20 Greatest NFL Draft Picks
20. CB Rod Woodson, Purdue
1987, 1st round, 10th pick overall, Pittsburgh
It seems so obvious now, but the pick of Woodson was a great one considering the 1987 class was loaded with busts. How mediocre was it? Woodson was the only Hall of Famer. The 1993 Defensive Player of the Year was a five-time All-Pro for Pittsburgh and a seven-time Pro Bowler before keeping it all going for Baltimore late in his career.
19. DT Bob Lilly, TCU
1961, 1st round, 16th pick overall, Dallas
One of the all-time greatest all-around defensive linemen, Lilly played all 14 of his seasons in Dallas and was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times. He started every game in his career, and went to six straight All-Pro teams and seven in all. Talk about nailing the pick, the next five players drafted after him combined to start 19 seasons.
18. C Dermontti Dawson, Kentucky
1988, 2nd round, 44th pick overall, Pittsburgh
Yawwwwwwwn, a center ahead of all those other amazing players? In terms of value, yeah, considering Dawson was a 44th pick overall, started for the Steelers for 13 years, and was named to the All-Pro team six straight seasons and was a seven-time Pro Bowl talent.
17. OG Bruce Matthews, USC
1983, 1st round, 9th pick overall, Houston
It’s hard to call the ninth overall pick a good value selection, but the Houston Oiler/Tennessee Titan franchise managed to start 293 of his 296 games as a mainstay for the line over his 19-year career. Most amazingly, his production didn’t slip, with three of his seven All-Pro honors coming in his last four years, while retiring on a run of 14 straight Pro Bowl nods.
16. LB Jack Lambert, Kent State
1974, 2nd round, 46th pick overall, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh did okay in 1974 with four Hall of Fame draft picks, but Lambert was the only one for the defensive side. The nasty tone-setter for the Steeler D went on an amazing run of five straight All-Pro seasons before it all ended abruptly in 1984. In all, the amazing second round value pick went to nine straight Pro Bowls with a total of six All-Pro seasons to go along with four Super Bowl rings.
15. OG Randall McDaniel, Arizona State
1988, 1st round, 19th pick overall, Minnesota
A rock for the interior of the Minnesota line for 12 years, McDaniel had a strong rookie year, and then ripped off 11 straight Pro Bowl runs with seven All-Pro seasons including five in a row. Okay, that’s all good, but why is a guard this high? Minnesota really, really hit the pick at the 19. The next nine players selected after him combined to play for just 21 years.
14. LB Jack Ham, Penn State
1971, 2nd round, 34th pick overall, Pittsburgh
Sort of the lost star in the mix of all the amazing Pittsburgh players, Ham played 12 years for the Steelers with six straight All-Pro seasons and going to eight straight Pro Bowls. One of the great pass defending linebackers, he finished his career with 32 picks. The value part of this isn’t bad, either – the next eight players combined to play for 21 seasons with no Pro Bowl appearances.
13. S Ed Reed, Miami
2002, 1st round, 24th pick overall, Baltimore
There was a time when safeties weren’t valued all that highly. Reed might have been an all-time college great at Miami, but he slid all the way to the 24th spot. The eight players taken before him combined for a grand total of zero All-Pro nods and one Pro Bowl, and 25 of the next 28 picks failed to make a Pro Bowl.
All the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year did was finish his career with 643 tackles and 64 interceptions as a five-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler.
12. RB Emmitt Smith, Florida
1990, 1st round, 17th pick overall, Dallas
Supposedly too small and too slow, he slipped after a run of seven players who combined to start for 31 seasons.
The NFL’s all-time leading rusher gets a pass for being named a First Team All-Pro only four times. He made up for it with 18,355 yards, 164 rushing scores, eight Pro Bowls, three Super Bowls, and the 1993 NFL MVP.
No, really, how cold did Jimmy Johnson nail this pick at the 17, especially considering the running backs who went soon after? Two spots later, Darrell Thompson went to Green Bay. Three spots later, Steve Broussard went to Atlanta. Rodney Hampton wasn’t bad, and Dexter Carter went in the first round, too.
11. OT Larry Allen, Sonoma State
1994, 2nd round, 46th pick overall, Dallas
One of the stars on a team full of mega-watt all-timer personalities and players, Allen was one of the greatest power blockers of all-time – at least for a six-year run – with six straight All-Pro seasons and 11 Pro Bowl seasons overall. You want value at the 46? The next 41 players drafted after him combined for two Pro Bowl appearances.