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2011 NFL Draft: History Of The Third Overall Pick

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The Buffalo Bills will make their first selection in the 2011 NFL Draft with their highest spot since 1985, when they took Hall of Fame DE Bruce Smith first overall. Since Smith's selection, the Bills have picked in the top five only once, when in 2002 they took OT Mike Williams fourth overall.

While we're going to limit our analysis to the common draft era from 1967 to the present, the only time the Bills selected third overall was in the 1961 AFL Draft, when the team took Auburn OT Ken Rice. He chose Buffalo over the NFL's St. Louis Rams, who had picked him eighth overall in the NFL Draft. Rice played two years in Buffalo, earning a spot on the AFL All-Star team and second team All-AFL honors in his rookie season, before moving on to Oakland and Miami during his six-year career.

What kind of player can the Bills expect to pick at number three? Let's look at the third overall picks from the common era to see.

2010 - DT Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2009 - DE Tyson Jackson, Kansas City Chiefs
2008 - QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2007 - OT Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
2006 - QB Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
2005 - WR Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns
2004 - WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
2003 - WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
2002 - QB Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions
2001 - DT Gerald Warren, Cleveland Browns
2000 - OT Chris Samuels, Washington Redskins
1999 - QB Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
1998 - DE Andre Wadsworth, Arizona Cardinals
1997 - DB Shawn Springs, Seattle Seahawks
1996 - DE Simeon Rice, Arizona Cardinals
1995 - QB Steve McNair, Houston Oilers
1994 - QB Heath Shuler, Washington Redskins
1993 - RB Garrison Hearst, Phoenix Cardinals
1992 - DT Sean Gilbert, Los Angeles Rams
1991 - DB Bruce Pickens, Atlanta Falcons
1990 - DT Cortez Kennedy, Seattle Seahawks
1989 - RB Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions
1988 - DB Bennie Blades, Detroit Lions
1987 - RB Alonzo Smith, Houston Oilers
1986 - QB Jim Everett, Houston Oilers
1985 - DT Ray Childress, Houston Oilers
1984 - LB Carl Banks, New York Giants
1983 - RB Curt Warner, Seattle Seahawks
1982 - LB Chip Banks, Cleveland Browns
1981 - RB Freeman McNeil, New York Jets
1980 - OT Anthony Munoz, Cincinnati Bengals
1979 - QB Jack Thompson, Cincinnati Bengals
1978 - WR Wes Chandler, New Orleans Saints
1977 - DE Eddie Edwards, Cincinnati Bengals
1976 - RB Chuck Muncie, New Orleans Saints
1975 - OG Ken Huff, Baltimore Colts
1974 - OG John Hicks, New York Giants
1973 - OT Jerry Sisemore, Philadelphia Eagles
1972 - OT Lionel Antoine, Chicago Bears
1971 - QB Dan Pastorini, Houston Oilers
1970 - QB Mike Phipps, Cleveland Browns
1969 - DB Leroy Keyes, Philadelphia Eagles
1968 - DE Claude Humphrey, Atlanta Falcons
1967 - QB Steve Spurrier, San Fransisco 49ers

While these accolades are subjective, they are at least an acceptable level to determine value of a player. A whopping 27 of the 44 selections appeared in at least one Pro Bowl, and the group totals 105 combined Pro Bowl nods. 13 of the 44 were All-Pro selections. Two of them have been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while a third, Cortez Kennedy, was a finalist in 2010. Munoz (1998) and Sanders (2004) both got their bust at the Hall, and are considered among the best ever to play the game. Munoz is generally regarded as the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. Sanders was the league co-MVP in 1997, was twice Offensive Player of the Year, and was a member of the NFL Network's Twenty Greatest NFL Players.

Third overall picks from the 1960s in the Hall of Fame are LB Dick Butkus, WR Charley Taylor, and DT Merlin Olsen. All three were drafted by NFL teams third overall. Prior to 1960, Ollie Matson, Doak Walker, and Bobby Layne all went from number three overall to Canton.