Best Value NFL Draft Picks of All Time
The NFL draft is all about value. Whichever team gets the most value wins the draft. And that leads to wins on the field.
Anytime a team drafts a player outside of the first round and they become a Pro Bowler or an All-Pro — that's value. The later in the draft you get those players, the better. Which is always an interesting debate ... because if you knew how great they were going to be, why didn't you pick them sooner?
The history of the NFL hasn't just been determined by players picked at the top of the draft. Here's a look at the best value NFL Draft picks of all time.
Note: All NFL players were eligible except supplemental draft picks and undrafted players.
Honorable Mention: Richard Sherman, Cornerback
Born: March 30, 1988 (Compton, California)
NFL Draft: 2011, Round 5, No. 154 overall (Seattle Seahawks)
Career: 11 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks (2011-17), San Francisco 49ers (2018-present)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2013), five-time NFL All-Pro (2012-15, 2019), five-time Pro Bowl (2013-16, 2019), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman was a standout wide receiver at Stanford in his first two seasons on The Farm before he injured his knee and requested a switch to cornerback.
Sherman had an eye on the NFL when he made the switch. He helped lead Stanford to a 12-1 season in 2010 and stood out on the defensive side of the ball.
He was the 25th cornerback taken in the 2011 NFL draft, which he looked at as a slap in the face. He has spent the last decade as one of the best defensive players in the NFL and has a good shot at making the Hall of Fame.
RELATED:Best Undrafted NFL Players l Worst No. 1 Picks in NFL History
30. John Stallworth, Wide Receiver
Born: July 15, 1952 (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
College: Alabama A&M
NFL Draft: 1974, Round 4, No. 82 overall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Career: 14 seasons (1974-87)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Career highlights: Four-time Super Bowl champion (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979), three-time Pro Bowl (1979, 1982, 1984), two-time NFL All-Pro (1979, 1984), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1984)
Bottom Line: John Stallworth
John Stallworth grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but was passed over by his hometown University of Alabama, which wouldn't have a Black player on its roster until 1971.
Instead, Stallworth became a standout at HBCU Alabama A&M, where he was a two-time All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection and a fourth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974.
Stallworth was one of four future Hall of Famers taken by the Steelers in 1974 alongside fellow wide receiver Lynn Swann, linebacker Jack Lambert and center Mike Webster. Only Swann was a first-round pick.
29. Mike Webster, Center
Born: March 18, 1952 (Tomahawk, Wisconsin)
Died: Sept. 24, 2002, 50 years old (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
NFL Draft: 1974, Round 5, No. 125 overall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Career: 17 seasons (1974-90)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-88), Kansas City Chiefs (1989-90)
Career highlights: Four-time Super Bowl champion (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979), seven-time NFL All-Pro (1978-84), nine-time Pro Bowl (1978-85, 1987), NFL 1970s All-Decade team, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Mike Webster
Mike Webster's legacy is now tied to the traumatic head injuries NFL players suffer. He was the first player diagnosed with CTE following his death in 2002, and doctors believe CTE factored into his death.
Before that, Webster was the key to the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line in the 1970s on the way to four Super Bowl victories.
Webster was the dominant center in the Big Ten during his time at the University of Wisconsin, then served as a backup in his first two years in Pittsburgh before starting 150 consecutive games.
28. Raymond Berry, Wide Receiver
Born: Feb. 27, 1933 (Corpus Christi, Texas)
NFL Draft: 1954, Round 20, No. 232 overall (Baltimore Colts)
Career: 13 seasons (1955-67)
Teams: Baltimore Colts
Career highlights: Two-time NFL champion (1958, 1959), six-time NFL All-Pro (1957-61, 1965), six-time Pro Bowl (1958-61, 1963, 1964), NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Raymond Berry
It's a wonder Raymond Berry was even drafted at all. His own father didn't start him until his senior year of high school, and he only caught 33 passes, total, during his college career at SMU.
Berry was a longshot to make the Colts' roster after being picked in the 20th round in 1955, but he had the great fortune of teaming up with quarterback Johnny Unitas in his second season.
Together, the two became one of the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duos in NFL history, with Berry leading the league in receiving yards and receptions three times and touchdowns receptions twice.
