Packers’ Best-Ever First Round Draft Picks

2016 NFL Draft ApproachingThe NFL draft is nearly here, which unfortunately conjures bad memories among Packers fans about all-time busts like Tony Mandarich, Ahmad Carroll, and Justin Harrell, to name but a few. But the Packers get their #1 pick right a fair amount, too, so this post focuses on the positive vibes it might send Ted Thompson’s way! So here are my choices for the Green Bay Packers’ top round #1 draft picks of all time. (At one time, players could sign with any team they wanted, so that’s why you won’t see a player like Don Hutson on this list.)

10. Ken Ruettgers, OT, USC, 1985

The 7th pick of the 1985 NFL Draft, Ruettgers was rock solid for a decade as the Packers’ starting left tackle, including being named the team’s offensive MVP in 1989. Unfortunately, injuries left him unable to finish what would end up being a championship season in 1996. Ruettgers was named to the Packers Hall of Fame in 2014.

9. Willie Buchanon, CB, San Diego State, 1972

Dan Devine made MANY mistakes as Packers coach and GM, he didn’t drop the ball on this one. Willie was the 7th overall pick, and the 1972 Defensive Rookie of the Year. A three-time All-Pro, he had nine interceptions in 1978, including a record-tying four in one game against the Chargers, where he ended his stellar career.

8. Gale Gillingham, G, Minnesota, 1966

Country strong before that phrase became popular, “Gilly’s” great play was sometimes overlooked due to the fact he played most of his career on dismal Packers teams. He was a 5-time Pro Bowl pick and selected to the Packers Hall of Fame in 1982. He died at age 67 in 2011.

7. Clay Matthews, LB, USC, 2009

Undoubtedly the second-best of Ted Thompson’s #1 picks asClay Matthews - Packer Emotion Packers GM. A perennial Pro Bowler, he has been the cornerstone of the Packers defense since that time. Will he move back to outside linebacker this season?

6. Sterling Sharpe, WR, South Carolina, 1988

I have Sharpe ranked here due to the incredible impact he had as the Packers’ sole star receiver during most of his time in GB, a career cut short by a neck injury in 1994. Fearless over the middle, and blessed with strong hands, he caught 107 passes in 1992. Had it not been for his early retirement, Packers’ receivers would probably still be chasing his records.

5. James Lofton, WR, Stanford, 1978

Without question the top draft pick of Bart Starr’s tenure as Packers GM, Lofton was an 8-time Pro Bowl selection (seven with the Packers, one with the Buffalo Bills). He was immortalized in Canton in 2003.

4. Dave Robinson, LB, Penn State, 1963

After backing up Dan Currie during his rookie season, Robinson became a starting outside linebacker for the Packers and remained in that role with the team through 1972. Alongside the immortal MLB Ray Nitschke (a third-round pick) and Pro Bowler Lee Roy Caffey, the threesome formed one of the best starting units of linebackers in NFL history. “Robby,” as he was affectionately known, was inducted into the Pro Football of Fame in 2013.

3. Paul Hornung, HB, Notre Dame, 1957

Hornung is the first in pro football history to win the Heisman Trophy, be selected as the first overall selection in the NFL Draft, win the NFL most valuable player award, and be inducted into both the professional and college football halls of fame. Enough said.

2. Herb Adderley, HB, Michigan State, 1961

He began his professional career as a halfback on offense, but with Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor already starring as running backs, Vince Lombardi switched Adderley to cornerback. Adderley was an all-NFL selection five times in the 1960s and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. He also holds the Packers’ record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a career with seven (a mark he shares with Darren Sharper.)

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, California, 2005

After sitting on the bench as Brett Favre’s understudy for three years, the 2-time MVP has kept the Packers’ run of excellence going like the Energizer bunny. Most teams would have struggled to land a solid starter for years after losing a player like Favre, so that gives A-Rod the nod as the Packers’ all-time best round one selection.


Honorable mention:

Ron Kramer, end, Michigan, 1957; Dan Currie, LB, Michigan State, 1958; John Anderson, LB, Michigan, 1978; Wayne Simmons, LB, Clemson, 1993; Craig Newsome, CB, Arizona State, 1995; Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa, 2010.

Submitted by: Mike Jacquart

Packers’ Best-Ever First Round Draft Picks
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5 thoughts on “Packers’ Best-Ever First Round Draft Picks

  • April 21, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Is there a better draft pick than Bart Starr?

  • April 21, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I was after only ROUND ONE top draft picks. Bart, certainly, would headline any list of top lower-round picks ever.

  • April 22, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Sharpe had 108 receptions in 1992. An NFL record at the time. He then bested that in 1993 with 112 receptions.

    • April 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      Thanks for the clarification on the Sharpe thing Adam.


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