galleryTitle description galleryUrl thumbnail
categoryName categoryId galleryId galleryTitle mediaId imageTitle imageURL league description shortDescription attribution large thumbnail
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920450 NFL's all-time best draft picks 1-32 NFL%27s+all-time+best+draft+picks+1-32 NFL

As the NFL Draft looms, takes a look back at the best draft picks ever made. Whether they were drafted No. 1 overall or at the back end of the first round, these players made an instant impact and had successful football careers.

Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920446 No. 32 — Logan Mankins No.+32+%26mdash%3B+Logan+Mankins NFL

The New England Patriots are known for their draft-day acumen, and Mankins – a three-time All Pro at center since being draft 32nd overall in 2005 – illustrates the value a top offensive lineman provides – Mankins is a four-time Pro Bowl selection. The NFL Draft increased its first round to 32 picks in 2002, but that doesn’t diminish Mankins’ worth.

Other candidates: Drew Brees

Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920444 No. 31 — Nnamdi Asomugha No.+31+%26mdash%3B+Nnamdi+Asomugha NFL

The Oakland Raiders initially took some heat for selecting Cal’s Asomugha in the first round in 2003; some scouts didn’t even have him on their boards. Their loss. Asomugha, who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles, is among the NFL’s premier cover cornerbacks, a gifted, intelligent athlete and leader who is a three-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro selection.

Other candidates: Todd Heap

Jason Bridge - USA TODAY Sports
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920448 No. 30 — Joseph Addai No.+30+%26mdash%3B+Joseph+Addai NFL

The Indianapolis Colts have had good luck with the No. 30 overall pick – they also selected wide receiver Reggie Wayne at the same spot in 2001. But running back Joseph Addai, the team’s first-round pick in 2006, was an instant hit: On Nov. 26, 2006, Addai tied a Colts franchise record for most rushing yards in a game with 24 carries for 171 yards and four touchdowns against the Eagles. He led all rookie running backs in rushing with 1,081 yards. Addai, who has been a clutch playoff performer, also completed his first NFL pass during the 2009 season – a touchdown throw to Wayne.

Other candidates: Reggie Wayne, Sam Huff

Kevin Terrell - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920445 No. 29 Nick Mangold No.+29+Nick+Mangold NFL

The New York Jets landed one of the NFL’s finest centers, grabbing Mangold at this spot in the 2006 draft. He replaced Kevin Mawae and established himself instantly as a dominant leader on the offensive line: As a rookie, Mangold allowed only a half-sack, committed only three penalties and made all the line calls. He is a three-time All Pro selection and is widely considered one of the finest run blockers to ever play the position.

Other candidates: Hakeem Nicks, Dave Wilcox

Al Pereira/New York Jets - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920447 No. 28 — Darrell Green No.+28+%26mdash%3B+Darrell+Green NFL

This was another tough call at No. 28; former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks is among the best to ever play his position. But Green, the Redskins’ pick in 1983 out of tiny Texas A&M-Kingsville, inches ahead because of this amazing statistic: He intercepted a pass in an NFL-record 19 consecutive seasons. Green, the ultimate ballhawking cornerback and member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s, was enshrined in Canton in 2008.

Other candidates: Derrick Brooks

Mitchell Layton - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920442 No. 27 — Dan Marino No.+27+%26mdash%3B+Dan+Marino NFL

In 1983, the Miami Dolphins’ patience in the first round paid off when they landed Marino, who went on to reign as the most prolific passer in NFL history until Drew Brees caught him in 2011. Marino was the first player to pass for 5,000 yards in a season; that was in 1984, when he also threw a then-record 48 touchdowns. In his Hall of Fame career, Marino passed for 3,000 or more yards 13 times.

Other candidates: Roddy White

RHONA WISE/AFP - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920440 No. 26 — Ray Lewis No.+26+%26mdash%3B+Ray+Lewis NFL

The Ravens’ first-round pick in 1996, Lewis is regarded as one of the best linebackers of all time; he helped cement that status by being selected All-Pro 10 times (a record for an inside/middle linebacker) and winning NFL defensive player of the year in 2000 and 2003. Lewis is the second linebacker to win Super Bowl MVP, and is the first to win the award for a winning team (Super Bowl XXXV).

