The Last 25 Years: Best Third-Round Picks – Defense


We continue with Part Four of our look back at all the rounds of the NFL Draft beyond the much-hyped first round.We’ve covered all the positions on the offensive side of the ball.  Now, let’s look at the best defenders selected over the last quarter century in the third round.

Defensive Tackle – Jim Flanigan, Pick 71, 1994, Chicago Bears

Flanigan left the game in 2004 and never seemed to get the recognition his stats should have gotten him – 264 tackles, 46 sacks, 1 int.  It’s terribly unusual for a defensive tackle to pile up many sacks but Flanigan managed enough in his career to appear on this list just not enough to make the Pro Bowl.  Go figure.

Defensive Tackle – Darwin Walker, Pick 71, 2000, Arizona Cardinals

Here’s another tackle who has managed to place some pressure on the QB.  His stats aren’t too bad – 148 tackles, 28.5 sacks, 1 int., 12 passes defensed, 5 forced fumbles.  Though I will admit that this is a weak position for the last twenty-five years in the third round.

Others – Randy Starks, Tennessee Titans (#71, 2004); Jay alford, New York Giants (#81, 2007).

Defensive End – Jason Taylor, Pick 73, 1997, Miami Dolphins

He has most recently proven he can dance, for whatever that’s worth.  But Taylor will be remembered for his pass rush off the edge.  He’s a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame after putting up impressive numbers – 657 tackles, 117 sacks, 7 interceptions, 7 TD’s, 68 passes defensed.  He has also made six Pro Bowl appearances, been named All-Pro four times and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.  And he’s not done.

Defensive End – Pat Swilling, Pick 60, 1986, New Orleans Saints

Swilling, it will be argued, was a linebacker.  However, he switched back and forth between LB and DE and was drafted as a defensive end.  His career numbers are solid – 468 tackles, 107.5 sacks, 6 int., 1 TD.    He was voted All-Pro six times and was also voted to the Pro Bowl five times.

Others – Mike Vrabel, Pittsburgh Steelers (#91, 1997); Justin Tuck, New York Giants (#74, 2005).

Linebacker – Lance Briggs, Pick 68, 2003, Chicago Bears

Briggs has had a solid start to his NFL career.  He has 446 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 3 TD’s and 34 passes defensed in his first five years in the league.  He isn’t the sack artist that other linebackers are but was prevented from hitting the open market as a free agent.  If that happens, his value will be evident.

Linebacker – Tedy Bruschi, Pick 86, 1996, New England Patriots

I’m not sure how it’s possible to respect a player more than Bruschi.  He did come back from a stroke to play in the NFL.  That’s impressive…even more so than the already very good numbers he’s accumulated – 1019 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 12 int., 4 TD’s, 47 passes defensed.  Add a Pro Bowl and three Super Bowl titles and his career numbers are hard to ignore.

Linebacker – Bill Romanowski, Pick 80, 1988, San Francisco 49ers

He hasn’t endeared himself to fans with some of his actions, including me.  However, no one can’t ignore the career numbers that Romanowski put up – 911 tackles, 39.5 sacks, 18 int., 1 TD, 55 passes defensed.  He also went to two Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro once.

Linebacker – Jack Del Rio, Pick 68, 1985, New Orleans Saints

Modern fans will know him as a coach but Del Rio was also a fine linebacker for the Saints, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings.  He even spent time in Miami before retiring when he lost out to a very young Zach Thomas.  For his career, he totalled 941 tackles, 13 sacks, 13 int., and 1 TD.  He also made the Pro Bowl once and was named All-Pro once.

Others – Kyle Clifton, New York Jets (#64, 1984); Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams (#65, 1998); Jeremiah Trotter, Philadelphia Eagles (#72, 1998); Darryl Blackstock, Arizona Cardinals (#95, 2005); Chike Okeafor, San Francisco 49ers (#89, 1999); Will Witherspoon, Carolina Panthers (#73, 2002); Landon Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals (#96, 2004); Channing Crowder, Miami Dolphins (#70, 2005).

Cornerback – Aeneas Williams, Pick 59, 1991, Phoenix Cardinals

What a career for a third-round selection!  Williams visited Honolulu eight times and was named All-Pro five times.  His stats are very impressive – 812 tackles, 3 sacks, 55 int., 9 TD’s, 122 passes defensed.  Next stop – Canton, Ohio.

Cornerback – Albert Lewis, Pick 61, 1983, Kansas City Chiefs

Lewis became a part of a solid secondary for the better part of his career for the Chiefs.  His numbers are solid – 797 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 42 int., 1 TD.  He made four Pro Bowl appearances and has been inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame.  Not bad for a guy who was picked at number 61, huh?

Others – Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#66, 1997); Ellis Hobbs, New England Patriots (#84, 2005); Ray Mickens, New York Jets (#62, 1996); Mike McKenzie, Green Bay Packers (#87, 1999); Tim McKyer, San Francisco 49ers (#64, 1986); Allen Rossum, Philadelphia Eagles (#85, 1998); Ray Buchanan, Indianapolis Colts (#65, 1993); Bubba McDowell, Houston Oilers (#77, 1989).

Safety – John Lynch, Pick 82, 1993, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He’s always been known as a hitter and the 1066 tackles Lynch racked up at safety would bear that out.  But there’s nothing wrong with his other numbers – 13 sacks, 26 int., 63 passes defensed.  Nine Pro Bowl trips and four All-Pro teams fill out his resume.

Safety – Greg Wesley, Pick 85, 2000, Kansas City Chiefs

Why do more people not know Wesley’s name?  His stats have been solid – 586 tackles, 6 sacks, 29 int., 33 passes defensed.  He’s managed this over eight seasons in the Midwest but he has yet to make a Pro Bowl.  Something should give for Wesley.

Others – None.