Ranking best NFL draft picks of all time: Walter Payton headlines the top five taken at No. 4

The 2022 NFL Draft will be here soon and we’ll see an influx of new talent. This means that there is a chance we will welcome in players who could change the face and future of the NFL, just like all the players we’ll be talking about today. Yes, we are continuing our countdown towards the draft by ranking the greatest players to ever have stepped on an NFL field. Today, we’ll be looking at the best of those who have ever been selected as No. 4 overall. 

As you would expect, you have to choose between a lot of great players when you draft high. But that’s not how top-five lists work. There will be some greats who are unfortunately left off the table. These include Gale Sayers and Bob Griese, Jonathan Ogden and Willie McGinest. Each of them could have made a strong case for their inclusion in the top five, but they didn’t make it this time.   

As for the 2022 NFL Draft, the No. The New York Jets currently hold the 4th pick. Our CBS Sports NFL Draft experts have Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton as some of the prospects to possibly come off the board at this spot in their most recent mock drafts. There is a chance that the pick here could be an all-time star and make it to the top of the list after his career. Here are our picks for the fourth spot. 

5. Charles Woodson, safety

1998 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 4 overall (Michigan).
Team(s): Oakland Raiders (1998–2005, 2013–2015), Green Bay Packers (2006)-2012

This No. It was difficult to pick the No. I wouldn’t fight you so hard if you wanted Gale Sayers to go in here and Woodson to go out. The safety was a tremendous asset throughout his NFL career, and is widely considered one of the greatest defense backs of all times. After a remarkable collegiate career at Michigan in college, he was drafted by the Raiders and won the NFL’s Defensive rookie of the year in 1998. After being drafted by Raiders, Woodson was a true ironman. He played 18 seasons in the NFL and was an eight-time All Pro (four first-team and four second-team). 

Woodson was the league’s leader in interceptions twice and won Defensive Player-of-the Year in 2009. He also helped the Packers win the Super Bowl XLV title. This was a game in which he fractured his collar bone just before halftime. His 65 career interceptions are tied with the fifth-most in NFL history. He also finished his career in the top five of NFL history in pick-6es and passes protected. Woodson also holds a few franchise records with the Raiders as well as the Packers, thanks to his success with both teams throughout his career. 

Woodson, a 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame member, will soon have his bust displayed in Canton. So it’s only right that he is listed as one of the greatest ever to be taken number. 4 overall.   

4. Otto Graham, quarterback

1944 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 4 overall (Northwestern).
Team(s): Cleveland Browns (1946-1955).

Graham is considered one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks, so it would be silly to leave him off this list. Graham made his way to the Cleveland Browns in 1946, but at that time the team was a member the AAFC. He was the league’s alltime leading passer in yards (and touchdowns). Graham showed that he could compete with the best and that he could even outshine them by making the move to the NFL. Graham led the Browns’ three NFL championships. He was also the league MVP three more times and was a seven time first-team All Pro. Graham is one of the most decorated players in professional football history, with his four AAFC championships as well as two AAFC MVPs. 

Similar to Tom Brady, Graham was regarded as a winner. He set the standard in how the position of quarterback was to be played in its early days. He is still highly respected today, having been named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All Time Team a few years ago. He is a member of the Browns Ring of Honor, and his No. The franchise has retired 14 

3. “Mean” Joe Greene, defensive tackle

1969 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 4 overall (North Texas State). 
Team(s): Pittsburgh Steelers (1969-1981).

“Mean”Joe Greene, another legend in the game, is one among the greatest defensive players ever. This gives him a right to be included in this top 5. Greene was not only a dominant player on the field but it also led to wins. The 1969 draft saw the arrival of Greene, a future Hall of Famer. It also coincided with Chuck Noll’s hiring as head coach. They became two of the most prominent faces of the Steelers dynasty, which went on to win four Super Bowls under Greene’s leadership. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound, 5-foot-4 Greene was a major player in Pittsburgh’s dominant defense known as the Steel Curtain. He also won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1969. Greene was named to 10 Pro Bowls, and was an eight-time All-Pro (five on the first-team and three on the second-team).

It’s not difficult to say Greene was the greatest NFL defensive player during the 1970s. This is fitting considering he was named to The All-Decade Team for that ten-year period. He was a combination of speed, strength and speed that allowed him to disrupt any game at his feet. He was also clutch, as he nearly led Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl IX title. This title was the franchise’s first. His dominant games against the Raiders and the Vikings in Super Bowl were the result of his combination of speed and strength. 

Greene was also named NFL Defensive Players of the Year in 1972 and 1974, further cementing its greatness. Greene was a great defensive player and was also very durable. This is an incredible feat considering his physical style. Greene played in 181 contests during his career, out of a possible total of 190. 

His No. The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to retire his No. 75 jersey because he’s the greatest defense player to ever wear the black-and-gold.  

2. John Hannah, offensive guard

1973 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 4 overall (Alabama).
Team(s): New England Patriots (1973-1985).

You’ll be ranked high on these lists if you are the best player at your position in NFL history. John Hannah is not only considered the greatest guard, but Sports Illustrated also dubbed him the “The Greatest Guard of All Time”. “The Best Offensive Lineman of All Time”Back in 1981. The Alabama product was fourth overall in 1973’s Patriots draft. He continued his 13-year NFL career in Foxborough. Hannah was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was on 10 consecutive All-Pro Teams. His ability to pull and serve the Patriots’ lead blocker on sweeps was unmatched. New England was able to dominate the ground thanks to his size, speed, strength, and position. Hannah set an NFL record for the Patriots with 3,165 yards of rushing in 1978. This mark was the gold standard for ground attack, and it was maintained until the 2019 Baltimore Ravens surpassed it. 

Hannah is unique because he was a dominant player for a long time, and was named to both the 1970s-and 1980s All-Decade Team. He is also a member on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All Time Team and 100th Anniversary All Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton in 1991 and became the first member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame. His No. The organization has also retired his No. 

1. Walter Payton, running in the back

1975 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. Round 1, No.
Team(s): Chicago Bears (1975-1987).

Even with all these legends, it was obvious that Walter Payton would be the player who slots into the No. 1. He’s one of NFL’s greatest players and if you had to start a new team, he’d be your backfield’s centerpiece. As you’d imagine, the résumé is pristine: NFL MVP (1977), seven-time first-team All-Pro, All-Decade Team (1970s, 1980s), 100th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the list goes on. His 1977 season was nothing short of amazing. He ran for 1,852 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, which were both NFL records at the time. He was also named league MVP that season and the NFL’s Man-of-the Year, making it one the most memorable campaigns by a back in the history of football. 

Payton was no one-year wonder, catching lightning in his bottle. He was wire-to-wire dominant throughout his professional career, all of it with the Chicago Bears. Payton was also present as the Bears beat New England in Super Bowl XX. He won the lone title of the Bears’ career. Payton still holds the all-time records for rushing yards, combined scrimmage yards, and his retirement. Today, he’s No. Emmitt Smith is currently at No. 2 on the all time rushing list. 

Payton was not only an outstanding player on the football field, but he was also a remarkable person off the field. In 1999, the NFL renamed the NFL Man of the Year Award to the Walter Payton Man of the Year. It is the clear-cut No. This all-time top spot is a clear No. 

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