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The Biggest Draft Steal in the History of Every NFL Franchise

Russell S. BaxterContributor IApril 30, 2014

The Biggest Draft Steal in the History of Every NFL Franchise

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    DOUG MILLS

    Now here comes the fun stuff.

    A few days ago, we took a look at each team’s biggest failure when it came to the NFL draft. Now, it’s time to look at the gems no one might have expected to unearth.

    This article takes a look at each current franchise and their biggest steal throughout their draft history. The only disclaimer here is that none of the 32 players listed here were selected in the first round. Like the piece regarding busts, we will also use the common draft era, which dates back 47 years to 1967.

    For those not familiar, the NFL and AFL conducted separate drafts from 1960-1966, so we don’t want to add to the confusion of players drafted by both leagues. Prior to 1960, the draft was much different than in the modern eras of 17, 12, eight and seven rounds, respectively.

    So what constitutes a draft steal? A steal is a player that greatly exceeds expectations due mainly to the round he was drafted and perhaps the school he attended. In the case of some of the teams which haven’t been around for a long time, we did our best to put their stars into perspective.

    Remember, the focus is on the player’s tenure with the team that originally selected him, but we won’t ignore what some of these stars did for some other clubs as well. We will also not ignore some of the other great stories surrounding other steals by each club.

    Finally, we are talking about players that were selected in the NFL draft. So, if you’re looking for Kurt Warner, you will have to turn on your television.

Arizona Cardinals: RB Stump Mitchell

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 9 (1981)

    Overall Selection: 226

    School: The Citadel

    Back when the Cardinals still called the Gateway City home, the franchise selected a running back in the ninth round who would become one of the team’s most versatile threats.

    In nine seasons with the St. Louis and then Phoenix Cardinals, running back Stump Mitchell amassed 11,988 total combined yards as a runner, pass-catcher and kick-return artist. The late-round selection ran for 4,649 yards and 32 scores and caught 209 passes, with nine of them going for touchdowns.

    The Cardinals reached the playoffs just once (1982) during Mitchell’s tenure with the team, but it wasn’t due to any lack of effort on his part.

Atlanta Falcons: RB Jamal Anderson

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 7 (1994)

    Overall Selection: 201

    School: Utah

    This Dirty Bird proved to be filthy good.

    A seventh-round choice from the University of Utah, Jamal Anderson gave the Atlanta Falcons a ground game that opponents needed to respect…and fear.

    In eight years with the team, he ran for 1,000 or more yards four times. He enjoyed one of the best seasons ever by a running back in 1998, when he rushed for 1,846 yards and helped lead the Falcons to within one win of an NFL title. For his career, he ran for 5,336 yards and 34 scores, and he added seven touchdowns on 156 career receptions.

    So why don’t you hear more about Anderson’s 1998 showing? It was a case of double jeopardy for the talented runner, who saw Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis rush for 2,008 yards and grab league MVP honors during that same season.

    And what’s a Ute to think when he and his teammates would eventually fall to Davis and Co. in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Baltimore Ravens: DE Adalius Thomas

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    MATTHEW S. GUNBY

    Round and Year: 6 (2000)

    Overall Selection: 186

    School: Southern Mississippi

    He would finish his NFL career with the New England Patriots, but there’s no doubt that Adalius Thomas will be best remembered for his days with the Baltimore Ravens, who made him a sixth-round pick in 2000 and saw him reach a couple of Pro Bowls, one time as a special teams player (2003) and the other as a starting linebacker (2006).

    In seven seasons in Baltimore, Thomas totaled 38.5 sacks and picked off six passes, seeing action at both inside and outside linebacker as well as defensive end.

Buffalo Bills: WR Andre Reed

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 4 (1985)

    Overall Selection: 86

    School: Kutztown (PA)

    You may have noticed that for one reason or another, it seems to take wide receivers a little extra time to get enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    That’s now a moot point when it comes to Andre Reed, the Buffalo Bills’ most reliable pass-catcher during the team’s heyday of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s.