27. Bart Starr, Quarterback
Born: Jan. 9, 1934 (Montgomery, Alabama)
Died: May 26, 2019 (age 85, Birmingham, Alabama)
NFL Draft: 1956, Round 17, No. 200 overall (Green Bay Packers)
Career: 16 seasons (1956-71)
Teams: Green Bay Packers
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (1966, 1967), three-time NFL champion (1961, 1962, 1965), two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1966, 1967), NFL Most Valuable Player (1966), three-time NFL All-Pro 1962, 1964, 1966), four-time Pro Bowl (1960-62, 1966), NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Bart Starr
Bart Starr was not the full-time quarterback much during his time at the University of Alabama. His lack of playing time was the result of a back injury suffered during a fraternity hazing ritual between his sophomore and junior seasons.
Starr was a throwaway pick for the Green Bay Packers in 1956 and didn't even start for the team until 1959, which was the first season for legendary head coach Vince Lombardi.
Starr was aces from there out. He led the Packers to the NFL Championship Game in 1960, then won three NFL championships and two Super Bowls. He was also named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1961, the first year he won a title with the Packers.
26. Steve Largent, Wide Receiver
Born: Sept. 28, 1954 (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
NFL Draft: 1976, Round 4, No. 117 overall (Houston Oilers)
Career: 14 seasons (1976-89)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks
Career highlights: Five-time NFL All-Pro (1978, 1979, 1984, 1985, 1987), seven-time Pro Bowl (1978, 1979, 1981, 1984-87), NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Steve Largent
Steve Largent was days away from being cut by the Houston Oilers during preseason camp in 1976 until the team traded him to the Seattle Seahawks, where he carved out a Hall of Fame career.
Largent was the first player in Seahawks history to be named to the Pro Bowl in 1978 and led the NFL in receiving yards twice. His 1985 total of 1,287 receiving yards was the franchise record until DK Metcalf broke the record in 2020.
Largent, who famously never wore gloves when he played, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for his native Oklahoma from 1994 to 2002.
25. Charles Haley, Defensive End
Born: Jan. 6, 1964 (Gladys, Virginia)
College: James Madison
NFL Draft: 1986, Round 4, No. 86 overall (San Francisco 49ers)
Career: 14 seasons (1986-99)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers (1986-91, 1998-99), Dallas Cowboys (1992-96)
Career highlights: Five-time Super Bowl champion (1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995), two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1994), two-time NFL All-Pro (1990, 1994), five-time Pro Bowl (1988, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995)
Bottom Line: Charles Haley
Only one player has won more Super Bowl titles than 1986 fourth-round pick Charles Haley — 2000 sixth-round pick Tom Brady has seven to Haley's five.
Haley was a versatile, dangerous pass rusher who played outside linebacker early in his career but became a full-time defensive end later, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Year twice and winning Super Bowls with both the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
Haley was a two-time Division I-AA All-American at James Madison, and his 506 career tackles are still a program record.
24. Russell Wilson, Quarterback
Born: Nov. 29, 1988 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
NFL Draft: 2012, Round 3, No. 75 overall (Seattle Seahawks)
Career: 10 seasons (2012-present)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2014), eight-time Pro Bowl (2012-15, 2017-20), NFL All-Pro (2019), NFL Rookie of the Year (2012)
Bottom Line: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson bet on himself when he transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin after a falling out with head coach Tom O'Brien over his desire to also play minor league baseball for the Colorado Rockies.
In his one season at Wisconsin, Wilson was the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, and after being selected by the Seahawks in the third round, he led them to a Super Bowl win in his second year as the starter.
Wilson signed a four-year, $140 million contract extension with Seattle before the 2019 season and is part owner of Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders.
23. Kevin Greene, Defensive End/Linebacker
Born: July 31, 1962 (Schenectady, New York)
Died: Dec. 21, 2020 (age 58, Destin, Florida)
NFL Draft: 1985, Round 5, No. 113 overall (Los Angeles Rams)
Career: 15 seasons(1985-99)
Teams: Los Angeles Rams (1985-92), Pittsburgh Steelers (1993-95), Carolina Panthers (1996, 1998-99), San Francisco 49ers (1997)
Career highlights: NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1996), NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1996), three-time NFL All-Pro (1989, 1994, 1996), five-time Pro Bowl (1989, 1994-96, 1998), NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Kevin Greene
Auburn's Kevin Greene was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 1984, just one year after walking on to the team.
