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Mike Gordan

The Best NFL Draft Picks in each Franchise's History?

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Decided to make a topic covering this after I was unable to find a topic at hand here on the off-topic forum.  Basically, I would like to go explore just who were the very best draft selections in each franchise's history.  Of course, when tackling such a subject, I needed to establish a few things:

 

1.  Said players had to have been drafted by and played for their respective franchises.  Meaning John Elway with the Denver Broncos or Brett Favre with the Packers are gonna be out of the question, as well as traded, undrafted, or otherwise free agents.

 

2.  They also had to be great players with the very teams they were drafted by.

 

3.  For the record, I'm going to simply limit our selections to players that were playing while statistical records were being kept; if said statistics are difficult to come by, I personally am not going to include them--though I'm sure some of you might find something noteworthy out of players as far back as, say, 1940 perhaps?

 

4.  Existing NFL franchises only.  One could make an arguable exception--or perhaps even make the debate--for the Houston Oilers in relation to the Tennessee Titans.

 

With that, I'm sure we can discuss who the best drafted players in each franchise's history are.  Many of them are of course gonna be pretty obvious, though I'm sure we can find some reasonable answers for every team regardless, even if we come to a general agreement on who is easily the best drafted player of a particular franchise (for example, do we need to debate the best drafted player in New England Patriot history?).  After all, I'm sure there are still plenty of great players drafted by just about every team in franchise history that we could debate through thick and thin.

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Best all time Chiefs draft pick has to be Derrick Thomas, hands down. He was one of the most dominating linebackers of the 90s, with the single game sack record of 7.0 against Seattle. Second best of all time, Buck Buchanan. Without him, the Chiefs might not have had the glue to win Super Bowl IV against Minnesota.

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Okay, I'm gonna start by tackling one NFL division at a time.  Starting with the AFC East, let's get the most obvious team out of the way first:

 

New England Patriots:  QB Tom Brady

Honorable Mentions:  DE Willie McGinest, LB Tedy Bruschi, NT Vince Wilfork, LB Jerod Mayo, WR Julian Edelman, TE Rob Gronkowski

 

I think it pretty much goes without saying who the number one greatest draft acquisition in franchise history was, and it turned out to be the most unexpected draft steal in history in QB Tom Brady.  In addition to being only the third NFL QB ever to win 4 Super Bowl rings long after Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana had entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is the only player in the Patriots roster to have won all four Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, bridging the eras dictated by the elite defenses of old, as led by Patriot legends like Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi, and by Tom Brady's leadership and his explosive offenses, as represented by receiver Julian Edelman and Tight-End Rob Gronkowski--the latter having already established a reputation possibly worth of another team's consideration for greatest draft acquisition of all time.  But the glue that binds all of these players and potential future hall of famers (even if it's just the Patriots' Ring of Honor) together is none other than QB Tom Brady, who has established himself as arguably the greatest QB in NFL history--at the very least, top five.

 

Miami Dolphins:  QB Dan Marino

Honorable Mentions:  QB Bob Griese, RB Larry Csonka, DB Dick Anderson, DB Jake Scott

 

Another obvious pick would have to be QB Dan Marino, who is universally regarded as the greatest NFL QB never to win a Super Bowl.  However, it's not quite as big a no-brainer as you think.  You never would have guessed it based on how few the number of honorable mentions that I had, but there are a ton of defensive players that were a part of their back-to-back championship seasons including their perfect season of 1972 that warrant as much honorable mention as the others.  Alas, I am not a big follower of the Miami Dolphins, and it is rather appropriate that these players became known as the No-Names--plenty of legends that could potentially argue their status as best drafted player with Dan Marino, but each one of these legends were not the star player of said team but rather a core member of said team that contributed greatly where necessary.  To me, that sets Dan Marino apart from all the other guys since he had to spend his entire career as the team's lone superstar.  I do think the stark contrasts in eras is a good lesson to follow, but as far as draft selections go, Dan Marino was the ultimate steal, whereas it's doubtful any one of the other players from the early 1970's Dolphins teams could have possibly carried their teams on their shoulders.

 

Buffalo Bills:  RB O.J. Simpson

Honorable Mentions:  QB Jim Kelly, LB Darryl Talley, DE Bruce Smith, WR Andre Reed, T Will Wolford, LB Shane Conland, RB Thurman Thomas

 

This one basically boiled down to a similar case with the Miami Dolphins to one man versus an entire team.  The only difference is, there were a crap-ton of legendary Buffalo Bills players on those Super Bowl rosters and were all great based on their own individual strengths.  In fact, the free agency market opening up mixed with the Salary Cap increase basically served as a final nail to the coffin for their Super Bowl hopes after they lost their fourth straight back in 1993--that was how loaded they were.  So the line does blur a bit when it comes to selecting O.J. Simpson as the single greatest draft acquisition in Buffalo Bills history--especially since saying such things might come across as politically incorrect in some circles.  But what put O.J. Simpson over the top for me is very simple:  Not only was he the first ever Running Back ever to rush for 2,000 yards--way back when such a number was considered impossible (in fact, it wouldn't be for another decade afterwards when another RB would accomplish that feat); but he did it during a 14-game schedule, and amidst the 1972-1973 Miami Dolphins championship seasons (although I believe they simply decided to just let him run for 2,000 yards since the Dolphins simply cared about winning rather than some record--another good lesson for us to learn, even though Terrell Davis would eventually trample all over said lesson by rushing for 2,000 yards AND winning a Super Bowl in the same season--but that's for another time).  We can probably debate until the end of time who the greatest draft acquisition in Buffalo Bills history could have been, but at the end of the day, the original team superstar--as well as their lone superstar all throughout the 1970's--would have to be O.J. Simpson.

 

New York Jets:  QB Joe Nameth

Honorable Mentions:  DB Herb Adderley, TE John Mackey, G Dave Herman, RB Matt Snell, DE Gerry Philbin, RB John Riggins

 

This one was much more difficult to come by given the fact that the best Jets player in franchise history--WR Don Maynard was previously with the New York Giants, and there really weren't too many players that one would call top quality passed John Riggins.  All the best players in franchise history also happened to have come from the same area anyways, so the line gets blurred in dictating who the greatest draft pick would be.  Especially given the fact that what seems like the obvious choice--QB Joe Nameth--is looked at as a historically overrated QB who never really amounted to anything again after the merger took place.  Any one of these honorable mentions could easily be interchangeable with Nameth as far as quality draft picks are concerned--or perhaps a lifelong Jets fan might be able to enlighten us with some alternate options that I just so happened to have overlooked (sorry; not a huge fan of the Jets, either).  All of these players are from long ago too, so it's hard to truly imagine their statistical worth.  However, I selected Joe Nameth as the greatest draft pick in Jets history for historical reasons rather than for reasons in relation to skill.  After all, without Nameth, there would have been no guarantee, and the NFL-AFL merger would have been looked at more as an assimilation of the AFL into the NFL, rather than a true merger from two equal forces.  And for this reason, I do think the value when all is said and done, and we look back at Super Bowl history, in many ways outweights the significance of a great many of the all-time franchise greats, anyways.  As such, I had to select Joe Nameth as the greatest draft acquisition in franchise history.

 

So what do you guys think?  As far as list of drafted players go, I was able to look up the NFL references at www.pro-football-reference.com.  I'll tackle the AFC North next, but for now, I'd like to dig a little deeper, and open up the doors from some conversations with other people.

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21 minutes ago, TecmoSuperFan said:

Derrick Thomas... with the single game sack record of 7.0 against Seattle. 

 

OT....unfortunately the play that should have been the "8th sack" - cost KC the game.  Dave Krieg escaped DT and threw game winning TD pass!  I watched that game live.

 

 

 

Jamaal Charles has been a pretty good pick, too.  as was Tony Gonzalez.  Will Shields, too.  gotta mention Okoye, because KC drafted the fastest dude with 94 HP.

 

 

 

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Time to tackle the AFC North

 

Baltimore Ravens:  LB Ray Lewis
Honorable Mentions:  LB Peter Boulware, DB Chris McAlister, LB Adalius Thomas, DB Ed Reed, LB Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, RB Ray Rice

 

Do we even need to get into a debate, here?  Of course the greatest player ever drafted by the Baltimore Ravens was gonna be Ray Lewis--not only was he among the original class of drafted players, but was the perennial leader of their entire defense throughout his entire16-year career, and amidst all the roster changes throughout the years.  With a team that has historically struggled offensively (although Ray Rice was the greatest offensive selection the franchise had ever made), all of the other honorable mentions are gonna consist of some of the greatest defensive players ever to play the game, including a few who are still playing to this day.  But the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens would have to be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, future First-Round Ballot Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.