    In terms of NFL history, the former fourth-round pick ranks 11th in receptions (951), 13th in receiving yards (13,198) and tied for 12th in touchdown grabs (87). And only five players in league annals have totaled more postseason catches (85) than Reed.

    This summer, the prolific performer will rejoin teammates Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith, as well as head coach Marv Levy, in Canton, Ohio. It seems to be a long overdue honor for Reed, a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in each of the previous seven years.

Carolina Panthers: DE Greg Hardy

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Round and Year: 6 (2010)

    Overall Selection: 175

    School: Mississippi

    It may be of recent vintage, but there’s no doubting that Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy has made quite an impact in a relatively short time.

    This past season, he finished third in the NFL with 15 sacks. Over the past two seasons, the former Rebel has had plenty to yell about, totaling a combined 26 sacks.

    Talk about progress. Hardy totaled seven sacks in his final two games in 2013the same amount of sacks that he amassed in his first two NFL seasons.

    And who knows what the final numbers will look like when the big-play defender has concluded his career?

Chicago Bears: DE Richard Dent

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    Lennox McLendon

    Round and Year: 8 (1983)

    Overall Selection: 203

    School: Tennessee State

    In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine that a future Hall of Famer would have gone unnoticed in the first seven rounds of an NFL draft, but that’s what makes stories like that of defensive end Richard Dent so very great.

    A pivotal member of those Chicago Bears teams that made their make in the 1980s, the former Tennessee product combined size and quickness to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.

    Dent totaled 124.5 of his 137.5 career sacks in 12 seasons with the Bears. He shuffled the New England Patriots offense all over the field during the Bear’s 46-10 win in Super Bowl XX at the Superdome, garnering game MVP honors.

    The Hall of Famer also enjoyed very brief stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, but he will obviously be associated with the 1980s version of the “Monsters of the Midway.”

Cincinnati Bengals: CB Ken Riley

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    Anonymous

    Round and Year: 6 (1969)

    Overall Selection: 135

    School: Florida A&M

    Some players just have a nose for the football; for Ken Riley, he just knew where to be at the right time.

    Only four players in NFL history have totaled more interceptions than Riley's 65Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71) and Dick “Night Train” Lane (68)—and they are all members of the Hall of Fame.

    Riley is not, however. Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com wrote about the former sixth-round draft choice from Florida A&M, who earned First-Team All-Pro honors once (1983, his final season) but was never named to a Pro Bowl in 15 campaigns.

    Also worth noting here is former Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie, a 10th-round draft choice out of Wisconsin. He badgered opposing offenses for a dozen seasons and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

Cleveland Browns: RB Earnest Byner

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    Ed Kolenovsky

    Round and Year: 10 (1984)

    Overall Selection: 280

    School: East Carolina

    We all know about “The Fumble.” Sometimes, though, we forget about “the career.”

    Running back Earnest Byner played for three different teams in 14 seasons, half of those with the Cleveland Browns. In seven years with the franchise, he totaled 5,994 yards from scrimmage, scored 37 touchdowns and helped lead the team to a pair of AFC title games in 1987 and 1988.

    For his career, Byner totaled 12,866 yards from scrimmage and scored 71 touchdowns for the Browns, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. He did get that elusive Super Bowl ring with Washington in 1991, when Joe Gibbs’ team bested the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.

    Worth a mention here is tackle Doug Dieken, a sixth-round pick in 1971 who played 14 seasons and 203 games (194 starts) on Cleveland’s offensive front.

Dallas Cowboys: DL/TE/OT Rayfield Wright

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    Anonymous

    Round and Year: 7 (1967)

    Overall Selection: 182

    School: Fort Valley State

    His NFL career began by seeing action at three different positions, and it ended with a bust in the Hall of Fame.

