This has gotten rather difficult. My “short” list of players for round 2 was 29 names long. Every person I cut hurt my heart. Still, that just proves the sheer amount of talent found in the second round.
Larry Allen – #71, #73 Guard – Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers
If you recall yesterday’s entry on the NFL’s top 3rd round picks, I made a statement about very few offensive guards ever playing at Will Shields’ level. Say hello to one of those few.
Larry Allen played college football at Sonoma Sate University, a Division II school in Rohnert Park, California. A two year starter for the Cossacks (now Seawolves), Allen was a two-time All-American. He was taken with 46th pick of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Allen started 10 games as a rookie in ’94, and played a role in the Cowboys only allowing 20 sacks that season. In 1995, Larry was a big contributor to the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XXX championship team. From 1995 to 2001, Allen went to 7 consecutive Pro Bowls, and would have gone to more, had he not missed 10 games in 2002 due to bone spurs in his left ankle. During this time, Allen was also named to 6 straight First-team All-Pro teams.
Allen went to three more Pro Bowls as a Cowboy from 2003-2005. In 2006, Allen was released by Dallas, and subsequently signed by the 49ers. He went to another Pro Bowl in only 11 games in 2006, and played his final season in 2007.
Larry Allen retired after the 2007 season, having blocked for 1,000 yard rushers 10 times, 8 times with Emmitt Smith, and 2 times with Frank Gore. The worst season any running back had behind Allen was Julius Jones’ 819 yard, 7 touchdown season in 2004. Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, one of the most prolific offensive linemen of all-time.
Drew Brees – #9 Quarterback – San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints
Can you name the quarterback who has led the NFL in passing the most since 2006? Peyton Manning? Nope. Tom Brady? Wrong. Aaron Rodgers? Incorrect. If you answered Drew Brees, you would be correct. Drew has led the NFL in passing 7 times since he became a Saint, four of those times being 5,000 yard seasons.
Drew went to college at Purdue University where he led the Boilermakers to their first ever Big Ten title in 2000, and was an Academic All-American. Brees was drafted 32nd overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Brees’ career started off slow. He only appeared in one game in 2001, before becoming the starting quarterback in 2002, where he had a mediocre season. His stats dropped to very poor levels in 2003, prompting the Chargers to draft a quarterback in the 2004 draft, where they received Philip Rivers in a trade with the New York Giants in exchange for Eli Manning. Drew responded by having the best season of his young career, throwing 27 touchdowns and only 7 picks in 2004, leading the team to an 11-4 record, and was named to his first Pro Bowl. He would play one more season in San Diego before leaving in free agency after the 2005 season.
The New Orleans Saints hadn’t been to the postseason since 2000, and they were coming off a disastrous 3-13 season. Drew, coupled with first year head coach Sean Payton, immediately led the Saints back to the postseason after a 10-6 season. Brees led the NFL in passing yards, and was named to his second Pro Bowl, as well as being a First-team All-Pro.
In 2008, Drew just missed out on breaking Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record by 15 years. He was named the 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and was the second quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season. In 2009, Brees led the Saints to Super Bowl XLIV, and was named Super Bowl MVP, defeating the Colts 31-17.
In 2011, Brees achieved the quarterback Triple Crown, leading the league in completion percentage, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. He broke Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season, with 5,476 yards on the season. He was named the 2011 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and was a Second-team All-Pro.
Brees is still playing at an extremely high level, despite the Saints’ recent years without success. In 2016, he threw for a league leading 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns, and went to the Pro Bowl.
In his 16 year career, Brees is a 10-time Pro Bowler, 2-time OPOY, and Super Bowl Champion. He’s led the league in touchdowns four times, and passing yards seven times. Drew appears to have a lot left in the tank, and deserves a lot more respect in this age of elite quarterback play.
Brett Favre – #4 Quarterback – Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings
Old man Favre went to the University of Southern Mississippi, where he started three full seasons. Brett was drafted 33rd overall in the 1991 draft by the Atlanta Falcons, who made what was probably the biggest mistake in franchise history, when they traded Favre to the Packers in exchange for a first round pick following the ’91 season.
Favre started 13 games in the 1992 season, leading the Packers to a 9-7 record. He went to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons starting, despite throwing 24 interceptions in 1993.
In 1995, Brett had what is arguably his best season, throwing for 4,413 yards and 38 touchdowns, leading the Packers to an 11-5 record and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game. In 1996, he would lead Green Bay to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the New England Patriots, 35-21. The Favre-led Packers returned to the Super Bowl in 1996, but lost to the Broncos 31-24.
Brett won three consecutive NFL MVPs, and was named to three straight First-team All-Pro teams between 1995 and 1997.
Likely Brett’s most memorable performance came on December 22nd, 2003, the day after his father suddenly passed away. Favre threw for 4 touchdowns in the first half, and 399 yards on the game, destroying the Raiders 41-7. He threw for a passer rating of 154.9, and earned applause from Raiders fans (a very difficult feat, no joke).
