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Sports Then and Now

NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 75-51

Posted on January 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl

One of the cool parts of the NFL celebrating 100 years in 2019 is remembering the great moments and players that have helped shape the history of the game.

The NFL Network and others have developed their own All-Time teams or top 100 player lists.

Not to be out-done, we have also chosen Sports Then and Now’s top 100 players in NFL history.

We are breaking the selections into four groups of 25. You can read our players 100-76 here. We will be featuring the top 50 in two subsequent posts.

In a sport that has seen great change and evolution over 100 years, creating any comprehensive all-time list is going to be subjective and open to interpretation. You can read more about the criteria we used to select our top 100 players.

This is the second of four posts announcing the ST&N Top 100. This one includes players 75-51 (the team listed is the one they were most associated with during their career).

Shannon Sharpe

75. Shannon Sharpe – Denver Broncos – 8 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: The most dominant tight end of his era, Sharpe was a key weapon for John Elway during the 1990s. He caught 80 or more passes three times and also had three 1,000 yard seasons. He helped the Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 and then caught 67 passes to help the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl following the 2000 season.

74. Ernie Nevers – Chicago Cardinals –5 time 1st Team All-Pro: A four-sport college star at Stanford, Nevers played five seasons in the NFL (1926-27 with the Duluth Eskimos and 1929-31 with the Chicago Cardinals) and was a first team All-Pro as a fullback each season. In 1929 he established an NFL record that still stands when he scored all 40 points (six touchdowns and four extra points) in a 40-6 win over the Chicago Bears. He was an inaugural inductee of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

73. Paul Warfield – Miami Dolphins – 8 Pro Bowls; 2 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the greatest deep-threat receivers in NFL history, Warfield averaged 20.1 yards per reception for his career. With 85 career touchdown catches out of 427 career receptions, he averaged a touchdown for every five receptions throughout his career. He helped the Cleveland Browns win the NFL Championship during his rookie season and then proved to be a key addition for the Miami Dolphins as they went to three straight Super Bowls and won consecutive titles in 1972 and 1973.

72. Randall McDaniel – Minnesota Vikings – 12 Pro Bowls; 7 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the top offensive linemen of the 1990s, McDaniel was a first-team All-Pro guard seven times and second-team twice between 1990 and 1998.

71. Randy Moss – Minnesota Vikings – 6 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro: Few players have created the immediate buzz that Moss did as a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. He caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and a league-high 17 touchdowns as the Vikings went 15-1. He eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards 10 times during his career and had nine seasons with 10 or more touchdown receptions. In 2007 with the New England Patriots, he established an NFL record with 23 receiving touchdowns to help the Patriots finish 16-0 during the regular season.

70. Steve Largent – Seattle Seahawks – 7 Pro Bowls; 1 time 1st team All-Pro: The first Superstar of the Seattle Seahawks franchise, Largent was one of the most prolific receivers of his era.  He had 70 or more catches six times in his career and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards eight times, including twice leading the league. He had double digit touchdown receptions three times and was the first player in NFL history with 100 touchdown receptions. At the time of his retirement he was the NFL career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

69. Jonathan Ogden – Baltimore Ravens – 11 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro: A dominant left tackle, Ogden was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the final 11 seasons of his career. He was called for only 15 holding penalties in 12 seasons.

68. Ray Nitschke – Green Bay Packers – 1 Pro Bowl; 2 time 1st team All-Pro: A key member of the Green Bay Packers five championship teams in the 1960s, Nitschke was a two-time first team All-Pro and three time second team All-Pro at middle linebacker. He had 25 interceptions and recovered 23 fumbles during his career.

67. John Mackey – Baltimore Colts – 5 Pro Bowls; 3 time 1st team All-Pro: A game-changing tight end during his 10-year NFL career, Mackey twice averaged more than 20 yards per reception for a season. In 1966 he caught 50 passes for a career-high 829 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught a 75-yard touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V.

Tony Dorsett

66. Tony Dorsett – Dallas Cowboys – 4 Pro Bowls; 1 time 1st team All-Pro: An electrifying runner who helped the Dallas Cowboys reach two Super Bowls (winning one) and five NFC Championship games in his first six seasons, Dorsett rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first eight non-strike seasons. He rushed for more than 100 yards in a game 45 times with his team posting a 40-5 record. He rushed for 12,739 yards with 77 touchdowns and caught 398 passes for 3,554 yards and 13 touchdowns during his career. He was the second leading rusher in NFL history at the time of his retirement.

65. Willie Brown – Oakland Raiders – 9 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st team All-Pro: A dominant defensive back for 16 seasons with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, Brown registered 54 interceptions in the regular season and seven interceptions (with three touchdowns) in the playoffs. He had a 75-yard interception for a touchdown to help the Raiders defeat the Vikings in Super Bowl XI. He was a member of the All-AFL team for the 1960s.