    A seventh-round pick in 1967 from Fort Valley State, Rayfield Wright did very little wrong in 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. During his early years in the league, the 6’6”, 255-pound performer could be found on both the offensive and defensive lines as well as tight end (Wright has two career receptions, one for a touchdown).

    In 1970, he made the permanent move to offensive tackle and was a force for 10 years. Along the way, he was named to six Pro Bowls and played in five Super Bowls.

    Speaking of Super Bowls, we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention talented defensive tackle Leon Lett, who like Wright was also a seventh-round pick (1991 from Emporia State). But why use words when it comes to the two-time Pro Bowl defender?

Denver Broncos: WR/TE Shannon Sharpe

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    ED ANDRIESKI

    Round and Year: 7 (1990)

    Overall Selection: 192

    School: Savannah State

    This was a tough one.

    From a fourth-round pick in linebacker Tom Jackson (1973) to the amazing story of sixth-round running back Terrell Davis (1995) to the selection of a productive defender and 12th-round choice in Karl Mecklenburg (1983), the Denver Broncos have had their share of great stories in terms of late-round draft success.

    Drafted as a wide receiver, Shannon Sharpe would soon make the conversion to tight end—and it was a good career move.

    In 14 NFL seasons, a dozen of them with the Broncos, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers star Sterling Sharpe made his mark in very memorable fashion on his way to the Hall Fame. He would amass 675 catches for 8,439 yards and 55 touchdowns during his days in Denver, and he would add another 140 grabs in two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

    Sharpe’s career resume also included three Super Bowl titles while being named to eight Pro Bowls, with two of those titles and seven of those invitations coming with the Broncos.

Detroit Lions: TE Charlie Sanders

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    Preston Stroup

    Round and Year: 3 (1968)

    Overall Selection: 74

    School: Minnesota

    Want to see one example of how the tight end position has changed in the NFL?

    In the last four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Jimmy Graham has totaled 301 catches for 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns.

    In a 10-year Hall of Fame career that spanned the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, Detroit Lions tight end Charlie Sanders caught 336 passes for 4,817 yards and 31 scores. He was also named to seven Pro Bowls in an era where the running game was still the main mode of offense in the NFL.

    A little over two decades after Sanders made his debut in the Motor City, an electrifying performer with the same last name would begin his own 10-year run. But Charlie Sanders still made his mark for a franchise that had its share of standout performers despite the team’s lack of success.

Green Bay Packers: WR Donald Driver

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 7 (1999)

    Overall Selection: 213

    School: Alcorn State

    Is it possible to have a quiet 14-year NFL career?

    Relatively speaking, wide receiver Donald Driver put up impressive totals during his career in the land of the Lambeau Leap. The former seventh-round draft choice totaled 743 catches for 10,137 yards and 61 scores, hauling in throws from the likes of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

    Driver was also named to the Pro Bowl three times, and the resume is pretty impressive for the 213th overall selection in 1999. Half of his 14 seasons saw him total at least 1,000 or more yards receiving. And perhaps the most impressive aspect of his days in Green Bay was a consistency that saw him total at least 50 receptions in 10 consecutive seasons from 2002-2011.

Houston Texans: TE Owen Daniels

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 4 (2006)

    Overall Selection: 98

    School: Wisconsin

    Now a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Owen Daniels was not only the Houston Texans’ biggest draft steal but he was also perhaps a part of the franchise’s top draft class ever.

    In 2006, the Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams in the first round, linebacker DeMeco Ryans in the second round and tackle Eric Winston in the third round. Daniels was a fourth-round pick in 2006, and while injuries have been an issue for him over the last few years, the former University of Wisconsin product totaled 385 catches, 29 for scores, in 100 regular-season games with the organization.

    This offseason, Daniels was released by the Texans and wound up signing with the Baltimore Ravens. In case you’re interested, Houston will host Daniels and the Ravens in Week 16 this upcoming season.

