Top 10 First-Round Franchise Players
There's been a ton of talk about how special Andrew Luck is. If you look back, there haven't been too many guys who have been relied on for the entire success of their team.
For example, Barry Sanders was one of the best running backs of all-time. His team was horrible except for a couple random playoff appearances.
Dan Fouts was the trigger man on a high-powered Charger team that revolutionized offense, but he was chosen in the third round and his team never even made it to a Super Bowl.
This list of players was not only highly touted, but they carried their respective teams. Andrew Luck will be asked to do the same.
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LaDainian Tomlinson is the guy who was traded for Michael Vick at the 2001 NFL Draft. Who would you rather have? Okay, Tomlinson never went to a Super Bowl, but running backs rarely carry a team to a Super Bowl victory.
On the other hand, LT was the most successful back of the decade of 2001-2010. Being the best back of a decade is rather difficult. In the previous three decades, you'd have to at least debate two or three guys.
Unfortunately for LT, he either never had a quarterback or never had one long enough (Drew Brees) to win a Super Bowl.
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Jonathan Ogden made the Pro Bowl every year but his rookie year and retired at the age of 32. Chances are Ogden could return to the NFL right now and be a dominant player again. At the height of 6'9" and weighing around 350, he was arguably the most athletic big man in the league.
He guarded Raven quarterback blindsides all the way to a Super Bowl victory. Just imagine if Ogden were still playing. We may be talking the best tackle of all time.
Nobody got a rougher draw than Earl Campbell. First, his team, the Houston Oilers, were in the same division as the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest teams ever.
Second, Campbell's running style was so harsh on his body that it limited him to only eight years and in those years, only six were productive. He was quite possibly the strongest running back the NFL has ever seen, just ask Isiah Robertson of the Rams.
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Lawrence wasn't the first great linebacker. There were guys like Lambert, Nitschke, Ham, and Butkus, but none of them had the athleticism of Taylor. He was bigger and faster than every linebacker before him.
He is one of a handful of players who revolutionized a position. He was also the cornerstone of a defense with a handful of relative unknowns at every other position that won two Super Bowls.
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Walter Payton was THE all-round back. He could run through you or around you. He could get the swing pass. And from the year he entered the league until 1984, his teams were awful.
When Mike Ditka showed up, things changed. Not only was Payton running wild, but there was a decent passing game and what may be considered the best defense of all-time in 1985.
Payton was still called upon to carry the offense, and he did.
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Dan Marino just made it into the first round in a draft that is widely known as the best ever. He was also the last of five quarterbacks taken in that round. Marino set some records that, at times, nobody thought would be broken.
There was a time he held almost every major passing record. Now those records are dispersed among a handful of quarterbacks. He never got to be fully successful for a few reasons.
First, he never had a "real" running back. Second, his defense was never stellar. Third, he had to play those great Buffalo Bills teams and share a division with them.
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Ray Lewis is the "first" Raven. He has carried the Ravens for 15 years.
If not for the legend and lore surrounding the 1985 Bears, he'd probably be remembered as the best player on the best defense of all-time. He's even overcome a murder charge.
Add all that to being a superior athlete, and you have one of the top five middle linebackers of all time.
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We see this year just how important Peyton Manning is to the Colts. If not for Tom Brady, Manning would be the unquestioned greatest quarterback of the past 15 years. He calls the plays and has an elaborate scheme of yelling at the line either to audible or confuse the opposition.
He has all the intangibles required to be one of the greatest. Imagine if Manning had Bill Belichick (no offense to Tony Dungy) on HIS sideline.
Joe Greene was the first building block drafted by Chuck Noll, who built the Steel Curtain around the big man when big men weren't nearly as big as Greene. He was dominant, usually taking two or more blockers just to slow down.
No player was more dominant in an entire decade than "Mean Joe." He allowed Jack Ham and Lambert to rove and become Hall of Famers behind him.
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No player was more talked about, until this year, than John Elway coming into the draft. He refused to play for the Colts even after they drafted him and forced a trade to the Denver Broncos.
Much like Marino, he never had a great supporting cast, in fact, his supporting cast was worse than Marino's, yet he continually won and advanced to the playoffs as well as Super Bowls.
It looked as though he would go without the ring until Mike Shanahan showed up and gave him a running game which allowed Elway to go out winning two Super Bowls to end his career.