Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Top 25 NFL Draft Moments

The famed 1983 NFL draft—stocked with talented quarterbacks—was the first covered by USA TODAY.

Plenty of surprises since have made the NFL draft one of sports' most anticipated weekends. With the draft days away, here are 25 highlights and lowlights over 25 years. If your choices differ, let us know. We'll post your picks.

LOOKING BACK AT 1983: Was it the best NFL draft class ever?

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

1 FUMBLE!!!!!!

Houston bypasses Heisman Trophy-winning RB Reggie Bush with the top pick of 2006 to take defensive end Mario Williams. Bush helps New Orleans to its first NFC Championship Game. Houston finishes 6-10.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

2 Passing by the rest

QB Dan Marino is bypassed by 22 teams, falls to Miami with 27th pick of ’83. John Elway (1st), Todd Blackledge (7th), Jim Kelly (14th), Tony Eason (15th) and Ken O’Brien (24th) are QBs taken ahead of Marino, who sets significant passing records.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

3 Leafing through time

Indianapolis takes QB Peyton Manning first overall in ’98; San Diego, next up, takes QB Ryan Leaf. Manning is a perennial all-pro and Super Bowl champ. Leaf — 14 TD passes, 36 INTs total.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

4 Just saying ‘no’

Future Hall of Famer Elway vows never to play for the then-Baltimore Colts, who take him with the No. 1 pick of ’83. They ultimately trade his rights to Denver, where Elway plays in five Super Bowls and wins two.

5 The Brady hunch

New England taps eventual two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady in sixth round of 2000, the 199th overall pick and behind QBs Giovanni Carmazzi, who never plays, and Spergon Wynn (1 TD, 7 INTs total).

6 Can it, Philly

Philadelphia fans boo choice of QB Donovan McNabb with second pick of ’99, preferring Heisman-winning RB Ricky Williams. Philly gets to one Super Bowl, four NFC Championship Games in a row.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

7 Ricky, don’t lose that #

New Orleans breaks the bank for Williams, trading all of its top picks to Washington to take him. Williams, last with Miami, plagued by drug violations, hopes to play in 2007 after a year’s suspension.

8 Bo knows Bo

Tampa Bay takes RB Bo Jackson with No. 1 pick of ’86 despite his refusal to join them. After playing baseball, he joins the then-L.A. Raiders, gaining 2,782 rushing yards in parts of four years. A hip injury ends his career.

9 Offensive bust

Green Bay takes offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, dubbed “best offensive line prospect ever” by Sports Illustrated, with second pick of ’89. Mandarich is pilloried as perhaps the greatest bust.

10 Time’s up!

Minnesota, trying to work a deal with the Baltimore Ravens, exceeds 15-minute allotment in first round on the seventh pick of 2003. Jacksonville swoops in, grabs QB Byron Leftwich, whom the Ravens coveted. Carolina also makes a pick before Minnesota takes defensive tackle Kevin Williams, at No. 9.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

11 The mess about Moss

Randy Moss enters ’98 as the top game-breaking receiver. Questions of character cause him to tumble to Minnesota as 21st overall pick. Five-time Pro Bowler’s career has been embroiled in controversy.

12 Echoes of Elway

QB Eli Manning won’t play for San Diego, which takes him first in 2004 and then deals his rights to the N.Y. Giants for rights to QB Philip Rivers and draft picks that net Pro Bowler LB Shawne Merriman in 2005.

13 Clearly, no Clarett

Despite a checkered history and unimpressive workouts, RB Maurice Clarett goes to Denver in the third round of 2005. He doesn’t make the team and has never played a down in the NFL.

14 Can’t go wrong

San Diego trades the top pick of 2001 to Atlanta for its first-rounder, kick returner Tim Dwight, and two other picks. Atlanta gets top QB Michael Vick. San Diego? Record-setting LaDainian Tomlinson.

By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

15 Favoring Favre

QB Brett Favre is the 33rd pick in’91, to Atlanta, after first-round QBs Dan McGwire (Mark’s brother) and Todd Marinovich. They total 10 TD passes; Green Bay’s Favre needs seven to break Marino’s record of 420.

16 Scoring a huge TD

Denver takes RB Terrell Davis in sixth round in ’95, a key to Bronco Super Bowl wins in ’97, ’98 seasons. No. 1 pick in ’95: RB Ki-Jana Carter, whose 1,127 career rushing yards are only 10 more than Davis gained as a rookie.

17 Heisman jinx?

Since ’82, RB Barry Sanders is the only Heisman Trophy winner to make the Hall of Fame. Some never live up to projections; others (Charlie Ward, Eric Crouch, Jason White) never even play.

18 ‘Rocket’ man

Star receiver Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, a potential No. 1 overall pick in ’91, accepts $18 million deal from the Canadian Football League, joins Raiders two years later.

By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

19 Kick it up

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski goes to the Raiders with the 17th pick of 2000, the only pure special-teams player taken in the first round in the last 25 years.

20 Sapping Philadelphia’s plans

Philly deals first- and second-rounders to Tampa Bay in ’95 for defensive end Mike Mamula, who wowed scouts but has a pedestrian career. Tampa Bay? Perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

21 Long day’s journey

Viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick to the 49ers in 2005, QB Aaron Rodgers spends a long day waiting before in the green room after San Francisco opts for Utah QB Alex Smith. Green Bay finally selects Rodgers with the 24th pick.

22 The no-college route

The then-Phoenix Cardinals take defensive tackle Eric Swann sixth overall in ’91. Swann, who played for semipro Bay State (Mass.) Titans and did not attend college, becomes a two-time Pro Bowler.

23 Jets’ mother lode

After a history of notable draft blunders, the N.Y. Jets finally succeed in 2000 with QB Chad Pennington and future Pro Bowlers in defensive linemen Shaun Ellis and John Abraham and receiver Laveranues Coles.

By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

24 Twin peaks

Twins Tiki and Ronde Barber go in back-to-back rounds in ’97. Tiki (second round) becomes the Giants’ career rushing leader; Ronde (third round) is a four-time Pro Bowler with a Super Bowl ring as a cornerback with Tampa Bay.

25 Mr. Irrelevant

Michigan center Matt Elliott, “Mr. Irrelevant” as the final player selected in ’92 (the final time the draft is extended to 12 rounds), makes Washington’s roster as the 336th player taken. Elliott goes on to become a starting guard for Carolina (’95-97).

Source: Research by Nate Davis and Rachel Shuster, USA TODAY.