Indianapolis Colts: DE Robert Mathis

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    Associated Press

    Round and Year: 5 (2003)

    Overall Selection: 138

    School: Alabama A&M

    Chances are that if you are a quarterback in this league, defensive-end-turned-outside-linebacker Robert Mathis has sacked you.

    He certainly had his chances this past season, when he led Chuck Pagano’s clubas well as the entire National Football Leaguewith 19.5 sacks in 2013. After nine seasons at defensive end, Mathis lined up at his new position in 2012, and after a slow start he made the adjustment to his role in the club’s 3-4 defense quite well. Over he last two seasons, he’s totaled 27.5 sacks in 28 games.

    Statistics are always fun to debate, so here’s one for the list: are Mathis’ 111 career sacks or 48 forced fumbles the more impressive total?

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Maurice Jones-Drew

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 2 (2006)

    Overall Selection: 60

    School: UCLA

    While no first-round selections were featured in the makings of this piece, running back Maurice Jones-Drew ranks as the only second-round selection in this article, and for very good reason.

    The steal aspect here comes from the fact that in eight seasons with the club, the former UCLA standout totaled a franchise-record 81 total touchdowns before leaving this offseason for the Oakland Raiders via free agency.

    It wasn’t long ago that Jones-Drew was at the top of his game. In 2011, he led the NFL with 1,606 yards rushing. But a Lisfranc injury cut his 2012 season short after six games, and he will now try to revive his career with the silver and black.

    Let’s hope that MJD is A-OK in 2014.

Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kevin Ross

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    Earl Richardson/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 7 (1984)

    Overall Selection: 173

    School: Temple

    He would take the field for 14 NFL seasons and three different teams, but it is obviously his days with the Kansas City Chiefs that Kevin Ross is best known for. As NFL Network reminds us, he teamed with Albert Lewis to form one of the top cornerback duos ever.

    Ross spent 11 of his 14 campaigns with Kansas City, totaling 30 interceptions while being named to a pair of Pro Bowls. He spent his final three years with the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers.

Miami Dolphins: WR Mark Clayton

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    George Rose/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 8 (1983)

    Overall Selection: 223

    School: Louisville

    Wasn’t it fun while it lasted?

    During the Miami Dolphins' heyday in the 1980s, it was a treat to watch future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and his rapport with the “Marks Brothers”Mark Duper and Mark Clayton.

    While Duper was a second-round pick in 1982 from Northwest Louisiana, Clayton came to Miami just one year later, but he was taken much later in the draft. The former University of Louisville product was the 223rd selection in 1983, but he wasted little time in showing that he was the ultimate bargain.

    In his second NFL season, he caught 18 of Marino’s then-NFL-record 48 touchdown passes. His 84 career touchdown receptions (three coming in his final NFL season with the Green Bay Packers) remains tied for 18th in NFL history. In 10 seasons with the Dolphins, Clayton totaled 550 grabs for 8,643 yards and 81 scores.

    Still, let’s also give a shout-out to another Dolphins’ standout pick taken late in the draft. Safety Jake Scott was a seventh-round pick in 1970, and two years later his two picks in Super Bowl VII earned him MVP honors and the Dolphins a perfect season.

Minnesota Vikings: OT/OC Matt Birk

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 6 (1998)

    Overall Selection: 173

    School: Harvard

    You would think that attending Harvard University would make you the center of attention in many ways.

    For Matt Birk, his play at center in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens earned him plenty of attention.

    The 173rd selection in the 1998 draft, Birk didn’t start a game in either of his first two seasons. For the remainder of his career, he was pretty reliable, save for missing all of 2005 following hip surgery. From 2000-2004 and then 2006-2008, he started 123 out of 124 contests and was named to six Pro Bowls.

    Birk finished his career with the Ravens. He didn’t miss a game in four seasons and earned a ring with the Raven's victory in Super Bowl XLVII, the final game of his impressive career.

New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 6 (2000)

    Overall Selection: 199

    School: Michigan

    The numbers here are simply amazing and the player's accomplishments are even more impressive.

