My All-Time NFL Draft Team (Explanations)

Just one more backup to take. I'll write about him when I take him.

Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

I thought waiting until the 5th round for Brady was a better idea than taking Joe Montana, Dan Marino or Johnny Unitas in the first two rounds. Honestly, other than Montana, I think Brady is as good a QB as anyone in the history of the NFL. And he's not very far behind Montana. This comes from someone whose least favorite team is none other than New England. Already has 300 TD passes to just 115 interceptions thrown and should still have three or four more years of solid production. Three-time Super Bowl winner, five Super Bowl game appearances. When he was winning three Super Bowls, his best wide receiver was Deion Branch. Will be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot someday.

Running Back: Tony Dorsett, Dallas Cowboys

Earl Campbell was going to be the pick, but then he went off the board. So I waited a couple rounds and still ended up with a great one in Round 16. Before Emmitt Smith was on his way to breaking all kinds of records in Dallas, #33 was toting the rock for the Cowboys. Dorsett wasn't the biggest guy, but he "glided" down the field and was even a pretty tough inside runner considering he wasn't huge. Also a very good pass catcher out of the backfield. His record run of 99 yards on Monday night against Minnesota is a record that will never be surpassed, it will only be matched. In 8 of his first 9 NFL seasons, Tony ran for over 1000 yards with the only non-1000 yard season coming in the strike shortened season of 1982. Part of the Cowboys Super Bowl XII winning team as a rookie. First-ballot Hall of Famer.

Wide Receiver: Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

Not much to say about Rice that hasn't already been mentioned. Was drafted out of tiny Mississippi Valley State by the Niners in 1985. Went onto catch 1549 passes for 22895 and 197 of those catches were for touchdowns. Even at ages 39 and 40 when playing for the Raiders, Rice put up seasons no receiver today would be ashamed of. At age 39, he caught 83 balls for 1139 yards and had 9 TD receptions. At age 40, he caught 92 balls for 1211 yards and had 7 TD receptions. Nobody worked as hard as the 13-time Pro Bowler and 12-time First team-All Pro. Won three Super Bowls during his time with the 49ers and appeared in another with the Oakland Raiders. Jerry Rice was obviously my first round pick. Rice was also terrific at getting yards after the catch. First ballot Hall of Famer. Member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Wide Receiver: Tim Brown, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders

Rice wasn't the only great wide receiver in the state of California during his career. In much quieter fashion, Tim Brown was putting up amazing stats in his own right. While he isn't in the Hall of Fame yet, he will certainly one day be there. Over an outstanding 16-year career, Brown caught 1094 passes for 14934 yards and added 100 touchdown catches to those totals. My reason for selecting him though wasn't only the raw numbers, but also to give Tom Brady his true deep threat down the field. In addition to being a great receiver, Brown also did a lot of kick/punt returning as well.

Wide Receiver: Wes Welker, New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins

Were there better receivers on the board when I was making my Round 25 pick? You bet. However, drafting Welker was a no-brainer for me considering the great chemistry he and Tom Brady have with one another. Wes was primarily a return specialist in Miami, but since being dealt to New England, his career has taken off like a rocket. When Welker hasn't missed any time in New England due to serious injury, he has caught 112, 111, 123 and 122 balls respectively in those four years. Even in the year when he did suffer a serious injury, he was still able to pull down 86 balls. Being a slot receiver who will make the tough catches over the middle and having the chemistry with Brady, this was a perfect fit for what my team was looking for. Four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time First-team All-Pro since taking his act to Foxboro.

Tight End: Jackie Smith, St. Louis Cardinals

I passed on a better receiving tight end in Round 17 in Ozzie Newsome because I wanted a guy at this position who could not only catch balls, but was also an excellent blocker. Mike Ditka was the guy I targeted earlier, but once that plan backfired and Dave Casper was taken one pick before my pick in the 17th Round, Jackie Smith was exactly the man I wanted. Over the course of his career, Smith caught 480 passes for 7918 yards and 40 touchdown receptions. Just as importantly though, like I said, Smith was an excellent blocking tight end. He can serve as both a security blanket for Brady and essentially like a sixth offensive lineman (granted an undersized one). Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 after a 16 year playing career.

Left Tackle: Gary Zimmerman, Minnesota Vikings/Denver Broncos

It was the 7th round and I hadn't yet started on my offensive line. With a lot of the true left tackles off the board, I went scrambling to try and find one. Luckily I remembered a guy named Gary Zimmerman, who was one of the better left tackles in his era. He made the All-1980s and All-1990s teams. I nicknamed him "The Quiet One" because this guy was the leader of the Broncos offensive line during their run to the Super Bowl XXXII Super Bowl title and made sure nobody on the Broncos talked to the media. To me, if this cat was good enough to protect the blind side of John Elway and also good enough to be voted to the Football Hall of Fame in 2008, he was good enough for my team. Zimmerman was very effective both pass and run blocking. He was also very humble in his Hall of Fame speech.