64. Jack Ham – Pittsburgh Steelers – 8 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the best outside linebackers in pass coverage in NFL history, Ham was a key player on four Super Bowl championship teams with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. He was a first-time All-Pro six straight years between 1974 and 1979 and intercepted 32 passes in his career. He also recovered 21 fumbles during his career.

63. Eric Dickerson – Los Angeles Rams – 6 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st team All-Pro: The first player to lead the NFL in rushing yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, Dickerson’s 2,105 rushing yards in 1984 remain the highest single season total in league history. He was the NFL running champion four times during his career and averaged more than 100 yards rushing per game for a season five times during his career.

62. Bart Starr – Green Bay Packers – 4 Pro Bowls; 1 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the greatest game managers in league history, Starr led the Packers to 6 NFL Championship Games, winning five, and was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. He led the NFL in completion percentage and passer rating four times. After losing his first post season start, he led the Packers to victories in nine straight playoff games. He threw 15 touchdown passes with only three interceptions in ten career playoff games.

61. Mel Blount – Pittsburgh Steelers – 5 Pro Bowls; 2 time 1st team All-Pro: At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Blount was a physical cornerback whose style necessitated new rules restricting contact by defenders. He led the NFL with 11 interceptions in 1975 and was named the Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his career with 57 career picks while helping the Steelers win four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.

60. Willie Davis – Green Bay Packers – 5 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st team All-Pro: After spending two seasons as a reserve for the Cleveland Browns, Davis joined the Packers in 1960 and helped the team advance to the NFL Championship Game that season. Green Bay went on to win five of the next seven NFL Championships and Davis was chosen as a first team All-NFL selection five times.

Willie Davis

59. Bobby Bell – Kansas City Chiefs – 9 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st team All-Pro: The 6-foot-4, 228 pound linebacker, Bell was one of the most physically dominant players of his era. He was a key component of a dominant Kansas City defense that twice led the AFL in scoring defense and finished in the top four in scoring and total defense each season between 1964 and 1969. He had 26 career interceptions and returned six of them for touchdowns.

58. Bill George – Chicago Bears – 8 Pro Bowls; 8 time 1st team All-Pro: Though often overshadowed by other middle linebackers in Bears history, George was a first team All-Pro more times than Singletary or Butkus. He was a first-team All-Pro seven straight years from 1955-1961 and then again in 1963. The Bears finished in the top five in scoring defense six times during his career, including leading the league in scoring and total defense in 1963 when they won the NFL Championship. He registered 18 career interceptions and recovered 19 fumbles during his career.

57. Lou Groza – Cleveland Browns – 9 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro: An All-Pro as both a kicker and offensive tackle, Groza was a key part of eight championship squads during his 21 year career. He was a starting offensive lineman for 14 seasons and scored 1,608 career points as a kicker. At the age of 40, he scored a career-high 115 points in 1964 as the Browns won the NFL title.

56. Larry Allen – Dallas Cowboys – 11 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st team All-Pro: Having all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith running behind you certainly can make any offensive lineman look good, but Allen was considered to be one of the most dominant players of his era. After moving from tackle to guard following his rookie season, he was a Pro Bowl selection in 11 of the next 12 seasons and earned first team All-Pro honors six times. He was called for only 13 holding penalties during his career and in five different seasons was not called for a holding penalty.

55. Bruce Matthews – Houston Oilers – 14 Pro Bowls; 7 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the most versatile offensive linemen in NFL history, Matthews was a starter at all five line positions at some point during his career. He earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors at both left and right guard and at center. He played in 296 career games, including starting the final 224 games of his career.

54. O.J. Simpson – Buffalo Bills – 6 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st team All-Pro: The only running back to gain more than 2,000 yards rushing in a 14-game season, Simpson was the most electrifying player of the 1970s. He led the NFL in rushing four times in a five-year stretch and in 1975 scored a then-record 23 touchdowns. His 143.1 yards rushing per game in 1973 is the highest single season average in league history.

Leo Nomellini

53. Leo Nomellini – San Francisco 49ers – 10 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the last great two-way players, Nomellini earned All-Pro honors as both an offensive and defensive tackle during his 14 year career. He was a first-team All-Pro six times, four as a defensive tackle and twice as an offensive tackle. He played in all 174 regular season games for the 49ers during his career.

52. Terry Bradshaw – Pittsburgh Steelers – 3 Pro Bowls; 1 time 1st team All-Pro: The first quarterback to start four Super Bowl victories, Bradshaw overcame a slow start to his career to develop into one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL during the 1970s. He was a two-time Super Bowl MVP and was the NFL MVP in 1978 when he tossed a career-high 28 touchdown passes.

51. Herb Adderley – Green Bay Packers – 5 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro:  A key member of the great Green Bay defenses of the 1960s, Adderley intercepted 48 career passes, including seven returned for touchdowns, and his 1,046 interception return yards are the ninth highest total in NFL history. He was a member of five NFL Championship teams with the Packers (including two Super Bowl victories) and also played in two Super Bowls (winning one) with the Dallas Cowboys. He was also an outstanding kickoff returner with more than 3,000 career return yards and an average of 25.7 yards per return.

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