Picked by the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round, Greene spent the first few years of his career as an outside linebacker and not rushing the passer very much. That's incredible considering his 160 career sacks are No. 3 on the NFL career list.
Greene was known throughout his career for his wild-man persona and his long, blonde hair. He also spent time as a professional wrestler. Greene died of a massive heart attack in December 2020 at 58 years old.
22. Mel Renfro, Defensive Back
Born: Dec. 30, 1941 (Houston, Texas)
NFL Draft: 1964, Round 2, No. 17 overall (Dallas Cowboys)
Career: 14 seasons (1964-77)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (1971, 1977), seven-time NFL All-Pro (1964-66, 1969, 1971-73), 10-time Pro Bowl (1964-73)
Bottom Line: Mel Renfro
Mel Renfro helped lead Portland's Jefferson High to a high school football national championship in 1958 with future Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and 1963 No. 1 overall pick Terry Baker.
It was Renfro who became the true star off that team, starring for the University of Oregon and then for the Dallas Cowboys, where he made the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons and won a pair of Super Bowls in 1971 and 1977.
What's more impressive about Renfro's career is he didn't even play defensive back in college. He was a running back.
21. Ken Stabler, Quarterback
Born: Dec. 25, 1945 (Foley, Alabama)
Died: July 8, 2015, (age 69, Gulfport, Mississippi)
NFL Draft: 1968, Round 2, No. 52 overall (Oakland Raiders)
Career: 17 seasons (1968-1984)
Teams: Oakland Raiders (1968-79), Houston Oilers (1980-81), New Orleans Saints (1982-84)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1977), NFL Most Valuable Player (1974), Two-time NFL All-Pro (1974, 1976), Four-time Pro Bowl (1973, 1974, 1976, 1977), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2016)
Bottom Line: Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler's reputation heading into the 1968 draft was less than stellar. He'd been kicked off the team at Alabama by head coach Bear Bryant for partying but famously was reinstated just before the Iron Bowl to lead the Crimson Tide to a thrilling win over Auburn.
Stabler was known as "The Snake," and he kept up his partying ways in the NFL. He also kept winning. He was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1974 and led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl victory following the 1977 season.
He died of colon cancer in 2015, at 69 years old.
20. Curtis Martin, Running Back
Born: May 1, 1973 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
NFL Draft: 1995, Round 3, No. 74 overall (New England Patriots)
Career: 12 seasons (1995-2005)
Teams: New England Patriots (1995-97), New York Jets (1998-2006)
Career highlights: Three-time NFL All-Pro (1999, 2001, 2004), five-time Pro Bowl (1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004), NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1995)
Bottom Line: Curtis Martin
Curtis Martin is one of the most underrated running backs in NFL history. He is one of only four players in NFL history with 14,000 career rushing yards and only played 11 seasons.
Martin rushed for at least 1,300 yards in each of his first 10 seasons before a devastating knee injury ended his career in 2005, when Martin had 735 rushing yards with four games left in the regular season.
Martin dropped to the third round in the 1995 NFL draft because of injuries. He never played a full season at the University of Pittsburgh.
19. Travis Kelce, Tight End
Born: Oct. 5, 1989 (Cleveland Heights, Ohio)
NFL Draft: 2013, Round 3, No. 63 overall (Kansas City Chiefs)
Career: 9 seasons (2013-present)
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2019), five-time NFL All-Pro (2016-20), six-time Pro Bowl (2015-20), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Travis Kelce
Before Travis Kelce's career is over, he could find his name with the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. Heck, he might already be there.
Kelce's NFL career almost got derailed before it began when he was suspended for an entire season at the University of Cincinnati after he failed a drug test for marijuana, but he put together his best season as a senior with 45 receptions for 722 yards and eight touchdowns.
