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Who is the greatest first-round pick of all time?

  • By Jim Reineking NFL.com
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Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
Peyton Manning is the only four-time MVP winner in league history.

With the 2012 NFL Draft just a week away, we're looking at the some of the greatest draft picks in league history.

A total of 95 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been selected in the first round of the draft. In order to narrow this list down to the top 10, we used the "Top 100" all-time countdown that aired on NFL Network in the fall of 2010 as a guide. Players selected before the first AFL-NFL combined draft in 1967 were also not considered. The result: 10 of the greatest players to ever play the game.

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Who's the best first-rounder?
Lawrence Taylor is considered by many to be the greatest defensive player ever, but is he also the greatest first-round draft pick of all-time? Vote for your pick on Facebook. More ...

John Elway
Quarterback, Stanford
1983 NFL Draft: First overall (Baltimore Colts)
Elway refused to sign with the Colts when he was selected at the top of the famous 1983 draft, which also featured Hall of Fame QBs Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. Elway was traded to the Denver Broncos, and he guided the team to five Super Bowl appearances and two victories. He was also famous for the fourth-quarter comeback, which he successfully executed a record 47 times. Elway was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

"Mean" Joe Greene
Defensive tackle, North Texas
1969 NFL Draft: Fourth overall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Steelers started constructing their 1970s dynasty with the selection of Greene in 1969. Greene was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 10-time Pro Bowl selection. Greene was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

Ray Lewis
Linebacker, Miami
1996 NFL Draft: 26th overall (Baltimore Ravens)
For a new team bringing football back to Baltimore, the Ravens quickly established an identity with their first draft class. In one of the greatest draft classes in league history, the Ravens picked Jonathan Ogden at No. 4 overall and Lewis at No. 26. Lewis emerged as the team's emotional leader, a stature he enjoys to this day.

Ronnie Lott
Defensive back, Southern California
1981 NFL Draft: Eighth overall (San Francisco 49ers)
Lott started at cornerback as a rookie in 1981, and his play was a big reason why the 49ers emerged as Super Bowl champions that season. Later in his career, in 1985, Lott switched to safety, where he earned a reputation as one of the league's most-feared hitters. Lott ultimately earned four Super Bowl rings with the 49ers, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.

Peyton Manning
Quarterback, Tennessee
1998 NFL Draft: First overall (Indianapolis Colts)
Before a neck injury sidelined Manning for the 2011 season, he threw for 4,000 or more yards in 11 of 13 seasons. The bounty of statistical prowess, added to the Colts' on-field success and helped make Manning the only four-time MVP winner in league history. Manning led the Colts to two Super Bowls, winning one, before moving on to the Broncos in 2012.

Anthony Munoz
Offensive tackle, Southern California
1980 NFL Draft: Third overall (Cincinnati Bengals)
Considered by many to be the premier offensive tackle of his era, Munoz was a cornerstone player for a Cincinnati team that won three AFC Central titles and appeared in two Super Bowls during his 13 seasons. During that time, Munoz also earned 11 Pro Bowl nods and was selected to the NFL's 75th anniversary team. Munoz was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Walter Payton
Running back, Jackson State
1975 NFL Draft: Fourth overall (Chicago Bears)
Payton retired as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, accumulating 16,726 yards on the ground for the Bears, and also once held the NFL's single-game rushing record with 275 yards. In his 13 seasons in the league, Payton played in 186 consecutive games, and rushed for 1,000 or more yards in 10 of those seasons. Payton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Jerry Rice
Wide receiver, Mississippi Valley State
1985 NFL Draft: 16th overall (San Francisco 49ers)
Rice was drafted out of little-known Mississippi Valley State and retired owning every significant receiving mark. He also has a record 208 total touchdowns and 23,546 combined net yards. Rice's amazing accomplishments earned the receiver the No. 1 spot in the "Top 100" all-time players countdown. Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

Barry Sanders
Running back, Oklahoma State
1989 NFL Draft: Third overall (Detroit Lions)
En route to becoming the first player to rush for 1,000 or more yards in his first 10 seasons, Sanders was the most electrifying and exciting running back in the game. He led the league in rushing four times and earned league MVP honors in 1997 after rushing for 2,053 yards. Sanders was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

Lawrence Taylor
Linebacker, North Carolina
1981 NFL Draft: Second overall (New York Giants)
Taylor is considered by many to be the greatest defensive player in league history, checking in at No. 3 in the "Top 100" all-time players countdown behind only Rice and the immortal Jim Brown. Taylor was a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner and earned league MVP honors in 1986, becoming the first defensive player to earn such honors since 1971 (Alan Page). Taylor was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

• Greatest draft picks by round: Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth | Sixth | Seventh


 

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