 

Cleveland Browns:  RB Jim Brown
Honorable Mentions:  WR Paul Warfield, RB Leroy Kelly, TE Ozzie Newsome, RB Ernest Byner, QB Bernie Kosar

 

I think when all is said and done, I think it's fair to say the greatest draft acquisition in Cleveland Browns history would have to be arguably the greatest Running Back of all time (top five, certainly), and that's Jim Brown.  Nothing against some of our honorable mentions here, but almost none of these other guys were ever much more than pretty good in my eyes (yeah, I know Brown fans love Bernie Koar and Ernest Byner).  He retired well in his prime so that he could pursue a career in acting--and he was a pretty darn good actor, too!  But the greatest Brown would having to be the greatest Brown.

 

Cincinnati Bengels:  T Anthony Munoz
Honorable Mentions:  QB Ken Anderson, G Max Montoya, WR Cris Collinsworth, TE Rodney Holman, NT Tim Krumrie, QB Boomer Esiason, DT Geno Atkins, WR A.J. Green

 

The Cincinnati Bengels are one of those football teams that don't have too many players that scream "legendary" or "Hall of Fame."  QB Ken Anderson was the original Joe Montana, but wouldn't see any dividends until very late in his career where he would fall short against, well, Joe Montana.  Boomer Esiason often holds the distinction of one of the 10 greatest NFL QB's never to win the Super Bowl, even though his ceiling was limited strictly to a Super Bowl defeat in 1988 during his lone league MVP season (although he was the closest anybody has ever gotten to defeating Joe Montana in the Super Bowl).  And as far as modern-day talent goes, the greatest players would have to be DT Geno Atkins and WR A.J. Green, hands down.  Ultimately, what it boiled down to was Tackle Anthony Munoz, the only drafted Cincinnati Bengel to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was also their highest valued player in franchise history.  With six Fumble-Recoveries--four of which were returned for touchdowns--11 Pro Bowl selections (practically for every season that he ever played for in his career), a member of 9 First-Team All-Pro Teams, and a member of the 1st Team All-1980's Team, Anthony Munoz is historically speaking the single-greatest Cincinnati draft pick, AND Cincinnati player in franchise history.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers:  1974 Draft (WR Lynn Swann, LB Jack Lambert, WR John Stallworth, C Mike Webster)
Honorable Mentions:  DT Joe Greene, QB Terry Bradshaw, DB Mel Blount, LB Jack Ham, RB Franco Harris, LB Joey Porter, DB Troy Polamalu, QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, RB Le'Veon Bell

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers is a franchise that is so chockfull of NFL legends both past and present that to single one individual person out would be nothing short of an exercise in futility.  Heck, they even drafted Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson only to have mistook them for wasted draft picks.  The impact players in franchise history, however, are the names that I listed up above, and anybody could easily select one of these guys and call them the greatest draft acquisition of all time.  However, what set me to select the names above specifically is simple:  Every one of these guys were selected one at a time in the NFL draft and while they were immediate impact players, it was 1974 where they basically completed the Steel Curtain Roster that would come and define their entire Super Bowl dynasty.  Not only did they draft four--repeat, FOUR--Hall of Fame Players that very year in Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster; but 1974 was also the year the Pittsburgh Steelers won their very first Super Bowl and their dominant reign in the NFL would officially begin!  As a result, I couldn't really single any one name out, but instead the entire draft selection as a whole.  As it is quite arguably the greatest NFL draft class for any franchise in NFL history.  Again, I'm sure anybody could reasonably argue among all the names that I had mentioned--especially from the Steel Curtain era--who the greatest draft acquisition could be, though in all fairness, 1974 was the completion of the Steel Curtain, and the birth of a dynasty.  Hence, the reason for my ranking.

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The AFC South was kind of easy to figure out the rankings as far as greatest Draft Picks for each team are concerned.

 

Indianapolis Colts:  QB Peyton Manning
Honorable Mentions:  TE John Mackey, LB Mike Curtis, DE Bubba Smith, WR Marvin Harrison, QB Andrew Luck

 

Given the fact that fellow Colts legend Johnny Unitas was drafted by the Steelers beforehand, and fellow all-time great QB John Elway established himself as a legend with the Broncos--never having played a down for the Colts--this one was as big a no-brainer as they come.  Sure, there were players from the Unitas era that are absolutely first-rate, and Marvin Harrison was the greatest receiver Peyton Manning ever had.  But at the end of the day, the Colts came back from the dead because of Peyton Manning.  There would not be a Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, or even an Andrew Luck, without Peyton Manning.  Tom Brady would not be where he is today if not for Peyton Manning--as rivalries are a necessity if one is to improve oneself.  The entire NFL landscape as we know it today exists because of Peyton Manning.  To even attempt to argue any other player as a greater draft acquisition than he would be as foolish as trying to deny Tom Brady for the Patriots--it's indisputable at this point in time.

 

Houston Texans:  DE J. J. Watt
Honorable Mentions:  WR Andre Johnson, TE Owen Daniels

 

This is an awfully young team, and as such, there are not too many top tier NFL players that the Houston Texans had acquired.  As such, the pool basically consists of Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and J. J. Watt.  And while Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels are longtime veterans that have historically been simply pretty good, J. J. Watt is still in his 20's, and is pretty much the indisputable franchise MVP.  Not sure what else is there to say, really; the Texans had only just recently gotten good and became a playoff contender, and J. J. Watt is the dominant reason why.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars:  RB Fred Taylor
Honorable Mentions:  Um....

 

I really do feel bad for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  I know they are a young team and all, but I am shocked at just how there are absolutely no top tier talents the Jaguars had ever drafted.  The best players in franchise history have all came from free agency in some capacity or another--or were otherwise selected in a trade.  RB Fred Taylor is probably the closest thing to a top tier talent they had ever drafted.  And thus we can pretty much figure out exactly why the Jaguars--even among the young expansion teams, are such a laughingstock today; who truly knows if they have finally struck gold in this year's draft as everybody seems to be suggesting (since all of their recent acquisitions are untested, and the other players they have been drafting the last couple of years have either gone bust or are still a work-in-progress).  And I don't know about you guy, but I refuse to select a drafted player that has yet to prove their value--especially if they've never even played a down yet.  As of this moment, Fred Taylor is the best proven player the Jaguars had ever drafted.  Honorable mention?  I shudder to even think of one.

 

Tennessee Titans:  G Bruce Matthews
Honorable Mentions:  RB Earl Campbell, G Mike Munchak, WR Ernest Givins, RB Lorenzo White, DB Cris Dishman, QB Steve McNair, RB Eddie George, DE Jevon Kearse

 

This one was the only franchise that was tricky to figuring out.  Arguably the best player in franchise history--QB Warren Moon--was an undrafted free agent, so that ruled him out.  Then we had two different eras--the Houston Oilers and the Tennessee Titans, and the war between these two sides.  All of these honorable mentions had their moments of greatness.  But G Bruce Matthews is statistically the most valued player ever drafted by the Houston Oilers, and ever to play for the Tennessee Titans.  He bridges the two sides together, and saw the glory years of these two franchises all the way through.  Nothing against Steve McNair or Eddie George, but Bruce Matthews was the glue that bound the two eras together.

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Carolina's is Steve Smith, and it's not even close yet - maybe Kuechly gives him a run for the money if he keeps his career going as it has been.

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3 hours ago, Coconuts said:

Carolina's is Steve Smith, and it's not even close yet - maybe Kuechly gives him a run for the money if he keeps his career going as it has been.

I'll probably look into that soon enough.  Though for the most part, I generally find that all receivers are gonna be at the very mercy of their QB.  With extremely rare exceptions, no WR is better than his QB (Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Calvin Johnson are generally looked at as the exceptions to the rule--and even then, Rice and Johnson both have huge rivals to contend with for their respective teams, while Randy Moss could be looked at as a journeyman receiver in spite of how great he was).

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Time to wrap up the AFC West, starting with my favorite football team:

 

Denver Broncos:  RB Terrell Davis
Honorable Mentions:  DB Steve Atwater, WR Vance Johnson, TE Shannon Sharpe, WR Demaryius Thomas, LB Von Miller

 

Considering my options for greatest NFL players, to be perfectly honest, a large bulk of some of the greatest Denver Broncos ever have came from free agency or were traded over from another team.  Don't believe me?  We've been to the Super Bowl eight times, and not once had the QB that led us there had been drafted by us.  Craig Morton came from the Dallas Cowboys, while John Elway and Peyton Manning both came from the Cults.  The result limited the overall lineup of contenders of greatest NFL players drafted by the Broncos.  It basically boiled down to Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater, and Shannon Sharpe for greatest NFL players ever to be drafted by the Denver Broncos.  Love all three of these guys, but I have to go to the 2,000 yard season for Terrell Davis--who, after combining the regular and postseason, still holds the all-time record for most yards rushing ever for a RB, is the only RB ever to rush for that many AND win a Super Bowl in a season, let alone period; and in six seasons in the NFL, holds the all-time rushing record ever for the Denver Broncos.  He helped us win back-to-back Super Bowls in John Elway's final two seasons--fulfilling the long-awaited dream that had been thrice denied to him.  He was the player that gave the team hope at a time where it seemed that it may not have been meant to be for Elway or the Broncos, and made the franchise one of the most successful franchises in the entire NFL today.  Terrell Davis may not have been the man that made my team relevant--they were already relevant because of Elway as well as the Orange Crush--but Davis made sure we would not become known as a cursed NFL franchise--shedding away for good the same reputation that we once shared with the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills as the NFL teams that could not win the big one.

