All-time teams by draft round

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports
All-time teams by draft round
Rookie Bears RB Walter Payton scores in a win against the Lions in 1975

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With the NFL draft expanding to three days this year, the disparity in talent from one day to the next will be noticeable. The same is true when you take a look at players drafted at each round through the years.

Here are the best teams you could put together by round since 1967, when the NFL and the AFL combined for the first "common" draft and expanded the first round to 26 picks. In other words, those who are the best players drafted at each position in the first round only, then the second round and so on.

But understand that this is only since 1967. That means that some all-time greats can't be included. There's no Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas or Deacon Jones. All of them were drafted before 1967.

The final team is from a wide-open category. Because the NFL no longer drafts players after the seventh round on (it discontinued the eighth round after 1993), the final team is made up of players who were either taken in the eighth round, later or were undrafted.

Finally, there's an old saying that good players can be found in any round. While that's literally true, these teams should prove that finding a lot of good players after the first couple of rounds isn't easy.

*Hall of Famer


Offense Defense
QB John Elway '83* DE Bruce Smith '85*
RB Walter Payton '75* DE Jack Youngblood '71*
RB Earl Campbell '78* DT Alan Page '67*
WR Jerry Rice '85* DT Joe Greene '69*
WR Randy Moss '98 LB Junior Seau '90
TE Ozzie Newsome '78* LB Ray Lewis '96
OT Anthony Munoz '80* LB Lawrence Taylor '81*
OT Jonathan Ogden '96 CB Mike Haynes '76*
G Gene Upshaw '67* CB Deion Sanders '89
G John Hannah '73* S Rod Woodson '87*
C Bruce Matthews '83* S Ronnie Lott '81*

That's 17 Hall of Famers and a bunch of Hall members who didn't make the cut. There are also some guys, like Deion Sanders, who are likely just biding their time. And for all you Troy Aikman, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning fans – save your emails about my choice of Elway. He might still be drafted ahead of those guys if you made them all 22 again. Beyond quarterback, there were some other brutal decisions. The running back position is loaded with the likes of Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith not making the cut and LaDainian Tomlinson not even making the discussion. At tight end, Newsome edged Kellen Winslow Sr. At guard, Steve Hutchinson is still playing and some consider him better than Hannah or Upshaw, but their résumés are better. Defensive end is rough because Deacon Jones doesn't qualify (he was drafted in 1961) and Reggie White was technically never drafted. Junior Seau gets the nod over Derrick Thomas. Regardless, it's an awesome team.


Offense Defense
QB Brett Favre '91 DE Fred Dean '75*
RB Thurman Thomas '88* DE Mike Strahan '93
RB Roger Craig '83 DT Howie Long '81*
WR Chad Ochocinco '01 DT Fred Smerlas '79
WR Wesley Walker '77 LB Jack Ham '71*
TE Dave Casper '74* LB Jack Lambert '74*
OT Dan Dierdorf '71* LB Rickey Jackson '81*
OT John Elliott '88 CB Eric Allen '88
G Steve Wisniewski '89 CB Lem Barney '67*
G Larry Allen '94 S Brian Dawkins '96
C Dwight Stephenson '80* S Tim McDonald '87

Analysis: First, notice that the number of Hall of Famers drops significantly. It goes from 17 (and more to come) in the first round to 10 (and likely a couple more with Favre and Strahan) in the second round. That said, there are four Hall of Fame linebackers who didn't make the cut. The depth at that position is ridiculous, better than even the first round. Willie Lanier, Mike Singletary, Ted Hendricks and Andre Tippett fell short of Ham, Lambert and Jackson. Also, the competition for the second defensive tackle spot was fierce between Smerlas, Louis Kelcher, Doug English, Julius Adams and Leonard Marshall. Safety was a tough pick among Dawkins, McDonald, Darren Woodson and Darren Sharper. Obviously quarterback Drew Brees is a notable second-round pick, but he's a long way from making the team over Favre.