Left Guard: Tom Mack, Los Angeles Rams

It was Round 11 and knowing I needed a consistent/steady/durable performer at the left guard spot, Tom Mack seemed to be the best option for me still on the board. He certainly wasn't flashy, but like Gary Zimmerman above, he was tough as nails and solid as both a run and pass blocker. He was the leader along the Rams offensive line during his 13-year career. It took until 21 years after retirement in 1999, but Mack was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not many guards made more Pro Bowls than Mack, he participated in 11 of them.

Center: Jim Ringo, Green Bay Packers/Philadelphia Eagles

Two-time NFL Champion center for the Green Bay Packers and head coach Vince Lombardi, Jim Ringo made up for his lack of size with quickness, intelligence and leadership. A 10-time Pro Bowl selection (seven in Green Bay, three with Philadelphia) and six time All-Pro, Lombardi had this to say about Ringo: "A bigger man might not be able to make the cut-off blocks on our sweeps the way Jim does. The reason Ringo’s the best in the league is because he's quick and he's smart. He runs the offensive line, calls the blocks and he knows what every lineman does on every play." Voted into the Hall of Fame in 1981. I locked up Ringo in Round 18.

Right Guard: Larry Little, Miami Dolphins

Two-time Super Bowl champion who played for the Phins from 1967-1980, Little was an excellent pass blocker and a superb run blocker. He was very intimidating on the sweep block. Coach Don Shula called him "a real inspiration, not just for the way he performs but also for his influence on our younger players." Going undrafted as a free agent out of Bethune-Cookman, Little made five Pro Bowls and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. Larry was taken by me in Round 14 to complete my duo at the offensive guard spots.

Right Tackle: Ron Yary, Minnesota Vikings

When I was strongly considering taking this cat in the 9th round, you can only imagine how ecstatic I was to be able to grab him in the 24th Round. Unlike Larry Little, Ron Yary was expected to be great coming out of college being selected first overall in the 1968 NFL Draft by Minnesota and he lived up to the expectations. A 7-time Pro Bowl selection and 6-time first team All-Pro, how much more can you get out of a 24th round pick? Yary possessed everything you would look for in a great offensive lineman. He had speed, intelligence, size and a great work ethic. He and the Vikings appeared in four Super Bowls over the course of his career, losing all four games, but Yary didn't fall short on the field of being one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

Left Defensive End: Doug Atkins, Chicago Bears

The plan was to select former Packers defensive end Willie Davis, but once that didn't come to fruition, Doug Atkins seemed like an excellent consolation prize in Round 20. He and former Bears coach George Halas weren't the best of friends, but they did have a mutual respect for one another. When Atkins retired, Halas said “There never was a better defensive end." Very high praise. Atkins won two NFL championships, one with the Cleveland Browns in 1953 and then with the Bears in 1962. At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, Atkins was a mammoth. He used the leap-frog move to get after the passer. An 8-time Pro Bowler and 4-time first team All-Pro, Atkins was the total package at the defensive end spot. He made it to the Hall of Fame in 1982. Sacks weren't an official stat until the early 1980s, so while no one knows the exact number, Atkins had at least 100 sacks during his career.

Left Defensive Tackle: Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steelers

With my Round two pick, the plan was to draft the best defensive lineman available. With Reggie White and Deacon Jones off the board, I thought going with the best defensive tackle would make for a better plan than going for the next best defensive end. "Mean Joe" Greene was not only a tough/dominant player for four quarters during the game, but he had the guts to challenge the great Dick Butkus to a fight on the field before a game in 1969 just before the Steelers hit their peak in the 1970s with their "Steel Curtain" Defense. Being a guy who took on double teams throughout his career, Greene was still able to (unofficially) post 78.5 sacks. He was the leader up front for the great "Steel Curtain" defenses. An 11-time Pro Bowl selection and 5-time first team All-Pro, defensive tackles didn't get better/more dominant than "Mean Joe" was. As mean as Joe was on the field, he did have a soft side off the field. He smiled in the classic commercial when the kid gave him a Coke after a tough game. First ballot Hall of Famer and a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Also a four-time Super Bowl winner.