 

Oakland Raiders:  RB Marcus Allen
Honorable Mentions:  WR Fred Biletnikoff, G Gene Upshaw, QB Ken Stabler, T Art Shell, DB Lester Hayes, DE Howie Long, RB Bo Jackson, WR Tim Brown, DB Charles Woodson

 

What a list of NFL legends we have right here.  And if we were to talk about Tecmo Super Bowl legends, the winner would be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, RB Bo Jackson--nobody can stop Bo Jackson!  But we're talking about real life here, and the reality of the matter is, Bo Jackson's career was incredibly shortlived and failed to pay off in long-term dividends.  But who is the first name you think of when you think of the Raiders?  Surprisingly, it's gonna be RB Marcus Allen.  And it makes sense the more you think about it; statistically speaking, the 1976 Raiders team was easily the greatest team in franchise history, and yet every time we had a Tecmo Convergence, we got the 1983 team instead.  And it shows just how much a player may mean to an entire fanbase, may it be in Los Angeles or Oakland, or possibly even Las Vegas.  I think there is indeed a great deal of value in something like that; his performance in Super Bowl XVIII is the stuff of legends, and for the rest of his career, his legend would only grow from there.

 

Kansas City Chiefs:  G Will Shields and LB Derrick Thomas
Honorable Mentions:  DT Buck Buchanan, LB Bobby Bell, LB Jim Lynch, LB Willie Lanier, RB Christian Okoye, DE Neil Smith, TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Jamaal Charles

 

The Chiefs are one of those teams that are historically known as a defensive powerhouse, as well as a pound-'em running attack, compliments of such names like Christian Okoye (whose career, much like Bo Jackson, was shortlived) and Jamaal Charles (whose story is still young and ongoing).  So, it makes sense for there to be a tie.  A lot of people will contend heavily between who exactly is the greatest player ever drafted by the Chiefs, and it seems the primary frontrunners are G Will Shields and LB Derrick Thomas.  So, I am representing both players in a tie.  G Will Shields has the single highest overall value ever for a Kansas City Chief, but LB Derrick Thomas seems to be the guy diehard fans admire greatly.  Either way, it appears these two names are the names most synonymous with the Kansas City Chiefs, and are widely regarded as the greatest draft picks in Chiefs history.  Though look at the honorable mentions list, as well as a few other names that I omitted, and there are a whole host of other Chiefs players who are at worst, local legends, and at best, league legends.  The only big shocker is how they somehow never made it back to the Super Bowl following the merger in spite of all the big names they drafted both on defense and at RB.  But who knows?  Maybe they're closing in on their Super Bowl opportunity as we speak.

 

San Diego Chargers:  LB Junior Seau
Honorable Mentions:  QB Dan Fouts, TE Kellen Winslow, RB LaDainian Tomlinson

 

The San Diego Chargers are yet another NFL franchise that isn't well known for drafting their share of all-time NFL legends (and no, I am not omitting Phillip Rivers; he was drafted by the New York Giants, who traded with the Chargers for Eli Manning).  But I do believe the names Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau, and LaDainian Tomlinson are the undisputed best players in franchise history, and are all local legends in their own right.  Anybody could make a case for who is the greatest draft acquisition in franchise history, and anybody could be justifiable in selecting who among those four names is the greater draft pick.  But when being objective, I decided I needed to select the player who had the highest statistic value of the bunch.  And that was none other than LB Junior Seau, who had just recently made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  A shame, however, that Canton was insistent in immortalizing him as a New England Patriot rather than with the team whose legend he established with.  But I'm with the Charger fans in my sympathies and in agreement, and his value, to me, is enough to just barely push him over the top for the greatest draft acquisition in franchise history.

 

And that takes care of the AFC.  I'll get done with the NFC shortly.  But here's a recap across all sixteen teams again:

 

Baltimore Ravens:  Ray Lewis

Buffalo Bills:  O.J. Simpson

Cincinnati Bengels:  Anthony Munoz

Cleveland Browns:  Jim Brown

Denver Broncos:  Terrell Davis

Houston Texans:  J.J. Watt

Indianapolis Colts:  Peyton Manning

Jacksonville Jaguars:  Fred Taylor

Kansas City Chiefs:  Will Shields and Derrick Thomas

Miami Dolphins:  Dan Marino

New England Patriots:  Tom Brady

New York Jets:  Joe Nameth

Oakland Raiders:  Marcus Allen

Pittsburgh Steelers:  1974 Draft (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Mike Webster)

San Diego Chargers:  Junior Seau

Tennessee Titans:  Bruce Matthews

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21 hours ago, Mike Gordan said:

I'll probably look into that soon enough.  Though for the most part, I generally find that all receivers are gonna be at the very mercy of their QB.  With extremely rare exceptions, no WR is better than his QB (Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Calvin Johnson are generally looked at as the exceptions to the rule--and even then, Rice and Johnson both have huge rivals to contend with for their respective teams, while Randy Moss could be looked at as a journeyman receiver in spite of how great he was).

True story - but honestly, who else would it be? From a pure draft standpoint, and Carolina's blown a lot of drafts over the 20+ years.. Smitty is the best pick we've ever made, Kuechly 2, Newton 3, Jordan Gross 4th. 

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I'm digging this thread.  100x better than any bullshit article on NFL.com right now.  Some good opinions, too, most of which I agree with.

 

Total nit-pick here, but for New England's honorable mention, I would replace Mayo and Edelman for John Hannah and Andre Tippett.

 

I have to agree with Coconuts on Smith for CAR.

 

Looking forward to the NFC breakdown.

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Phoenix Cardinals~ JOHNNY JOHNSON 1990 Draft, picked in the 6th round, 6'3 230 lbs, position Tailback.....the absolute steal of the 90' draft, should have won rookie of the year, made Probowl.

 

Los Angeles Rams~ ERIC DICKERSON 1983 Draft, picked in the 1st round, 6'3 225 lbs, position Tailback.....STILL holds the all-time season rushing mark in the NFL which will probably never be broken, and too many Probowl appearences to count, one of the best players in the history of football.

 

 

                                                     (p.s.  I'd mention Eddie George, but I'm stickin' with Tecmo players)

 

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Sorry for being gone for so long.  So I guess it's now time to tackle the NFC, starting with the NFC East.

 

NFC East

New York Giants:  LB Lawrence Taylor
Honorable Mentions:  LB Harry Carson, QB Phil Sims, DE Leonard Marshall, DE Michael Strahan, RB Tiki Barber, DE Justin Tuck

 

This is the one conference that, to me, is beyond a shadow of a doubt, the one team whose greatest draft selection in franchise history was a complete no-brainer.  Who else could it  possibly be but LB Lawrence Taylor--arguably the greatest LB in NFL history, and a cornerstone to that team's status as a defensive juggernaut (he is also the second and most recent defensive player ever to win the league MVP)?  Oh, sure, there were elite players--mostly defensive players like Harry Carson, Leonard Marshall, Michael Strahan, or to a lesser extent, Justin Tuck.  Although there is some fondness for QB Phil Sims and RB Tiki Barber as well.  But it doesn't matter--it has to be him.  End of story.

 

Dallas Cowboys:  RB Herschel Walker
Honorable Mentions:  DT Bob Lilly, G Billy Shaw, DB Mel Renfro, WR Bob Hayes, QB Roger Staubach, T Rayfield Wright, DE Harvey Martin, DT Randy White, RB Tony Dorsett, WR Michael Irvin, LB Ken Norton, QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, DB Darren Woodson, G Larry Allen, LB DeMarcus Ware

 

In stark contrast, this was easily the hardest team to figure out just who was the greatest draft selection of all time.  Herschel Walker was pretty much sandwiched between two different Dallas Cowboys dynasties--the 1970's Tom Landry era, and the 1990's Jimmy Johnson era.  No doubt about it, pretty much every other player on my honorable mentions list would be, on the surface, significantly better players talent-wise than Herschel Walker--all among the greatest players of all time, and most of them are all hall of famers.  Herschel Walker?  One playoff season with the Cowboys, the lone player in an otherwise dreadful 1-15 season that was any good (actually made the pro-bowl in spite of how bad his team was).  And heck, what they did with him afterwards wasn't even the reason why he was even drafted to begin with since he was drafted under legendary head coach Tom Landry's watch.  But without Herschel Walker, there would not have been an Emmitt, or a Darren Woodson, or a Larry Allen, or a 1990's Super Bowl dynasty--if anything, the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and the Buffalo Bills would have all won additional Vince Lombardi trophies whereas the Dallas Cowboys would simply cease to be relevant to this very day.  There would be no Salary Cap implemented, meaning only the wealthiest NFL franchises could possibly have a chance to even compete for a Super Bowl.  This would also mean there would be no Lombardi's for John Elway or the Denver Broncos--there'd be no possible chance the New England Patriots could possibly win anything, either.  Okay, that last part would be a bit of a stretch.  But the point is, the Cowboys would not have been able to shape the NFL landscape as it is today if not for the infamous Herschel Walker trade that made the Cowboys the team of the 1990's.  His draft selection isn't a great one because he was a great player--he was a very good running back; don't get me wrong.  But he was the key to rebuilding an entire franchise, even if he never got to see it through.  This one was easily the oddest selection that I could possibly make since I'm not really looking for the greatest player this time around--that would have been far too difficult given such names as Roger Staubach, Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Michael Irvin, Ken Norton Jr., Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, or even DeMarcus Ware.  And that's just to name a few.  This team easily rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers for greatest assortment of NFL draft picks for any team in NFL franchise history.  But unlike the Steelers where the keys to a Super Bowl dynasty were compressed into a single draft class, the Cowboys was in a single player--which in turn led to a king's ransom worth a large multitude of high draft picks and a large handful of journeymen players.  Man, was that a mouthful.

