Commentary

The greatest top 10 picks ever

Picking in the top 10 is difficult, these were the greatest in the time I've been evaluating

Updated: March 5, 2011, 3:44 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN.com
Ronnie Lott  and Deion Sanders AP Photo, Getty ImagesDrafted 8th and 5th, respectively, Ronnie Lott and Deion Sanders became stars.

Every Friday Mel Kiper writes about the NFL through the prism of the NFL draft. For this, we asked him to evaluate the best picks since he's been in the business.

Ask any coach or GM: There are few things more bittersweet about the NFL than drafting high. On one hand, you have the chance to change your team with one pick, to add the kind of talent that can help preserve your job and allow you to drop down the draft order in the coming years. On the flipside, there's the pressure to get it right. Can this player help right away? Can you be patient with him? Can the franchise progress while breaking in youth?

Bottom line: Everybody wants the player, nobody wants the pressure of the pick.

So here is my list of the best teams have ever done with the top picks -- the greatest draft picks ever in positions No. 1 through 10. One major caveat: I was asked to do picks from 1970 on, which is, essentially, from the time I can remember. I began evaluating for a living in 1978. So that should set the parameters. With some, it's almost impossible to decide. But, I had to pick somebody ...

Greatest No. 10 Pick: Rod Woodson, 1987
Runners-up: Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis

Allen and Bettis were extremely good players, and for a long time, but Woodson flat-out dominated at a crucial position. No cornerback has ever gone to as many Pro Bowls as Woodson (11), and he became a good safety, too. He finished with 71 career interceptions, 12 of them returned for touchdowns, and an absurd-sounding 1,473 career yards in interception returns. It was a remarkable NFL career for the two-sport star at Purdue.

Greatest No. 9 Pick: Bruce Matthews, 1983
Runner-up: Jerome Brown

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst