|Thurman Thomas retired as the NFL's ninth-ranked all-time leading rusher with 12,074 yards.|
With the 2012 NFL Draft just two short weeks away, we're looking at the some of the greatest draft picks in league history.
With a total of 16 current members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one surefire future enshrinee (Brett Favre), and a host of other retired players who could one day find their place in Canton, the second round has predictably produced a tremendous amount of talent.
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Offensive tackle, Sonoma State
1994 NFL Draft: 46th overall (Dallas Cowboys)
As the anchor for the Cowboys' sturdy offensive line of the 1990s, Allen helped pave the way for Emmitt Smith to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher and was a part of Dallas' third Super Bowl win in the decade. Allen was the first player ever drafted from tiny Sonoma State. Allen earned recognition as the 95th greatest player in NFL history in the NFL Network special "Top 100 Greatest Players."
2001 NFL Draft: 32nd overall (San Diego Chargers)
The "Cradle of Quarterbacks" -- Purdue University -- has produced two Pro Football Hall of Famers (Len Dawson and Bob Griese) and Brees appears to be the next in the lineage of excellence. Brees shattered school and conference passing records with the Boilermakers, but questions about his size haunted his draft status. Brees fell to the Chargers at the top of the second round and in the decade since has built a resume worthy of Canton with the most important accolade being the victory and MVP award in Super Bowl XLIV.
Quarterback, Southern Mississippi
1991 NFL Draft: 33rd overall (Atlanta Falcons)
Things didn't quite work out in Atlanta, but a 1992 trade to Green Bay catapulted the gunslinging quarterback to greatness. After replacing injured QB Don Majkowski early in 1992, Favre embarked on a remarkable consecutive games streak that didn't come to an end until 2010. When he finally officially retired, Favre owned nearly every career passing record of note.
Quarterback, Notre Dame
2006 NFL Draft: 52nd overall (Green Bay Packers)
Jennings is a major cog in one of the NFL's most potent offensive machines. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Jennings has recorded 1,000-yard receiving seasons three times. Jennings' most notable accomplishment came in the most important game of his career -- Super Bowl XLV. Jennings caught two touchdown passes, and also had a critical late-game third-down reception that helped secure the Packers' fourth Super Bowl victory and NFL-record 13th championship.
Linebacker, Kent State
1974 NFL Draft: 46th overall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Epic scores in the draft made a dynasty out of the Steelers in the 1970s. The intense Lambert turned into the emotional leader of the Steelers' fierce Steel Curtain defense. Lambert was selected to nine consecutive Pro Bowls, and also earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1976. Lambert was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Defensive end, Villanova
1981 NFL Draft: 48th overall (Oakland Raiders)
The second round of the 1981 draft produced three future Hall of Famers (Mike Singletary and Rickey Jackson were the others). Long joined the Raiders the year after the team won Super Bowl XV, but three years later was a major contributor for a squad that won Super Bowl XVIII. Long had a career-high 13 sacks in that 1983 championship season for the Raiders. Long finished his career with 84 sacks, a total that did not include sacks registered in his rookie season since it wasn't an official statistic at the time. Long was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Running back, Rutgers
2008 NFL Draft: 55th overall (Baltimore Ravens)
In his brief time in the NFL, Rice has made a profound impact for one of the NFL's perennial contenders. Rice is already the Ravens' second-leading all-time rusher (4,377). Rice has registered 1,000-yard rushing seasons the previous three years, including a career-high 1,364 yards in 2011, which also included Rice's first career TD pass.
1981 NFL Draft: 38th overall (Chicago Bears)
As the leader of the Bears' staunch defense of the 1980s, Singletary earned 10 Pro Bowl berths, was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and finished as his team's first or second leading tackler in each of his last 11 seasons. In 1985, Singletary led a defense that allowed fewer than 11 points per game as the Bears went on to win Super Bowl XX. Singletary was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Defensive end, Texas Southern
1993 NFL Draft: 40th overall (New York Giants)
Strahan recorded six double-digit sack seasons, including an NFL-record 22.5 sacks in 2001. Strahan was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in that record-setting season, and few defensive ends were more dominant in his era. Strahan retired on top after the Giants pulled off the shocking upset of the previously unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
Running back, Oklahoma State
1988 NFL Draft: 40th overall (Buffalo Bills)
Thomas led the NFL in yards from scrimmage a record four consecutive seasons and earned the league's Most Valuable Player award in 1991. His production fueled the Bills' explosive K-Gun offense, which enjoyed four consecutive Super Bowl appearances with three future Hall of Famers (Jim Kelly and James Lofton were the others) in the lineup. Thomas was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2007.
â¢ Greatest draft picks by round: Third | Fourth | Fifth | Sixth | Seventh