Recently retired after a 40-year career running the player personnel department of the NFL, lastly as NFL vice president of player personnel and football operations.
For me, Lawrence Taylor was a no-brainer with the No. 1 overall pick. When you talk about the greatest defensive player in history, it’s almost always LT. There are far more names thrown out for the greatest offensive player. I thought there was a fair chance that at the top of the second round I would still get an all-world QB, and fortunately Roger Staubach was there. That worked out pretty well. I got Bruce Smith in the third round, which surprised me.
Not many people probably remember George McAfee, but he was a great runner. He was my wild card—at the end of his career he played defense, and was good punt returner. The one who got away for me was Bronko Nagurski. I had my eye on him. I waited too long. Ron Wolf grabbed him just about the time I was getting ready to take him. And I wish I had taken Donny Anderson as my punter. I had some second thoughts when it was over and thought to myself, why didn’t I do this? Donny Anderson was also a running back and a pretty good punter. His gross average wouldn’t impress anyone today, but nobody could hang it as high as he could. And he was left-footed, which was always a different thing.
Overall, my strategy was not to embarrass myself too badly. As I told Peter King, I hadn’t drafted a football player since 1959 in my backyard in Illinois. What do I know about drafting?
|The 2006 Hall of Famer is famous for many things, from his broadcasting work to the popular NFL video game that bears his name, but above all he should be remembered as one of the greatest coaches the game has seen. Madden’s.759 winning percentage is the best ever among coaches with 10 or more seasons, and he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl XI championship.|
|It was perhaps fitting that “America’s Team” was led by a Naval Academy grad who spent four years fulfilling his military commitment before joining the NFL at age 27. Though known for his scrambling ability, Staubach was a precise and proficient passer—he led the league in passer rating four times in his 11 seasons with the Cowboys, and his career rating of 83.4 was the NFL’s best ever (not counting Otto Graham’s AAFC years) at his retirement. A six-time Pro Bowl pick, Staubach was 85-29 as a regular-season starter, appeared in 20 postseason games and won two Super Bowls with Dallas. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.|
|One of the game’s first great dual-threat running backs, McElhenny has been called “the Barry Sanders of his day” for the prospect of a major gain—or major loss—on every play. He averaged seven yards per carry during his rookie season and 4.7 for his career, the bulk of which was spent with San Francisco. A two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler who was also an electrifying punt and kickoff returner, McElhenny was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.|
|A bruising ball-carrier and blocker, Csonka was the foundation of the power running game Don Shula built in Miami, where Csonka teamed with running back Jim Kiick and later Mercury Morris for one of the game’s great rushing attacks. Remembered for his punishing style, Csonka also led the league in yards per carry (5.4) in 1972. The two-time Super Bowl champ and SB VIII MVP was a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and member of the 1987 Hall of Fame class.|
|After six productive seasons with the Browns, with whom he won an NFL title in 1965, Warfield moved to Miami and became the prime downfield threat for the Dolphins’ powerful, ground-oriented early-’70s teams. His career 20.1 yards per catch is fourth all-time, and he finished with 427 receptions and 8,565 yards, and his 85 touchdowns were good for third-most in NFL history at his retirement. The eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.|
|The most productive receiver in Bills history, Reed spent 15 of his 16 NFL seasons in Buffalo, playing in four straight Super Bowls as a member of the Bills’ ill-fated almost-dynasty. When he retired in 2001, his 951 career receptions trailed only Jerry Rice and Cris Carter. The seven-time Pro Bowler was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2014.|
|At the time of his retirement Sharpe was the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions by a tight end. He tallied three 1,000-yard seasons with the Broncos, capable of stretching the field like a wide receiver for John Elway. A three-time Super Bowl champion, eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, Sharpe was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2011.|
|During his career, Gregg won six NFL championships—five with the Vince Lombardi Packer teams and one at the end of his career with the Cowboys. Lombardi called him “the finest player I ever coached.” The nine-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.|
|The only player to reach the Super Bowl in three different decades with the same team, Upshaw won twice with the Raiders, in Super Bowls XI and XV. He spent 15 seasons as an anchor on the Raiders line, during which he was a five-time All-Pro and was named to seven Pro Bowls. Upshaw was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and in 1987 was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was executive director of the NFLPA from 1983 until his death in 2008.|
|Replacing Steelers legend Mike Webster as the centerpiece of the Pittsburgh offensive line was always going to be a challenge, but over the course of his 13 NFL seasons Dawson proved equal to the task. He appeared in 170 straight games, the second-longest streak in Steelers history, and was named to six All-Pro rosters and seven consecutive Pro-Bowls. Dawson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.|
|Faneca was a member of the Steelers for the first 10 of his 13 seasons in the NFL, winning Super Bowl XL with Pittsburgh and earning six All-Pro nods. The nine-time Pro Bowler was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team and was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2016 and 2017, his first two years of eligibility.|
|One of the most accomplished tackles of his era, Dierdorf was named the NFLPA’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in three consecutive seasons from 1976 to 1978. The longtime broadcaster was a six-time Pro Bowl pick and three-time All-Pro during his 13 years with the Cardinals and was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade team. He was a member of the 1996 Hall of Fame class.|
|The NFL’s all-time sack leader with 200, Smith posted an astonishing 13 seasons with double-digit sack totals in his 19-year career with Buffalo and Washington, reaching the two-century mark at the age of 40. Former Bills center Kent Hull described the way Smith drew opposing blockers, saying “It’s like they’re bees and Bruce has got sugar on him, like he’s dipped in honey.” The 11-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.|
