The brains behind the pro football history site Pro Football Journal, Turney is one of the most respected historians of the game and takes on causes of long-lost Hall of Fame candidates.
I wanted to pick as many players as possible to play in their natural positions, i.e. not playing a 4-3 defensive player in a 3-4 scheme or a right linebacker at left linebacker, and with one exception I was able to do it. My top priority was offensive line, and also to get players who were the top at their position. My No. 1 target was left tackle Anthony Muñoz, who would be the one to block players like Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas. And with him on the line I got Dwight Stephenson and Larry Allen, both GOATS in my view. Jerry Rice fell into my lap in the second round.
I knew there were plenty of quarterbacks, so I waited to pick one while building my O-line, then took Aaron Rodgers in Round 8. I chose Marshall Faulk as my running back because of his smarts and versatility. John Henry Johnson, my fullback, was maybe the best pass blocking running back ever. He can also line up on the wing and play tight end.
Since all the great defensive tackles were taken early, I went to build a 3-4 scheme that could play a lot of Cover 2. In the secondary Nolan Cromwell and Ed Reed will allow me to play Cover 2 more than any of these other teams. They have such range, ball skills, instincts that it’s scary. They both can also cover a receiver in the slot and both did that in nickel in their careers.
|Belichick’s 36-44 record with the Browns is but a mere footnote to his time in New England, during which he has overseen arguably the NFL’s greatest dynasty. Belichick’s record with the Patriots: 201-71, with five Super Bowl titles—14 seasons between the first and the most recent— and 14 AFC East titles (including the last eight in a row).|
|Rodgers, still just 33 years old, has several more seasons ahead of him, but he long ago established himself as a lock for Canton—even after sitting behind Brett Favre for his first three seasons. A two-time league MVP and the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers is also a two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler. Arguably the best ever at throwing on the run, Rodgers should pass the career 40,000-yard and 300-touchdown marks this season.|
|In just five seasons with the Colts, Faulk amassed 8,124 yards from scrimmage and 51 touchdowns. It was not until his trade to St. Louis in 1999, however, that he began to cement his legacy. As a centerpiece for “The Greatest Show on Turf,” Faulk averaged 81 receptions, 2,255 scrimmage yards and 19.7 touchdowns in his first three seasons as a Ram. He finished his career with more than 12,000 rushing yards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.|
|Drafted by Pittsburgh in 1953, Johnson did not begin his NFL career until a year later, following a season in which he was named the CFL’s MVP. In his NFL career, he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in two seasons and finished his career with 6,803. A four-time Pro Bowler and NFL champion, with Detroit in 1957, Johnson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.|
|The Mississippi Valley State product rewrote the NFL’s receiving record book during a career that spanned two decades, the bulk of his production coming with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco. Rice still holds significant leads in most of his position’s statistical categories, including receptions (1,549), yards (22,895) and touchdowns (197). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.|
|The Peyton Manning-to-Harrison connection in Indianapolis was one of the most productive QB-WR combos in NFL history. Harrison, a member of the 2016 Hall of Fame class, played all 13 of his seasons with the Colts, tallying 1,102 receptions (fourth most in history), 14,580 yards receiving (eighth) and 128 touchdowns (fifth). A champion of Super Bowl XLI, Harrison was an eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. His 143 receptions in 2002 remain an NFL single-season record.|
|From 1999 through 2013, Gonzalez finished shy of 700 yards receiving just once (2002), and in his 17th and final season, he still posted 83 receptions. Gonzalez is second all-time in receptions with 1,325 and fifth in career receiving yards, with 15,127, both numbers well clear of any other tight end.|
|If not the greatest offensive lineman of all time, Muñoz is among a very small fraternity that can lay claim to that title. The third overall pick in 1980, Muñoz spent 13 seasons with the Bengals and was named All-Pro nine times while helping Cincinnati capture a pair of AFC titles. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.|
|Hutchinson started 169 games over his 12 seasons, racking up seven Pro Bowl and five All-Pro nods. He will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 and will be a viable candidate. He will also be remembered for the Vikings’ use of a so-called “poison pill” contract clause to sign him away from the Seahawks.|
|A knee injury cut short Stephenson’s career, but before that setback he started 80 consecutive games for Don Shula’s Dolphins. With Stephenson playing the pivot up front, Miami twice led the league in scoring (1984 and ’86) and captured two AFC titles. A four-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, Stephenson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.|
|Dominance and longevity defined Allen’s career. He picked up the first of his 11 Pro Bowl nods as a Cowboy in 1995 and his final honor in 2006 with the 49ers. Allen was also an All-Pro every year from 1995 to 2001 while helping pave the way for Emmitt Smith’s record-setting career. Allen was enshrined in Canton in 2013.|
|The 13th overall pick in the 1978 draft, Kenn played a whopping 251 games in his career, all for the Falcons. Even more impressive: He started every single one of them. An offensive tackle with almost unmatched athleticism, Kenn was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.|
|Long’s breakout season came early on: He recorded a career-high 13.0 sacks in 1983 as part of the Raiders’ Super Bowl-winning club. All told, Long registered 84 career sacks (the Hall of Fame credits him with another 7.5 from ’81, the year before that stat became official). An eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Long was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.|