    In the 2000 draft, the New England Patriots opted for a little quarterback insurance with the selection of University of Michigan standout Tom Brady.

    That pick came in the sixth round. A little over a year later, it would help change the course of recent NFL history.

    Brady is one of only two quarterbacks to start five Super Bowls, with the other being Denver Broncos’ legend John Elway. Brady owns three championship rings and was MVP of Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII.

    He’s thrown for 49,149 yards and 359 scores for his career, both numbers easily ranking within the league’s all-time top 10 for each category. Brady has compled a 148-43 record in the regular season and an 18-8 postseason mark as a starter in 14 seasons.

    Was Brady a steal? You could call it grand larceny.

New Orleans Saints: WR Marques Colston

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 7 (2006)

    Overall Selection: 252

    School: Hofstra

    Talk about clock management.

    With time winding down in the 2006 NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints made Hofstra University wide receiver Marques Colston the 252nd of 255 selected players that April.

    Talk about your bang for the late buck. In eight seasons, Colston has totaled at least 70 catches seven times and has reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark on six occasions.

    The Saints’ all-time receptions leader (607), Colston has parlayed those grabs into 8,337 yards and 63 scores. In 2013, Colston totaled 75 catches for 943 yards and five touchdowns, the eighth time in as many seasons that the reliable performer has reached the end zone that many times.

    Not surprisingly, Colston arrived in New Orleans the same year that head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees began calling the Big Easy home.

    And Colston has made it look pretty easy ever since.

New York Giants: LB Harry Carson

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    Bill Kostroun

    Round and Year: 4 (1976)

    Overall Selection: 105

    School: South Carolina State

    Five years before defensive terror Lawrence Taylor became a household name in a New York Giants uniform, there was a rookie linebacker playing in a rookie venue.

    The New York Giants made East Rutherford, New Jersey, their new home in 1976. The team also had a new linebacker in Harry Carson, who would go on to produce a Hall of Fame career with Big Blue. The nine-time Pro Bowler often led the team in tackles, totaled 11 interceptions in his 13 seasons and helped Bill Parcells and Co. reach and win Super Bowl XXI.

    Speaking of the league’s super spectacular, NFL head coaches can blame Carson when they get doused in liquid by their players following a huge victory.

New York Jets: DE/DT/NT Joe Klecko

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    Joe Klecko (73), Marty Lyons (93), Abdul Salaam (74) and Mark Gastineau (99), also known as the New York Jets Sack Exchange.
    Joe Klecko (73), Marty Lyons (93), Abdul Salaam (74) and Mark Gastineau (99), also known as the New York Jets Sack Exchange.Associated Press

    Round and Year: 6 (1977)

    Overall Selection: 144

    School: Temple

    It’s been a long 40-plus years for the fans of the New York Jets, who continue to hope that one day their team will return to the Super Bowl. The team's only Super Bowl appearance was in 1968, when Joe Namath was the team’s quarterback, the Colts called Baltimore home and the Orange Bowl was the home of the Miami Dolphins.

    But the inclusion of one of the franchise’s top players into the Hall of Fame may take the sting out of the championship drought.

    Defensive lineman Joe Klecko’s versatility was amazing. While some today don’t put much credence into Pro Bowl honors, keep in mind that this was a different time.

    The former Temple product spent his first 11 NFL seasons with the Jets and was named to that all-star contest on four occasions and at three different positions: nose tackle, defensive end and defensive tackle.

    Not bad for a sixth-round pick, who was also named as a First Team All-Pro twice during his career.

     

Oakland Raiders: CB Lester Hayes

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    Ron Haase/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 5 (1977)

    Overall Selection: 126

    School: Texas A&M

    Bo Jackson, who was selected in the seventh round in 1987, could technically be the better answer for this piece, but remember that his tenure with the club was extremely short and that he was only available then because he was the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986 and refused to join the team.

    So we will stick to our guns here and go with cornerback Lester Hayes—with "stick" being the key word.

