. Louis Cardinals-Ottis Anderson, RB, Miami (Fla.), 1979
He looked like a Hall of Famer in the making as a rookie, winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for 1979, with 1,605 yards rushing and 308 yards receiving. He earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection in 1980, with 1,352 yards rushing and 308 yards receiving, duplicating his rookie receiving yardage. He rushed for 1,376 yards in 1981, but broke the 1,000 yard streak in 1982 due to the strike-shortened nine game season. He missed one game in each of the next two seasons, but still added on two more 1,000 yard rushing seasons.
He missed seven games to injury in 1985, and the team discovered a hidden gem in running back Stump Mitchell. He had only 156 yards on 51 carries in four games in 1986 when the Cardinals traded him to the N.Y. Giants. As luck would have it, the Cardinals traded him to the team that won Super Bowl XXI. He was used only sparingly during his first three seasons with the Giants thanks to the presence of All Pro running back Joe Morris, rushing for only 295 yards from 1986-1988.
After Morris suffered a nearly career ending foot injury, Anderson became the next man up at running back. He wound up rushing for 1,023 yards and a career high 14 touchdowns on 325 carries, and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award for 1989. His numbers dipped a little in 1990, with 225 carries for 784 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was still the team’s lead back when they reached Super Bowl XXV. Anderson had 21 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, and was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXV.
He wound up conceding the starting job to Rodney Hampton in 1991, but he stuck around for two more seasons before retiring. He played a total of 14 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals (1979-1986), and N.Y. Giants (1986-1992). He had 2,562 carries for 10,272 yards and 81 touchdowns, along with 376 catches for 3,062 yards and five touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, he was ranked seventh in career rushing touchdowns & eighth in career rushing yards.

8. San Diego Chargers-Gary Johnson, DT, Grambling State, 1975
The 1975 NFL draft was as important to the Chargers as the 1981 draft was to the 49ers. That year saw the Chargers draft three Pro Bowl defensive linemen, since they had three of the top 33 picks in that year’s draft. The combination of Johnson, Louie Kelcher, and Fred Dean were selected for nine Pro Bowls during their Chargers careers. Johnson was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in 1975.
In 1980 he led the NFL with 17.5 sacks, breaking Steve DeLong’s record of 17, set in 1969. The Chargers led the NFL in sacks with 60 that year, but lost the AFC Championship to the eventual Super Bowl XV champion Oakland Raiders. He wound up being selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls (1980-1983). He was traded to the 49ers after four games in 1984, reuniting him with former teammate Fred Dean, where they went on to win Super Bowl XIX.
He retired after the 1985 season, but his sack numbers are rather low since they weren’t an official statistic until 1982. Officially, he had seven sacks in his last two seasons as a Charger, and another five in 1984 and four in 1985 with the 49ers. He had 60 sacks from 1975-1981, giving him 67 as a Charger. He was selected to the San Diego Chargers 40th Anniversary Team, the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team, and he was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 1999.

7. Kansas City Chiefs-Ed Budde, G, Michigan State, 1963
He spent his entire 14 year career with the Chiefs (1963-1976). He played on two AFL Championship teams, in 1966 & 1969, but they did lose the first “Super Bowl” to the NFL’s Packers. The team won Super Bowl IV, defeating the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 23-7. He was selected to the AFL All-Stars team in 1963, 1966-1969, and then the NFL’s Pro Bowl in 1970 & 1971, thanks to the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. His son Brad Budde, also an offensive guard, was drafted by the Chiefs with the 11th pick in 1980, making them the only father/son combo drafted in the first round by the same team.

6. Miami Dolphins-Larry Csonka, RB, Syracuse, 1968
He started out his career with two concussions as a rookie, getting knocked out in his fifth game, and suffering a second concussion only three weeks later, along with a ruptured eardrum & a broken nose. He went on to become known as one of the toughest fullbacks of the 1970’s, and didn’t miss another game over the next four seasons. He had 193 carries for 874 yards and six touchdowns in 1970. He was selected to the first of five straight Pro Bowls that year (1970-1974).
The Dolphins led the NFL in rushing in 1971, and Csonka rushed for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The Dolphins made it to Super Bowl VI, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 24-3. The team led the league in rushing again in 1972, this time setting a league rushing record with 2,960 yards. Csonka himself had 213 carries for 1,117 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Csonka’s Dolphins completed the only perfect season since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, going 14-0 during the regular season, and 3-0 during the postseason, completed by their 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins. Csonka & Mercury Morris became the NFL’s first duo to rush for over 1,000 yards each in the same season, with Morris gaining exactly 1,000 yards.
The Dolphins didn’t manage to duplicate the perfect season of 1972, but the result at the end of the 1973 season was the same. Csonka had his third straight 1,000 yard rushing season, with 219 carries for 1,003 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Dolphins won Super Bowl VII, defeating the Vikings by a score of 24-7. Csonka was named the MVP after setting two Super Bowl records: 33 carries for 145 yards, and he scored two of their three touchdowns.
The 1974 season was kind of a downer for the Dolphins, as stars Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield signed on to play in the newly started World Football League in 1975. Csonka had only 749 yards and nine touchdowns on 197 carries in 1974. He went on to rush for only 421 yards and one touchdown on 99 carries with the WFL’s Memphis Southmen in 1975. That league folded after the 1975 season, and Csonka was left a free agent afterwards.
Csonka signed with the New York Giants in 1976, but his rushing average was below four yards per carry during all three seasons he spent there. He wound up returning to the home of his former glory days, signing with the Dolphins for the 1979 season. He wound up with 220 carries for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for 1979. The bad news was, he & the Dolphins couldn’t agree to terms on an extension after the season, so he simply retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, and had his number #39 retired by the Dolphins in 2002.

5. San Diego Chargers-Leslie O’Neal, DE, Oklahoma State, 1986
He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986, with 12.5 sacks in 13 games. The bad news was, he suffered a knee injury that cost him almost two years of playing time at the end of that incredible rookie year. He came back in mid-October 1988, and had four sacks while working to get back to his previous form. He had 12.5 sacks in 1989, and was named to his first Pro Bowl appearance.
He wound up being selected to the Pro Bowl six times in a span of seven years (1989, 1990, 1992-1995). He reached double digits in sacks seven times in the nine seasons he played with the Chargers (1986, 1989, 1992-1995). He had a career high 17 sacks in 1992, finishing tied with Tim Harris for second in the league. He had 12.5 sacks in a season four times, reaching that number in 1986, 1989, 1994, and 1995.
After playing nine seasons and recording a team record 105.5 sacks, O’Neal signed a three year deal with the Rams in 1996. He had seven sacks in 1996, and 10 sacks in 1997. He was waived in 1998, and spent his last two seasons with the Chiefs (1998-1999). In 13 seasons he played in 196 games, starting 178. He had 132.5 sacks, which left him tied with Lawrence Taylor for seventh on the career sack list. He was named to the San Diego Chargers 40th Anniversary Team, the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team, and he was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 2014.

4. Houston Oilers-Mike Munchak, G, Penn State, 1982
He was the first offensive lineman chosen in the 1982 draft. He spent his entire 12 year career with the Oilers, and was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times (1984, 1985, 1987-1993). He was selected to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team. He joined the Oilers coaching staff in 1994 after retiring as a player, and stuck around for the move to Tennessee.
He was inducted into the Titans/Oilers Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He had his jersey number #63 retired by the Titans. He became the Titans head coach following the departure of Jeff Fisher after the 2010 season, and was their head coach for three seasons (2011-2013). He was hired by the Steelers as their offensive line coach in 2014.

3. New Orleans Saints-Willie Roaf, T, Louisiana Tech, 1993
First of all, kudos to the Saints for turning the 60th pick in the 1986 draft (Pat Swilling) into the eighth pick in the 1993 draft, and a 1993 fourth round pick (FB Lorenzo Neal), thanks to a trade with the Lions for Swilling. Roaf was a 16 game starter as a rookie, and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 1994. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls in a row before suffering a torn ACL during the 2001 season, ending his season after seven games.
The Saints took a gamble because of the severity of the injury, trading him to the Chiefs for a conditional 2003 draft pick, which turned out to be a third rounder. Roaf rebounded so well that he was selected to the next four Pro Bowls after coming back (2002-2005). Overall, he played 13 seasons, and was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, missing it only during his rookie year & 2001, the year of his injury. He was selected to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team & the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, his second year of eligibility.