 

Washington Redskins:  CB Darrell Green
Honorable Mentions:  WR Charley Taylor, LB Chris Hanburger, RB Larry Brown, WR Art Monk, G Russ Grimm, QB Mark Rypien

 

The Redskins are an interesting case since a large chunk of their top tier players were not drafted, but were picked up in trades, were replacement players, or came from free agency (yeah, I know the free agency market didn't necessarily open up until 1993--two years after the end of their Super Bowl dynasty, but come on!  I know that's what the two strikes that the Redskins were able to cash in on were all about, but there were always players that failed to get drafted, and there were always teams that looked to give some of those players a chance).  Either way, the end result is a relatively small selection of players to look at.  Mostly because the greatest players in franchise history were offensive or defensive linemen rather than key position players--the success of Joe Gibb's teams were in those lines, a philosophy that is now financially impractical for Super Bowl dynasties thanks to the salary cap and the free agency market.  But the one name that stood out was CB Darrell Green, who was the formerly the world's fastest man, and he wasn't even a running back (though he did return punts and kicks).  And while he wasn't exactly the greatest when it came to turnovers (he was alright in that department), he was a force to be reckon with against the deep threat because he could catch up with anybody and shut them down.  Didn't matter what position or what player he was--Darrell Green could catch up to them and take them down.  Darrell Green also was one of the few NFL players ever to continue playing at a high level into his 40's--and he was a CB.  That means lots of contact, and lots of action (amplified too by multiple positions he took in Special Teams).  For the world's fastest man, he sure was an engine that simply refused to die.

 

Philadelphia Eagles:  QB Randall Cunningham
Honorable Mentions:  WR Harold Carmichael, DE Reggie White, QB Donovan McNabb, RB LeSean McCoy

 

Okay, if I missed any big-named players, forgive me.  But I simply cannot stand the Philadelphia Eagles, and frankly, I made as much of an attempt as possible not to do any serious research on the matter.  Not that it matters since the Eagles are a cursed franchise, but that's beside the point.  With that said, I pretty much stuck with the obvious choices--Randall Cunningham, Reggie White, Donovan McNabb, and even LeSean McCoy (I also did a bit of research on Harold Carmichael since he was one of the few Eagle draft picks to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame).  But I had to give the nod to Randall Cunningham--he was injury prone, sure.  But everyone that kept talking about how great Cam Newton was and how much of a game changer he was, I must remind you of Randall Cunningham--one of the greatest NFL QB's not to win a Super Bowl (top five for sure--possibly even top three).  Again, he was injury-prone--comes with the territory for dual-threat QB's.  And given just how incredible his team's defense was, one would have to wonder if the Eagles could have potentially won a Super Bowl back in 1991 had Randall Cunningham not suffered a season-ending injury in 1991--arguably the greatest defense in NFL history not to make the playoffs (to put it to proper context, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers held similar rankings in relation to their season to that of the Eagles).  He even came close to taking the Minnesota Vikings back to the Super Bowl before his kicker missed the field goal that would send the Falcons and Dan Reeves to the Super Bowl.  I guess if I was paying any serious attention to the NFL prior to late 1997 (I was too young, and I was living in Germany back then), then there was probably never going to be a time where I could have possibly rooted for him--either because he was with the Eagles or because I was rooting for the Denver Broncos to win it all at that time).  Man, was he a hell of an athlete, however.  He had a rocket for an arm; and he was a fast runner, surpassed only by Michael Vick as far as QB's were concerned.  He was Cam Newton well before there was even a Cam Newton.

 

So what do you guys think?  Two debatable picks (Cunningham and Walker) and two agreeable ones (Taylor and Green).  I'm still working on the NFC North at the moment--I'm almost done; I just need to figure out the Minnesota Vikings, and then I'll be done with the division.

 

Edit:  Sorry.  I meant division.  Not conference.

Edited by Mike Gordan
I meant to say division rather than conference

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Cowboys fan here. Yes Hershel brought quite the haul and he really was a physical freak. Drafted a year before the USFL folded, I can't really disagree, but I'd probably choose Staubach. Picked late with the knowledge that Roger was going to do his navy service, it worked out wellas Roger finally helped Dallas get Over the hump from their label as next year's team. 

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Geez, how many superstars are in this division, anyways!?  Yowzers!

 

NFC North

 

Chicago Bears:  RB Walter Payton
Honorable Mentions:  LB Bill George, G Stan Jones, TE Mike Ditka, LB Dick Butkus, RB Gale Sayers, DE Dan Hampton, LB Mike Singletary, QB Jim McMahon, T Jimbo Covert, WR Willie Gault, DE Richard Dent, LB Wilber Marshall, DB Shaun Gayle, DT William Perry

 

Something to note about the Chicago Bears is that almost every single solitary player on this list is directly linked to the 1985 Bears--AKA, arguably the greatest NFL team ever assembled (and in spite the Miami Dolphins and their perfect season).  And yet in spite of this, none of the cornerstones of Buddy Ryan's 46-Defense are on my list of greatest draft pick in franchise history (although if I were to go by that route, I'd list the entire 1985 Bears Defense for greatest draft picks of all time--but they didn't all come together like the 1974 Steelers draft picks did, or as a result of trading away a single player a la Herschel Walker).  That honor has to go to RB Walter Payton, widely regarded as arguably the greatest RB in NFL history (not as far as records are concerned--O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders--those types of players), but in the way he played the game.  He was the team's identity all the way up until that 1985 season--as his career was coming to an end.  He stretched the field, and forced opposing defenses to play honestly while opening up the receiving core.  No doubt about it, the Bears would not have racked up 46 points on the New England Patriots had the Patriots not kept Walter Payton keyed on all throughout the game, forcing them to give up their pass rush and pass defense in the process.  He was and still is the very face of the Chicago Bears organization and is still widely regarded as the greatest player in Bears history.

 

Detroit Lions:  RB Barry Sanders
Honorable Mentions:  DB Yale Lary, LB Joe Schmidt, DB Lem Barney, TE Charlie Sanders, WR Calvin Johnson, QB Matthew Stafford

 

Aw, yes.  The Detroit Lions.  AKA, the only football team in the NFL to have only ever won 1 playoff game.  AKA, a team once routinely pathetic that they only recently recovered from the disastrous Matt Millen era only to find themselves allergic to success and to shun away from the very thought of being a great team the second they taste success.  AKA, a team known for drafting some of the greatest players ever in their respective positions--specifically RB Barry Sanders and WR Calvin Johnson--but couldn't find a QB worth the value of dog food.  It's rather shocking how Matthew Stafford was the greatest QB the franchise had ever drafted.  Still, it made narrowing down their best players a lot easier, and as far as who the greatest players ever drafted by the Lions, it basically boiled down to two choices--RB Barry Sanders, and WR Calvin Johnson.  It was a tough call, but at the end of the day, no matter how great the receiver may be, he will always be at the mercy of the QB.  Sure, Calvin Johnson is the rare breed of WR that is vastly superior to that of his QB's (or most QB's for that matter), but it never prevented his team from going 0-16 and being regarded as the worst team in NFL history.  So, Barry Sanders became the winning draft pick, and statistically rivals Emmitt Smith for greatest RB in NFL history.  He was the third RB ever to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, helped his team win the NFC North twice in the early 1990's (so when the division was in the process of transitioning from the Bears to the Packers), and even helped them win their lone playoff game.  The Lions were always a playoff contender with Barry Sanders because if he wasn't carrying the team on his back, he was opening up the lanes for his otherwise crappy fellow receivers and kept the pressure off of his otherwise mediocre-at-best QB's.  He is a hell of an athlete who took his team closer to the Super Bowl than the Lions had ever known in their otherwise miserable history.  For these reasons, RB Barry Sanders wins out over WR Calvin Johnson for greatest draft acquisition in Detroit Lions history.

