One of the most respected NFL beat writers ever, McGinn covered the Packers for 38 seasons. His draft coverage and game breakdowns were legendary.
I thought there were fewer great defensive players than offensive players, so I really wanted to get a stellar defensive guy in the middle of that first round. I took Reggie White—to me the greatest defensive lineman of all time, and personally I think he’s the greatest defensive player of all time.
I wrote a column about four years ago in which I made my own personal list of the top 25 quarterbacks. I had Dan Marino at No. 5. I just love the guy, with his arm strength and release. Seven or eight QBs had been taken, so I decided to wait. Then Ron Wolf took Favre in Round 10, so I took Marino a few picks later.
The one that got away was fullback Jim Taylor. I covered the Packers for 38 years, and he’s my favorite all-time Packer from the ’60s, from the glory years. His toughness is absolutely incredible. I was a round or two late on him, and that’s the one I was really mad about.
As an aside, this is crazy: My left guard, Walt Kiesling—a Hall of Famer from the ’20s and ’30s—played college ball at St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. He was a tackle there, and believe it or not my dad played guard next to Walt Kiesling at St. Thomas. I remember looking at old photos in my dad’s yearbook, and he would tell me about this Kiesling guy, who was like a modern-day giant back them, 250, 260 pounds. He said whenever he had any problems, Walt Kiesling would always take care of little Denis. Kiesling was my last pick, so I’m excited for posterity and family ties to have him on this team.
|The Redskins were a powerful Super Bowl contender for most of Joe Gibbs’ first tenure. Washington registered a losing season just once in his first 12 seasons, winning 10 or more games in eight of those years. Gibbs’ combined .621 winning percentage in the regular season is augmented by his 17-7 mark in the postseason. Most impressive: He is the only coach to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.|
|Five times Marino led the NFL in passing yards, including 1984, when he became the first quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards. That 1984 season was special for Marino. It was just his second in the league. He smashed the record for touchdowns in a season (48, a dozen more than the 36 by Y.A. Tittle and George Blanda) while leading the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and his only Super Bowl appearance. Marino was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.|
|In a short-yardage situation, there is perhaps no running back in NFL history who was more trusted than Allen. That wasn’t his only skill. Over 16 seasons for the Raiders and Chiefs, Allen ran for 12,243 yards and 123 touchdowns while catching 587 passes for 5,411 yards. Of course, Allen excelled at all levels; the 2003 Hall of Famer is the only man to win the Heisman, an NCAA national title and a Super Bowl plus pick up NFL and Super Bowl MVP honors.|
|Gilchrist played six seasons in the CFL before his NFL debut, and he was one of the best two-way players Canada had ever seen. In Buffalo, he was a 6’3”, 250-pound bruiser, leading the AFL in rushing twice and in attempts three straight years from 1963 to ’65. In one 1963 game against the Jets, he set a then-pro football record with 243 rushing yards (scoring five touchdowns along the way).|
|The No. 2 draft pick in 2007, “Megatron” earned his nickname for his absurdly large hands. He used those hands to catch 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns over his nine-year career, all with the Lions. A quiet leader, Johnson wasn’t about fanfare, even though his game invited it. Among his more impressive achievements, in 2012 Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964—nearly 123 yards per game. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2021.|
|The Falcons paid a fortune to trade up from No. 27 to No. 6 to snag Jones in the 2011 draft. The move paid off. Jones became the first player in NFL history to average more than 100 receiving yards per game over four straight seasons. His career average of 96.3 per game is also tops in NFL history, but Jones is only six seasons in and may not have peaked yet.|
|His career is not yet over, and already Gronk is discussed among the game’s greatest at his position. The Patriots tight end is celebrated for red zone production and consistency when healthy (68 touchdowns in just seven seasons, including two halved by injury) while representing a reimagination of the tight end position—an oversized mismatch nightmare.|