2. Baltimore Colts-Jim Parker, T/G, Ohio State, 1957
To give you an idea of just how dominant of a blocker he was, he was the first player to be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame purely as an offensive lineman. He started for the Colts as a rookie, and became a Pro Bowler in his second year. He moved from tackle to guard in 1963, and had a streak of eight straight seasons where he was named to the Pro Bowl (1958-1965). The Colts won back-to-back NFL Championships during his prime (1958, 1959).
To this day, he is regarded as one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, ranked in the same group with legends like John Hannah & Anthony Munoz. He retired after the 1967 season, and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973, which was his first year of eligibility. He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and had his jersey #77 retired by the Colts. In the Sporting News 100 Greatest Football Players list created in 1989, he was ranked 24th, with Munoz & Hannah the only offensive linemen ranked ahead of him.

1. San Francisco 49ers-Ronnie Lott, DB, USC, 1981
He won the starting job at left cornerback as a rookie, and was one of three rookies starting for the 49ers in the secondary that year. That secondary was so good, it was only the second time that a team’s entire starting secondary was selected to the Pro Bowl. Lott wound up with seven interceptions for 117 yards and three touchdowns, becoming only the second rookie in NFL history with three interceptions returned for touchdowns. The 1981 season concluded with the 49ers winning Super Bowl XVI.
Lott wound up finishing in second place for Rookie of the Year, behind another future Hall of Famer, Lawrence Taylor. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a cornerback in each of his first four seasons (1981-1984). He moved to safety in 1985, and missed the Pro Bowl that year, but was named to the next six in a row (1986-1991). He was one of only five 49ers players to stick around for all four of their Super Bowl wins in the 1980’s, along with quarterback Joe Montana, wide receiver Mike Wilson, cornerback Eric Wright, and linebacker Keena Turner.
He led the league with 10 interceptions in 1986, and did it again with eight in 1991. He was left available as a free agent in the NFL’s earliest version called Plan B Free Agency, and signed with the Raiders in 1991. He started for the Raiders in 1991 & 1992, but left in free agency in 1993, this time joining the Jets. He started all 16 games for the Jets, and added three interceptions. After going without a pick in 1994, he left to join the Chiefs, but suffered an injury & never played again.
In 14 seasons as a player, he had 63 interceptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns, along with 1,113 tackles, 16 forced fumbles, and 17 fumble recoveries. At the time of his retirement, his 63 interceptions ranked fifth in NFL history, behind only Ken Riley (65), Dick “Night Train” Lane (68), Emlen Tunnell (79), and Paul Krause (81). He was selected to the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team, the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility.

Pick By Pick, A Countdown of the NFL’s Greatest Draft Picks: Pick #9

For those of you looking for current stars on this list, I think it will eventually include Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith & Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Since everyone on it now has been selected to multiple Pro Bowls, or was selected to their team’s ring of honor or hall of fame, there isn’t really room to bump one of them off for a third or fourth year player. J.J. Watt was a rare exception to that rule in the article on pick #11, but that’s because I think he’s this generation’s Lawrence Taylor. Kuechly is close, but i’d have to give him too much credit for multiple awards for the same seasons.
So anyways, here are the top 10 players I selected as the NFL’s best players drafted with the ninth overall pick:

