A 38-year NFL executive, Wolf was Al Davis’s right-hand personnel man in Oakland and built three Super Bowl teams, including the Brett Favre-led Packers powerhouse. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
As I broke it down, it appeared to me that if I wanted to have a really good team I would have to concentrate more on defense initially than offense. That was my strategy. So I started with Joe Greene and Bob Lilly and Gino Marchetti. And I took the two corners, Deion Sanders and Mel Blount, early. I don’t know how you’re going to score on those guys. I was surprised when I was preparing for the draft at how lopsided the Hall of Fame is from an offensive versus defensive standpoint. For example, you wouldn’t have to draft a QB until the very end because there are so many outstanding players at the position.
You’re dealing with a tremendous pool of players. My opinion: You could build a pretty good team from the guys who weren’t selected, one that would rival any of the teams that were selected. Start with George Halas as your coach—he wasn’t chosen, which when you think about is it absurd. Guys like Joe Namath, I was just shocked at some of these quarterbacks who weren’t named. The player I wish I had drafted would have been Greg Pruitt. I say that because of his versatility as a back and as a return man.
Unfortunately, there are so many players from that early era that I don’t know much about. Being a part of the Packers and their history, guys like Mike Michalske and John Blood McNally, they’re legends in their own right. I don’t think they got a fair shake because the game was so different when they played.
|A football captain at Green Bay East High and then a varsity player for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, Lambeau founded the Packers in 1919 along with the sports editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Lambeau played at halfback for the first decade and also served as head coach; after the Packers joined the NFL in 1921, Lambeau tallied an overall record of 212-106-21, including six championships. He pioneered the use of the forward pass in the NFL and put small-town Green Bay, Wis., on the map.|
|The Gunslinger played 20 seasons for four NFL teams, rewriting the NFL’s record books with his powerful—and risk-taking—right arm. His career began as a second-round draft pick for the Falcons, but it was after Packers GM Ron Wolf (who selected him in this all-time draft) sent a first-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Favre that his legacy took hold: He won three straight league MVP awards from 1995 to ’97, went to 11 Pro Bowls and brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. Favre retired (for good) after the 2010 season, bound for Canton on the first ballot.|
|Dickerson’s single-season rushing mark of 2,105 yards, which he set in his second NFL season, still stands 33 years later. The Rams’ first-round draft choice in 1983 led the league in rushing four times and was the quickest player in NFL history to 10,000 rushing yards. Dickerson was a six-time Pro Bowler, once named Offensive Player of the Year and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.|
|Nagurski played football like a force of nature, a bruising runner and tackler who bulldozed the rest of the NFL in the 1930s alongside Red Grange. Equally legendary was his fake run and jump pass, which prompted the NFL to open up its rules and allow passes to be thrown from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Nagurski won three championships with the Bears, was named first-team All-Pro four times and was an inaugural inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.|
|Speedie played for the Browns in the franchise’s first seven seasons, catching passes from Otto Graham on plays designed by coach Paul Brown. Cleveland competed in a championship game every year of his career, and true to name, Speedie used his fleetness and size to rack up 349 career catches for 5,602 yards and 33 touchdowns. Speedie was a league-leader in receptions four times and a three-time All-Pro.|
|A member of three Raiders Super Bowl teams, Branch spent his entire 14-year NFL career with the franchise, catching passes from Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett and Marc Wilson. Branch had a small frame, but he brought toughness and track-athlete speed to the gridiron. He led the NFL in receiving yards once and receiving touchdowns twice, and he was a three-time All-Pro.|
|Nicknamed “The Ghost,” Casper became a Hall of Fame tight end as a skilled blocker and sure-handed target for Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler. A second-round draft choice who began his career on special teams, Casper blossomed into a central player on the Raiders’ Super Bowl XI team and was involved in two famous Raiders plays from that era: Ghost to the Post and The Holy Roller. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 2002.|
|Parker distinguished himself during his 11-year NFL career by protecting the Colts’ Golden Arm, Johnny Unitas, during a run that included two NFL titles. He began his career as a left tackle, then moved to left guard, where he was equally accomplished, and was named to the All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl for eight straight seasons from 1958 to 1965. In 1973 Parker became the first full-time offensive lineman inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.|