|Hailed by George Halas as “the greatest pass rusher I’ve ever seen,” Sprinkle was one of the game’s first defensive stars. Infamous for an aggressive style that earned him a reputation for dirty play, the four-time Pro Bowler and Naval Academy graduate was known as the “Meanest Man in Football” during his tenure in Chicago. Sprinkle was a member of the Hall of Fame’s All-1940s team.|
|The man nicknamed Manster—half man, half monster—missed just two games in 14 seasons, all with Dallas. His career took off after his early move from linebacker to defensive tackle full-time (he weighed just 257), where he was a seven-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl co-MVP. White was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.|
|One of the best interior linemen to play the game, Sapp was as dangerous as a pass rusher as he was stout against the run. The 2013 Hall of Fame inductee had 96.5 career sacks in 13 seasons with the Buccaneers and Raiders, earning seven Pro Bowl and four All-Pro nods. Sapp also forced 19 fumbles during his career and helped Tampa Bay capture its lone Super Bowl title, in the 2002 season.|
|Considered by many the greatest defensive player in NFL history, LT revolutionized the outside linebacker position in Bill Parcell’s 3-4 defense. A one-man wrecking crew who finished with 132.5 sacks in 13 seasons with the Giants, Taylor possessed a distinctive combination of speed and power that forever changed the way pass-protections were screened. A three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-Pro, 10-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion, LT was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1999.|
|An integral part of Chicago’s formidable defense of the ’80s, Singletary was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the year and the heart of the Buddy Ryan unit that is considered by many the best single-season defense ever—it yielded just 10 points in three postseason games on the way to the Super Bowl XX title. A 10-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro, Singletary was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.|
|Known as “The Hangman” for his fierce tackling style, Hanburger was selected in the 18th round of the 1965 draft by the Redskins and went on to post four All-Pro and nine Pro Bowl seasons. Hanburger, who had 19 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries in his 14 seasons with Washington, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.|
|The all-time interception leader for the Chiefs, Thomas made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Bishop College and went on to play in two Super Bowls, winning SB IV. In his 13 seasons with Kansas City, he was named to five Pro Bowls and was All-Pro in 1974, when he led the league with 12 interceptions. Thomas, now the Chiefs’ secondary coach, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008.|
|Before the likes of Joe Greene, Rod Woodson and Troy Polamalu, Jack Butler was a defensive star for Pittsburgh. The hometown hero was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler over his nine seasons, and led the league in interceptions in 1957 with 10. Butler finished his career with 52 interceptions in 103 regular season games—one of just four players to have averaged an interception every two games. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.|
|“The finest strong safety the [AFL] ever produced,” SI’s Paul Zimmerman said of Houston, who spent six seasons with the Oilers, then moved on to Washington and flourished in the secondary for the Redskins. At 6’3” and weighing 200 pounds, Houston combined raw physical power with exceptional coverage skills and anticipation. He finished with 49 interceptions, and his nine picks returned for touchdowns are tied for fourth all-time. The two-time All-Pro and 12-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.|
|Undrafted out of USC (where he was the first black quarterback in the history of the PAC-12) in 1960, Wood was a fixture in the Packers’ secondary for the rest of the decade. He won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls during his 12 seasons in Green Bay, with what SI’s Dr. Z said was “eye-catching burst to the ball, and a good measure of toughness.” The eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989.|
|Stover spent his rookie season on the IR list for the Giants, but that didn’t stop the Dallas native from picking up a ring after the team’s Super Bowl XXV victory. He would earn a second with the Ravens, for whom he played the majority of his career, 10 years later in Super Bowl XXXV. A 2000 All-Pro pick on the Ravens’ Super Bowl team, Stover is sixth all-time in field goals, with 471, and was seventh all-time in accuracy (83.7%) when he retired.|
|Legendary Cleveland coach Paul Brown once said of Gillom, whom he coached in high school and the pros, “there has never been a better punter.” Known for his precision and hang time, Gillom was a member of six Browns championship teams, three in the AAFC and three in the NFL. An all-around special teams ace, Gillom also had a league-high three blocked punts in 1955.|
|Although World War II interrupted his playing career, McAfee made an impact on both sides of the ball for Chicago, hauling in 25 interceptions and scoring 39 total TDs over the course of eight NFL seasons. A member of the Hall of Fame’s All-1940s team, McAfee won three NFL championships with the Bears and was inducted into Canton in 1966.|
If you’re looking for the “steal” of this draft, there is definitely an argument to be made at pick No. 157, when Team Bussert nabbed Warren Sapp. That’s Round 14, or 10 rounds after this same squad added fellow Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White. The addition of Sapp would point toward this defense operating out of a 4-3 under, with Sapp at his familiar three-tech spot, flanked on the edges by the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks (Bruce Smith) and arguably the greatest pass-rushing linebacker ever (Lawrence Taylor), taken No. 1 overall. Ridiculous.
Heck, the team’s second defensive end, Ed Sprinkle (Round 15) even caught 32 passes during his long Bears career. A creative (imaginary) offensive coordinator might give him some run at receiver and bump home-run hitting Hall of Fame wideout Paul Warfield into the slot.
If there is a question mark up front, at all, it may be in White’s ability to hold up as a nosetackle, but this is what we call “a good problem to have.” A grouping of Taylor, Mike Singletary and Chris Hanburger at the second level would clean up what few run plays made it through the line.
Even with quarterback Roger Staubach throwing to Warfield, Andre Reed and Shannon Sharpe, the offense is built to ground and pound—Larry Csonka could churn out plenty of yardage behind that Forrest Gregg-Gene Upshaw-Dermontti Dawson combo on the left side.
Team Bussert will mash in the trenches, on both sides of the ball, but there’s enough talent elsewhere to open up the playbook should the situation calls for it.
— Chris Burke