 

Green Bay Packers:  QB Aaron Rodgers
Honorable Mention:  LB Bill Forester, C Jim Ringo, T Forrest Gregg, QB Bart Starr, RB Paul Hornung, RB Jim Taylor, LB Ray Nitschke, DB Herb Adderley, LB Dave Robinson, WR

Jordy Nelson, LB Clay Matthews

 

Wow!  Given that this was Vince Lombardi's team--the original Super Bowl champions--I was kind of expecting there to be a lot more players than this.  But I guess it couldn't be helped.  And as great as those Lombardi teams were, they were still teams rather than super stars.  Meanwhile, we also have Brett Favre--widely regarded as one of the greatest QB's of all time, and yet he was drafted by the Falcons--not the Packers.  Not to mention there weren't too many superstar players drafted during the Brett Favre era (some good talent but nothing spectacular--they benefited mostly from free agency).  And then we have the Aaron Rodgers era, which includes Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews.  So we have some rather difficult decisions to make in regards to who the best drafted player is concerned.  But Aaron Rodgers is widely regarded as the greatest QB playing in the NFL today, and currently holds the record for highest QB rating ever for a QB career.  He is also a great scrambler, but more in the same vein as John Elway or Steve Young, rather than a Cam Newton or Randall Cunningham-type.  It's a debatable topic, sure.  But Aaron Rodgers is clearly the name that stands out the most, so there you go.

 

Minnesota Vikings:  QB Fran Tarketon
Honorable Mentions: LB Bobby Bell, DE Carl Eller, DT Alan Page, T Ron Yary, LB Jeff Siemon, RB Chuck Foreman, LB Matt Blair, WR Sammy White, TE Steve Jordan, DB Joey Browner, DB Carl Lee, DT Keith Millard, DE Chris Doleman, DT Henry Thomas, G Randall McDaniel, WR Randy Moss, C Matt Birk, DT Kevin Williams, LB Chad Greenway, RB Adrian Peterson

 

Holy cow!  That's not an honorable mentions list!  That's an entire All-Star Vikings squad with a few missing positions yet to be filled.  Well, to be perfectly honest, the reason for this monstrous number of honorable mentions was simple:  The Minnesota Vikings, throughout the entire history of the franchise, had never ever knew a single moment where they were irrelevant.  They have always been playoff contenders every year dating back to the late 1960's, have been crowned division champions the most of any team in their division, is the winningest team in their entire division dating back to 1961; and has competed to be the very best they could possibly be every single solitary year.  Even when there clearly is a divisional juggernaught--may it be Mike Ditka's Bears, or Mike Holgram/McCarthy's Packers, the Vikings could always make a legitimate case for a division title, and often even challenged a multitude of other teams for the right to go to the Super Bowl.  The catch, however, is that all they got to show for all their accomplishments are four Super Bowl losses, zero losses, and countless disappointing losses falling short of the championship.  One of the core reasons for this--and the primary indicator behind my ultimate choice--came down to the QB position.  Their problems at QB isn't quite as unstable as other teams have been--since they were able to nab such big names as Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, or Brett Favre off of free agency, and they all played well for the Vikings for a season or two.  But they never had a long-term solution quite like that of Fran Tarketon--who was known as the greatest NFL QB never to win the Super Bowl before Dan Marino came along (so he's basically the second-greatest NFL QB never to win the big one).  And I can talk a great deal about all sorts of accomplishments that he racked up in his career--all the records that he had set and had since been broken (by the likes of Dan Marino, John Elway, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning to name a few)--but he maintained stability and leadership that even some of the other great names that they took late in their careers were incapable of doing mainly because of their age.  But Tarketon was the third player ever drafted by the Minnesota Vikings; he spent some time away from the Vikings while Joe Kapp held the forte for a couple years; and then Tarketon came back and became one of the original superstar QB's alongside Rodger Staubach and Johnny Unitas.  And he got to play in the pros for an awful long time and outside of those couple of years under Joe Kapp, was pretty much a lifelong Viking.  For this reason--the stability that he brought to the team that led them to three Super Bowl appearances throughout the 1970's (Kapp was the star of one Super Bowl team beforehand), is the reason I have Tarketon ranked as the greatest draft acquisition in franchise history.  Now to see if Teddy Bridgewater could finally ease the suffering longtime suffering of his team and their state.

 

That's as far as I've gotten.  I'll see if I'll have time to cover the NFC South, and then finally the NFC West hopefully soon.

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6 hours ago, Mike Gordan said:

 

 

Minnesota Vikings:  QB Fran Tarketon
Honorable Mentions: LB Bobby Bell, DE Carl Eller, DT Alan Page, T Ron Yary, LB Jeff Siemon, RB Chuck Foreman, LB Matt Blair, WR Sammy White, TE Steve Jordan, DB Joey Browner, DB Carl Lee, DT Keith Millard, DE Chris Doleman, DT Henry Thomas, G Randall McDaniel, WR Randy Moss, C Matt Birk, DT Kevin Williams, LB Chad Greenway, RB Adrian Peterson

 

Holy cow!  That's not an honorable mentions list!  That's an entire All-Star Vikings squad with a few missing positions yet to be filled.  Well, to be perfectly honest, the reason for this monstrous number of honorable mentions was simple:  The Minnesota Vikings, throughout the entire history of the franchise, had never ever knew a single moment where they were irrelevant.  They have always been playoff contenders every year dating back to the late 1960's, have been crowned division champions the most of any team in their division, is the winningest team in their entire division dating back to 1961; and has competed to be the very best they could possibly be every single solitary year.  Even when there clearly is a divisional juggernaught--may it be Mike Ditka's Bears, or Mike Holgram/McCarthy's Packers, the Vikings could always make a legitimate case for a division title, and often even challenged a multitude of other teams for the right to go to the Super Bowl.  The catch, however, is that all they got to show for all their accomplishments are four Super Bowl losses, zero losses, and countless disappointing losses falling short of the championship.  One of the core reasons for this--and the primary indicator behind my ultimate choice--came down to the QB position.  Their problems at QB isn't quite as unstable as other teams have been--since they were able to nab such big names as Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, or Brett Favre off of free agency, and they all played well for the Vikings for a season or two.  But they never had a long-term solution quite like that of Fran Tarketon--who was known as the greatest NFL QB never to win the Super Bowl before Dan Marino came along (so he's basically the second-greatest NFL QB never to win the big one).  And I can talk a great deal about all sorts of accomplishments that he racked up in his career--all the records that he had set and had since been broken (by the likes of Dan Marino, John Elway, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning to name a few)--but he maintained stability and leadership that even some of the other great names that they took late in their careers were incapable of doing mainly because of their age.  But Tarketon was the third player ever drafted by the Minnesota Vikings; he spent some time away from the Vikings while Joe Kapp held the forte for a couple years; and then Tarketon came back and became one of the original superstar QB's alongside Rodger Staubach and Johnny Unitas.  And he got to play in the pros for an awful long time and outside of those couple of years under Joe Kapp, was pretty much a lifelong Viking.  For this reason--the stability that he brought to the team that led them to three Super Bowl appearances throughout the 1970's (Kapp was the star of one Super Bowl team beforehand), is the reason I have Tarketon ranked as the greatest draft acquisition in franchise history.  Now to see if Teddy Bridgewater could finally ease the suffering longtime suffering of his team and their state.

 

That's as far as I've gotten.  I'll see if I'll have time to cover the NFC South, and then finally the NFC West hopefully soon.

 

You should add Archie Manning and Donovan McNabb to the list of old almost-washed-up QBs the Vikings have employed over the years. Also, I hope that Teddy Bridgewater is the guy who can be the QB of the team for the next decade. Us Vikings fans deserve some stability at QB, don't we?

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On 5/2/2016 at 0:50 PM, Mike Gordan said:

Time to tackle the AFC North

 

Baltimore Ravens:  LB Ray Lewis
Honorable Mentions:  LB Peter Boulware, DB Chris McAlister, LB Adalius Thomas, DB Ed Reed, LB Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, RB Ray Rice

 

Do we even need to get into a debate, here?  Of course the greatest player ever drafted by the Baltimore Ravens was gonna be Ray Lewis--not only was he among the original class of drafted players, but was the perennial leader of their entire defense throughout his entire16-year career, and amidst all the roster changes throughout the years.  With a team that has historically struggled offensively (although Ray Rice was the greatest offensive selection the franchise had ever made), all of the other honorable mentions are gonna consist of some of the greatest defensive players ever to play the game, including a few who are still playing to this day.  But the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens would have to be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, future First-Round Ballot Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.

 

Cleveland Browns:  RB Jim Brown
Honorable Mentions:  WR Paul Warfield, RB Leroy Kelly, TE Ozzie Newsome, RB Ernest Byner, QB Bernie Kosar

 

I think when all is said and done, I think it's fair to say the greatest draft acquisition in Cleveland Browns history would have to be arguably the greatest Running Back of all time (top five, certainly), and that's Jim Brown.  Nothing against some of our honorable mentions here, but almost none of these other guys were ever much more than pretty good in my eyes (yeah, I know Brown fans love Bernie Koar and Ernest Byner).  He retired well in his prime so that he could pursue a career in acting--and he was a pretty darn good actor, too!  But the greatest Brown would having to be the greatest Brown.