10. Buffalo Bills-Haven Moses, WR, San Diego State, 1968
He was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 1969, when he had 39 catches for 752 yards and five touchdowns, with an average of 19.3 yards per catch. He had another 39 catches in 1970, but was down to just 23 catches for 470 yards and two touchdowns in 1971. After just three catches in five games in 1972, he was traded to the Denver Broncos for wide receiver Dwight Harrison. He developed a high ratio of touchdowns versus catches while with Denver, starting in 1972 with 15 catches for 224 yards, turning five of the 15 into touchdowns.
His strong catch-to-touchdown ratio helped him earn his second Pro Bowl selection in 1973, when he had 28 catches for 518 yards and a career high eight touchdowns. His reception totals were never very high, typically in the 20’s & 30’s in each season, but his average yards per catch remained at 16-20 yards per catch from 1973-1981. His career high in receptions came in 1979, when he had 54 catches for 943 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 17.5 yards per catch. He only earned two Pro Bowl selections, but he is pretty high on the career receiving charts in Denver.
In 10 seasons with the Broncos (1972-1981), he had 302 catches for 5,450 yards and 44 touchdowns, averaging 18 yards per catch. He is only ranked 10th in Broncos history in receptions, but his 44 touchdowns leaves him tied with Lionel Taylor for fourth place, and only two behind the third place receiver, Ed McCaffrey. His receiving yardage is ranked eighth in Broncos history. In his 14 year career, he had 448 catches for 8,091 yards and 56 touchdowns, averaging 18.1 yards per catch. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1988.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Charlie Krueger, DT/DE, Texas A&M, 1958
He was picked one spot before Alex Karras, but I don’t think the Niners ever kicked themselves for picking Krueger instead. He started playing in 1959, and reached his first Pro Bowl in 1960. He was a three time All-Pro selection (1960, 1965, 1970), and was chosen to a second Pro Bowl in 1964. He spent his entire 15 year career with the 49ers, playing from 1959-1973. He had his number #70 retired by the team.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars-Fred Taylor, RB, Florida, 1998
It’s kind of amusing to look at this pick and think,”this is who the Jaguars got when they traded Rob Johnson :)”. There was such a shortage of first round quarterback prospects in 1998, the Jaguars managed to hype up Johnson as a better prospect than any rookie after top prospects Peyton Manning & Ryan Leaf. The Bills were in such dire need after Jim Kelly’s retirement that they traded the ninth pick for Johnson, and signed CFL star Doug Flutie. Johnson turned out to be lacking pass rush awareness, Flutie took over, and the rest is history.
Taylor, meanwhile, rushed for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. He rushed for over a 1,000 yards seven times as a Jaguar, but was somehow never selected to the Pro Bowl. His best season was 2003, when he had 345 carries for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Unfortunately for Taylor, there were three other AFC backs with more yardage that year: Jamal Lewis (2,066), LaDainian Tomlinson (1,645), and Clinton Portis (1,591).
In 2007 he had over 1,200 yards rushing for the sixth time, with 223 carries for 1,202 yards and five touchdowns, with a career high 5.4 yards per carry. He also tied for the league lead with four runs of 50 or more yards, and had two of the four longest runs in the NFL that year. He did end up being selected as an injury replacement for the Pro Bowl, so he did actually play in one even though he wasn’t an original selection. He started 13 games in 2008, but was placed on injured reserve to finish the season, and his career as a Jaguar.
He did manage to surpass 11,000 yards rushing in his last season with the Jaguars. He signed with the Patriots after being a salary cap casualty in Jacksonville, and spent his last two seasons there. In 13 seasons in the NFL, he played in 153 games, finishing with 2,534 carries for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He is currently ranked 15th on the NFL’s career rushing yardage list. He was inducted into the team’s ring of honor called The Pride of the Jaguars in 2012.

7. Minnesota Vikings-Kevin Williams, DT/DE, Oklahoma State, 2003
He became only the third rookie defensive lineman in Vikings history to start the season opener, joining Carl Eller (1964) and Al Noga (1988). He had the second highest rookie sack total in Vikings history, with 10.5, only a half sack behind Vikings legend Keith Millard’s 11 sacks. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2004, when he had 70 tackles and 11.5 sacks. He missed out on the Pro Bowl in 2005, but was selected to the next five in a row (2006-2010).
He spent the first 11 years of his career with Minnesota (2003-2013), and had 60 sacks in that span. He signed with Seattle in 2014, and started eight of 16 games, finishing with 30 tackles and three sacks. He played in his first Super Bowl after the 2014 season, but the Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX to the Patriots. He signed with the Saints as a free agent in 2015. In 12 years as a pro, he’s played in 187 games, and had 498 tackles and 63 sacks.

6. Miami Dolphins-Richmond Webb, T, Texas A&M, 1990
He served as Dan Marino’s left tackle for the last decade of his career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons (1990-1996), and only missed two games in that span. He missed seven games due to injury in 1997, and that was his first season that he missed the Pro Bowl. He started 14 games in each of the next two seasons, but was a salary cap casualty after the 2000 season.
He signed with Cincinnati in 2001, and started all 16 games for them that year. He played & started only four games in 2002 due to injury, and retired after the season. He was named to the NFL All-1990’s Team, and was added to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2006.

