|Ray Nitschke was the first member of the Packers defense of the 1960s to be enshrined into Canton.|
With the 2012 NFL Draft just three short weeks away, we're looking at the some of the greatest draft picks in league history.
With a total of 10 current members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one to be enshrined this summer (Curtis Martin), the third round has boasted a tremendous amount of talent. A number of current or recently retired star players also were drafted in the third round, a list that includes Justin Tuck (2005), Jason Witten (2003), Brian Westbrook (2002), Steve Smith (2001), Hines Ward (1998), Ronde Barber (1997), Mike Vrabel (1997) and Tedy Bruschi (1996).
Defensive back, Southern
1970 NFL Draft: 53rd overall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Steelers built a dynasty with a series of phenomenal picks in the drafts of the early 1970s. Selecting the prototypical shutdown cornerback of the era -- Blount -- in the third round helped the Steelers become the dominant team of the '70s. Blount's aggressive bump-and-run coverage helped inspire rule changes in the late 70s to prevent the overpowering of receivers by players such as 6-foot-3, 225-pound Blount. Blount was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1989.
1973 NFL Draft: 64th overall (San Diego Chargers)
As the triggerman in Don Coryell's revolutionary offense in San Diego, Fouts helped transform the Chargers into one of the most-feared scoring machines in NFL history. From 1979 through 1981, Fouts threw for more than 4,000 yards each season. Fouts became the first QB to approach that yardage total in three straight seasons, and in 1979 was just the second passer ever to accomplish that total (Joe Namath, 1967). Fouts was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Linebacker, West Virginia
1956 NFL Draft: 30th overall (New York Giants)
Huff's career coincided with the coming of age of the NFL. Playing in the media center that is New York City, Huff was the first NFL player to appear on the cover of Time Magazine and was the topic of a television special titled, "The Violent World of Sam Huff." Huff played in six NFL championship games, and was known for his hard-hitting encounters with two of the greatest running backs of all-time, Jim Brown and Jim Taylor. Huff was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Quarterback, Notre Dame
1979 NFL Draft: 82nd overall (San Francisco 49ers)
Aside from the Patriots selecting Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 draft, there might not be a bigger draft steal at the quarterback position than the 49ers getting Montana with the final pick in the third round in 1979. Montana's list of accomplishments is extensive, but the most impressive could be the four Super Bowl victories and three Super Bowl MVP awards. Montana was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000.
1958 NFL Draft: 36th overall (Green Bay Packers)
The Packers' draft class of 1958 ranks as one of the all-time best, with the team selecting Hall of Famers in back-to-back rounds. After picking RB Jim Taylor in the second round, the Packers got Nitschke in the third. Nitschke was the cornerstone of a defensive unit that helped the Packers win five NFL championships over seven seasons in the 1960s. Nitschke attained his place in Canton in 1978.
Wide receiver, Tennessee-Chattanooga
1996 NFL Draft: 89th overall (San Francisco 49ers)
Equally talented as he is controversial, Owens quickly became one of the most polarizing figures in the entire league. Flamboyant touchdown celebrations became Owens' trademark. But Owens was also extremely productive, currently ranking No. 2 on the all-time receiving yardage list and all-time receiving touchdown list, and sixth on the all-time receptions list.
Offensive tackle, Maryland Eastern Shore
1968 NFL Draft: 80th overall (Oakland Raiders)
Shell emerged from special teams contributor early in his career to become one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history. Shell earned all-NFL honors four times, was selected to eight Pro Bowls and started in two Super Bowls -- both wins -- for the Raiders. Shell was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1989.
Offensive tackle, Jackson State
1976 NFL Draft: 86th overall (Los Angeles Rams)
Talk about a value pick for the Rams ... Slater anchored the team's offensive line for two decades. When Slater retired following the 1995 season, Slater's 259 games played ranked third all-time and the most ever for an offensive linemen. Slater was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2001.
Wide receiver, Georgia
1961 NFL Draft: 29th overall (Minnesota Vikings)
The expansion Vikings found their quarterback for 13 of the next 18 seasons in their first draft. Known for being an elusive scrambler, Tarkenton also excelled as a passer, retiring as the NFL's all-time leader in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. Tarkenton also led the Vikings to three of their four Super Bowl appearances. Tarkenton was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Defensive end, Akron
1997 NFL Draft: 73rd overall (Miami Dolphins)
Taylor was one of the most dangerous pass rushers of his era. Taylor retired following the 2011 season as the NFL's all-time leader in fumbles returned for touchdowns (6) and ranked sixth all-time in sacks (139.5). Taylor registered six seasons with double-digit sack totals.