Favre didn’t experience a losing season until the team went 4-12 in 2005. It was clear Brett’s time in Green Bay was dwindling, with first round pick Aaron Rodgers waiting to take over the reins. He announced his retirement after the 2007 season, but returned to the league and was traded to the Jets for a fourth round pick prior to the 2008 season.
Favre again retired following a 9-7 season in New York. The Jets released him from his contract, and Favre un-retired for a second time, signing with the Minnesota Vikings. In 2009, Brett had a great season, leading Minnesota to a NFC Championship Game appearance, falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints. In 2010, Favre missed his first games since 1992, ending his NFL record 297 straight starts, and 17 straight seasons with 16 games played.
Favre retired for the final time after the 2010 season. In his 20 year career, Brett became the all-time passing leader in NFL history, throwing over 10,000 passes for 71,838 yards, 508 touchdowns, and an impressive 336 interceptions. (Those records for yards and touchdowns have since been broken by Peyton Manning.) He was voted to 11 Pro Bowls, was a 3-time First-team All-Pro, and won 3 straight NFL MVPs from ’95-’97.
Favre was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
Jack Ham – #59 Outside Linebacker – Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Ham went to Penn State University, where he was a three year starter. In his senior season, Ham was an All-American. Jack was drafted 34th overall by the Steelers in the 1971 NFL Draft, and would play his entire 12 year career with the team.
“The Hammer” was an absolute freak on the outside for the Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s. He won the starting job at left outside linebacker as a rookie, and started 160 games at the position from 1971 to 1982. Ham went to 8 straight Pro Bowls from 1973 to 1980, and was named to 6 consecutive First-team All-Pro teams from 1974 to 1979. He won Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, and XIV with the Steelers, though he did not play in XIV due to being injured.
Ham possessed blazing speed and an insane playmaking ability. He holds the NFL record for most turnovers by a non-defensive back, with 32 interceptions, and 21 fumble recoveries in his career. He unofficially has 25 sacks, as sacks weren’t an official sack until his final season in 1982.
An all-time great coverage linebacker, Ham was named on the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Jack Lambert – #58 Inside Linebacker – Pittsburgh Steelers
How fitting it is to follow up Pittsburgh Steeler great Jack Ham with his duo on the inside, Jack Lambert. Lambert played college ball at Kent State, where he was a two time All-MAC linebacker. He was drafted 46th overall by the Steelers in the 1974 draft.
Lambert was an immediate starter as a middle linebacker for the Steel Curtain defense. He started 138 games in his 11 year career, helping the Steelers win four Super Bowls in the 1970s.
Lambert was a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Tampa Two defense, which required the middle linebacker to drop into coverage, rather than play the run as is usual in most defenses. Jack was huge, at 6’4″, but incredibly fast for his size, he prided himself on his capability to fly in and crush the ball carrier, making him one of the most terrifying tacklers of all-time.
Sadly, Jack’s career was cut short by a severe, recurring toe injury. He retired after the 1984 season, having been to 9 straight Pro Bowls from 1975 to 1983. He was a 6-time First-team All-Pro, and was named to 5 straight teams from ’79-’83. Lambert was the 1976 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and is a member of both the NFL 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams.
Lambert finished his career with 1,479 total tackles, 23.5 sacks, and 28 interceptions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
Howie Long – #75 Defensive End – Oakland Raiders/Los Angeles Raiders
Howie Long played college ball at Villanova University, where he was a four year letterman, and an All-American honorable mention as a senior. Long was drafted with the 48th pick in the 1981 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Long played in all 16 games as a rookie, though he did not start. After only appearing in 9 games in 1982, Long started all 16 games in 1983. He recorded 13 sacks, was voted into the Pro Bowl, and played a big role in the Raiders’ Super Bowl XVIII victory over the Washington Redskins.
Howie recorded double digit sacks again in both 1984 and 1985, and was a First-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in both seasons. He went on to go to five more Pro Bowls in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1992, and 1993.
In his 13 year career, Long recorded 91.5 sacks, though he officially only has 84, as 7.5 were recorded in 1981 before sacks were an official stat. One of the best 3-4 defensive ends to play in the NFL, Long was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Mike Singletary – #50 Inside Linebacker – Chicago Bears
Mike played collegiate ball at Baylor University, before they became the cesspool it is today. He was an All-American in both his junior and senior seasons. Singletary was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 38th overall in the 1981 draft, where he would play his entire career.
Singletary became the starting middle linebacker for the Bears halfway through his rookie season, and received all-rookie honors. After an injury shortened 1982 season, Mike reached a new level of play and never looked back.
From 1983 through his final season in 1992, “Samurai Mike” went to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls. During that time, he was a 7-time First-Team All-Pro, and was named to 6 straight All-Pro teams from 1984 to 1989.
In 1985, Singletary had a phenomenal season, winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and leading the Bears to a crushing victory over the outmatched New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Mike would win another Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, because he was just that good.