Kelce helped lead the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl win in 50 years following the 2019 season and back to the Super Bowl following the 2020 season, when they were upset by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
18. Rickey Jackson, Linebacker
Born: March 20, 1958 (Pahokee, Florida)
NFL Draft: 1981, Round 2, No. 51 overall (New Orleans Saints)
Career: 15 seasons (1981-95)
Teams: New Orleans Saints (1981-93), San Francisco 49ers (1994-95)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1994) six-time Pro Bowl (1983-86, 1992, 1993), five-time All-Pro (1984-86, 1992, 1993)
Bottom Line: Rickey Jackson
The first Hall of Famer for the New Orleans Saints, Rickey Jackson was a once-in-a-generation linebacker who only missed two games in 13 seasons.
Nicknamed "City Champ" for his status in his hometown of Pahokee, Florida, the two games he missed were following a 1989 car accident that left Jackson's jaw wired shut.
Jackson was in the NFL's top three in career statistics for sacks (128) and fumble recoveries (28) when he retired following the 1995 season, and won his only Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers following the 1994 season.
17. Thurman Thomas, Running Back
Born: May 16, 1966 (Houston, Texas)
College: Oklahoma State
NFL Draft: 1988, Round 2, No. 40 overall (Buffalo Bills)
Career: 13 seasons (1988-2000)
Teams: Buffalo Bills (1988-99), Miami Dolphins (2000)
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (1991), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1991), five-time NFL All-Pro (1989-93), five-time Pro Bowl (1989-93), NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Thurman Thomas
Like many of the players on the great Buffalo Bills teams of the 1990s, running back Thurman Thomas saw his career defined by four consecutive Super Bowl losses and not his achievements on the field.
At Oklahoma State, Thomas' backup was Barry Sanders his final two seasons, giving the Cowboys two future NFL Most Valuable Player award winners in the backfield.
Thomas was looked at as a surefire first-round pick, but a knee injury dropped him to the second round, where he was the seventh running back taken in 1988.
16. Dan Fouts, Quarterback
Born: June 10, 1951 (San Francisco, California)
NFL Draft: 1973, Round 3, No. 84 overall (San Diego Chargers)
Career: 15 seasons (1973-87)
Teams: San Diego Chargers
Career highlights: Four-time NFL All-Pro (1979, 1980, 1982, 1985), Six-time Pro Bowl (1979-83, 1985), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1982)
Bottom Line: Dan Fouts
Dan Fouts was an unknown recruit out of the Bay Area when he signed with the University of Oregon and put the Ducks on the map, setting 19 school records.
Fouts was a third-round pick by the San Diego Chargers in 1973 and saw his career take off after the team hired Bill Wash as offensive coordinator early in his career.
The first great "West Coast Offense" quarterback, Fouts was almost traded to the Colts for the No. 1 pick in 1983 during a contract dispute. In a case of sliding doors, that would've meant fellow Californian John Elway playing for the Chargers instead of the Broncos.
15. Shannon Sharpe, Tight End
Born: June 26, 1968 (Chicago, Illinois)
College: Savannah State
NFL Draft: 1990, Round 7, No. 192 overall (Denver Broncos)
Career: 14 seasons (1990-2003)
Teams: Denver Broncos (1990-99, 2002-03) Baltimore Ravens (2000-01)
Career highlights: Three-time Super Bowl champion (1997, 1998, 2000), five-time NFL All-Pro (1993, 1995-98), eight-time Pro Bowl (1992-98, 2001), NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Shannon Sharpe
The younger brother of former NFL wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, Shannon Sharpe was an NCAA Division II All-American at Savannah State before the Denver Broncos took a flyer on him with a seventh-round pick in 1990.
Shannon Sharpe took that sliver of an opportunity and ran with it, helping lead the Broncos to two Super Bowl victories, then joining the Baltimore Ravens and leading them to a Super Bowl win.
Considered one of the greatest tight ends of all time, Sharpe has another successful career as the co-host of "Skip and Shannon: Undisputed" on Fox Sports.
14. Ray Nitschke, Linebacker
Born: Dec. 29, 1936 (Elmwood Park, Illinois)
Died: March 8, 1998, (age 61, Venice, Florida)
NFL Draft: 1958, Round 3, No. 36 overall (Green Bay Packers)
Career: 15 seasons (1958-72)
Team: Green Bay Packers
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (1966, 1967), three-time NFL champion (1961, 1962, 1965), Pro Bowl (1964), seven-time All-Pro (1962-67, 1969), NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame (1978)
Bottom Line: Ray Nitschke
One fun fact is that the two greatest linebackers of the 1950s and 1960s were both University of Illinois products — Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Dick Butkus and Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke.