Right Defensive Tackle: Bob Lilly, Dallas Cowboys

Pairing up Mr. Cowboy with "Mean Joe" at the defensive tackle spot in Round 4 was too enticing for me to resist. Bob Lilly was the first ever pick in the history of the Dallas Cowboys and what a pick it was. He went on to become an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and a 7-time All-Pro selection. Mr. Cowboy is a member of both the 1960s and 1970s all-decade teams, a member of the NFL's 75th-Anniversary All-time team. Dallas made two Super Bowls during Lilly's tenure, winning 24-3 over Miami in Super Bowl VI after falling just short 16-13 to Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V the year before. Mr. Cowboy was the leader of the first version of the Cowboys "Doomsday Defense". Lilly finished his career with (unofficially) 94.5 sacks, but like Joe Greene, he took on double and even triple teams to free up teammates to make plays. Mr. Cowboy was elected a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1980.

Right Defensive End: Chris Doleman, Minnesota Vikings/San Francisco 49ers/Atlanta Falcons

With my Round 12 selection, I figured it was time to get a pure pass rusher. Doleman is fourth all-time in QB sacks with 150.5, so he certainly fit what I was looking for. He began his career as an outside linebacker when the Vikings were in a 3-4 defense, but they switched to a 4-3 which moved Doleman to defensive end and the rest is history. Chris recorded 10 or more sacks in eight separate seasons and was a Pro Bowler on eight separate occasions. He was also voted a first team All-Pro four times and is predictably enough on the 1990s All Decade Team. Chris was also able to intercept eight passes over the course of his great career. He just got inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, so congrats to him.

Left Outside Linebacker: Ted Hendricks, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders

One half of my namesake, once Jack Ham was taken, I was going to make sure I didn't lose Hendricks aka "The Mad Stork" , taking him near the beginning of Round 6. Despite being an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, first team All-Pro four times, a member of the 20/20 Club (20 sacks, 20 INTs), being on the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, blocking more field goal/extra points/punts than anyone in history and being a four-time Super Bowl winner, I'm still not sure Ted isn't undersold some by fans and media members alike. Ted was a punishing pass rusher (unofficially 60.5 career sacks), terrific in pass coverage (had 26 interceptions), blocked 25 combined punts/field goal attempts/extra point attempts, a devastating run blocker and an extremely intelligent player. At 6 feet, 7 inches tall, he was a load to handle. On the NFL Films presentation where the top 100 players were ranked (he ranked 82nd which was too low for him), Howie Long called him "one of the smartest guys" he has ever been around. "The Mad Stork" was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

Middle Linebacker: Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers

The other half of my namesake, I began my linebacker core with "Count Dracula In Cleats" with my Round 3 selection. Being part of the greatest draft class ever in 1974 by the Steelers (which also included Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Mike Webster), it is widely thought that adding Jack Lambert is what gave that "Steel Curtain" Defense that leader in the middle to turn them from great to legendary. With (unofficially) 26.5 sacks and 23 interceptions, Lambert is another member of that 20 sack/20 interception club. If you see a mean-looking guy with a toothless snarl in the middle of that "Steel Curtain" Defense, odds are you are glaring straight into the eyes of Jack Lambert. Considering by some to be too small to play linebacker in the NFL, "Dracula On Cleats" proved those people wrong. It's true that Jack wasn't the biggest man on the field, but he prided himself on intimidating opposing offensive players with his very hard hits. A 9-time Pro Bowl selection and 7-time First Team All-Pro selection, there may never have been and may never be a tougher player who will ever play in the NFL than this guy. Denver Broncos QB John Elway had this to say about Jack Lambert after his first career pro game: "He had no teeth, and he was slobbering all over himself. I'm thinking, 'You can have your money back, just get me out of here. Let me go be an accountant." I can't tell you how badly I wanted out of there." Amazing. Jack was of course inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1990.

Right Outside Linebacker: Chris Hanburger, Washington Redskins

Missing out on Jack Ham was slightly less upsetting when I was able to snag one of the most underrated players in NFL history to round out my linebacker core in Chris Hanburger in Round 14. He is very close to being a member of that exclusive 20/20 Club in his own right with 46 career sacks and 19 interceptions. Hanburger was tiny coming out of college from UNC at under 220 pounds, but he didn't let it stop him from becoming one of the all-time greats. He was part of those dominating Redskins defenses from the 1970s. Nicknamed "The Hangman" for his usage of the clothesline tackle, Hanburger was a 9-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro selection four times. Also, ex-New England Patriot John Hannah, who many consider to be the greatest offensive guard of all-time, had this to say about Hanburger: “He was at that time the smartest player in the league. We did everything we could to try to eliminate him from the play. We knew if we didn't neutralize him, then we had less of a chance of winning.” You would think "The Hangman" would be a first ballot Hall of Famer given all this information, right? Nope, not even close. He was finally elected to the Hall of Fame via the Senior Committee in 2011. This guy very much deserves his place in the Hall of Fame, it's just too bad it took so long for him to get it.

