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All-time 2015 draft: Steve Young to Bucs; Jim Brown to Jags


Admit it. No matter how big a football fan you are, no matter how voracious your appetite for mock drafts might be, you're a little tired of hearing the "Winston or Mariota" debate.

Don't feel bad. You're still a good draftnik. This sort of thing is inevitable. For all the blind optimism, realized dreams and bilious skepticism that make the NFL draft the sports world's best non-sporting event, there simply aren't enough actually transformational eligible draftees to sustain half-a-year's worth of compelling debate over which uber-talented 21-year-old might be a sliver of a fraction of a whisker better than one or three of his peers.

But what if we weren't beholden to just this year's crop of eligible draftees? What if we could expand the talent pool from 2015 prospects to humans from all of man's recorded history? Specifically, I'm talking about the best football-playing humans ever -- the game's all-time greatest stars available for drafting at the age they departed college. Of course, we'd need to bend the properties of space and time to make this happen ... but I've got connections.

With that in mind, I give you the All-Time Draft of 2015: Within, you'll find the NFL's actual draft order with the teams' actual needs (as determined by NFL Media draft guru Bucky Brooks). Again, the only difference between the real draft and ours is here, teams can pick anyone in history rather than being limited to the current draft-eligible collegians.

A few important guidelines before we begin:

The Real Brady Rule
No current NFL players can be taken.

Because these picks are based on current roster needs, we can't take active players. Those guys are already on teams and, for all their talents, Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and J.J. Watt can't be in two places at once. (Well, maybe Watt could figure it out ... but still.)

The No Ordinary Joe Montana Rule
Players are evaluated on their college deeds ONLY.

We've attempted to fill teams' actual needs with all-time greats, but based our choices exclusively on what the football world knew about those legends as they came out of school. If we applied what we now know about them, we'd simply have a ranking of the NFL's top 32 players of all time. Of course Joe Montana would be among the top picks in any draft, but only if we knew he'd go on to win four Super Bowls. Where's the fun in that? Better to apply a sense of risk to the proceedings by taking the time machine back to when these guys were still just student-athletes.

The Jim Brown Is Better Than Your RB Rule
The goal is to fill 2015 needs, not to name all-time greats who are great.

We could absolutely, positively improve every team by inserting the name of a Hall of Famer into a lineup regardless of what that 2015 team has at a given position. For instance, the Jaguars would be better with, say, Dan Marino at QB instead of Blake Bortles. We know Marino is an upgrade, but Gus Bradley, David Caldwell and Co. wouldn't realistically draft another passer in Round 1 with sophomore Bortles already on the roster.

In fact, with very few exceptions, the Hall of Fame can offer a better option at every position on every 2015 team. But, again, we'd then not be drafting for need. We'd simply be ranking the 32 greatest players ever.

Got it? Good. Let's get to the picks:

1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Steve Young, QB, BYU

In a draft loaded with big-armed prospects, the BYU southpaw threads the needle thanks to pinpoint accuracy and a running ability rarely seen at the position.

2) Tennessee Titans: Reggie White, DE, Tennessee

AFC South offensive linemen won't have a prayer against the mountainous Volunteer, whose versatility will jibe immediately with new coordinator Dick LeBeau's creativity.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jim Brown, RB, Syracuse

While needs on defense and the offensive line remain prominent, the Jags can't pass on this rugged Orangeman runner who has more physical ability than Jacksonville has colors on its helmet.

4) Oakland Raiders: Jerry Rice, WR, Mississippi Valley State

While some scouts are concerned about the Delta Devil's sluggish 40 time, Al Davis is no doubt smiling from the heavens at the thought of pairing this rangy small-school product with second-year QB Derek Carr.

5) Washington Redskins: Lawrence Taylor, LB, North Carolina

If evaluators are right about this headhunting Heel, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and the Eagles' fleet of QBs are all about to suffer a decade of pain and sorrow.

6) New York Jets: John Elway, QB, Stanford

John Elway.jpg

(Associated Press)

Sixes in the City -- and lots of 'em -- await former Broncos pass catchers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker thanks to the arrival of this "can't-miss" cannon-armed Cardinal.

7) Chicago Bears: Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State

John Fox's tattered defense fills a big hole with this electric performer, whose sublime ability in the return game will also put points on the Soldier Field scoreboard. (He's also reportedly capable of helping out the local baseball clubs ... if either organization would take on a two-sport athlete.)

8) Atlanta Falcons: Derrick Thomas, OLB, Alabama

University of Georgia fans will be relieved to see red instead of crimson on this devastating edge rusher, who appears to be the perfect fit for new head coach Dan Quinn's scheme.

9) New York Giants: Ronnie Lott, S, USC

The addition of Southern California's human daisy cutter -- who can play either safety or corner -- has the Giants' secondary pointing in the right direction.

10) St. Louis Rams: Anthony Munoz, OT, USC

After four years in the LA Coliseum, the colossal tackle moves to St Louis. He might just want a 12-month lease.

11) Minnesota Vikings: Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma State

Barry Sanders RB Oklahoma State.jpg

(Associated Press)

Mike Zimmer lands just what Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings' offense covets: A big-time runner from the state of Oklahoma.

12) Cleveland Browns: Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State

No surprise the Browns' braintrust went back to the QB well one year after the Johnny Football morass, but many scouts feel Cleveland would be better served with another big-armed prospect like Louisiana Tech's Terry Bradshaw, Pitt's Dan Marino or Southern Mississippi's Brett Favre. Time will tell who's right.

