Ranking the All Time NFL First Round Selections By Pick Number

While the NFL Draft has come and gone, I decided to extend its shelf-life a little longer…because, why not? So, let’s take a look at the best players drafted with each of the 32 first round picks in league history. Because I felt generous, I also offered a runner up.


#1: Peyton Manning, QB


Not surprisingly, the top spot has a lot of people from whom to choose. I guess it is a matter of taste and my buds tell me the Papa Johns pizza guy is the man for me. No one player impacts a game like Manning does as he essentially doubles as a quarterback and an offensive coordinator.


Runner Up: John Elway, QB


#2: Lawrence Taylor, LB


So if Manning gets my nod for player who most impacts games, Taylor might be number two. Has there ever been a more dominant defensive player?


Runner Up: Marshall Faulk


#3: Barry Sanders, RB


Some believe Sanders was the best to ever step on a football field. Maybe he didn't play long enough to earn that title, but I don't think anyone was better during Sanders' active years in the league.


Runner Up: Dick Butkus, LB


#4: Walter Payton, RB


"Sweetness" is unquestionably a top-10 player of all-time and I think a top-5 selection, personally. The fourth spot has some prime talent, but they all stand considerably below the best player to wear the legendary Bears uniform.


Runner Up: Jonathan Ogden, OL


#5: Gale Sayers, RB


While I never saw him play, Sayers ranks behind Payton and Sanders on my all-time running back charts (If you consider Jim Brown a fullback). Gathered through conversation, film, and statistics, I have him just ahead of Emmitt Smith. Plus, points for Brian's Song.


Runner Up: Deion Sanders, DB


#6: Jim Brown, FB


I was deprived of watching Jim Brown play the game, but, like Sanders, in spite of an abbreviated career of just nine years, those who saw Brown will swear to you that no one was better.


Runner Up: Sammy Baugh


#7: Adrian Peterson, RB


Lucky number seven is not particularly true in the NFL Draft, from which just one Hall of Fame player has been selected. That number will change when Peterson is eligible. The last of a dying breed, Peterson is the right guy to grace the field one 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down.


Runner Up: Champ Bailey


#8: Ronnie Lott, DB


The legend of Lott will go down as one of most badass gridiron tales. When a surgery on his left pinky following the 1985 season projected to leave him unavailable for the start of the 1986 season, he just had it amputated. Wow.


Runner Up: Lance Alworth


#9: Bruce Matthews, OL


Yeah, he was unbelievable on the field, for sure, but how about this: his father, Clay, brother, Clay, and his nephews, Clay and Casey all played or play in the NFL. Another nephew, Kyle, plays at USC. One of his sons, Kevin, played at Texas A&M and the other, Jake, is a future NFL offensive lineman out of Texas A&M.


Runner Up: Brian Urlacher, LB


#10: Rod Woodson, DB


I have Woodson as the second best safety, behind Lott. Thankfully, I saw him play and few were ball magnets like the Purdue Boilermaker. An All-American on the gridiron, Woodson was also an accomplished track and field athlete, qualifying for the Olympic Trials in 1984.


Runner Up: Marcus Allen, RB


#11: DeMarcus Ware, DE/LB


Maybe a controversial decision? Ware was an absolute game-changer with the Cowboys and among the best of his generation, much like the runner-up. My argument? Ware was closer to being the best defensive player of his era than Irvin was to being the best offensive era of his.


Runner Up: Michael Irvin, WR


#12: Joe Namath, QB


As long as he has Suzy Kolber's vote, he doesn't care. Oh, and don't ask him to flip any coins.


Runner Up: Warren Sapp, DL


#13: Kellen Winslow, TE


A self-dubbed "nerd" who was a very good chess player, Winslow first played football as a high school senior and then parlayed his lone season into a Hall of Fame career. In a playoff game against the Dolphins, Winslow recorded 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown, blocking Miami's potential game-winning field goal, to boot.


Runner Up: Bob Lilly, DL


#14: Jim Kelly, QB


Sports Illustrated's MMQB branch did a great piece on Kelly and his cancer fight.


Runner Up: Eddie George, RB


#15: Alan Page, DL


Not only is Page a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, and not only is he a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, but he's an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.


Runner Up: Wayne Gandy, OL


#16: Jerry Rice, WR


The greatest player of all-time, to some, and he played collegiately at Mississippi Valley State University. 


