Green Bay has chosen nearly 1,300 players since 1936 and, in that time, has owned nearly every position in the current first round, from first to 32nd overall. So what follows is a tough assignment for even the most faithful follower of the Packers: A 32-man list designating the top player at each slot that the club has selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
A key word is nearly. The only first-round picks the Packers have not had in team history are 17th and 31st overall. The club has had those selections in the draft, however, when they were second- or third-round choices.
This isn’t a list of the best 32 draft picks in club history, though some names would be similar. This is the best player at each particular slot in the first round, and a few players are in sole possession of the honor, making them winners by default.
1. Paul Hornung, QB, Notre Dame, 1957 – Hornung was a bonus lottery pick, so this is a bit of an anomaly. Starting in 1947, the NFL held an annual lottery, with the winner receiving the first pick overall. Once a team won, it was out of the drawing and the Packers finally got lucky when they were the last team standing, with the league disbanding the bonus pick after Hornung, the Irish QB who played running back in the NFL. Including Len Dawson, Jim Brown and Jim Parker, Hornung was among four Hall of Famers taken in the first eight picks that year. Two years later the club earned its lone first overall pick, and selected Iowa QB Randy Duncan. He never suited up in a Green Bay uniform, going to the CFL instead for a bigger payday. For an organization with the long history of the Packers, only having the first overall pick once by record is actually something to be proud of.
2. Mike McCoy, DT, Notre Dame, 1970 – He was never the dominating presence inside the Packers expected when taking him so high, but McCoy played in Green Bay for seven years and led the club in sacks in 1973 with six and tied for the lead in ’76 with 8.5.
3. Dan Currie, C, Michigan State, 1958 – After playing center and linebacker in college, Currie played defense exclusively for the Packers and was on two NFL Championship teams and earned All-Pro honors. He was part of a draft class that included Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer.
4. Ron Kramer, TE, Michigan, 1957 – Selected three spots behind Hornung, the Michigan tight end played for the Packers for seven seasons and is among the club’s all-time great players.
5. Fred Carr, LB, UTEP, 1968 – A three-time Pro-Bowler, including in 1971 when he was the game’s MVP, Carr started every game for eight years and didn’t miss a game in his 10 seasons with the Packers.
6. James Lofton, WR, Stanford, 1978 – Polished deep threat played in 136 contests and the Stanford target still holds the team record for receiving yardage.
7. Sterling Sharpe, WR, South Carolina, 1988 – Despite his career being cut short, Sharpe is among the club’s best all-time receivers and was the first NFL player to go over 100 receptions in consecutive years. A runner-up would be Donny Anderson in 1965. He scored 31 TDs, rushed for 4,700 yards, caught over 200 passes and handled the team’s punting chores before departing in 1972.
8. Dick Wildung, T, Minnesota, 1943 – Inducted to the Packers Hall of Fame in 1973, Wildung played guard, tackle and along the defensive line. His football career is framed by service in World War II and the Korean War.
9. John Brockington, RB, Ohio State, 1972 – The first NFL running back to rush for over 1,000 yards in his first three NFL seasons, the rugged Brockington ranks third in club history in rushing. He was named NFL rookie of the year.
10. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State, 2001– Hide your eyes if you must; sometimes draft picks just don’t work out. Reynolds was injured often and played in 18 games before being shipped out. Reynolds’ only competition at 10 is Lawrence Elkins, a wide receiver out of Baylor in 1965 who opted to play for the AFL.
11. Tim Lewis, DB, Pitt, 1983 – The cornerback played four years before suffering a neck injury that cut short his career. He had 16 interceptions in 51 games, including one he returned 99 yards for a TD vs. the Rams in 1984 that is tied for the longest in club history.
12. Herb Adderley, B, Michigan State, 1961 – A star on offense in college, Adderley was moved to defense because the Packers already had Hornung and Taylor. He became one of the NFL’s best all-time cornerbacks and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
13. Gale Gillingham, T, Minnesota, 1966 – A five-time Pro-Bowl pick and a two-time All-Pro, Gillingham played for the Packers for 11 seasons.