|The Pro Football Hall of Fame credits Bethea with 105 sacks, but that’s not official in the NFL record book, because the league didn’t start tracking sacks until 1981. But Bethea’s “total” would rank among the top 30 in NFL history. The eight-time Pro Bowler was enshrined in Canton in 2003.|
|Initially drafted by the Broncos to be an offensive lineman, Culp was traded to Kansas City before he ever played a game in Denver. A flip to nosetackle proved brilliant, as Culp landed six Pro Bowl nods while anchoring the Chiefs’ and, later, the Oilers’ defense. A member of Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV-winning team, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.|
|In just six NFL seasons, this game-changing pass rusher has already put together a Hall of Fame-caliber résumé. Miller, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and the MVP of Super Bowl 50. Miller has 73.5 career sacks, which puts him on pace to finish among the all-time leaders if he plays into his mid-30s.|
|A standout 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker—before such a player became commonplace in the NFL—Brazile played, and started, in all 147 games during his 10 seasons with Houston. He went to seven Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro. His impact is somewhat minimized in the NFL record books because the league did not begin counting sacks as an official stat until 1982 (Brazile only has 11 to his credit).|
|Tackles were not an official NFL statistic until 2001, so Gradishar’s most remarkable number is unofficial: In 1978, he was credited with a staggering 286 tackles. A hammer in the Broncos’ “Orange Crush” defense, Gradishar was a two-time All-Pro, seven-time Pro Bowler and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1978.|
|A defensive dynamo, Carson spent several years bookended by Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks on a formidable Giants linebacking corps. Together, that trio helped the Giants win Super Bowl XXI. Carson’s impact, of course, was unmistakable well before that ’86 season. A nine-time Pro Bowler, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.|
|Williams’s wait for the Pro Football Hall of Fame ended in 2014, following back-to-back misses as a finalist. His enshrinement was only a matter of time, because the three-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler long excelled as one of the NFL’s best ball-hawking defensive backs. He finished his career with 55 interceptions and 12 defensive touchdowns (nine pick-sixes and three fumble recoveries).|
|Few players in recent memory have so perfectly represented his team’s identity as the physical, brash Sherman has personified the Seahawks. The textbook example of a lockdown cornerback, Sherman already has 30 career interceptions, including a league-high eight in 2013. He is a Super Bowl XLVIII champion, four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.|
|Reed, along with fellow longtime Ravens Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, helped form the backbone for one of the league’s most feared defensive units. He was a five-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler over his 11 years with the Ravens, plus a Super Bowl champion (XLVII) and NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2004). With 64 career interceptions, Reed will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.|
|Starting with the 1980 season, in which he picked off a career-high eight passes, Cromwell was named to three straight All-Pro squads and played his way onto four consecutive Pro Bowl teams. He finished his 11-season career with the Rams with 37 interceptions, notching at least two in each of his final nine NFL campaigns.|
|At the close of the 2016 season, just 12 players in NFL history (all kickers) had scored more points than Lowery’s 1,711. He converted on 80% of his 479 career field-goal attempts, and on 562 of 568 extra points. A two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, Lowery led the league in field-goal accuracy three separate times (1985, ’90 and ’92).|
|Hekker has already earned three All-Pro nods and three Pro Bowl selections in his five seasons. His career yards per punt (46.9) is currently tied for third in NFL history, and it has been climbing—he posted an NFL-best 47.9 clip in 2015 and finished at 47.8 last year.|
|Perhaps the most dangerous return man in NFL history, Hester holds the all-time mark for punt-return touchdowns (14); he also has six other return TDs—five on kickoffs and one for 108 yards on a missed field-goal attempt. That plus his 16 TDs as a receiver, one as a ball-carrier and nearly 15,000 combined all-purpose yards make a case for eventual Hall of Fame inclusion. Hester famously opened Super Bowl XLI by taking the kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown.|
In Round 22, Team Turney selected punter Johnny Hekker (using a pick acquired in the Andre Tippett-Robert Brazile trade). Does he even need a punter, though? The potential weak points, if we can call them that, along the offensive line are G Steve Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro Bowler, and tackle Mike Kenn, who started 250-plus games. To say that Aaron Rodgers would be well-protected is an understatement. And when he drops to pass, his list of available options includes Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Tony Gonzalez and Marshall Faulk. Bruising back John Henry Johnson caught 186 passes during his career, too.
In short, this could be the most high-powered offense to emerge from the draft.
What of the defense? It has the shape of a 3-4 through and through, which likely necessitated the trade for Brazile. He and Von Miller form the pass-rushing punch outside, with Randy Gradishar and Harry Carson inside and Curley Culp anchoring things from the nose.
Given the boatload of offensive talent collected by Team Turney, could it have focused its picks in rounds 14 (Johnson) and 15 (return man Devin Hester) on defense instead? There is enough DB talent here—Richard Sherman was a 19th-round pick, joining 12th-rounder Aeneas Williams and fifth-round safety Ed Reed. But Turney did not round out his secondary until his final pick, with safety Nolan Cromwell.
This was a franchise designed to outscore opponents in uptempo games, so saving its own secondary for last is a gamble.
— Chris Burke