Offense Defense
QB Joe Montana '79* DE Harvey Martin '73
RB Brian Westbrook '02 DE Elvin Bethea '68*
RB Curtis Martin '95 DT Henry Thomas '87
WR John Stallworth '74* DT Darnell Dockett '04
WR Terrell Owens '96 LB Pat Swilling '86
TE Charlie Sanders '68* LB Tedy Bruschi '96
OT Art Shell '68* LB Joey Porter '99
OT Jackie Slater '76* CB Mel Blount '70*
G Will Shields '93 CB Albert Lewis '83
G Russ Grimm '81* S John Lynch '93
C Mark Stepnoski '89 S Charlie Waters '70

Analysis: Any team starting off with the greatest quarterback this side of Unitas can't be bad and this squad certainly is representative of some quality players. That includes eight Hall of Famers. However, the depth is decidedly short and the competition for spots often comes down to two players for one spot rather than three or four. For instance, the battle for a wide receiver spot goes from Stallworth to Owens to Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers to John Taylor. That's a pretty substantial fall. At defensive end, the second spot behind Bethea is a pretty interesting debate between Harvey Martin and Jason Taylor. Taylor is a better all-around athlete, but Martin's career was slightly more successful, in large part because he played for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s. The depth at defensive tackle was pretty limited with Thomas and Dockett edging Joel Steed and Jerry Ball. The safety position came down to a tough call between Waters, Lynch and former Chicago Bears stalwart Dave Duerson.


Offense Defense
QB Joe Theismann '71 DE Charles Haley '86
RB Chris Warren '90 DE Jared Allen '04
RB Rudi Johnson '01 DT Joe Phillips '86
WR Steve Largent '76* DT Kevin Fagan '86
WR Charlie Joiner '69* LB Harry Carson '76*
TE Mark Bavaro '85 LB Tom Jackson '73
OT Jon Runyan '96 LB Donnie Edwards '96
OT Steve Wallace '86 CB Anthony Blaylock '88
G Bob Kuechenberg '69 CB Asante Samuel '03
G Tom Rafferty '77 S Rod Perry '75
C Tony Mayberry '90 S Chuck Cecil '88

Analysis: Count 'em up, folks: There's only three Hall of Famers on this squad, which is proof of the adage among NFL execs that teams are really built in the first three rounds. Yes, you can find some gems and nice fill-in players later, but this is the beginning of a very mixed bag of results. The wide receiver position was actually very deep with Andre Reed and Cris Carter falling short of Largent and Joiner. But running back was woeful. The depth at linebacker (Mike Vrabel and William Thomas have nearly identical career stats and achievements as Edwards and Jackson) and defensive end (Lyle Alzado, Dwight White and Tim Harris didn't make the cut) is very good. By contrast, the secondary is downright scary, particularly at cornerback.


Offense Defense
QB Steve Grogan '75 DE Dexter Manley '81
RB Herschel Walker '85 DE Rob Burnett '90
RB Jim Kiick '68 DT La'Roi Glover '96
WR Joe Horn '96 DT Michael Carter '84
WR Tony Martin '89 LB Kevin Greene '85
TE Brent Jones '86 LB Zach Thomas '96
OT David Diehl '03 LB Hardy Nickerson '87
OT Blaine Nye '68 CB Cris Dishman '88
G Conrad Dobler '72 CB Lester Hayes '77
G Larry Lee '81 S Rodney Harrison '94
C Mike Webster '74* S Merton Hanks '91

Analysis: For all those fans who like to point out that teams waste first-round picks on quarterbacks and that great ones can be found later in the draft, take a long look at the top passers of the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. Yeah, you might find Joe Montana or Tom Brady later on, but they are serious long shots. The mean is closer to Grogan and that doesn't really get it done. Aside from quarterback, there are some very interesting players on this team, even if Webster is the only Hall of Famer. Walker's career was largely wasted in the USFL. His name is synonymous with the most lopsided trade in NFL history, and he was on the wrong side of it. Greene was a great pass rusher, but a one-trick pony. Thomas' career is borderline Hall stuff, and Hayes was part of the best cornerback tandem in NFL history with Mike Haynes.


