It’s a glorious moment in time when a team hoists up the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl. For that one moment, they are NFL champions. But then comes the daunting task of trying to rebuilding the team so it could defend its title in the following season. That’s where the draft comes in as many Super Bowl champions scourer the draft to find the pieces to build their future dynasty.
But then at the same token, there are teams who were at the bottom of the barrel during the regular season. Teams whose consolation to a horrendous season was with a Top 5 draft pick in the upcoming draft. It’s a gamble when it comes to picking in the Top 5 as one wrong pick could set back a franchise for years, But if the right player is selected, then they could help bring the that team to the promise land.
Below are listed the Top 5 Top 5 Overall Draft picks from Defending Super Bowl Championship teams. Before you impatient and asinine New England fans complain about why QB Tom Brady did not make the list, this is the TOP 5 OVERALL DRAFT PICKS, meaning you needed to be drafted out of the Top 5 selection in an NFL draft. Because Brady was taken in the 6th round, 198th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, he doesn’t make the cut. Now that problem has been addressed, let us begin.
Honourable Mention: DB Charles Woodson
Drafted: 4th overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 1998 NFL Draft
Played For: Oakland Raiders (1998-2005, 2013-Present Day), Green Bay Packers (2006-2012)
Many consider him to be one of the more dominating defensive backs of the 21st century. With multiple Pro Bowl Appearances (8) and All-Pro Teams (7), plus being the only player in NFL history to have 60 interceptions and 20 sacks, you could see why one would think that way. Plus he has a 1998 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a 2009 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year to boot. How he had this list was the fact he was part of a Green Bay Packers team that took back the Vince Lombardi trophy back in Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers (31-25) during the 2010-11 NFL season. If he continues his dominating performance, Woodson could one day find his place in Canton.
5. DT Randy White
Drafted: 2nd overall by Dallas Cowboys in the 1975 NFL Draft
Played For: Dallas Cowboys (1975-1988)
The Cowboys have a knack for drafting some talented defensive linemen: Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lily, Jethro Pugh, Ed “Too Tall” Jones to name a few. Then there’s Randy White. Drafted in 1975, White was moved to middle linebacker and was relegated to special teams. Then in 1977, White was moved to right defensive tackle and that’s when he broke out. He terrorized offenses during that season, gobbling up running backs and quarterbacks alike. White was named to the first of many Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams during his illustrious career with America’s Team. Not to mention help lead the famed Dallas “Doomsday Defense” to Super Bowl glory in a 27-10 domination against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII, where he was also named co-MVP of the game with teammate DT Harvey Martin. White continued to thrive Dallas, amassing many sacks, Pro Bowl appearances, and All-Pro Teams.
When he finally hung up the cleats, White had amassed 1,104 tackles, 52.5 sacks (111.0 unofficially), played in 209 games while starting in 165 of them, had 9 Pro Bowl & First-Team All-Pro selections each, was named to the 1980s NFL All-Decade Team, and then was named to the Football Hall of Fame in 1994. During his career, White played in a total of 3 Super Bowls, winning only the one against the Broncos. The other two where against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a defense that was led by Player #3 of this list.
3. DT Charles Edward “Mean Joe” Greene
Drafted: 2nd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1969 NFL Draft
Played For: Pittsburgh Steelers (1969-1981)
There was a reason why he earned the nickname “Mean Joe.” Fueled by anger and attitude, Joe Greene punished any offensive player who dared got in his way. Sometimes even starting fights with those who he felt had disrespected him or his team. But what made him special was his desire to win. Joe Greene’s desire to win inspired a Steelers team that went 1-13 in his rookie season to improve as much as become Super Bowl winners, winning their one back in the 1974-75 season (a 16-6 W over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX). Joe Greene was instrumental for the Steelers during the 1970s, leading the famed “Steel Curtain” defense as the team won 3 more Super Bowls in that era. Most notably, Joe Greene’s biggest contribution to the game was the use of the “stunt 4-3” defense. Unlike a regular 4-3 defense where he would lineup over the guard, Joe Greene would lineup in the gap between the center and guard. When the ball was snapped, he would try to bull rush the offensive line and it would take multiple blockers to stop him. However that would free up fellow Steeler teammates like LBs Jack Hamm and Jack Lambert, and fellow DLs L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, and Ernie Holmes to get in at the ball carrier.
