The first pick of the NFL draft isn’t always the best pick of an NFL draft.
So we asked our Talk of Fame Network listeners and readers in last week’s poll to determine the best value pick of the first round in NFL draft history and gave them several attractive options, including the league’s all-time leading rusher and receiver.
The receiver won out, with Jerry Rice receiving 28 percent of the vote. The rusher, Emmitt Smith, finished third at 22 percent. Quarterback Dan Marino finished second at 25 percent and Jim Brown fourth 18 percent.
Then came the defense and offensive line nominations, all with single digit support: Ed Reed, Darrell Green, Derrick Brooks and Gene Upshaw.
Rice was selected with the 16th overall pick of the 1985 draft; Smith 17th overall in the 1990 draft; Marino 27th overall in 1983; Brown sixth overall in 1957; Reed 24th overall in 2002; Green 28th overall in 1983; Brooks 28th overall in 1995 and Upshaw 17th overall in 1967.
Talk of Fame Network host Clark Judge agreed with the vote. He cast his ballot for Rice, who caught 1,549 career passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns – all NFL records. He went to 13 Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls .
“This one is a no-brainer,” Judge said. “Jerry Rice. He not only is the best wide receiver in pro football history; he might be the best player in pro football history. To get him anywhere but the first pick is first-degree robbery.”
But his fellow hosts Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin disagreed, with both casting their votes for Jim Brown. He played nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns and won eight NFL rushing titles. He went to nine consecutive Pro Bowls and was a three-time NFL MVP. His 5.2 yards per career carry remains a record for NFL running backs.
“When you get the greatest runner and greatest football player who ever lived, and five teams picked in front of you, you got the best value of all-time too,” Borges said. “That's Jim Brown.”
“There’s only one Hall of Famer who can say he was the best player in the league every season of his career,” Gosselin said. “That’s Jim Brown.”