Offense Defense
QB Tom Brady '00 DE Bryce Paup '90
RB Terrell Davis '95 DE Michael Sinclair '91
RB Wilbert Montgomery '77 DT Shawn Lee '88
WR Mel Gray '71 DT Joe Klecko '77
WR Mark Jackson '86 LB Greg Lloyd '87
TE Jay Novacek '85 LB Steve Towle '74
OT Doug Dieken '71 LB Riki Ellison '83
OT Tunch Ilkin '80 CB Ken Riley '68
G Ed Newman '73 CB Dwight Hicks '78
G Keith Bishop '80 S Todd Scott '91
C Matt Birk '98 S Curtis Jordan '76

Analysis: Obviously, the lack of Hall of Fame players in this round will probably be corrected at some point by Brady or perhaps Davis. As the first two players listed on this team, they also give it a much stronger impression than it really deserves. This team (and the seventh-round squad) was hurting for depth at a lot of spots. The next best wide receiver after Mark Jackson was Bobby Duckworth and Duckworth's career stats look like one great season. Many of these players are glorified situational guys. The cornerback spot did have competition among three solid players with Riley, Hicks and Al Harris. But that's about it.


Offense Defense
QB Pat Haden '75 DE Michael McCrary '93
RB Bo Jackson '87 DE Carl Hairston '76
RB Jamal Anderson '94 DT Leon Lett '91
WR Harold Carmichael '71 DT Dan Saleauma '87
WR Donald Driver '94 LB Steve Busich '81
TE Shannon Sharpe '90 LB David Griggs '89
OT Cody Risien '79 LB Mike Hegman '75
OT Max Montoya '79 CB Louis Breeden '77
G Rayfield Wright '67* CB Cortland Finnegan '06
G Adam Timmerman '95 S Jake Scott '70
C Tom Nalen '94 S Brock Marion '93

Analysis: OK, for all of you who are impressed by names like Jackson, Driver, Sharpe and Lett, take a really good look at the first name on the list: Haden. Yep, that's as good as it gets in this round at quarterback and that's not going to win you a lot of games. Likewise, the linebackers aren't good. In fact, it's really sort of cheating to include Jackson, who might be the greatest all-around athlete in our country's history. He was originally the No. 1 overall pick in 1986 by Tampa Bay, but refused to sign with the team. He used baseball as his leverage to get out of that and was redrafted the next year. His injury-shortened career is a highlight reel of one spectacular play after another in both sports. Man, what could have been.


Offense Defense
QB Warren Moon '78* DE Richard Dent '83
RB Priest Holmes '97 DE Clyde Simmons '86
RB Earnest Byner '84 DT John Randle '90*
WR Keenan McCardell '91 DT Larry Brooks '72
WR Dwight Clark '79 LB Mark Maddox '91
TE Antonio Gates '03 LB Karl Mecklenburg '83
OT Howard Ballard '87 LB James Harrison '02
OT Jason Peter '04 CB Everson Walls '81
G Ray Brown '86 CB Joe Lavender '73
G Mark Schlereth '89 S Ken Houston '67*
C Jesse Sapolu '83 S Donnie Shell '74

Analysis: Don't make too much of the fact that there are three Hall of Fame players on this squad (Dent may make a fourth some day). That's three out of essentially an unlimited pool of players. Unlike the first seven rounds, which have had a finite number of players selected (drafted and signed as free agents) since 1967, the number of guys in this group is infinite. That makes comparison unfair. Also, NFL executives now roundly accept the stupidity of not drafting Moon and essentially forcing him to play in the CFL. There were a couple of tough choices. Brooks edged Tim Krumrie and Pat Williams for the second defensive tackle spot. Solid linebackers like Scott Studwell, Rod Martin and Seth Joyner didn't make it. Finally, Shell edged Gary Fencik for the second safety. But the depth at certain positions is not good. Running back falls pretty far after Holmes and Byner edged Terry Allen. The offensive line is made up of a lot of solid guys with huge flaws. After Everson Walls, cornerbacks are non-existent.