Runner Up: Troy Polamalu, DB


#17: Emmitt Smith, RB


He broke the all-time rushing record and then momentarily lost it the very next play when he lost yardage. His brother, Emory, played on the practice squads of both the Packers and the Cowboys.


Runner Up: Gene Upshaw, OL


#18: Art Monk, WR


The first player in league history to eclipse 900 career receptions, Monk retired with a streak of 183 straight games with a catch. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, his four-minute and four-second ovation was the longest to date, according to NFL Films.


Runner Up: Willie Gault, WR


#19: Marvin Harrison, WR


Back-to-back Syracuse receivers on this list. The Manning-Harrison connection is among the best in league history. For such a great player, though, Harrison is still somewhat of an enigma.


Runner Up: Randall McDaniel, OL


#20: Jack Youngblood, DL


There aren't too many better football names in the Hall of Fame. Since hanging up the 85-jersey, Youngblood's achieved success in business in various ventures and has even dabbled in acting.


Runner Up: Haywood Jeffires, WR


#21: Randy Moss, WR


Give me grief for picking an enigmatic superstar over a respected Hall of Fame player all you'd like but no one did it like Moss. For my money, no one was more exciting to watch than Randy and I don't know that anyone was better, so long as he played hard.


Runner Up: Lynn Swann, WR



#22: Andre Rison, WR


This is the first selection that is without a Hall of Fame player, but Rison is certainly not a shabby representative. A Super Bowl Champion and a Grey Cup Champion, Rison is current a high school football coach.


Runner Up: William "Refrigerator" Perry, DL


#23: Ray Guy, P


One of the toughest decisions because quantifying a punter's impact is so tough. There's no question that Ozzie Newsome impacted the game more (I think), but Guy is still considered the best at his position in league history which, for me, was the trump card.


Runner Up:  Ozzie Newsome, TE


#24: Ed Reed, DB


Ray Lewis still is talked about more than Reed--and that's not necessarily undeserved--but Reed might have been the best player on that team. Coming up with big play after big play, the silent assassin played the safety spot as well as anyone.


Runner Up: Aaron Rodgers, QB


#25: Ted Washington, DL


Not a talent-filled spot, give the nod to Teddy W. for longevity.


Runner Up: Stanley Morgan, WR


#26: Ray Lewis, LB


I don't know that there is a player who turned his image around more than Ray Lewis did. I don't know that there is a player who teammates swear by more than Ray Lewis' did. I do know that he trumps the Hall of Fame runner up. Sorry, Joe.


Runner Up: Joe Delamielleure, OL


#27: Dan Marino, QB


You don't need a Super Bowl ring for this list.


Runner Up: Larry Johnson, RB


#28: Darrell Green, DB


The last really tough decision has Green edging out Brooks. Some say Green is the fastest player to play the game, but Brooks moved differently than most linebackers ever did. Tough call. I gave it to Green.


Runner Up: Derrick Brooks, LB


#29: Nick Mangold, OL


His sister was also a pretty good football player. Centers don't get much pub, but Nick's been one of the league's best since joining the Sunday club from Ohio State.


Runner Up: George Teague, DB


#30: Reggie Wayne, WR


All three of the three-headed monster from those great Indy teams make this list. Wayne joins Harrison and Manning. It’s fitting he was the latest selection as his unbelievable production was probably the quietest but check the numbers...Wayne is one of the game's greats.


Runner Up: Keith Bulluck, LB


#31: Nnamdi Asomugha, DB


Hopefully most people will remember the former Cal Golden Bear for his formative years with the Raiders and not his struggles with the Eagles or 49ers because with the silver and black, he was the best in the game. Plus, he has a pretty hot wife.


Runner Up: Mike Patterson, DL


#32: Logan Mankins, OL


One of the silent underrated during this Patriots run. He’s been a part of their dynasty since joining the squad in 2005 out of Fresno State. He helped make college teammate, David Carr, a number one overall pick for the protection he provided and he's helped make Brady among the game's greats.


Runner Up: Mathias Kiwanuka, DL


We are a little more than a month away from the start of NFL training camps and I for one can’t wait! Thanks as always for reading. Support the cause and go shopping for an awesome t-shirt to keep me employed. Ha!


Jared Sandler

Awesome Sports Logos Columnist