When Joe Greene retired after the ’81 season, he had started in 172 games out of 181 games played, recorded 78.5 sacks (unofficially), had 16 fumble recoveries, and even an interception. Joe Greene also won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award twice, and had 4 Super Bowl victories to his name (Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, and XIV). He was also voted to 11 Pro Bowls, 8 NFL All-Pro Teams (5x First-Team & 3x Second-Team), the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. Joe Greene terrorized quarterbacks during the 1970s, giving them nightmares. However the #3 Player on this list would have given Joe Greene nightmares himself if they ever faced off.
3. QB Peyton Manning
Drafted: 1st overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 Draft
Played For: Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011), Denver Broncos (2012-Present Day)
With Manning, he’s just about surpassed all the NFL passing records. He’s got 69,691 yard passing, a 530 to 234 touchdown-interception ratio, 5,927 career completions out of 9,049 career attempts, a career completion percentage of 65.5%, and a career quarterback rating of 97.5. His awards alone say he’s one of the best: 5 League MVPs, 14 Pro Bowl appearances, 10 All-Pro Team appearances (7 1st-team and 3 2nd-team), 2 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards, and was named to the 2000s NFL All-Decade team. He kept those Colts teams during the 2000s highly competitive with their aerial assault and could make any receiver seem like he was a Pro Bowler (see Pierre Garcon). He was also known as an ‘Iron Man’, starting 208 regular season games, which is second all time for QBs behind Brett Farve’s 297 starts. Then Manning suffered a neck injury that put him out for the entire season in 2011 and his loss was greatly felt (Colts went 2-14 while he was out).
Then before the 2012 season, Manning was let go by the Colts. He ended up signing with the Denver Broncos and there were still questions of whether or not he’d still be able to compete at a high level. Manning proved his naysayers wrong. In 2012 in his first season with the Broncos, Peyton went 400-for-583 (68.6% completion) with 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, a QB rating of 105.8 and was awarded the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Then in 2013, he threw a record highs in yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55), had a passer rating of 115.1, and led the Broncos into Super Bowl XLVIII that same year. Speaking of Super Bowls, Manning has a Super Bowl title to his name with a Colts’ 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI during the 2006-07 season. Manning is still currently playing right now and hopefully he will be able to get one more Super Bowl title before he decides to hang up the cleats. But Manning is lucky that he will get to hang up the cleats in one piece. If he had played in the same era as Player #2 of this list, Manning’s numbers would have drastically be cut in half.
2. LB Lawrence Taylor
Drafted: 2nd overall by the New York Giants in the 1981 NFL Draft
Played For: New York Giants (1981-1993)
Nobody played with such tenacity, such ferocity than the man who many just simply refer to as ‘LT.’ Since drafted by the New York Giants back in 1981, LT terrorized offenses at outside linebacker during a 13-year career. He is credited with single-handedly changing offensive line blocking schemes as well as offensive playbooks. The blocking tight end as well as jumbo blocking packages were the result of offenses trying to find ways to protect their quarterback from getting killed by an LT hit. LT led a Giants linebacker corp that included the likes of Hall of Famer Harry Carson, Pro Bowlers Brad Van Pelt, Carl Banks, and Pepper Johnson, and very serviceable men like Brian Kelly and Gary Reasons that terrorized the NFC, especially the NFC East. Just ask the likes of former NFC East QBs Neil Lomax (St. Louis Cardinals), Ron Jaworski (Philadelphia Eagles), Danny White (Dallas Cowboys), and Joe Theisman (Washington Redskins). They were all on the receiving end of a LT hit that left them dazed, confused, and broken. Even Bill Walsh, the father of the West Coast offensive scheme, had to designate two blockers to stop LT when the 49ers squared off against the Giants in their many playoff match-ups during the 1980s. But like any other QB, 49ers QB Joe Montana was often on the receiving end of a punishing LT QB hit or sack.