Nitschke was thought of as a bruiser during his career, but he was more than that. He also was great in pass coverage and finished his career with 25 interceptions and won five NFL titles.
Nitschke died of a massive heart attack in 1998, at 61 years old.
13. Deacon Jones, Defensive End
Born: Dec. 9, 1938 (Eatonville, Florida)
Died: June 3, 2013, (age 74, Anaheim Hills, California)
College: Mississippi Valley State
NFL Draft: 1961, Round 14, No. 186 overall (Los Angeles Rams)
Career: 14 seasons (1961-74)
Teams: Los Angeles Rams (1961-71), San Diego Chargers (1972-73), Washington Redskins (1974)
Career highlights: Two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1967, 1968), eight-time NFL All-Pro (1964-70, 1972), eight-time Pro Bowl (1965-70, 1972), NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Deacon Jones
One of the most intimidating defensive players in NFL history, Deacon Jones should be in the record books more. But sacks weren't recorded during Jones' NFL career. It's ironic because Jones actually invented the term "sack" in the first place.
Jones' devastating "head slap" move knocked many offensive lineman senseless during his career, and it wasn't just the "sack" that he invented. He also gave himself the name "Deacon" before his NFL career started.
Jones died in 2013 at 74 years old.
12. Fran Tarkenton, Quarterback
Born: Feb. 3, 1940 (Richmond, Virginia)
NFL Draft: 1961, Round 3, No. 29 overall (Minnesota Vikings)
Career: 18 seasons (1961-78)
Teams: Minnesota Vikings (1961-66, 1972-78), New York Giants (1967-71)
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (1975), Two-time NFL All-Pro (1973, 1975), Nine-time Pro Bowl (1964, 1965, 1967-70, 1974-76), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1986)
Bottom Line: Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton was a two-time All-SEC pick at Georgia, but NFL scouts and teams saw him as somewhat undersized for a professional quarterback at 6-foot and 190 pounds.
Tarkenton's NFL career had some strange twists and turns. He played his first six seasons for the Minnesota Vikings before being traded to the New York Giants, where he played five seasons, then finished his career with the Vikings for seven more seasons.
In Tarkenton's second stint with the Vikings, he led them to three NFC championships and three Super Bowl losses, along with being named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1975.
11. Larry Allen, Offensive Line
Born: Nov. 27, 1971 (Los Angeles, California)
College: Sonoma State
NFL Draft: 1994, Round 2, No. 46 overall (Dallas Cowboys)
Career: 14 seasons (1994-2007)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys (1994-2005), San Francisco 49ers (2006-07)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1995), seven-time NFL All-Pro (1995-2001), 11-time Pro Bowl (1995-2001, 2003-06), NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Larry Allen
Larry Allen gave defensive linemen nightmares for over a decade, carving out huge holes for NFL career leading rusher Emmitt Smith on the Dallas Cowboys.
Allen played college football at NCAA Division II Sonoma State and was the first player from the school ever drafted, in the 1994 NFL draft, after scouts latched on to his strength and exceptional athletic ability.
Allen might be the strongest player in NFL history. He recorded a max bench press of 705 pounds and a max squat of 905 pounds. He once repped 520 pounds on the bench press a staggering 20 times.
10. Roger Staubach, Quarterback
Born: Feb. 5, 1942 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
NFL Draft: 1964, Round 10, No. 129 overall (Dallas Cowboys)
Career: 11 seasons (1969-79)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (1971, 1977), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1971), NFL All-Pro (1971), six-time Pro Bowl (1971, 1975-79), NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 for the Naval Academy, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 and didn't actually make it to the NFL until 1969.
Staubach had to honor a four-year military commitment before he could play professional football, but he had access to the Cowboys' playbook in that time before his rookie year, when he was 27 years old.
Staubach made up for lost time by winning two Super bowls and making six Pro Bowls in a relatively short career. He only played 11 seasons.