Singletary retired after the 1992 season, having totaled 1,488 tackles in his career. He recorded 19 sacks, 12 fumbled recovers, and 7 interceptions in his 12 year career. Mike was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Michael Strahan – #92 Defensive End – New York Giants
Michael Strahan, one of the most devastating pass rushers in NFL history, played college football at Texas Southern, a historically black school who plays in Division I FCS. He holds the Tigers’ team record for sacks with 41.5.
Strahan was selected 40th overall by the New York Giants in 1993. He went on to play his entire 15 year career for Big Blue.
Michael became a starting defensive end in 1992, recording 4.5 sacks and 40 total tackles in 15 games. He had a bit of a slow start to his career, picking up no more than 7.5 sacks in each of his first four years in the league.
In 1997, Strahan found his stride. He played his way to his Pro Bowl and was named a First-team All-Pro after recording 14 sacks and 68 tackles. He would essentially have a repeat performance in 1998, going to his 2nd Pro Bowl, and being named to his second First-team All-Pro team, with a 15 sack, 67 tackle season. Michael was a Pro Bowler again in 1999, though his sack numbers dropped to 5.5 on the year.
In 2001, Strahan had one of the greatest single season performances of all-time. He got to the quarterback an NFL record 22.5 times, recorded 73 tackles, forced 6 fumbles, and recovered another for a 13 yard touchdown return. Strahan was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, was again voted to the Pro Bowl and was named a First-team All-Pro for the 3rd time.
Strahan recored 11 sacks in 2002, and a league leading 18.5 sacks in 2003, and was named a First-Team All-Pro for the fourth time. He would continue to be productive for the remainder of his career, despite being in his mid 30s, and in his final game contributed 2 tackles and a sack in the biggest upset in NFL history, as the Giants defeated the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII. (Writing that sentence took 10 years off my life.)
Michael finished his stellar career with 141.5 sacks, third most all-time. He forced 17 fumbles and recovered another 15 in 216 career games. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Andre Tippett – #56 Outside Linebacker – New England Patriots
Time to cleanse my soul after forcing myself to write nice things about Strahan. Andre Tippett is an all-time great Patriot, a bright star who had to suffer through some terribly bad teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Tippett played college ball at Iowa, where he was an All-American and two time First-team Big Ten. He was drafted 41st overall by the Patriots in the 1982 draft. He only appeared in 9 games as a rookie, but made an immediate impact in 1983, his first year starting.
Tippett made his first of 5 consecutive Pro Bowls in 1984, having recorded 18.5 sacks. In 1985, he was named to his first of two First-team All-Pro selections. He recorded 16.5 sacks in ’85, and was a part of the Patriots team who upset the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately they ran into the seemingly unstoppable 1985 Bears in the Super Bowl, which did not go well.
Andre continued to play at a high level into his late 20s and 30s, recording at least 7 sacks 5 times in his last six seasons, only one of which he was able to play all 16 games.
Tippett retired after the 1993 season, the all-time Patriots leader in sacks with 100. At the time of his retirement, he was 7th all-time in total sacks. He was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade team, and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2008.
Thurman Thomas – #34 Running Back – Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins
Thurman Thomas is, in my opinion, one of the best forgotten running backs in NFL history. During a time where Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith were running rampant, Thomas was always right there with them. Thurman was the final piece that really pushed those Buffalo Bills teams over the edge and sent them into the most underappreciated dynasty in the history of professional sports.
Thomas played college football at Oklahoma State, where he was a star. He was a two time All-American in 1985 and 1987, but a knee injury hurt his draft stock. He fell to the 40th pick, where the Bills gladly picked him up, needing a running back to compliment their deadly passing attack.
Thurman rushed for 881 yards and 2 touchdowns as a rookie in 1988, before becoming a huge piece of the offense in 1989, rushing for 1,244 yards and 6 touchdowns, as he was voted to his first Pro Bowl.
From 1990 to 1993, the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls, unfortunately never winning a championship. Thomas played a massive role in these teams, gaining 7,682 all purpose yards, and 43 touchdowns in the four year period.
From 1989-1993, Thomas went to 5 straight Pro Bowls, and was a two time First-team All-Pro in ’90 and ’91. He continued to play at a high level, rushing for 1,000 yards for his eight straight year in 1996.
In 1997, the Bills drafted Antowain Smith, who immediately took over the top running back spot. After the 1999 season, Buffalo released Thurman, who played his final season sparingly for the Miami Dolphins.
In his 13 years in the NFL, Thurman Thomas rushed for 12,074 yards and 65 touchdowns. He was active in the passing game, especially during the Super Bowl years, gaining 4,458 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air for his career.
Thomas was an incredible playoff performer. By the time he retired, he had set NFL records with 126 career playoff points, 21 playoff touchdowns, and rushed for 1,442 yards in 21 postseason games. Thurman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.