Left Cornerback: Jimmy Johnson, San Francisco 49ers

When a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a Hall of Fame inductee (class of 1994) is most likely the "weak link" in your secondary, you know you have drafted a pretty good secondary. This Jimmy Johnson is widely regarded as one of the best man-to-man defensive corners in the history of the NFL. He had 47 career picks. Most quarterbacks just chose to stay away from him and attack the other side of the 49ers defensive secondary. Johnson began his 49er career as a safety and had a couple great moments as a wide receiver; one was an 80-yard TD reception against the Chicago Bears and against the Detroit Lions in 1962, had 181 receiving yards. He was named to 5 Pro Bowls and named All-Pro four times. Won the George Halas Award in 1971 for courageous play and twice won the Len Eshmont Award given by the Niners to players for inspirational play. Had Johnson not been a great football player, he would potentially have had a future as a track and field star. He ran the high hurdles in 13.9 seconds and did a 25-foot broad jump during his track and field career at college during his days at UCLA. This was my 19th round selection.

Free Safety: Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants

Emlen Tunnell may have been the first true "ballhawking" safety in NFL history. He was also the first African-American player in NFL history to not only be offered a contract by the New York Giants, but he was also the first African-American to ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. He was inducted on his very first year of eligibility. A 9-time Pro Bowl selection and 4-time first team All-Pro, Tunnell made his mark with 79 career interceptions. He retired as the all-time interceptions leader obviously. That record has since been surpassed by former Minnesota Vikings safety Paul Krause, but his 79 picks are still good enough for second place on that list. Not only did Tunnell star as a ballhawking safety, he was also quite a special teams player. He went undrafted out of Iowa because most teams expected him to stay in college another year at the time. Tunnell won two NFL Championships, one with the Giants in 1956 and another in 1961 during the twilight years of his career with the Green Bay Packers. Snagged him up with a Round 10 selection.

Strong Safety: Ken Houston, Houston Oilers/Washington Redskins

Quite arguably the second best safety to play the game other than Ronnie Lott, Ken Houston made 12 straight Pro Bowl appearances from 1968-1979. He was not only a terrific pass defender with 46 career interceptions, but this guy was also an excellent tackler. The Washington Redskins thought of Houston as "pro football's most underrated superstar." Ken Houston returned 12 balls for touchdowns over the course of his outstanding career. Nine of them via interception, one via punt return, one on a fumble return and one on a blocked field goal. He is a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time team and a first ballot Hall of Famer, being elected to Canton in 1986. Also of note, Houston came up with 21 fumble recoveries.

Right Cornerback: Willie Brown, Denver Broncos/Oakland Raiders

The second of two famous guys named Willie to come from Yazoo, Mississippi (author Willie Morris the other one), this Willie made his mark on a football field rather than as an author like Willie Morris did. It was not as east a start to an NFL career for Brown as it was for some. He went undrafted after a college career at Grambling State and then was cut by the Houston Oilers after they signed him to a deal. He caught on with the Denver Broncos and the rest is history. Willie Brown is on the all-time AFL team making the AFL All-Star Game five times (twice with the Broncos, three times with the Raiders) before the Oakland Raiders moved to the NFL where he would make four Pro Bowl appearances. He was a big playmaker defensively with 54 career interceptions. Just as importantly, he made big plays at the right time. In Super Bowl XI against the Minnesota Vikings, Brown returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown. First ballot Hall of Famer in 1984. If you have seen the kid-themed football movie Little Giants, former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden made a cameo appearance and just as he was leaving to go to the Football Hall of Fame, he mentioned how he won a Super Bowl and had some guys on his team that nobody wanted. Obviously Willie Brown was one of those guys... at least coming out of college he was. By then though, Brown was established as one of the best ever.

Kicker: Morten Andersen, New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons

Nicknamed "The Great Dane", Andersen is the all-time leading scorer in NFL history. He has made the most field goals in team history for both the Saints and Falcons. 7-time Pro Bowl selection and 6-time first team All-Pro selection.

Punter: Andy Lee, San Francisco 49ers

Other than Shane Lechler, there hasn't been a better punter in the NFL the last five years. 3-time Pro Bowl selection in 2007, 2009 and 2011. He was first team All-Pro in those years also.

