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Top NFL Draft Picks of All Time

Top NFL Draft Picks of All Time
Top NFL Draft Picks of All Time

The NFL Draft is an annual event that serves as an entry for college football players into the highest level of American football. It generally happens in April, at the end of the football season with the selection order based on each win-loss record in the previous campaign and whether the team reached the playoffs.

The NFL is a place where legends are born and heroes are made, and the draft is where some of the greatest football stories begin. A lot of lives have been changed forever as every year the NFL allows college players to be selected by any team that wants them.

There is a mystique around the NFL Draft as we have seen some of the most highly rated players fail and the unknown players become legends. Of course, there have been a few misses over the years but also lots of hits.

A lot of legends have come through the draft and left an indelible mark on the sport and this article will explore some of the greatest picks of all time. We will take into consideration their impact on the game, achievements and accolades, and overall legacy.

Tom Brady

Arguably the biggest and most recognizable names in the modern era of the NFL, Tom Brady’s late selection by the New England Patriots in the 2000 draft is the stuff of legends. His story is known by all NFL fans as he went from the 199th overall pick to becoming the greatest quarterback and arguably overall player in the history of the sport.

The interesting thing about Brady’s career is that his low selection meant he never would have started if not for the injury to established quarterback Drew Bledsoe in 2001. However, he came in, started 14 games with an 11-3 record and established himself as a starter.

Brady is the winningest quarterback in NFL history with 251 regular season and 35 postseason victories. He has also won seven Super Bowls, the most by any player, three regular season MVPs and five Super Bowl MVP awards.

Joe Montana

Another late selection on our list, Joe Montana was the 82nd overall pick, chosen by the San Fransico 49ers in 1979. He was widely considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history until Tom Brady’s emergence and is actually still considered the gold standard in some quarters.

Known for his calm and poise in clutch situations, Montana earned the nickname “Joe Cool” during his time as starting quarterback for the San Fransico 49ers. He led the team to four Super Bowls, winning three Super Bowl MVPs and two regular season MVPs.

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning is a perfect example of a highly rated college prospect that more than lived up to the hype and reached the pinnacle of his NFL career. Considered a generational talent, he was selected as the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

Renowned for his footballing IQ, precision passing and leadership skills, Manning led two teams to Super Bowl glory. He won Super Bowl XLI with the Colts before winning Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos. He was also named regular season MVP five times and Super Bown MVP once.

Despite retiring in 2016, Manning has retained most of his endorsements and is the face of brands like Nike, Mastercard, Reebok, Buick, Sony among others. 

He also has been used to promote some of the best NFL betting offers and has a partnership with leading operator Caesars Sportsbook.

Brett Favre

Selected by the Atlanta Falcons as the fourth quarterback in the 1991 NFL Draft, Brett Favre is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. His career did not get off to a good start as he had plenty of health-related controversies, including a car accident that led him to have 30 inches of his intestines removed.

However, he overcame his early problems and went on to have a stellar career after being traded to the Green Bay Packers in 1992. His best years were with the Wisconsin team, leading them to glory in Super Bowl XXXI and winning three consecutive MVP awards between 1995 and 1997.

Favre called time on his career in 2010 and continues to serve as the face of brands such as Snapper, Remmington, Hyundai, Wrangler, and many others. He is also the brand ambassador to the sportsbook TwinSpireswhich is widely regarded as one of the most popular horse racing betting sites around.

Lawrence Taylor

A highly sought-after linebacker, Lawrence Taylor was drafted by the New York Giants in 1981 the first round as the second overall pick. He spent his entire career with the Giants, where he established a legacy as arguably the greatest defensive player of all time.

Often courting controversy due to his reckless style of play, Taylor was the star of the Giants defence, nicknamed the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew”. He won two Super Bowl Rings and was named NFL MVP in 1986.

Reggie White

Reggie White played in the same Green Bay Packers team as Brett Favre and played an influential part in their Super Bowl XXXI victory. However, his career had humble beginnings as he was selected by the Memphis Showboats in the 1984 USFL Territorial Draft before making his way to the Philadelphia Eagles after the league collapsed a year later.

White spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and although he never led them to the Super Bowl title, he established himself as one of the most defensive players in the NFL. Following his successful spell with Green Bay, he had a short stint with the Carolina Panthers.

He earned numerous accolades during his stellar career, including two Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was also known for his Christian ministry as an ordained evangelical minister, which earned him the nickname “Minister of Defence”.

Although White sadly died in 2004 after succumbing to cardiac arrhythmia, his exceptional legacy in the NFL will never be forgotten.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s selection by the Cleveland Browns as the sixth overall pick in the first round of the 1957 NFL Draft is often cited as a prime example of drafting brilliance. He enjoyed a highly successful career which gave him a platform to play an influential role in the civil rights movement.

Often hailed as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Brown revolutionized that position with his combination of speed, power and agility. He spent his entire nine-year career with the Browns, leading them to the Super Bowl in 1964 while also winning three MVP awards.

Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas is regularly listed as one of the one of the greatest NFL players of all time. A true pioneer of the sport, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ninth round in 1958, although he was only used as a practice squad member and was released before the season started.

The Baltimore Colts took a chance on Unitas in 1956 and that was where he had his greatest success. He led the team to the Super Bowl V title and was also a three-time NFL champion. He was also named MVP on three occasions and was named NFL Man of the Year in 1970.

Unitas has a far-reaching legacy in the NFL and set many records, including the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass at 47, which held for 52 years.

Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice began his career in the United States Football League (USFL), where he was drafted by the Birmingham Stallions with the number one overall pick in 1985. He eventually signed a rookie contract for five years with the San Fransisco 49ers, where he went on to establish himself as a household name.

Widely regarded as the greatest wide receiver of all time, Rice was known for his work ethic and route-running skills. He won three Super Bowls and earned a Super Bowl MVP award, while also setting numerous records, including most career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Since retiring in 2005, Rice has done some acting, appearing in movies and TV commercials for DraftKings, which is one of the most popular sportsbooks around.

Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders was drafted third overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, where he spent the entirety of his 11-year career. Known for his quickness and agility, he is considered one of the most elusive runners in NFL history.

Despite never winning the Super Bowl, Sanders had a highly decorated career that included the MVP award in 1997. He was also a two-time Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Rookie of the Year and was voted to the All-Pro First Team six times.

Sanders had multiple endorsements during his playing days and has retained some of them since retiring in 1999. In 2021, he signed a multi-year deal as a brand ambassador for the prominent sportsbook BetMGM and has appeared in a few marketing campaigns and events.


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