    Known early in his careeras was wide receiver Fred Biletnikofffor that gooey yellow stuff all over his uniform, Hayes also stuck to receivers like glue.

    The former Aggie totaled 39 interceptions in 10 seasons with the silver and black. That included 13 thefts in 1980, which is tied for the second-most in a single season in NFL history.

    Hayes also played a pivotal part in a pair of Super Bowl wins (XV and XVIII) with the Raiders.

Philadelphia Eagles: DE Clyde Simmons

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    Amy Sancetta

    Round and Year: 9 (1986)

    Overall Selection: 233

    School: Western Carolina

    Defensive guru Buddy Ryan, fresh off a Super Bowl XX win as an assistant with the Chicago Bears, inherited the struggling Philadelphia Eagles in 1986.

    His first draft in the City of Brotherly Love set the foundation for teams that would make the playoffs four times in five years from 1988-1992 (although Ryan wasn’t around in 1992).

    We’ll fast forward to the latter stages of the draft in 1986. After adding versatile linebacker Seth Joyner (UTEP) in the eighth round, the Eagles opted for defensive end Clyde Simmons one round later.

    Along with Hall of Famer Reggie White and standout defensive tackles Jerome Brown, Mike Golic and Mike Pitts, the Eagles boasted the most dominant defensive line in the league.

    Simmons knew his way to the quarterback, totaling 121.5 career sacks with five NFL teams. More than half of those came with Philadelphia, where he racked up 76 sacks and a pair of Pro Bowl invites in eight seasons with the Eagles.

Pittsburgh Steelers: DE L.C. Greenwood

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Round and Year: 10 (1969)

    Overall Selection: 238

    School: Arkansas-Pine Bluff

    The Pittsburgh Steelers once owned perhaps the greatest defensive line in league annals.

    Led by Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene, the “Steel Curtain” also featured defensive tackle Ernie Holmes and defensive end Dwight White.

    And there was colorful defensive end L.C. Greenwood, who like Greene was drafted by the team in 1969, the first year of the Chuck Noll era. While “Mean Joe” was the fourth overall pick that year, Greenwood wasn’t selected until the 10th round.

    A relentless pass-rusher with a long wingspan, Greenwood was also known for his unusual footwear. His gold shoes made him hard to miss, and his skills as a football player made him hard to stop.

St. Louis Rams: DE/LB Kevin Greene

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    George Rose/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 5 (1985)

    Overall Selection: 113

    School: Auburn

    As we know, individual sacks by a player did not become an official statistic until 1982.

    Kevin Greene entered the NFL in 1985 as a fifth-round draft choice from Auburn University. Ironically, so did eventual Hall of Famers Bruce Smith and Reggie White. Smith was the first overall pick in 1985, and White came courtesy of the USFL’s Memphis Showboats.

    The ultimate irony is that since they started keeping sack totals, only Smith (200) and White (198) have amassed more sacks than the relentless Greene (160).

    Greene’s stops around the league included the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. He spent eight of his 15 seasons with the Rams and totaled 72.5 sacks while with the franchise.

San Diego Chargers: S Rodney Harrison

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 5 (1994)

    Overall Selection: 145

    School: Western Illinois

    Rodney Harrison always seems to make an impression, as he certainly did so in his 15 seasons on the field in the National Football League.

    The hard-hitting safety was a rookie on the franchise’s lone Super Bowl team (XXIX) in 1994. He would go on to to play a total of nine seasons with the Chargers before being let go by the club following the 2002 season. Over that span, he totaled 26 interceptions and 21.5 sacks.

    Of course, Harrison certainly had the respect of Bill Belichick, who signed the two-time Pro Bowler after the Bolts cut him loose. Harrison would be a big factor on three Super Bowl teams for the Patriots, winning titles in 2003 and 2004.