14. Dave Robinson, DE, Penn State, 1963 – Moved to linebacker by Lombardi, Robinson was voted to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1960s. He was voted to three Pro Bowls and had 21 interceptions. TE Bubba Franks was taken 14th in 2000.
15. Wayne Simmons, LB, Clemson, 1993 – Physical defender opened 47 of 64 games and was also a starter on the Super Bowl XXXI championship team.
16. Rich McGeorge, TE, Elon, 1970 – Small-school tight end played in 116 games and had 2,370 receiving yards. Green Bay also selected G Aaron Taylor out of Notre Dame in this spot in 1994, and he started on both Super Bowl teams during that era while battling injuries.
17. The Packers have never chosen 17th in the first round, moving the pick to Seattle in 2001 as part of the Matt Hasselbeck trade, but the club picked Tobin Rote 17th overall in 1950, a QB from Rice who tossed 89 TDs and paced Green Bay in rushing touchdowns five times from 1950-56.
18. Tony Bennett, LB, Mississippi, 1990 – Outside pass-rusher had 36 sacks in four seasons.
19. Vonnie Holliday, DT, North Carolina, 1998 – Earned all-rookie honors with eight sacks and would post 32 sacks in Green Bay before departing in 2002.
20. Javon Walker, WR, Florida State, 2002 – Speedster had over 2,400 yards and 22 TDs in Green Bay.
21. Barry Smith, WR, Florida State, 1973 – A pick that went awry. Smith scored four TDs for the Packers before latching on with Tampa Bay in the expansion draft for one season. He is the club’s lone first-round pick at 21st overall.
22. Ron Hallstrom, G, Iowa, 1982 – Consistent, hard-nosed player who toiled in the trenches for 12 seasons.
23. Mark Koncar, T, Colorado, 1976 – Named to the All-Rookie team in 1976, Koncar played for the Packers for five seasons.
24. Aaron Rodgers, QB, California, 2005 – Fate smiled on the Packers when Rodgers fell in the draft. After 12,384 yards and being named Super Bowl MVP in his first three seasons as a starter, Rodgers is one of the game’s superstars.
25. Antuan Edwards, CB, Clemson, 1999 – Not a sparkling spot in terms of former picks. Edwards looked OK as a rookie with four interceptions, but ultimately played in 53 games before departing with just three more. His lone competition is CB Ahmad Carroll in 2004 out of Arkansas, who played in 34 games for the Packers before being waived.
26. Clay Matthews, LB, USC, 2009 – The draft position has been a linebacker’s meeting spot. Matthews, even after just two years, has been a beast with 23.5 sacks, two Pro-Bowl selections and in 2010 was named defensive player of the year by Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America. A strong case could be made that it is too soon for Matthews to take the spot already. John Anderson out of Michigan in 1978 played for 12 seasons, had 25 career interceptions and over 1,000 tackles. LB George Cumby was also taken here out of Oklahoma in 1980, but he’s not nearly as qualified.
27. John Michels, T, USC, 1996 – Appeared to be the left tackle for years to come after starting nine games as a rookie for a team that would win Super Bowl XXXI, but multiple knee injuries were the undoing of his NFL career.
28. Ezra Johnson, DE, Morris Brown, 1977 – Small-school product would play for the Packers for 11 seasons and either lead or tie for first on the team in sacks six times.
29. Nick Barnett, LB, Oregon State, 2003 – Has annually ranked at or near the top of the team’s tackle charts; went over 1,000 career stops in 2010 before suffering a wrist injury.
30. Ross Verba, T, Iowa, 1997 – Played in all 16 games in his first season and in addition started all three postseason games, including Super Bowl XXXII, when he became the first rookie to start at LT in the Super Bowl. He played four seasons for the Packers, departing in 2000.
31. The Packers have never chosen 31st overall in the first round. In 1953, the club took Bill Forester of Southern Methodist in the third round at 31. The defensive tackle was a four-time Pro Bowl pick and a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
32. Craig Newsome, CB Arizona State, 1995 – Until a knee injury, Newsome was a mainstay on the Packers’ defense, including stepping in as an immediate starter as a rookie and posting an interception in Super Bowl XXXI. In 1999, he was traded to San Francisco.
Ricky Zeller is a contributing writer for packers.com. He has covered the NFL for several publications.