 

Cincinnati Bengels:  T Anthony Munoz
Honorable Mentions:  QB Ken Anderson, G Max Montoya, WR Cris Collinsworth, TE Rodney Holman, NT Tim Krumrie, QB Boomer Esiason, DT Geno Atkins, WR A.J. Green

 

The Cincinnati Bengels are one of those football teams that don't have too many players that scream "legendary" or "Hall of Fame."  QB Ken Anderson was the original Joe Montana, but wouldn't see any dividends until very late in his career where he would fall short against, well, Joe Montana.  Boomer Esiason often holds the distinction of one of the 10 greatest NFL QB's never to win the Super Bowl, even though his ceiling was limited strictly to a Super Bowl defeat in 1988 during his lone league MVP season (although he was the closest anybody has ever gotten to defeating Joe Montana in the Super Bowl).  And as far as modern-day talent goes, the greatest players would have to be DT Geno Atkins and WR A.J. Green, hands down.  Ultimately, what it boiled down to was Tackle Anthony Munoz, the only drafted Cincinnati Bengel to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was also their highest valued player in franchise history.  With six Fumble-Recoveries--four of which were returned for touchdowns--11 Pro Bowl selections (practically for every season that he ever played for in his career), a member of 9 First-Team All-Pro Teams, and a member of the 1st Team All-1980's Team, Anthony Munoz is historically speaking the single-greatest Cincinnati draft pick, AND Cincinnati player in franchise history.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers:  1974 Draft (WR Lynn Swann, LB Jack Lambert, WR John Stallworth, C Mike Webster)
Honorable Mentions:  DT Joe Greene, QB Terry Bradshaw, DB Mel Blount, LB Jack Ham, RB Franco Harris, LB Joey Porter, DB Troy Polamalu, QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, RB Le'Veon Bell

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers is a franchise that is so chockfull of NFL legends both past and present that to single one individual person out would be nothing short of an exercise in futility.  Heck, they even drafted Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson only to have mistook them for wasted draft picks.  The impact players in franchise history, however, are the names that I listed up above, and anybody could easily select one of these guys and call them the greatest draft acquisition of all time.  However, what set me to select the names above specifically is simple:  Every one of these guys were selected one at a time in the NFL draft and while they were immediate impact players, it was 1974 where they basically completed the Steel Curtain Roster that would come and define their entire Super Bowl dynasty.  Not only did they draft four--repeat, FOUR--Hall of Fame Players that very year in Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster; but 1974 was also the year the Pittsburgh Steelers won their very first Super Bowl and their dominant reign in the NFL would officially begin!  As a result, I couldn't really single any one name out, but instead the entire draft selection as a whole.  As it is quite arguably the greatest NFL draft class for any franchise in NFL history.  Again, I'm sure anybody could reasonably argue among all the names that I had mentioned--especially from the Steel Curtain era--who the greatest draft acquisition could be, though in all fairness, 1974 was the completion of the Steel Curtain, and the birth of a dynasty.  Hence, the reason for my ranking.

No debate about Ray Lewis, but as the resident Raven homer, Jamal Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Joe Flacco are more deserving than Boulware and Thomas.  Jamal was also better than Ray Rice. Not only did Rice flame out on and off the field after only 6 years, he has two crucial fumbles that I will never forgive him for that Jamal would have never committed. 

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This one was fairly easy and straightforward to figure out.  Time to tackle the only division not to have produced a single Super Bowl championship prior to the restructured divisional bracket...the NFC South:

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  DT Warren Sapp, and LB Derrick Brooks
Honorable Mentions:  DE Lee Roy Selmon, QB Vinny Testaverde, DB John Lynch, DB Ronde Barber, RB Doug Martin

 

This one was easily a no-brainer, and it had to be a tie.  The Buccaneers were one of the worst franchises in sports history--nobody cared that they sucked, not least of all the owner since he was making loads of money anyways.  Then came the 1996 draft when Warren Sapp was disappointedly drafted by the "Yucks!"  And followed up by LB Derrick Brooks, to quote Lawrence Fishburne from the 2002 Buccaneers episode of America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, "The Bucs hit the jackpot, and Warren Sapp knew it."  A season later, and the Buccaneers became a playoff contender--two seasons later, they reached the NFC Championship game.  And eventually, the Bucs demolished the Super Bowl champions.  I needed to list both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks as a tie; they change the fortunes of an entire franchise around overnight, and the good times lasted just long enough to hoist the Lombardi trophy.  Didn't even struggle to narrow it down to one guy--you simply couldn't, and you'd be foolish to try.

 

Carolina Panthers:  WR Steve Smith
Honorable Mentions:  DE Julius Peppers, G Evan Mathis, RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Jonathan Stewart, QB Cam Newton, LB Luke Kuechly

 

Let me just say that I was THAT CLOSE to rushing in and selecting Cam Newton as the greatest draft pick in franchise history.  But I knew I had to reign it in for this particular team.  The reason for this was, well...it's kind of like adding Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson as the greatest draft selections in their respective franchises' history--it's okay to make them honorable mentions if you feel strongly about them, but we have no idea if they are even going to be able to play on a top notch level for years to come--statistical or championship-wise.  Luke Kuechly was also excellent, but again is too recent an acquisition to rank.  Everybody else just seems to be pretty good--perhaps very good, but nobody stood out.  So all things considered, I decided that after dismissing receiver after receiver after receiver for so long, I came to realize that in spite these players always being at the mercy of their respective QB's, I knew I could not possibly pass up on him.  And no, you guys didn't pressure me to make such a decision--although your reasonings are perhaps worth noting all the same.  With Cam Newton and even Luke Kuechly out of the question (just as a precaution, mind you), it would then make perfect sense to just go after Steve Smith instead.  I reckon it's been a long time coming before I finally gave the best draft acquisition recognition to a wide receiver, and Steve Smith is clearly our guy for the Panthers.

 

Atlanta Falcons:  DB Deion Sanders
Honorable Mentions:  DE Claude Humphry, T George Kunz, T Mike Kenn, G Bill Fralic, LB Keith Brooking, QB Michael Vick, WR Roddy White, QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones

 

Keep in mind that Deion Sanders was kind of a journeyman, though with a few exceptions, he pretty much spent his entire career with either the Falcons or the Cowboys, winning one with the latter year after he won one in his lone season with the 49ers.  And there were plenty of star players that the Falcons had; they simply were not all-time caliber greats like Deion Sanders was.  Whether he was integral in changing the fortunes of the Falcons around or not is not entirely relevant since the Falcons had never won a Super Bowl and got trounced in their lone appearance.  So I decided to go with the most obvious name on the board (other than Brett Favre, but he was hastily ruled out as a bust over there and dumped over to Green Bay); everybody knew Deion Sanders was great; everybody wanted him; and as soon as the 49ers and the Cowboys got him, they were immediately rewarded with a Lombardi.  I'd say that's enough to warrant positioning him there all things considered.

 

New Orleans Saints:  DB Roman Harper
Honorable Mentions:  QB Archie Manning, LB Rickey Jackson, T Willie Roaf, RB Reggie Bush, DB Tracy Porter, DB Malcolm Jenkins

 

Aw, yes.  The New Orleans Saints.  Of all 28 football teams that were around at that time, the Saints were the very last team to make the playoffs.  Of all 32 teams in the NFL today, they were the second-to-last football team to win a playoff game alongside the Baltimore Ravens (the last team was the Houston Texans, who weren't even around yet).  And of all 32 football teams, they are currently the most recent football team to make their Super Bowl premiere (even the Arizona Cardinals made their Super Bowl debut before the Saints did, and they had no reason to ever amount to anything back in 2008 anyways).  The result left our list of honorable mentions rather barren for a team that's pretty much been around since the beginning of the Super Bowl era (actually one year after the Atlanta Falcons came into the league--predating the very first Super Bowl by nearly a whole year).  So who could have been the catalyst towards their Super Bowl championship?  Drew Brees, of course--but he was picked off the free agency market after the Chargers released him in favor of Phillip Rivers.  Well, DB Roman Harper was drafted back in 2006--the year Brees and head coach Sean Payton came to turn the miserable fortunes of the Saints--and by extension, all of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina--and they made it all the way to the doorstep to the Super Bowl (only to be humiliated by Rex "The Turnover" Grossman in the NFC Championship).  But he was the first piece that would be put in place on defense heading into the wondrous 2009 season in which they were matched with the Indianapolis Colts for greatest team in the league (they both started 13-0).  Fellow DB's in subsequent years that completed that defense were Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins, so the question of who the greatest draft selection really could have been either one of these guys.  But Roman Harper was the one that gave the Saints immediate results before they were even ready to compete for a World Championship.  Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins simply finished the vision as far as draft picks were concerned.  Hence, why I selected the guy that I selected.

