Best Number Two Picks in NFL History

February 29, 2012 Updated: February 29, 2012
Chicago Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh (L) reacts
Lawrence Taylor (56) was the second overall pick in the 1981 draft and retired as the NFL's all-time leader in sacks. (Eugene Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)

With news swirling around the NFL these days that the St. Louis Rams are prepared to trade their first-round second-overall draft pick to the highest bidder, the question becomes, what could the Rams possibly be missing out on?

St. Louis actually should know better than most what you can get with the second pick, having picked there in two of the last four drafts. Judging from the results you can see why they’d choose to trade down (they could only trade up if the Colts decided to move down and they’ve given no indication that they will).

In 2008 St. Louis selected Virginia defensive end Chris Long with the second pick. Long hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl yet or been awarded First-Team All-Pro status but has accumulated 30.5 sacks—including 13.5 last year—in four years. Not a bad pick, but with running back Chris Johnson, (three Pro Bowls, one All-Pro) quarterback Matt Ryan (one Pro Bowl), and offensive tackle Ryan Clady (two Pro Bowls, one All-Pro) still on the board, Long wasn’t the next best player in the draft.

The next year the Rams had the second-overall pick again and used it on Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith. Smith has started just 26 games (out of a possible 48 games) over the last three seasons. In addition, Smith has only been used at right tackle thus far, as St. Louis doesn’t trust him enough to start on the other side and protect quarterback Sam Bradford’s blind side.

In any case, there still have been a number of successful number-two picks in the NFL. Here are the best since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970:

10. Cornelius Bennett, Linebacker, 1987-2000, drafted by: Indianapolis Colts, 1987; Defensive statistics: 71.5 sacks, 31 forced fumbles, 27 fumble recoveries, 1,048 solo tackles, 142 assists. Awards/Honors: 5 Pro Bowls, 1 First-Team All-Pro—The Colts traded Bennett to Buffalo after taking him in the draft, and while with the Bills, Bennett accumulated all his above awards/honors in leading them to four AFC titles.

9. Neil Smith, Defensive End, 1988-2000; drafted by: Kansas City Chiefs, 1988; Defensive statistics: 104.5 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries, 582 solo tackles, 41 assists. Awards/Honors: 6 Pro Bowls, 1 First-Team All-Pro—Smith had 10-plus sacks four straight seasons (1992-95) and led the league with 15 in 1993 when he was named an All-Pro. Smith’s one more Pro Bowl nod in one less season gives him the slight nod over Bennett here.

8. Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle, 2010-Present, drafted by: Detroit Lions, 2010; Defensive statistics: 14 sacks, 4 pass deflections, 74 tackles, 30 assists. Awards/Honors: 1 Pro Bowl, 1 First-Team All-Pro—A bit of a surprise pick here as Suh is only two years into his career, but the Nebraska-alum has quickly made his mark in the league with an impressive rookie season. Though his numbers dropped a bit this past season after he was suspended two games for dirty play, Suh still gets the slight edge over Smith for ascending all the way to All-Pro status in his first season.

7. Tony Boselli, Offensive Tackle, 1995-2001; drafted by: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995; Offensive statistics: started 90 games at left tackle. Awards/Honors: 5 Pro Bowls, 3 First-Team All-Pros—Boselli’s star didn’t shine in the NFL for very long but it shone very brightly. The only years he wasn’t a Pro Bowler or All-Pro were his rookie year and his final season in 2001, where injuries limited him to just three games.

6. Tony Dorsett, Running Back, 1977-88; drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1977; Offensive statistics: 12,739 rushing yards, 3,554 receiving yards, 91 total touchdowns. Awards/Honors: 4 Pro Bowls, 1 First-Team All-Pro, inducted into Hall of Fame in 1994 – Though Dorsett never led the league in rushing, he topped the 1,000-yard mark in eight of his first nine seasons and retired as second all-time in rushing yards behind Walter Payton. Though with fewer accolades than Boselli, his longevity and Hall of Fame induction gets him the nod over Jacksonville’s tackle.

5. Julius Peppers, Defensive End, 2002-Present; drafted by: Carolina Panthers, 2002; Defensive statistics: 100 sacks, 37 forced fumbles, 9 fumble recoveries, 59 pass deflections, 391 solo tackles, 87 assists. Awards/Honors: 7 Pro Bowls, 3 First-Team All-Pros—Peppers isn’t in the Hall like Dorsett, but soon will be and his honors for being the best at his position three different times trumps Dorsett’s lone nod. Peppers shows no signs of slowing down, making the Pro Bowl this past season with Chicago just after his 32nd birthday.

4. Marshall Faulk…