Other candidates: Alan Faneca, Joe Delamielleure

Mitch Stringer - USA TODAY Sports
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920439 No. 25 — Ted Washington No.+25+%26mdash%3B+Ted+Washington NFL

Another superb first-round selection by 49ers, who drafted him in 1991, Washington was a massive 6-foot-5, 365-pound nose tackle who dominated at the point of attack through the 2007 season. He played for seven NFL clubs and established himself as the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle of his era. Washington was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and won a Super Bowl XXXVIII title with the Patriots.

Other candidates: Santonio Holmes, Donovin Darius

Elsa - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920441 No. 24 — Ed Reed No.+24+%26mdash%3B+Ed+Reed NFL

Newsome saw greatness in Reed, one of the NFL’s most feared and respected players, and drafted the free safety in 2002 out of the University of Miami. Reed combines intelligence, skill and strength to dominate opponents, studying film to discern weaknesses and tendencies. His hard work and talent has paid off: Reed is an eight-time Pro Bowler and was the 2005 NFL defensive player of the year.

Other candidates: Aaron Rodgers, Steven Jackson

John Grieshop - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923702 No. 23 — Ozzie Newsome No.+23+%26mdash%3B+Ozzie+Newsome NFL

Known now as a Hall of Fame caliber general manager for the Baltimore Ravens – he drafted Ed Reed, among other greats – Newsome’s NFL career began as a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1978. The “Wizard of Oz” was a consummate team leader at tight end, catching a pass in 150 consecutive games. Newsome was enshrined in Canton in 1999.

Other candidates: Bill George

Dennis Collins - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923700 No. 22 – Harris Barton No.+22+%26ndash%3B+Harris+Barton NFL

Why Harris Barton? It’s impossible to ignore the contributions this talented right offensive tackle made in helping the San Francisco 49ers win back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1988-89. Barton’s selection in the 1987 draft was considered a coup by coach Bill Walsh, who was looking for an eventual replacement for Keith Fahnhorst. Barton became a starter in 1988, played 12 seasons and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

Other candidates: Hacksaw Reynolds, Ernie Stautner

Michael Zagaris - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30924620 No. 21 — Lynn Swann No.+21+%26mdash%3B+Lynn+Swann NFL

Tough call here between two great wide receivers. Randy Moss was an incredible find by the Vikings at No. 21 overall in the 1998 draft, but Swann, the Steelers’ first-round pick in 1974, capped his Hall of Fame career with an MVP trophy from Super Bowl X. Swann’s fluid athleticism made him a joy to watch; he caught the game-winning touchdown in the AFC title game as a rookie and finished with 5,462 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns.

Other candidates: Randy Moss

Michael Zagaris - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30924621 No. 20 — Jack Youngblood No.+20+%26mdash%3B+Jack+Youngblood NFL

This rugged defensive end was the Los Angeles Rams’ No. 1 pick in 1971 and emerged as the team’s starting left end by ’73. Youngblood, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, played in a team-record 201 consecutive games and is considered one of the NFL’s toughest players: Despite sustaining a fractured fibula in the opening round of the 1979 playoffs, Youngblood played every down en route to Super Bowl XIV.

Other candidates: Mark May

Tony Tomsic - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30934040 No. 19 — Randall McDaniel No.+19+%26mdash%3B+Randall+McDaniel NFL

The Minnesota Vikings’ first-round pick in 1988 proved his worth immediately, earning all-rookie honors as a starting guard. McDaniel, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009, started 13 consecutive playoff games for the Vikings, blocked for six 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers in a career that saw him elected to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls.

Other candidates: Roger Wehrli, Shaun Alexander, John Mackey

NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923697 No. 18 — Art Monk No.+18+%26mdash%3B+Art+Monk NFL

Some have debated whether wide receiver Art Monk, the Washington Redskins’ first-round pick in 1980, belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because he was surrounded by greatness on three Super Bowl champion teams. But Monk, who gained 1,000 receiving yards five times in his career, was without question among the NFL’s most dominant possession receivers of his era (1980-95).