 

Next time, I'm gonna finish off my list of Best NFL Draft picks with the NFC West.

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Now, for the finale.  The greatest draft picks ever in the NFC West!

 

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers:  QB Joe Montana, and WR Jerry Rice
Honorable Mentions:  DT Leo Nomellini, T Bob St. Clair, QB Earl Morrall, DB Jimmy Johnson, LB Dave Wilcox, WR Dwight Clark, DB Ronnie Lott, RB Roger Craig, RB Tom Rathman, DE Charles Haley, LB Bill Romanowski, RB Ricky Watters, WR Terrell Owens, RB Frank Gore

 

Look at all of these superstars--many of them even predate the Super Bowl dynasties.  But it all boils down to the greatest QB of all time and the greatest WR of all time.  And it would be a grave injustice to list one and not the other.  So, here's the final tie for greatest draft selections of all time.  To debate either one of these would be foolhardy, and to choose one over the other just screams counterproductive.  They are of that identical level of greatness all on a pedestal.  May they be together or apart, it's indisputable that they are the two greatest draft picks in 49er history.

 

Arizona Cardinals:  WR Larry Fitzgerald
Honorable Mentions:  RB Ollie Matson, DB Larry Wilson, TE Jackie Smith, DB Roger Wehrli, T Dan Dierdorf, RB Ottis Anderson, DB Aeneas Williams, DB Adrian Wilson

 

The rest is fairly tricky, though it helps that the Cardinals never really had big-named stars on their roster.  Yeah, they are one of the oldest existing ball clubs in the NFL, and they have very few drafted players worth any sort of praise--definitely no QB's.  The lone exception to the rule is Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and that's largely due to the colossal gap between "Great" and "pretty good".  This was the only football team in which I selected a Wide Receiver as the greatest draft pick without reservation, and that's because at the end of the day, he genuinely was without question.  The Cardinals never had an elite defense--they were top five last year, but you don't become an elite defense unless you win a Super Bowl.  They never had major game-changers in the RB or defensive positions; they never drafted an elite QB.  They never really drafted anybody worth their salt except for Larry Fitzgerald.  It makes perfect sense, in a way, to make him the greatest draft pick in Cardinals history.  Now the Cardinals better not let him down--give him a Lombardi before he heads out for greener pastures.

 

Los Angeles Rams:  RB Eric Dickerson
Honorable Mentions:  QB Norm Van Brocklin, DE Andy Robustelli, DE Deacon Jones, DT Merlin Olrsen, G Tom Mack, DE Jack Youngblood, T Jackie Slater, LB Kevin Greene, DE Kevin Carter, WR Torry Holt

 

If not for the fact that Eric Dickerson was the second RB ever to rush for 2,000 yards, I would have had a hard time figuring out who the greatest player ever drafted by the Rams could have possibly been.  Aside from WR Torry Holt of the Greatest Show on Turf, virtually none of the big names from said teams were even drafted--not Kurt Warner, or Marshall Faulk, at the very least.  And even some of the defensive players from that time--they were not the reason why the Greatest Show on Turf was effective.  I suppose the best alternative to Eric Dickerson would be none other than QB Norm Van Brocklin--whose lone season since statistical records were being kept track of led to an NFL championship victory against Vince Lombardi's Packers and held all sorts of massive statistical records with the Rams in the early 1950's.  But all things considered, it probably would have been a grave mistake on my part to actually deny Eric Dickerson the title of greatest draft pick in Rams history.

 

Seattle Seahawks:  RB Shaun Alexander
Honorable Mentions:  DT Cortez Kennedy, T Walter Jones, DB Earl Thomas, DB Kam Chancellor, DB Richard Sherman, QB Russell Wilson

 

This one was a toughie since all the best players ever drafted by the Seahawks were either pretty good, were picked up in free agency, or were drafted a mere couple of years ago.  I know Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are such hot players that were a huge part of the success of the Legion of Boom, but the Legion of Boom is a team entity rather than a player entity.  The Seahawks' Super Bowl team were the rejects, and they had a huge chip on their shoulders.  So, I went to locate another option.  Here comes RB Shaun Alexander, the guy who made the Seahawks relevant several years before the Legion of Boom even existed, and was the main reason why they came to own the NFC West after the collapse of the Greatest Show on Turf, and the 49er dynasty was suddenly a distant memory.

 

So these are my picks for the greatest NFL draft picks of all time.

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I'll just cover the summed up rundown for the greatest draft picks for each and every team:

 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills:  O. J. Simpson

Miami Dolphins:  Dan Marino

New England Patriots:  Tom Brady

New York Jets:  Joe Nameth

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens:  Ray Lewis

Cincinnati Bengels:  Anthony Munoz

Cleveland Browns:  Jim Brown

Pittsburgh Steelers:  1974 Draft

 

AFC South

Houston Texans:  J. J. Watt

Indianapolis Colts:  Peyton Manning

Jacksonville Jaguars:  Fred Taylor

Tennessee Titans:  Bruce Matthews

 

AFC West

Denver Broncos:  Terrell Davis

Kansas City Chiefs:  Will Shields and Derrick Thomas

Oakland Raiders:  Marcus Allen

San Diego Chargers:  Junior Seau

 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys:  Herschel Walker (no trade, no 90's dynasty)

New York Giants:  Lawrence Taylor

Philadelphia Eagles:  Randall Cunningham

Washington Redskins:  Darrell Green

 

NFC North

Chicago Bears:  Walter Payton

Detroit Lions:  Barry Sanders

Green Bay Packers:  Aaron Rodgers

Minnesota Vikings:  Fran Tarketon

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons:  Deion Sanders

Carolina Panthers:  Steve Smith

New Orleans Saints:  Roman Harper

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks

 

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals:  Larry Fitzgerald

Los Angeles Rams:  Eric Dickerson

San Francisco 49ers:  Joe Montana and Jerry Rice

Seattle Seahawks:  Shaun Alexander

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1 hour ago, Mike Gordan said:

This one was fairly easy and straightforward to figure out.  Time to tackle the only division not to have produced a single Super Bowl championship prior to the restructured divisional bracket...the NFC South:

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  DT Warren Sapp, and LB Derrick Brooks
Honorable Mentions:  DE Lee Roy Selmon, QB Vinny Testaverde, DB John Lynch, DB Ronde Barber, RB Doug Martin

 

This one was easily a no-brainer, and it had to be a tie.  The Buccaneers were one of the worst franchises in sports history--nobody cared that they sucked, not least of all the owner since he was making loads of money anyways.  Then came the 1996 draft when Warren Sapp was disappointedly drafted by the "Yucks!"  And followed up by LB Derrick Brooks, to quote Lawrence Fishburne from the 2002 Buccaneers episode of America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, "The Bucs hit the jackpot, and Warren Sapp knew it."  A season later, and the Buccaneers became a playoff contender--two seasons later, they reached the NFC Championship game.  And eventually, the Bucs demolished the Super Bowl champions.  I needed to list both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks as a tie; they change the fortunes of an entire franchise around overnight, and the good times lasted just long enough to hoist the Lombardi trophy.  Didn't even struggle to narrow it down to one guy--you simply couldn't, and you'd be foolish to try.

 

Carolina Panthers:  WR Steve Smith
Honorable Mentions:  DE Julius Peppers, G Evan Mathis, RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Jonathan Stewart, QB Cam Newton, LB Luke Kuechly

 

Let me just say that I was THAT CLOSE to rushing in and selecting Cam Newton as the greatest draft pick in franchise history.  But I knew I had to reign it in for this particular team.  The reason for this was, well...it's kind of like adding Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson as the greatest draft selections in their respective franchises' history--it's okay to make them honorable mentions if you feel strongly about them, but we have no idea if they are even going to be able to play on a top notch level for years to come--statistical or championship-wise.  Luke Kuechly was also excellent, but again is too recent an acquisition to rank.  Everybody else just seems to be pretty good--perhaps very good, but nobody stood out.  So all things considered, I decided that after dismissing receiver after receiver after receiver for so long, I came to realize that in spite these players always being at the mercy of their respective QB's, I knew I could not possibly pass up on him.  And no, you guys didn't pressure me to make such a decision--although your reasonings are perhaps worth noting all the same.  With Cam Newton and even Luke Kuechly out of the question (just as a precaution, mind you), it would then make perfect sense to just go after Steve Smith instead.  I reckon it's been a long time coming before I finally gave the best draft acquisition recognition to a wide receiver, and Steve Smith is clearly our guy for the Panthers.