Head Coach: Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers

The plan was to pair up Tom Brady with his coach Bill Belichick, but once he was taken, it was a good thing I essentially had a plan 1A in mind with Chuck Noll, the only head coach in NFL history to this point to win four Super Bowl titles. That was done over a six year span as Noll's Steelers won Super Bowl IX, Super Bowl X, Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV. Those wins came over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV and the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowls X and XIII. Noll mostly relied on that "Steel Curtain Defense" to win those Super Bowls. I have two of them in Greene and Lambert. Then I have 10 other guys that didn't play for Noll, but he'd be more than happy to have. All of them played during Chuck's coaching era with the exception of Emlen Tunnell. While Noll loved to rely on the running game and Franco Harris, he was also more than willing to let Terry Bradshaw air it out to the likes of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth once Bradshaw got better later on in his career sorta how Bill Belichick has let Tom Brady do the same. Given that and the fact that Noll will be coaching some of the best defensive players from his prime era, he is the perfect coach for my team. Noll also helped assemble the best draft class ever in the 1974 NFL Draft. With his guidance, the Steelers took Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.

Backup: Franco Harris, Fullback, Pittsburgh Steelers

While taking backup players was mostly for fun, Franco Harris would essentially be like another starter on this team. His power running game would combine perfectly with the speed/agility/toughness of Tony Dorsett. Weighing in at 230 pounds, he would just wear down defenses over time. Splitting carries between Harris and Dorsett will help keep both men fresh, especially come the 4th quarter when our team is cruising to win after win and wanted to run that clock out. Chuck Noll would hand the ball to Harris just under 2900 times and he ran for just under 12000 yards during his time with the Steelers. Franco also caught 306 balls out of the backfield for Pittsburgh, so he wasn't a slouch as a pass catcher, either. This was essentially a Chuck Noll pick. He was in the war room with me screaming to take Harris. Good thing he and I were on the same page. Harris was a 9-time Pro Bowl selection and was named first team All-Pro once. First ballot Hall of Famer in 1990 after one year with the Seattle Seahawks in 1984. Was on the receiving end of "The Immaculate Reception."

Backup: Elvin Bethea, DE, Houston Oilers

While Bethea may have mostly played in a 3-4 scheme during his career, he did play some in a 4-3 and this was a value that was simply too good to pass up in the free agent round. An 8-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time first team All-Pro, Elvin Bethea got the job done both against the run and the pass. He unofficially recorded 105 sacks during his career. I can see myself getting him into the game at any position along the defensive line. 3-4 defensive ends can always make the transition to a 4-3 defensive tackle, so I love the toughness and versatility he will bring to my team. Bethea was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Backup: Rod Smith, WR, Denver Broncos

Really wanted to snag Hines Ward as he is considered the greatest run blocker in NFL history, but Rod Smith brings very similar qualities to the table. He was not only a terrific pass catcher recording 849 career receptions for 11389 yards and 67 TD catches, but he was more than willing to do the "dirty work", i.e. blocking down field. This guy really had to work his way up as an undrafted free agent out of tiny Missouri Southern State where he was very good. The New England Patriots were the first to sign him as a UDFA and while he got released, he got picked up by Denver and was a mainstay on their roster until his retirement. Rod will probably have a tough time making it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame given that guys with better statistics haven't made it, but he will be inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame this coming season. The selection of Rod Smith gives me my second undrafted free agent at the wide receiver position (Wes Welker the other one) who will not be flashy, but be integral parts of this team. He of course was a part of Denver's two Super Bowl winning teams.

Backup: Lou Creekmur, OG/OT, Detroit Lions

Even though this pick was also only a backup, it's one of my favorite picks. Lou Creekmur is a guy who was excellent at both pass protection and run blocking but also had the versatility to play both tackle and guard. Creekmur was an 8-time Pro Bowl selection and a 7-time first team All-Pro who played on three NFL championship teams with the Lions from 1950-1959. It took 37 years after his retirement, but he was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

Backup: Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The first overall pick of the 1970 NFL Draft out of Louisiana Tech, Terry Bradshaw was the QB for the Steelers during their great run in the 1970s. Stats may not look great with 212 TD passes and nearly as many interceptions thrown with 210, but you have to keep in mind that until the Mel Blount Rule was implemented, wide receivers were not given nearly the protection they are today. In addition to having a very strong arm and being a great leader calling his own plays, Terry was also a good scrambling QB. He played his best in the Super Bowl games winning two Super Bowl MVPs throwing for 932 yards, 9 TD passes and four interceptions combined over all four Super Bowls Terry and the Steelers played in, which FYI, they won all four of them. Terry Bradshaw retired in 1984 and was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1990.

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