10 NFL Best Draft Picks Ever
Among the career busts and booms in the history of football are the ten NFL best draft picks ever. To be one of the best, a player had to make a sizeable and memorable contribution to their team and to the game of football. Who are these men without whom certain teams would have floundered and toiled in mediocrity?
- Barry Sanders- Arguably the best running back in terms of pure talent, Sanders never won a Super Bowl with the Detroit Lions and retired after only ten years in the league. With his standing at or near the top of most running records, Sanders is one of the NFL’s best draft picks ever.
- Rod Woodson- Rod Woodson was such a great cornerback, he could intercept your words and run them the other way for the score. The tenth overall pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987 and at the top of the best cornerbacks list, Woodson won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000.
- Walter Payton- Nicknamed “Sweetness," Payton was one of the most electrifying running backs to haul the pigskin and one of the best draft picks ever. He broke and held several NFL rushing records for years after his retirement in 1987, just two years after winning Super Bowl XX with the Chicago Bears.
- Peyton Manning- The preeminent quarterback of his generation, Manning is a gunslinger in a game manager’s body. He’s a nine-time Pro Bowler, six-time winner of the AFC Offensive Player of the Year, a record four-time winner of the NFL MVP, and he’s garnered one Pro Bowl MVP and one Super Bowl MVP.
- Mike Webster- “Iron Mike” is generally regarded as the best center to play pro football despite being picked in the fifth round. Webster became a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976 and would go on to start 150 consecutive games.
- John Elway- Dubbed “The Comeback Kid” for leading his team to numerous come-from-behind victories, Elway was chosen first in the ’83 draft and quickly set team records, solidifying him as one of the best draft picks ever. After enduring three Super Bowl losses in the ‘80’s, Elway won back-to-back Bowls in ’97 and ’98, securing MVP honors in the latter, which also proved to be the last game of his career.
- Charles ‘Mean Joe’ Greene- One of the first high-profile draft picks after the merger, “Mean Joe” Greene would become the centerpiece of the vaunted “Steel Curtain” defense that won four Super Bowls for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. Greene won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1969 and is a two-time winner of Defensive Player of the Year.
- Jerry Rice- Undeniably the best wide receiver in the history of the NFL, Jerry Rice continues to hold many of the receiving records he set while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Those records are too numerous to mention, along with a slew of Pro Bowl and various other awards and a Super Bowl MVP, but they add up to make Rice one of the NFL’s best draft picks ever.
- Lawrence Taylor- Considered by many to be the best defensive player of all time, Lawrence “L.T.” Taylor was picked second overall by the New York Giants in 1981 and made his mark right away as an outside linebacker. He is the only player to win Defensive Player of the Year three times and is credited with forcing coaches into changing their offensive schemes just to work around him.
- Joe Montana- No one stayed calm under pressure like “Joe Cool” Montana. He was only the 82nd overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, but he would go on to do amazing things. A four-time Super Bowl champion, Montana holds the record for being named the MVP to three of those championships. He also won the regular season MVP twice, was voted to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, the Pro Bowl (eight times), Offensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and holds many postseason passing records. For his invaluable contributions to his team and the consistent performance at an elite level, Joe Montana is the NFL’s best draft pick ever.