No professional sports draft process is an exact science. If it was, every team that possessed a No. 1 overall selection would hit on that pick every year. That's not always the case, of course, and when it isn't, an elite player falls to the team that is sitting second in the draft order.
Super Bowl champions. Most Valuable Players. Hall-of-Famers. All-time greats and real gems have been found with second overall picks in NFL Drafts. Here are the 10 best of all time.
10 Donovan McNabb - QB - Philadelphia Eagles - 1999
Boy, did McNabb dodge a bullet way back when. The Cleveland Browns, going through a restart after Art Modell shocked the football world and moved the team to Baltimore, chose Couch over McNabb in the '99 draft. Couch suffered while playing on some of the worst NFL squads ever assembled, and McNabb flourished in Philly.
9 Calvin Johnson - WR - Detroit Lions - 2007
Johnson lands here in this list mainly because we don't yet know how he will be remembered when all is said and done. There are two things I can confidently say: That Johnson will probably rise on this list before he calls time on his playing career, and that the Raiders would, if they could go back, choose Johnson over Jamarcus Russell every day of the week.
8 Randy White - LB - Dallas Cowboys - 1975
White didn't find his NFL legs right away. He made just one start in his first two years in the league. White eventually settled in on the Dallas defensive front, where he made an immediate impact beginning in '77. White recovered two fumbles in his first season as a defensive tackle, and he was named the Super Bowl XII Co-MVP. The following season, White won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year Award.
7 Tom Mack - OG - Los Angeles Rams - 1966
Mack earned a starting gig with the Los Angeles Rams in his rookie campaign, but he truly started showing his greatness beginning in his second season in the league. It was from there that he was named to 11 Pro Bowl teams. He was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection, a prototypical left guard who is largely forgotten only because he played at such an un-sexy position.
6 Marshall Faulk - RB - Indianapolis Colts - 1994
Faulk began his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts, where he won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in '94. While he did enjoy much personal success during his five years in Indy, his best days came as a part of the “Greatest Show on Turf” with the St. Louis Rams.
5 Joe Namath - QB - New York Jets - 1965 (AFL Draft)
There will, so long as there are football analysts and passionate fans who love to talk about the game, be discussions about Namath's place in history. Broadway Joe twice led the AFL in passing yards (1966-67), and he won the 1974 NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year Award. That said, he is never mentioned as being among the elite QBs in NFL history, and for good reason.
4 Y.A. Tittle - QB - San Francisco 49ers - 1951
Pro football was a very different game back when Tittle led the AAFC in pass attempts with 289 in 1949. That would amount to a slow half-a-season for the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees these days. Tittle was one of the best in the business when in his prime, winning the NFL MVP Award each season from 1961-1963. He was named to seven Pro Bowl squads from 1953-1963, and he thrice earned All-Pro nods.
3 Tony Dorsett - RB - Dallas Cowboys - 1977
Dorsett, a member of the 1994 Hall of Fame class, followed a Heisman Trophy year by winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with the Dallas Cowboys in '77. He would go on to rush for over 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine seasons, and the only thing that ruined his streak was the 1982 players' strike. Only seven men have more career NFL rushing yards than did Dorsett, who twice made appearances in Super Bowl contests.
2 Eric Dickerson - RB - Los Angeles Rams - 1983
The NFL running backs record book should probably be renamed “Dickerson's Stats.” He wasted no time in making history, setting rookie records for most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns in a single season, and rushing attempts in a season.
The LA Rams running back was only getting started.
He set the all-time NFL season record for most rushing yards in 1984. Dickerson went on to become the first player in the history of the league to gain at least 1,000 rushing yards in seven straight years. A five-time All-Pro, Dickerson ended his career seventh on the all-time rushing list. He netted over 15,000 yards from scrimmage.
1 Lawrence Taylor - LB - New York Giants - 1981
I have to admit that I am a bit biased in that I grew up rooting for the New York Giants. That said, Big Blue supporters are hardly the only individuals out there who view Taylor as the greatest to ever play the linebacker position, or even the greatest defensive player in the history of the NFL.
Taylor was a star from his first year in the league, winning AP Defensive Player of the Year and Rookies of the Year honors. He was an All-Pro in eight of his first nine pro seasons. Taylor is tenth all-time in career sacks, and he was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
As great as Taylor was, he could have been even more had he avoided his off-the-field demons. His addictive personality didn't keep him from winning multiple Super Bowl rings, but one can't help but wonder what could have been.
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