5. San Francisco 49ers-Hugh McElhenny, RB, Washington, 1952
He was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1952, with 684 yards rushing and 367 yards receiving. He led the league with an average of seven yards per carry that year, and also had the league’s longest run at 89 yards, and the league’s longest punt return: 94 yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons, and was selected to six of them during his career (1952, 1953, 1956-1958, & 1961). He had a career high 916 yards on 185 carries in 1956, averaging five yards per carry.
The numbers might not seem too high, but keep in mind it was a 12 game season back then. He had at least four yards per carry in eight of the 13 seasons he played in the NFL. He spent the first nine seasons of his career with the 49ers (1952-1960), followed by two years with the Vikings (1961-1962), one with the Giants (1963), and one with the Lions (1964). By the time he retired after the 1964 season, he was ranked seventh in NFL history with 5,281 yards rushing.
He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He had his jersey number #39 retired by the 49ers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970. In his career he had 1,124 carries for 5,281 yards and 38 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. As a receiver, he had 264 catches for 3,247 yards and 20 touchdowns, with an average of over 12.3 yards per catch. His total of 11,369 all purpose yards ranked fourth in NFL history at the time of his retirement, outdone by only Jim Brown, Joe Perry & Ollie Matson.
4. Chicago Bears-Brian Urlacher, MLB, New Mexico, 2000
He was benched for one game as a rookie on the strongside, but became the team’s new middle linebacker in week three. He wound up leading the Bears with 124 tackles and eight sacks, and was selected to his first of four straight Pro Bowls (2000-2003). He started and played in only nine games in 2004, missing the other seven games due to an injury. He was selected to the next two Pro Bowls (2005, 2006), and was selected as the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
He helped lead the Bears to Super Bowl XLI at the end of the 2006 season, but they lost to the Colts, 29-17. He had a career high five interceptions for 101 yards and a touchdown in 2007, along with five sacks, but didn’t even make the Pro Bowl that year. He played in only one game in 2009 due to injury, but was right back in the Pro Bowl in 2010, with 125 tackles and four sacks. He was selected to his final Pro Bowl in 2011, when he had 102 tackles and three interceptions for seven yards.
He played in only 12 games in 2012, finishing with 68 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one interception returned 56 yards for a touchdown. He retired after the 2012 season, finishing behind only Walter Payton and Olin Kreutz in career starts with the Bears. In 13 seasons with the Bears, he had 1,229 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 22 interceptions returned for 324 yards and two touchdowns.

3. Baltimore Colts-Lenny Moore, RB, Penn State, 1956
He was easily the Rookie of the Year in 1956, rushing for 649 yards and eight touchdowns on only 86 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He averaged at least seven yards per carry three times in his career. He began being utilized as a receiver more in 1957, with 40 catches for 687 yards and seven touchdowns, in addition to 98 carries for 488 yards and three touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times in his 12 year career (1956, 1958-1962, 1964).
I was actually surprised he didn’t win the 1958 NFL MVP award after seeing his numbers for that year. He had 82 carries for 598 yards and seven touchdowns, in addition to 50 catches for 938 yards and seven touchdowns. The Colts went on to win the NFL Championship in the game now known as The Greatest Game Ever Played, defeating the New York Giants 23-17 in the first ever NFL playoff game to go into overtime. Moore was limited to 23 yards rushing in the game, but he also had six catches for 101 yards in the win.
From 1957 to 1961, Moore actually had more yards receiving than rushing, and went over 900 yards receiving in a season twice. He had more than 1,200 yards from scrimmage in 1959, and had similar results at the end of the season. He rushed for only 422 yards and two touchdowns, but also added 47 catches for 846 yards and six touchdowns. The Colts wound up winning back-to-back NFL Championships, defeating the Giants again, this time by a score of 31-16.
In 1960 he reached another new high mark, with 45 catches for 936 yards (missing that mark by only two yards), and nine touchdowns, with an average of 20.8 yards per catch. I don’t think we’ll ever see a running back with an average that high in the modern era. In 1961 his average yards per catch dropped to 14.9, but he averaged seven yards per carry on the ground. His numbers finally dropped off in 1962 & 1963, and he was benched at one point, but it only set up an incredible comeback at age 31.
In 1964 he set a career high with 157 carries, rushing for 584 yards and 16 touchdowns, doubling his previous single season high in touchdowns. He also set a new career high for receiving average, averaging 22.5 yards per catch, with 22 catches for 472 yards and three touchdowns. He was selected as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for that season, and earned his last Pro Bowl selection. He retired after the 1967 season, after playing in 143 regular season games in 12 years.
At the time of his retirement, he was ranked third in career yards from scrimmage, behind only Joe Perry & Jim Brown. He rushed for 5,174 yards and 63 touchdowns on 1,069 carries, and had 363 catches for 6,039 yards and 48 touchdowns. He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, & the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He had his #24 retired by the Colts, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.