When LT hung up the cleats in 1993, he had amassed a total of 132.5 career sacks (141 unofficially), 1,088 career tackles, and 9 career interceptions. He had 10 Pro Bowl appearances and First-Team All-Pro each, 3 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, NFL Defensive Rookie Player of the Year, and AP NFL MVP in 1986, the last defensive player to win the award. LT was also named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He also has two Super Bowl titles to his credit, trouncing the Elway-led Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super XXI during the 1986-87 NFL season and barely winning against the Kelly-led Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV during the 1990-91 NFL season. In both those games, LT led the Giant defense to just abuse the Broncos’ offense and shut down the high-powered Bills offense. But even with all his defensive prowess, LT would have had a hard time slowing down or even stopping the #1 Player on this list.
1. RB Walter Payton
Drafted: 4th overall in the 1975 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears
Played For: Chicago Bears (1975-1987)
The man simply known by one moniker: “Sweetness.” He could juke and cut with such fluidity like Gale Sayers, breaking the ankles of defenders or shaking out of arm tackles and jersey grabs. He also had the determination and will power of OJ Simpson, absorbing punishing hits from defenders and spinning off them for more yardage. Finally, Payton had the tenacity and ferociousness of Jim Brown, bursting through holes within the Chicago offensive line and plowing over defenders (and even his own lineman). But he was not limited to running. Payton could do it all. He could throw a block for a fellow teammate, catch a pass out of the backfield, and even throw a touchdown pass whenever the situation called for it.
Because of how horrible the Bears were prior to their mid-80s revival, their offenses still focused around Payton. But even with defenses keying off and putting all their focus on him, Payton still was able to make an impact. From career that began in 1975 and ended in 1987, Payton started nearly every game and rushed for over 1000 yards 10 times. The only times he didn’t pass the millennial mark were in his rookie season ’75 rookie season (679 in 7 games started), the strike-shortened ’82 season (596), and in his final year in ’87 (533 in 12 games due to the ’87 NFL Strike). His only Super Bowl appearance came during the 1985-86 NFL Season where his Chicago Bears trounced the New England Patriots 46-10. Many Bears fans remember seeing how the Patriots defense just swarmed #34 for the entire game, suffocating him. But because he was such a great threat, the Patriots had to dedicate all their efforts into stopping him on defense that they allowed his teammates like RB Matt Suhey and QB Jim McMahon to thrive and make plays.
When Sweetness finally hung up his cleats after the 1987 season, he was the king of the mountain. He was elected to 9 Pro Bowls, 9 AP All-Pro Teams (6x First Team and 3x Second Team), and the 1977 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He was one of only a handful of NFL players to be elected to two NFL All-Decade Teams (The 1970s All-Decade Team & The 1980s All-Decade Team), the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. His numbers also add more to the legend with 3,838 rushing attempts, 16,726 yards rushing, 110 rushing touchdowns, 21,264 yards from scrimmage, and 21,803 All-Purpose yards. Payton is also in the record books for throwing 8 touchdown passes, the most by a non-quarterback in NFL history. He also set the record for games with 100-yards rushing (108) and most consecutive starts by an NFL running back (170). He even rushed for 275 yards in a single game against the Minnesota Vikings back in 1977, which was the highest total in a single game for over 20 years. Since then, almost all of Payton’s old records have been broken by the likes of Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice. However they had to play longer careers in order to surpass those marks, plus they benefited playing in an era where 16-game seasons were a regular thing. Payton played the first three years of his career (1975-77) where they had 14-game seasons before the introduction of an NFL season in 1978.
Every one of these players on this list dominated their era of play and helped their team obtain football immortality with a Super Bowl victory. But when it's all said and done, and if a general manager is looking for a player to build his team around, you can't go wrong with the man who was simply known as “Sweetness” as your building block for your Super Bowl contender.
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