13) New Orleans Saints: Tony Gonzalez, TE, California

Drew Brees won't skip a beat going from Jimmy Graham to the gifted Golden Bear, who -- like Graham -- also played college basketball.

14) Miami Dolphins: Ed Reed, S, Miami

The Fins stay local with this speedy ball hawk, who -- along with Suh, Wake and Grimes -- gives Joe Philbin's team enough high-end defensive pieces to make even the Jimmy Johnson Era 'Canes swoon.

15) San Francisco 49ers: Ray Lewis, ILB, Miami

The Niners replace the retired Patrick Willis with another hard-hitting, sideline-to-sideline intimidator who has the wheels needed to drop in pass protection.

16) Houston Texans: Michael Irvin, WR, Miami

The Texans make it three straight 'Canes by selecting the physical playmaker, who'll give Ryan Mallett and/or Brian Hoyer a sizable complement to speedy DeAndre Hopkins.

17) San Diego Chargers: Marshall Faulk, RB, San Diego State

Mike McCoy lands the transcendent Aztec star, who'll provide value in the running and passing games for an offense in need of an upgrade to both.

18) Kansas City Chiefs: Randy Moss, WR, Marshall

This tall drink of water out of Marshall has the talent to go first overall, but off-the-field questions allow him to slip to Andy Reid. The question now is, will Alex Smith take full advantage of this burner by taking some shots downfield?

19) Cleveland Browns (from BUF): Kellen Winslow, TE, Missouri

Considered a potentially transformative player at his position, the Mizzou product promises to give the Browns an athlete who can take advantage of the expansive deep middle available in 21st century pro football.

20) Philadelphia Eagles: Roger Staubach, QB, Navy

Roger Staubach QB Navy.jpg

(Associated Press)

Unlike some of his peers, trailblazer Chip Kelly isn't scared off by looming military commitments for the dynamic Midshipman, whose top-tier throwing and running abilities seem tailor-made for Kelly's attack.

21) Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Namath, QB, Alabama

Steady-but-unspectacular Andy Dalton's four playoff appearances in his first four seasons (and 0-4 in those postseason games) have the Bengals looking for a QB with the arm to take advantage of A.J. Green and the moxie to press the issue when times get tough.

22) Pittsburgh Steelers: Rod Woodson, CB, Purdue

Purdue's all-world athlete should be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh, and not just because he wore black and gold in college. Rare speed makes him attractive to any team, but it's his physical stature that makes him ideal for new coordinator Keith Butler's scheme. (Oh yeah, and not unlike the previously selected Deion Sanders, Woodson returns punts with the best of 'em.)

23) Detroit Lions: Joe Greene, DT, North Texas State

With Ndamukong Suh swapping Honolulu Blue for South Beach Aqua this offseason, the Lions go Greene in the draft. Though Greene played at tiny North Texas State, scouts believe his transcendent strength will translate in the NFL. His nasty persona has already earned him the nickname "Mean Joe."

24) Arizona Cardinals: Walter Payton, RB, Jackson State

Bruce Arians and Co. go ground over air by grabbing the SWAC's record-breaking runner, who edges out "The Kansas Comet" (Gale Sayers) on the Cardinals' draft board.

25) Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Ogden, OT, UCLA


(Associated Press)

GM Dave Gettleman has done a masterful job bridging the gap between outgoing high-priced vets and incoming callow talent on the defensive side. Now, he looks to better protect his oft-battered franchise QB with the massive and mauling Bruin tackle, one of the few humans who can actually look down on the Panthers' Superman.

26) Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome, TE, Alabama

With Owen Daniels gone and Dennis Pitta returning from his second hip operation, the Baltimore braintrust knows it has a hole to fill at tight end. Enter Newsome, who provides Joe Flacco with a strong pass catcher as well as a capable blocker in the run game.

27) Dallas Cowboys: Earl Campbell, RB, Texas

Like a flip-flopping fan at the Red River Shootout, Jerry Jones swaps Sooner DeMarco Murray for the Heisman Trophy-winning Longhorn, whose power running will fit in seamlessly behind the Cowboys' mighty O-line.

28) Denver Broncos: Don Hutson, WR, Alabama

In what's shaping up to be a "make or break" 2015 for the Broncos, GM John Elway gives Peyton Manning (another) touchdown maker in the passing attack.

29) Indianapolis Colts: Troy Polamalu, S, USC


(Associated Press)

If nothing else, Andrew Luck's neck beard and the USC safety's long locks will allow the Colts to corner the market on all follicular matters. One fearless risk taker welcomes another, with the latter's dynamic playmaking ability elevating an already improved Indy D.

30) Green Bay Packers: Bruce Smith, DE, Virginia Tech

Talent trumps scheme as the Pack grabs the natural 4-3 defensive end whose otherworldly talent for sacking quarterbacks is unlikely to be quelled by either Dom Capers' 3-4 or opposing linemen.

31) New Orleans Saints (from SEA): Dan Marino, QB, Pittsburgh

Following a dodgy 2014 season, Drew Brees was the subject of trade speculation at the outset of free agency. Instead, the Saints stick with Brees and also look to the future by adding Marino, who possesses a rifle for a right arm but a résumé with some off-the-field red marks.

32) New England Patriots: Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn

With Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley departed, the Heisman winner with a linebacker's build and sprinter's speed has the talent to steal carries from LeGarrette Blount from Day 1.

And just so the Seahawks and Bills don't miss out on the fun ...

Let's say Seattle replaces Max Unger with Wisconsin center Mike Webster, while Buffalo turns up the heat on its QB battle by adding UNLV's Randall Cunningham.

Follow Dave Dameshek on Twitter @Dameshek.

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