9. Howie Long, Defensive End
Born: Jan. 7, 1960 (Somerville, Massachusetts)
NFL Draft: 1981, Round 2, No. 48 overall (Oakland Raiders)
Career: 13 seasons (1981-93)
Teams: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1983), NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1985), five-time NFL All-Pro (1983-86, 1989), eight-time Pro Bowl (1983-87, 1989, 1992, 1993), 1980s NFL All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Howie Long
We're several generations removed from the days when Howie Long dominated the NFL, which is too bad because he was one of the more entertaining defensive linemen to ever play the game.
Long was a four-year starter at Villanova, but that wasn't his only sport there. He was also the Northern Collegiate Boxing Champion in the heavyweight decision.
Long played 13 seasons for the Raiders. He moved with the team from Los Angeles to Oakland and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1985. Two of his sons, Kyle Long and Chris Long, also had lengthy NFL careers, and Chris was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
8. Michael Strahan, Defensive End
Born: Nov. 21, 1971 (Houston, Texas)
College: Texas Southern
NFL Draft: 1993, Round 2, No. 40 overall (New York Giants)
Career: 15 seasons (1993-2007)
Teams: New York Giants
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2007), NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2001), six-time NFL All-Pro (1997, 1998, 2001-03, 2005), seven-time Pro Bowl (1997-99, 2001-03, 2005), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Michael Strahan
Michael Strahan came from Texas Southern to the NFL and became one of the greatest pass rushers in football history, including an NFL single-season record 22.5 sacks in 2001.
Strahan did the most he could at Division I-AA Texas Southern in the early 1990s, where he was named Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Year twice and SWAC Player of the Year twice.
Strahan closed out his career in epic fashion, leading the Giants to a Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots following the 2007 season in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
7. Johnny Unitas, Quarterback
Born: May 7, 1933 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Died: Sept. 11, 2002 (age 69, Baltimore, Maryland)
NFL Draft: 1955, Round 9, No. 102 overall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Career: 17 seasons (1956-72)
Teams: Baltimore Colts (1956-72), San Diego Chargers (1973)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1970), three-time NFL champion (1958, 1959, 1968), three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1959, 1964, 1967), seven-time NFL All-Pro (1957-59, 1963-65, 1967), 10-time Pro Bowl (1957-64, 1966, 1967), NFL 1960s All-Decade team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Bottom Line: Johnny Unitas
Johnny Unitas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and cut after training camp in 1955 as a throwaway, ninth-round pick who never really had a chance to make the team.
Unitas returned home and played semi-pro before getting a shot with the Baltimore Colts in 1956. This time, he made the team and became a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player and one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
He also was a winner, leading the Colts to three NFL championships and one Super Bowl win. He died of a heart attack in 2002, at 69 years old.
6. Drew Brees, Quarterback
Born: Jan. 15, 1979 (Dallas, Texas)
NFL Draft: 2001, Round 2, No. 32 (San Diego Chargers)
Career: 20 seasons (2001-20)
Teams: San Diego Chargers (2001-05), New Orleans Saints (2006-20)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2010), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2010), Five-time NFL All-Pro (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2018) 13-time Pro Bowl (2004, 2006, 2008-14, 2016-19)
Bottom Line: Drew Brees
Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and the NFL career leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards and completions.
It's wild to think that Brees had to beg college coaches for a look coming out of Austin Westlake High and only received offers from Kentucky and Purdue, where he was the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
After five seasons with the San Diego Chargers, the team turned its back on Brees after a shoulder injury. He bolted to the New Orleans Saints, where he led the franchise to its only Super Bowl win.
5. Rob Gronkowski, Tight End
Born: May 14, 1989 (Amherst, New York)
NFL Draft: 2010, Round 2, No. 42 overall (New England Patriots)
Career: 10 seasons (2010-18, 2020-present)
Teams: New England Patriots (2010-18), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-present)
Career highlights: Four-time Super Bowl champion (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020), four-time NFL All-Pro (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017), five-time Pro Bowl (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team, NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2014)
Bottom Line: Rob Gronkowski
The only thing up for discussion with Rob Gronkowski's career is if he's the greatest tight end of all time after four Super Bowl victories in 10 seasons.
That wasn't always in the cards for Gronkowski, who only played two seasons of college football at Arizona. He missed the 2009 season due to back surgery and was a second-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2010.