|In 12 seasons at left tackle, Jones surrendered only 23 sacks. The nine-time Pro Bowler played his entire career with the Seahawks, pivotal in several stretches of dominance for Seattle’s run game. He helped Ricky Watters to three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and in 2005, Jones was integral in Shaun Alexander’s MVP campaign, as the running back tallied a franchise-record 1,880 yards and a then-NFL record 27 touchdowns. Jones was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2014.|
|Kiesling’s NFL career spans 34 years as a player and coach. “Big Kies” was a guard on the Bears’ undefeated 1934 squad and the 1936 NFL champion Packers team. He played both ways, but he’s most noted for blocking for fellow Hall of Famer Ernie Nevers.|
|A mainstay on Pittsburgh’s four Super Bowl teams in the 1970s, Webster is the ultimate Steeler. His 15 seasons in black and gold are the most by any Steeler (he played two more with the Chiefs to close out his career), and some consider Webster to be the greatest center of all time. His Hall of Fame career was followed by years of physical and mental turmoil; his death at age 50 in 2002 prompted the first serious examination of head trauma in former NFL players.|
|Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott may get the highlights, but Dallas’s offensive resurgence would not be possible without a stellar offensive line. Martin, at right guard, highlights that. A first-round pick in 2014, he has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons and All-Pro twice.|
|The No. 1 pick in 1997, the 6’7”, 325-pound Pace entered the league with large expectations—and somehow surpassed them all. A member of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” outfit, Pace was invaluable to both quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk. He was named to seven consecutive Pro Bowls and became a Hall of Famer in 2016.|
|The NFL’s first splash free agent, White is the player most credited with changing Green Bay’s fortunes. Once White arrived from Philly in 1993 after six All-Pro seasons, a 10-year Packers playoff drought morphed into six consecutive postseason appearances, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. The 13-time Pro Bowler possessed a dangerous blend of power, size and speed, equally effective in stuffing the run and rushing the passer. His 198 career sacks rank second all-time, just behind Bruce Smith’s 200. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.|
|The No. 1 pick in the 1976 draft—and the first pick for the expansion Buccaneers—Selmon played his entire nine-year career with Tampa Bay, and thus the 1979 NFL Defensive Player of the Year will always be synonymous with the Buccaneers’ early success. He earned six straight Pro Bowl nods, including in 1979, when he helped lead Tampa Bay to the NFC Championship Game. Selmon was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.|
|Williams, undrafted coming out of Texas A&M, played 14 NFL seasons, including his best football with Minnesota from 2005 to ’10, when he made three Pro Bowls. One half of the intimidating Williams Wall (alongside Kevin, no relation), Pat spearheaded a Vikings team that led the league in rushing defense for three consecutive seasons, from 2006 to ’08.|
|A leader of San Diego’s only Super Bowl team, Seau is beloved by Chargers fans. The No. 5 pick in the 1990 draft, Seau played 13 seasons in San Diego before moving on to the Dolphins and Patriots. The linebacker is best remembered for his passion; he famously recorded 16 tackles in the 1994 AFC Championship Game despite playing with a pinched nerve in his neck. Afterward, he refused to talk about how the injury limited him, mentioning that his 60-year-old father still went to work every day as a high school janitor. He was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015.|
|Though he was surrounded by a group of elite linebackers forming the “Dome Patrol,” Jackson is perhaps the face of the Saints’ turnaround. New Orleans never had a winning season until Jackson game to town. In his final seven years in New Orleans, the team never had a losing season. When Jackson retired in 1995, he ranked third in NFL history in career sacks (128) and second in fumbles recovered (29). He was voted into Canton in 2010.|
|Kuechly is perhaps the best run-stuffing linebacker in the NFL today—and he’s pretty good in coverage too. In the Panthers scheme, Kuechly is asked to do a bit of everything—covering tight ends, running backs and receivers—and he does it proficiently. Since entering the league in 2012, Kuechly has 693 tackles (solo and combined), 12 sacks and nine interceptions. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in ’12 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and is a three-time All-Pro.|