2. Oakland Raiders-Lance Alworth, WR, Arkansas, 1962
His trade to the Chargers was one of the biggest head scratchers i’ve seen in my lifetime. The Raiders received offensive tackle Gene Selawski, quarterback Hunter Enis, and Olympic Gold & Silver medalist turned halfback/wide receiver Bo Roberson. Roberson must have been highly regarded as an athlete, but he was no Alworth. You would never see a trade like that for the ninth pick in the draft these days, and in this case Alworth turned out like the 60’s version of Jerry Rice.
I think the AFL’s Raiders thought they couldn’t compete with the NFL’s 49ers, and that drove them to do the trade. Alworth only had 10 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, but he had a major breakthrough in 1963. He had 61 catches for 1,205 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1963, and helped lead the Chargers to victory in the AFL Championship game. He was selected to the AFL All-Stars, which is the AFL equivalent to the NFL’s Pro Bowl, seven times (1963-1969).
He had nearly identical numbers for 1964, with 61 catches for 1,235 yards and 13 touchdowns. He reached career highs in receiving yards (1,602), yards per catch (23.2), and touchdowns (14) on 69 catches. He reached a career high in catches in 1966, with 73 for 1,383 yards and 13 touchdowns. His numbers dropped a little in 1967, but he still went over 1,000 yards for the fifth time, with 52 catches for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns.
His streak of 1,000 yards seasons stopped in 1970, with 35 catches for 608 yards and four touchdowns. Even though he had lost a step, the Chargers still got three players when they traded him to the Cowboys in 1971. The Cowboys went on to the Super Bowl two seasons in a row with Alworth, and won Super Bowl VI. He had only two catches in the Super Bowl, but they were both very important catches. He converted a third & long with a 21 yard catch, and his other catch was a seven yard touchdown.
He retired after the season, and finished his career with 542 catches for 10,266 yards and 85 touchdowns, with an average of 18.9 yards per catch. He still holds the record for career 200 yard receiving games (5), although he’s currently tied with Calvin Johnson for that mark. He was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions in 1972. In 1978 he was not only the first San Diego Chargers player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was also the first player who spent most of his career in the AFL inducted into the Hall. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, The AFL All-Time Team, The San Diego Chargers 40th Anniversary Team, and the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team. He had his jersey number 19 retired by the Chargers in 2005.

1. Houston Oilers-Bruce Matthews, G, USC, 1983
He was selected to his first Pro Bowl a little bit late, in 1988, his sixth season. As it turned out, it was his first of 14 straight (1988-2001). He is currently in a four way tie for most Pro Bowl selections, joining Merlin Olsen, Tony Gonzalez, and Peyton Manning. He holds the record for most games played by an offensive lineman (296), and was highest ranked non-kicker or punter until Brett Favre (302) & Jerry Rice (303) surpassed him.
He started at every single spot on the offensive line, and was selected to the Pro Bowl as a left guard, right guard, and center. He started at right guard as a rookie, center and right tackle in 1984, right tackle in 1985, and left tackle in 1986. He moved to right guard in 1987, and stayed there through 1990, earning his first three Pro Bowl selections. It didn’t matter which offensive line position he played after that, he was selected as a center from 1991-1994, and left guard from 1995-2001.
He was the first Tennessee Titans player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, which was also his first year of eligibility. He was inducted into the Tennessee Titans Hall of Fame on December 8th, 2002. The team also retired his jersey #74 during a halftime ceremony at that game.