With the Patriots, Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady formed one of the greatest duos in NFL history. They continued their run together in Tampa Bay with an improbable Super Bowl victory following the 2020 season after Brady switched teams to the Buccaneers and Gronkowski came out of retirement to join him.
4. Brett Favre, Quarterback
Born: Oct. 10, 1969 (Gulfport, Mississippi)
College: Southern Miss
NFL Draft: 1991, Round 2, No. 33 overall (Atlanta Falcons)
Career: 20 seasons(1991-2010)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (1992-2007), New York Jets (2008), Minnesota Vikings (2009-10)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1996), Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1995-97), Six-time NFL All-Pro (1995-97, 2001, 2002, 2007), 11-time Pro Bowl (1992, 1993, 1995-97, 2001-03, 2007-09)
Bottom Line: Brett Favre
The picture of Brett Favre in jean shorts and talking on a wireless phone in his bedroom during the 1991 NFL draft is one of the more iconic images related to the draft.
Favre wouldn't be with the team that picked him for long. The Atlanta Falcons traded him to the Green Bay Packers before his second season. Favre carved out a Hall of Fame career in Green Bay, winning a Super bowl after the 1996 season and three consecutive NFL Most Valuable Player awards from 1995 to 1997.
Favre played 20 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016.
3. Mike Singletary, Linebacker
Born: Oct. 9, 1958 (Houston, Texas)
NFL Draft: 1981, Round 2, No. 38 overall (Chicago Bears)
Career: 12 seasons (1981-92)
Team: Chicago Bears
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1985), 10-time Pro Bowl (1983-82), nine-time All-Pro (1983-91), two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1985, 1988), three-time NFC Player of the Year (1984, 1985, 1988), NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame (1998)
Bottom Line: Mike Singletary
Houston native Mike Singletary grew up idolizing the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a football star himself, first at Baylor, then in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, where he spent his entire career.
Singletary was at the heart of arguably the greatest defense of all time in 1985, when the Chicago Bears went 15-1 under head coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan on the way to winning the only Super Bowl in franchise history.
Singletary won the first of two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards in 1985, winning again in 1988.
2. Joe Montana, Quarterback
Born: June 11, 1956 (New Eagle, Pennsylvania)
College: Notre Dame
NFL Draft: 1979, Round 3, No. 82 overall (San Francisco 49ers)
Career: 16 seasons (1979-94)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers (1979-92), Kansas City Chiefs (1993-94)
Career highlights: Four-time Super Bowl champion (1982, 1985, 1989, 1990), Three-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1982, 1985, 1990), Two-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1989, 1990), Eight-time Pro Bowl (1981, 1983-85, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993), Six-time NFL All-Pro (1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990)
Bottom Line: Joe Montana
It's ironic that one of Tom Brady's first football memories was watching "The Catch" at Candlestick Park with his father as a small child — that famous, game-winning touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Montana's clutch genes were on display at Notre Dame, where he led the Irish to a win over Houston in the Cotton Bowl despite fighting illness and trailing 34-12 in the third quarter.
Montana's four Super Bowl wins with the 49ers seemed untouchable until Brady came along, and the two are considered the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
1. Tom Brady, Quarterback
Born: Aug. 3, 1977 (San Mateo, California)
NFL Draft: 2000, Round 6, No. 199 overall (New England Patriots)
Career: 23 seasons (2000-22)
Teams: New England Patriots (2000-19), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-22)
Career highlights: Seven-time Super Bowl champion (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020), five-time Super Bowl MVP (2003, 2004, 204, 2016, 2021), three-time NFL MVP (2007, 2010, 2017), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2009), two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2007, 2010), six-time NFL ALl-Pro (2005, 2007, 2010, 2016, 2017, 2021), 15-time Pro Bowl (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009-18, 2021), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team, AP Male Athlete of the Year (2007), Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2005)
Bottom Line: Tom Brady
Tom Brady went from being a throwaway, sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL Draft to the greatest player in NFL history.
He has started more Super Bowls than any quarterback in NFL history — 10 — and his seven Super Bowl wins are the most by any player. In 2021, at 43 years old, Brady also became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl and did it in his first season with a new team after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2020.
There's a great argument for Brady that you can actually divide his career into two halves and both would land him in the Hall of Fame.