|Voted to the Pro Bowl in nine of his 12 seasons with the Cowboys and Broncos, Ware retired this offseason with 138.5 career sacks. That ranks eighth all-time, though it should be noted that all of the players ranked above Ware played at least three more seasons than he did. One of the most respected pass-rushers of his time, Ware once had a stretch of seven straight seasons with double-digit sack totals.|
|A second-round pick out of Jackson State in 1967, Barney took no time announcing himself for the Lions. He won the left cornerback job in training camp and intercepted the first pass thrown his way in the season opener—by reigning Super Bowl champion Bart Starr, no less. Barney recorded 10 interceptions that season, and then 46 more over his 11-year career, all with Detroit. The two-time All-Pro was a member of the 1992 Hall of Fame class.|
|Buchanon was quick and could tackle, but he’s most remembered as a ball-hawk for the Packers and Chargers. A starter from his rookie year, Buchanon retired after 11 seasons with 28 career interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries. Facing San Diego in 1978, Buchanon recorded four interceptions, a single-game record he shares with Sammy Baugh.|
|Perhaps most impressive about Lott is his versatility. He was named a Pro Bowler at three different positions—free safety, cornerback and strong safety. But of course, Lott’s trademark was hitting; for 14 seasons as a Niner, Raider and Jet he was among the league’s most feared tacklers. Tom Landry once described Lott as “a middle linebacker playing safety.” The six-time All-Pro was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.|
|Perhaps Butler’s greatest contribution to pro football was his invention of the Lambeau Leap. His on-field contributions are quite impressive as well. A defensive linchpin of the 1990s Packers teams that won two NFC championships and Super Bowl XXXI, Butler was a four-time All-Pro safety who ranks fourth in Green Bay history with 38 career interceptions.|
|A dual-threat special-teamer for the 49ers, Davis set the record for most consecutive extra points, with 234 and missed only two point-afters in his entire career, going 348-for-350. Upon retiring, his career 44.7 yards per punt ranked second in NFL history to Sammy Baugh’s 45.1|
|Lofton scored touchdowns in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and was the first NFL player to tally 14,000 career receiving yards. Over his five-team, 16-year career, Lofton’s totals include 764 catches and 75 touchdowns, as well as five seasons in which he averaged at least 20 yards per catch. The 2003 Hall of Famer was named to eight Pro Bowls.|
|Brown was listed at 6-feet and weighed, at best, 195 pounds, but he was one of the most feared and vicious tacklers of his time. His shoulder was his preferred weapon of choice—opponents complained he must have had metal plates in his pads. Y.A. Tittle’s book claimed that Brown knocked out 21 opponents in the 1951 season, including the entire Redskins starting backfield in a preseason contest. Brown estimated to NFL Films that he knocked out “75 to 80” players over the course of his career, and didn’t feel sorry for any of them.|
There are more pressing matters in this analysis, but a tip of the cap nonetheless to Team McGinn for drafting a combo kicker/punter, thereby leaving open an extra spot for other positions. Just one other owner (Wooten) went that route. Tommy Davis’s 47.1% FG rate looks shoddy, but it was far more respectable in his era—he ranked top-10 in field-goal accuracy in five different seasons—and he has a top-25 all-time clip in yards per punt. The Fightin’ McGinns used that extra “specialist” spot on Hardy Brown, who did a little kicking and punting but mainly garnered a reputation as one of the most violent linebackers ever.
OK, on to the real nuts and bolts of this roster. This is another 3-4 defense, with Reggie White and Lee Roy Selmon as the ends and DeMarcus Ware and Rickey Jackson as the pass-rushing linebackers. There won’t be a lot of holes against the run either, with space-eating Pat Williams at DT, backed by the Luke Kuechly-Junior Seau LB pairing and then Ronnie Lott and the underrated Leroy Butler at safety.
Team Turney received a nod as contender for “most high-powered offense,” but ... well, Dan Marino should be able to put up numbers with Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowksi working routes, eh? RB Marcus Allen would love the extra space in the box those talented receivers free up for him. The protection for Marino comes mainly in the powerful pairing of OTs Orlando Pace and Walter Jones.
There is a razor-thin line separating teams in this draft, given all the talent across the board. If the Zack Martin/Walt Kiesling guard duo holds up, though, this could be the best roster assembled.
— Chris Burke