 

Atlanta Falcons:  DB Deion Sanders
Honorable Mentions:  DE Claude Humphry, T George Kunz, T Mike Kenn, G Bill Fralic, LB Keith Brooking, QB Michael Vick, WR Roddy White, QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones

 

Keep in mind that Deion Sanders was kind of a journeyman, though with a few exceptions, he pretty much spent his entire career with either the Falcons or the Cowboys, winning one with the latter year after he won one in his lone season with the 49ers.  And there were plenty of star players that the Falcons had; they simply were not all-time caliber greats like Deion Sanders was.  Whether he was integral in changing the fortunes of the Falcons around or not is not entirely relevant since the Falcons had never won a Super Bowl and got trounced in their lone appearance.  So I decided to go with the most obvious name on the board (other than Brett Favre, but he was hastily ruled out as a bust over there and dumped over to Green Bay); everybody knew Deion Sanders was great; everybody wanted him; and as soon as the 49ers and the Cowboys got him, they were immediately rewarded with a Lombardi.  I'd say that's enough to warrant positioning him there all things considered.

 

New Orleans Saints:  DB Roman Harper
Honorable Mentions:  QB Archie Manning, LB Rickey Jackson, T Willie Roaf, RB Reggie Bush, DB Tracy Porter, DB Malcolm Jenkins

 

Aw, yes.  The New Orleans Saints.  Of all 28 football teams that were around at that time, the Saints were the very last team to make the playoffs.  Of all 32 teams in the NFL today, they were the second-to-last football team to win a playoff game alongside the Baltimore Ravens (the last team was the Houston Texans, who weren't even around yet).  And of all 32 football teams, they are currently the most recent football team to make their Super Bowl premiere (even the Arizona Cardinals made their Super Bowl debut before the Saints did, and they had no reason to ever amount to anything back in 2008 anyways).  The result left our list of honorable mentions rather barren for a team that's pretty much been around since the beginning of the Super Bowl era (actually one year after the Atlanta Falcons came into the league--predating the very first Super Bowl by nearly a whole year).  So who could have been the catalyst towards their Super Bowl championship?  Drew Brees, of course--but he was picked off the free agency market after the Chargers released him in favor of Phillip Rivers.  Well, DB Roman Harper was drafted back in 2006--the year Brees and head coach Sean Payton came to turn the miserable fortunes of the Saints--and by extension, all of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina--and they made it all the way to the doorstep to the Super Bowl (only to be humiliated by Rex "The Turnover" Grossman in the NFC Championship).  But he was the first piece that would be put in place on defense heading into the wondrous 2009 season in which they were matched with the Indianapolis Colts for greatest team in the league (they both started 13-0).  Fellow DB's in subsequent years that completed that defense were Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins, so the question of who the greatest draft selection really could have been either one of these guys.  But Roman Harper was the one that gave the Saints immediate results before they were even ready to compete for a World Championship.  Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins simply finished the vision as far as draft picks were concerned.  Hence, why I selected the guy that I selected.

 

Next time, I'm gonna finish off my list of Best NFL Draft picks with the NFC West.

Atlanta Falcons-Jeff Van Note by a mile. 18 years with the Falcons and 5 Pro Bowls.  That's pretty good value from an 11th round draft pick. 

New Orleans Saints-Marques Colston has been a better Saint than Harper.  I'd also rank Willie Roaf, the field mouse Sam Mills or Pat Swilling over him. 

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35 minutes ago, Mike Gordan said:

Now, for the finale.  The greatest draft picks ever in the NFC West!

 

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers:  QB Joe Montana, and WR Jerry Rice
Honorable Mentions:  DT Leo Nomellini, T Bob St. Clair, QB Earl Morrall, DB Jimmy Johnson, LB Dave Wilcox, WR Dwight Clark, DB Ronnie Lott, RB Roger Craig, RB Tom Rathman, DE Charles Haley, LB Bill Romanowski, RB Ricky Watters, WR Terrell Owens, RB Frank Gore

 

Look at all of these superstars--many of them even predate the Super Bowl dynasties.  But it all boils down to the greatest QB of all time and the greatest WR of all time.  And it would be a grave injustice to list one and not the other.  So, here's the final tie for greatest draft selections of all time.  To debate either one of these would be foolhardy, and to choose one over the other just screams counterproductive.  They are of that identical level of greatness all on a pedestal.  May they be together or apart, it's indisputable that they are the two greatest draft picks in 49er history.

 

Arizona Cardinals:  WR Larry Fitzgerald
Honorable Mentions:  RB Ollie Matson, DB Larry Wilson, TE Jackie Smith, DB Roger Wehrli, T Dan Dierdorf, RB Ottis Anderson, DB Aeneas Williams, DB Adrian Wilson

 

The rest is fairly tricky, though it helps that the Cardinals never really had big-named stars on their roster.  Yeah, they are one of the oldest existing ball clubs in the NFL, and they have very few drafted players worth any sort of praise--definitely no QB's.  The lone exception to the rule is Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and that's largely due to the colossal gap between "Great" and "pretty good".  This was the only football team in which I selected a Wide Receiver as the greatest draft pick without reservation, and that's because at the end of the day, he genuinely was without question.  The Cardinals never had an elite defense--they were top five last year, but you don't become an elite defense unless you win a Super Bowl.  They never had major game-changers in the RB or defensive positions; they never drafted an elite QB.  They never really drafted anybody worth their salt except for Larry Fitzgerald.  It makes perfect sense, in a way, to make him the greatest draft pick in Cardinals history.  Now the Cardinals better not let him down--give him a Lombardi before he heads out for greener pastures.

 

Los Angeles Rams:  RB Eric Dickerson
Honorable Mentions:  QB Norm Van Brocklin, DE Andy Robustelli, DE Deacon Jones, DT Merlin Olrsen, G Tom Mack, DE Jack Youngblood, T Jackie Slater, LB Kevin Greene, DE Kevin Carter, WR Torry Holt

 

If not for the fact that Eric Dickerson was the second RB ever to rush for 2,000 yards, I would have had a hard time figuring out who the greatest player ever drafted by the Rams could have possibly been.  Aside from WR Torry Holt of the Greatest Show on Turf, virtually none of the big names from said teams were even drafted--not Kurt Warner, or Marshall Faulk, at the very least.  And even some of the defensive players from that time--they were not the reason why the Greatest Show on Turf was effective.  I suppose the best alternative to Eric Dickerson would be none other than QB Norm Van Brocklin--whose lone season since statistical records were being kept track of led to an NFL championship victory against Vince Lombardi's Packers and held all sorts of massive statistical records with the Rams in the early 1950's.  But all things considered, it probably would have been a grave mistake on my part to actually deny Eric Dickerson the title of greatest draft pick in Rams history.

 

Seattle Seahawks:  RB Shaun Alexander
Honorable Mentions:  DT Cortez Kennedy, T Walter Jones, DB Earl Thomas, DB Kam Chancellor, DB Richard Sherman, QB Russell Wilson

 

This one was a toughie since all the best players ever drafted by the Seahawks were either pretty good, were picked up in free agency, or were drafted a mere couple of years ago.  I know Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are such hot players that were a huge part of the success of the Legion of Boom, but the Legion of Boom is a team entity rather than a player entity.  The Seahawks' Super Bowl team were the rejects, and they had a huge chip on their shoulders.  So, I went to locate another option.  Here comes RB Shaun Alexander, the guy who made the Seahawks relevant several years before the Legion of Boom even existed, and was the main reason why they came to own the NFC West after the collapse of the Greatest Show on Turf, and the 49er dynasty was suddenly a distant memory.

 

So these are my picks for the greatest NFL draft picks of all time.

Son of a bitch if Steve Largent wasn't drafted by the Oilers. How fun would he have been playing in the Astrodome and the run and shoot offense? Earlier, he'd have been a nice compliment to Ken Burrough and Earl Campbell. 

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Since we're doing the best, i think i might throw up some of the worst i can think of for KC.

 

Worst pick in KC History: Brodie Croyle [QB]
Dishonorable mentions: Junior Siavii [DT], Ryan Sims [DE]

This is one example of hype that did not translate well into the NFL. After leading the Tide to a Cotton Bowl victory, The Chiefs took a chance and drafted Croyle in the third round, thinking that he'd do quite well as Herm Edwards put it, "He'd be a good quarterback in this league." Sadly, injuries and poor play did not do him any favors, and he retired in 2012 with a mere 69.6 QB rating, 8-9 TD to INT ratio. Siavii and Sims were my other two picks, mainly because they didn't really contribute any help to the Chiefs' front four

 
 

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On 5/10/2016 at 7:25 PM, TecmoSuperFan said:

Since we're doing the best, i think i might throw up some of the worst i can think of for KC.

 

Worst pick in KC History: Brodie Croyle [QB]
Dishonorable mentions: Junior Siavii [DT], Ryan Sims [DE]

This is one example of hype that did not translate well into the NFL. After leading the Tide to a Cotton Bowl victory, The Chiefs took a chance and drafted Croyle in the third round, thinking that he'd do quite well as Herm Edwards put it, "He'd be a good quarterback in this league." Sadly, injuries and poor play did not do him any favors, and he retired in 2012 with a mere 69.6 QB rating, 8-9 TD to INT ratio. Siavii and Sims were my other two picks, mainly because they didn't really contribute any help to the Chiefs' front four

 
 

I'm not sure a third rounder can go down as the worst ever. Sylvester Morris comes to mind when I'm thinking KC busts just off the top of my head. 

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