Other candidates: John Henry Johnson, Maurkice Pouncey

Al Messerschmidt - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30934042 No. 17 — Emmitt Smith No.+17+%26mdash%3B+Emmitt+Smith NFL

No argument here – Smith finished his NFL career as the league’s all-time leading rusher as well as a league and Super Bowl MVP. Smith was the 17th pick overall in 1990. He went on to win four NFL rushing titles (1991-93, 95) and gave Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson a most valuable alternative to tailback Paul Palmer.

Other candidates: Steve Hutchinson

Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch /Allsport -
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30936230 No. 16 – Jerry Rice No.+16+%26ndash%3B+Jerry+Rice NFL

Rice, who was taken 16th overall in 1985 by the San Francisco 49ers, is widely considered the best player to ever play the game of football. Rice played in 13 Pro Bowls, won three Super Bowl rings and was named NFL offensive player of the year twice. Rice holds numerous NFL records, but none as prestigious as the league’s all-time receiving leader.

Other candidates: Troy Polamalu, Jevon Kearse

NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30924618 No. 15 – Alan Page No.+15+%26ndash%3B+Alan+Page NFL

After graduating from Notre Dame, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Page No. 15 overall in the 1967 NFL Draft, and he played a majority of his 15-year career in Minnesota. Page was a consistent force off the edge at defensive tackle, recording 173 sacks. Page was the first defensive player to be named NFL MVP since the award’s inception. Off the field, Page has achieved supreme greatness: He is an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Other candidates: Dennis Smith, Jason Pierre-Paul

James Flores - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923695 No. 14 – Jim Kelly No.+14+%26ndash%3B+Jim+Kelly NFL

Kelly was taken 14th overall in the 1983 draft, but didn’t debut for the Buffalo Bills until 1986 because he chose to play for rival league USFL. Kelly specialized in running the no-huddle offense and led Buffalo to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Kelly’s No. 12 remains the only number to be retired in Bills’ franchise history.

Other candidates: Darrelle Revis, Eddie George

Al Messerschmidt - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30934038 No. 13 –Tony Gonzalez No.+13+%26ndash%3BTony+Gonzalez NFL

The all-time receptions leader for tight ends was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997 as dual-sport (football, basketball) star at Cal. Gonzalez, who is a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, was the first player at his position to catch over 1,000 balls.

Other candidates: Kellen Winslow, Franco Harris, Bob Lilly

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923694 No. 12 – Herb Adderly No.+12+%26ndash%3B+Herb+Adderly NFL

Adderly was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1961 as a running back, but legendary coach Vince Lombardi had the vision of switching him to cornerback late in his rookie season. During a 12-year career, Adderly played in five Pro Bowls. He recorded 48 career interceptions, seven of which he returned for touchdowns.

Other candidates: Joe Namath, Warren Sapp

Tony Tomsic - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923692 No. 11 – Michael Irvin No.+11+%26ndash%3B+Michael+Irvin NFL

Irvin was the Dallas Cowboys’ 1988 first-round pick, following an elite career at the University of Miami. Irvin rapidly became one of the most dominant receivers of all-time after Dallas added Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith. In 1995, Irvin set an NFL record of 11 100-yard receiving games and was a cornerstone of the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl championship teams.

Other candidates: Ben Roethlisberger, Paul Warfield, Leo Nomellini

- Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30934041 No. 10 – Marcus Allen No.+10+%26ndash%3B+Marcus+Allen NFL

The Oakland Raiders drafted the rookie of the year in 1982, as Allen ran for 11 touchdowns in just nine games. Allen was known as one of the best short-yardage backs in league history, and spent 16 seasons with the Raiders and Chiefs. Allen became the first NFL player to rush over 10,000 yards and catch passes for 5,000 or more yards, accomplishing the feat in 1995.