|The Oilers drafted Munchak in the first round in 1982, and for the next 12 years he anchored their offensive line from the left guard position during the team’s run of seven straight postseason appearances. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Munchak was named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team. He retired in the summer of 1994 due to chronic knee problems, and that same day, team owner Bud Adams announced his No. 63 jersey would be retired on “Mike Munchak Day.” He entered Canton in 2001.|
|Hein played center and linebacker, almost never leaving the field during his 15-year career with the Giants, a picture of durability in an era when players were expected to play on both offense and defense. He was named All-Pro five times and the NFL’s MVP in 1938, still the only interior lineman to earn that honor. Hein competed in seven NFL championship games, winning two, and was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class.|
|Jones began his career as a tackle but in his second season was moved to left guard, and became a fixture for the Bears during his 12-year NFL career. He was named to seven straight Pro Bowls and is remembered as one of the first pro football players to develop strength through weight training. Jones is enshrined in the Hall of Fame and was part of George Halas’s final championship team in 1963.|
|Yary was drafted by the Vikings with the No. 1 pick in 1968, the first offensive lineman to be selected first overall. He spent 14 seasons anchoring the Vikings’ offensive line at right tackle, earning seven straight Pro Bowl bids and, eventually, a gold jacket. Yary helped the Vikings win the 1969 NFL championship and played in all four of the franchise’s Super Bowl appearances.|
|Marchetti was drafted by the New York (football) Yanks, a fledgling franchise replaced by the Dallas Texans, and then the Baltimore Colts. Sacks weren’t kept as even unofficial stats back in those days, but Marchetti is regarded as the best defensive end in the NFL’s first 50 years. He was selected to 11 straight Pro Bowls, a record at the time, and helped the Colts win two NFL championships before being inducted into the Hall of Fame.|
|The Broncos traded for Jackson in 1967 and moved him from linebacker to end, where his career took off. Famed and feared like Deacon Jones for the later-outlawed head-slap, Jackson unofficially recorded 43 sacks in just 67 games. A three-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl pick in the AFL and NFL, Jackson saw his career cut short by a knee injury. SI’s Paul Zimmerman considered Jackson one of the best defensive ends and hardest hitters he’d ever seen.|
|The man known as Mean Joe was Chuck Noll’s first draft pick with Pittsburgh and the cornerstone of the “Steel Curtain,” the ferocious front four that personified the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s. A five-time All-Pro, 10-time Pro Bowl pick, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and four-time Super Bowl champion, Greene’s game was based on quickness, so much so that the Steelers created a new position for him, the “cocked nosetackle,” to attack the center-guard gap from an angle. Greene was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1987, and his No. 75 jersey is one of only two to have been retired by the Steelers franchise.|
|The first draft choice in Dallas Cowboys history, Lilly became the original leader of Tom Landry’s “Doomsday Defense.” His 29-yard sack of Dolphins QB Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI has still not been surpassed as the biggest loss of yardage in NFL history. Mr. Cowboy, as he was known, played in 196 consecutive regular-season games (a franchise record until Jason Witten broke it in 2015) and in 1980 became the first Cowboys player inducted into the Hall of Fame.|
|“The Mad Stork” began his career as a second-round draft pick by Don Shula’s Colts, with whom he won a Super Bowl. He was traded to the Packers for a season (and named All-Pro) in 1974, then poached by Al Davis’s Raiders, with whom Hendricks won three more rings, finishing his career with a 38-9 victory over Washington in Super Bowl XVIII. A rangy, durable linebacker with a nose for the football, Hendricks made All-Pro with all three teams and eight Pro Bowls, and was enshrined in Canton in 1990.|
|Nobis was the Falcons’ first draft pick as an expansion team in 1966, and in his first season he amassed a whopping, though unofficial, 296 combined tackles and was named NFL Rookie of the Year. Nobis played 11 seasons at middle linebacker, and though overshadowed a bit by contemporaries Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus and Lee Roy Jordan, he was voted to five Pro Bowls and was All-Pro in 1967. Nobis was also on the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade Team.|
|During his 11-season career as a strongside linebacker for the Patriots, Tippett recorded 100 sacks, which is still a franchise record. A second-round draft pick, he was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1985, when the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in club history. Tippett earned five straight trips to the Pro Bowl and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.|