    Running back Marion Butts wouldn’t be a bad choice here either. The 1989 seventh-round choice rushed for 4,297 yards and 31 touchdowns and was a two-time Pro Bowler in five seasons in San Diego.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Dwight Clark

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    George Rose/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 10 (1979)

    Overall Selection: 249

    School: Clemson

    In their third season in the NFL together, wide receiver Dwight Clark combined with quarterback Joe Montana for what many regard as the signature moment in the history of the San Francisco 49ers.

    Considering Clark, a wide receiver from Clemson University, lasted until the 10th round in 1979, he had to be considered a “catch” when it was all said and done.

    The sure-handed performer totaled 506 receptions for 6,750 yards and 48 scores in nine seasons with the Niners, totaling 50 or more catches in seven of those campaigns. Of course, that total doesn’t include one very significant grab in the 1981 NFC title game.

    Yes, you could certainly make the case that Montana proved to be the real steal in the third round that same year. But Clark certainly is in the discussion considering that he was taken 167 spots after the Hall of Fame signal-caller.

Seattle Seahawks: CB Richard Sherman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Round and Year: 5 (2011)

    Overall Selection: 154

    School: Stanford

    You may think this is very reactionary, but consider what Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has accomplished in three seasons in the league.

    The first of two fifth-round selections by the team in 2011, the ball-hawking defender totaled a league-high eight interceptions this past season, the second year in a row that he’s picked off that many passes. In 48 regular-season games, Sherman has already totaled 20 career interceptions and, of course, won a ring via the Seahawk’s 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

    Looking for another choice? You may want to give strong consideration to defensive end Michael Sinclair. A sixth-round draft choice in 1991 from Eastern New Mexico, he totaled 73.5 sacks and was named to three Pro Bowls in 10 seasons with the club.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S John Lynch

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    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Round and Year: 3 (1993)

    Overall Selection: 82

    School: Stanford

    When John Lynch joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a third-round pick in 1993, the franchise was more known for what it hadn’t done than what it had.

    That would soon change. In 1995, the team drafted a pair of defensive stalwarts to team with the heady safety. The Bucs added defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks in the first round, and the latter is getting ready to join Sapp in Canton in August.

    However, the focus here is Lynch, who amassed 35 takeaways (26 interceptions) during his 11-year career in Tampa and was named to five Pro Bowls. In his 10th season with the club, he and the franchise would get that elusive championship ring courtesy of the Buccaneers’ 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

    The hard-hitting defender would close his career with the Denver Broncos, where he earned four more Pro Bowl invitations. Lynch was a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist in 2014.

Tennessee Titans: S Ken Houston

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    Ted Powers

    Round and Year: 9 (1967)

    Overall Selection: 214

    School: Prairie View A&M

    This Houston had no problem, especially when it came to tormenting opposing quarterbacks and their targets.

    Ken Houston lasted until the ninth round of the NFL’s first common draft. He would play for 14 seasonsthe first six with the Houston Oilers and the last eight with the Washington Redskins.

    The ball-hawking safety totaled 49 career interceptions, almost evenly distributed between the Oilers (25) and Redskins (24). But Houston’s nine career thefts returned for scores, tied for the fourth-most in NFL history, all came with his first employer. In fact, all nine of his touchdowns came in his first five pro campaigns.

    That means the Hall of Fame probably got an early start when it came to carving his bust.

Washington Redskins: DE Dexter Manley

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    Rusty Kennedy

    Round and Year: 5 (1981)

    Overall Selection: 119

    School: Oklahoma State

    It is safe to say that a total of 91 sacks signifies a pretty productive career.

    Those were at least the kind of numbers that defensive end Dexter Manley put up with the Washington Redskins. But because the league did not keep track of official sack totals until after his rookie season in 1981, he may have had even more.

    But you get the point. The fierce pass-rusher also helped the franchise win a pair of Super Bowl titles and made his mark on those Washington defensive units that took a bit of a back seat.

    Manley would finish his career with the Phoenix Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

     

    Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference, NFL.com, ESPN.com and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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