Other candidates: Rod Woodson, Willie Anderson

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923691 No. 9 – Bruce Matthews No.+9+%26ndash%3B+Bruce+Matthews NFL

Matthews played 19 seasons in the NFL, but got his start in 1983 drafted by the Houston Oilers. Matthews paved the way for legendary running back Earl Campbell in Houston and went on to play every position on the offensive line. Matthews was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

Other candidates: Brian Urlacher, Jerome Brown

George Gojkovich - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923689 No. 8 – Ronnie Lott No.+8+%26ndash%3B+Ronnie+Lott NFL

Lott was drafted in 1981 to play cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, but was later switched to safety and eventually earned All-Pro honors at three different positions (cornerback, strong safety and free safety). In Lott’s 14-year career, he led the league in interceptions twice and recorded 100 plus-tackles five times.

Other candidates: Larry Csonka, Lance Alworth, Willie Roaf

Ron Vesely - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923690 No. 7 – Champ Bailey No.+7+%26ndash%3B+Champ+Bailey+ NFL

The University of Georgia star was drafted No. 7 overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins and quickly became an elite player. He was traded to Denver before the 2004 season and the Broncos have had a mainstay at cornerback ever since. Bailey, who often forces quarterbacks to ignore his side of the field, has appeared in 11 Pro Bowls, the most ever for a cornerback.

Other candidates: Adrian Peterson, Pat Richter

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923684 No. 6 – Jim Brown No.+6+%26ndash%3B+Jim+Brown NFL

When the Cleveland Browns made Brown their No. 1 draft pick in 1957, they acquired the future rookie of the year, a four-time MVP and a nine-time Pro Bowler. Brown, who retired the summer of 1966 to pursue acting, stunned fans with his announcement. He was one of the most durable running backs of all-time, never missing a game in his nine-year career.

Other candidates: Walter Jones, Torry Holt

Tony Tomsic - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30934039 No. 5 – Deion Sanders No.+5+%26ndash%3B+Deion+Sanders NFL

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Sanders No. 5 overall out of Florida State in the 1989 NFL Draft. Sanders, who was an electric return man, scoring nine special teams touchdowns, but made his money as a shutdown cornerback. Sanders spent his career with five different teams and second all-time in interception return yardage (1,331).

Other candidates: LaDainian Tomlinson, Len Dawson, Junior Seau

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923687 No. 4 – Walter Payton No.+4+%26ndash%3B+Walter+Payton NFL

Payton was drafted No. 4 overall in the 1975 draft by the Chicago Bears and was known as one of the most prolific running backs of all time. Payton won two NFL MVP awards and led the Bears to a Super Bowl championship in 1985.

Other candidates: Otto Graham

Mike Powell/Allsport - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30920453 No. 3 – Barry Sanders No.+3+%26ndash%3B+Barry+Sanders NFL

The Lions took Sanders with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Sanders was an All-Pro every season in his career and is known as the most elusive running back in NFL history. Sanders rushed for 15,269 yards in his 10-year career and ranks third all-time in rushing.

Other candidates: Dick Butkus

Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923683 No. 2 — Lawrence Taylor No.+2+%26mdash%3B+Lawrence+Taylor NFL

Taylor won several defensive awards in 1981, his rookie season with the New York Giants, and was the most dominant outside linebacker of his time. Taylor, who had double-digit sacks in each season from 1984-1990, was named the AP’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times.

Other candidates: Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk

Ken Levine /Allsport - Getty Images
NFL 5 43 All-time NFL best draft picks 1-32 30923686 No. 1 – John Elway No.+1+%26ndash%3B+John+Elway NFL

Elway was taken No. 1 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Indianpolis Colts, but refused to play them and was eventually traded to the Denver Broncos. He spent his entire career in the Mile High City and led them to two Super Bowl championships. The Stanford standout was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, after being selected to nine Pro Bowls.

Other candidates: Bruce Smith, Terry Bradshaw, Peyton Manning

Al Messerschmidt - Getty Images
EndCap Fox Sports Video and Photo Gallery
thumbnail galleryTitle shortDescription longDescription blurb galUpdated pageNumber totalPages galleryUrl