|The only athlete to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series, Sanders’ electrifying athleticism lit up the gridiron as a cornerback, returner and, for a time, receiver. He was never a cornerstone for any one franchise, but rather a traveling showman, scoring touchdowns in six different ways for five different teams during his 14-season NFL career. He was a six-time All-Pro, won Super Bowl rings with San Francisco and Dallas, and received his gold jacket in 2011, six years after coming out of retirement for one final two-year stint with the Ravens.|
|Blount set the standard for a shut-down cornerback, physically imposing his will on receivers to the point where the NFL adopted a new rule—the Mel Blount Rule—that made it illegal to contact receivers past five yards from the line of scrimmage. A third-round draft choice by the Steelers in 1970, Blount started in all four of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl appearances that decade. A two-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and the 1975 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Blount was enshrined in Canton in 1989.|
|Dillon is the Packers’ all-time leader in interceptions, picking off 52 passes in his eight-year career, and was a four-time All-Pro. Part of his legend was that he played with only one working eye after losing the other in a childhood accident. When Vince Lombardi was hired by the Packers in 1959, he lured Dillon out of retirement to play one final season.|
|The first-ever pick of what would become the Chiefs franchise, Robinson spent two years as a serviceable running back before moving to the secondary, where he became one of the best safeties in the game—a six-time All-Pro who would be named to the All-Time All-AFL team and the 1960s All-Decade Team. Robinson won three AFL titles with the Chiefs and had an interception and a fumble recovery in Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV victory over the Vikings. Lance Alworth called him “the best defensive back I ever played against.”|
|A wily inclusion at placekicker in this draft, the former Notre Dame quarterback was both a kicker and a halfback in the pros after being drafted first overall by the Packers. Hornung’s unusually versatile skill set allowed him to set a single-season scoring record—between touchdowns, field goals and extra points—that stood for 46 years. He was the NFL MVP in 1961, won four NFL championships with Vince Lombardi and is enshrined in Canton.|
|Another craft selection, Baugh did it all: quarterback, defensive back, punter. Baugh was best known for revolutionizing a tactic called the forward pass. In 1943 he led the league in passing, punting and—while playing defense—interceptions. His 70.3% completion rate in 1945 was not bested for more than three decades and is still tied for fifth all-time, and his 51.4 yards per punt in 1940 (during the free-kick era) remains a record. Baugh was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.|
|Despite his small frame, Dorsett became one of the most productive running backs in NFL history, ranking ninth all-time with 12,739 rushing yards over his 12-year career, 11 with the Cowboys. The No. 2 overall pick was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1977 and rushed for 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine seasons (the only exception was the 1982 strike-shortened campaign). He also has the only 99-yard rushing play in NFL history. A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XII champion, Dorsett received his gold jacket in 1994.|
No secrecy to the strategy here: Team Wolf spent its first three draft picks on defensive linemen (Joe Greene, Gino Marchetti, Bob Lilly) and his first five overall on defense, and did not really dive headfirst into addressing the offense until Round 10. (With QB Brett Favre—would you have expected anything else from the Packers’ mastermind?)
Or did Wolf go offense in Round 9? He used that pick on “Slingin’” Sammy Baugh, whom he designated as a punter (he led the NFL in punting average five times) but who won four NFL passing titles. Is there a quarterback controversy here? Wolf also gave himself options with Paul Hornung, taken in Round 16—he’s on the roster as a kicker but rushed for 3,700 yards and 50 touchdowns in his Packers career.
This could be among the most versatile rosters, especially on offense. Wolf lines up five Hall of Famers across the line, and has Hornung, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett (a strong wild-card choice in Round 25) and Bronko Nagurski all available to handle touches. A shifting, multi-back offense could cover up the decision to wait until Round 15 to draft a receiver (Mac Speedie). There’s obviously talent at tight end with Dave Casper and receiver (the underappreciated Cliff Branch), but not to the level of other rosters.
Wolf scored remarkable value, relative to this draft, with his late-round trade, acquiring Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett (taken in Round 13) for DE Robert Brazile (taken in Round 21). He then swapped in Rich “Tombstone” Jackson (a member of Dr. Z’s All-Century Team) for Brazile, to complete his four-man front.
It’s a great front, backed by a secondary featuring Deion Sanders and Mel Blount. Does the offense have enough to hold up its end of the bargain? And will placekicking cost this team games?
— Chris Burke