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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Updated: April 3, 1:27 PM ET
How ESPN ranked 13,808 draft picks

By ESPN Stats & Information
Special to Insider

The greatest player in NFL draft history is ...

Well, it depends.

Is it a player taken in the sixth round who leads his team to three Super Bowls?

Is it the No. 1 pick who won three MVPs and lived up to the hype?

Is it a player who amassed huge statistics but never won a Super Bowl because he played for a poor team?

What about the Hall of Fame left tackle from the 1960s whom everyone wanted on their team but wasn't a superstar household name?

ESPN Stats & Information set out to create a simple formula to judge NFL players drafted in the modern draft -- a formula that the average fan could understand without a Ph.D. in mathematics.

We ranked the 13,808 players drafted in 1967-2008 based on their performance during their NFL careers, regardless of how they fared with the team that drafted them.

THE POINTS SYSTEM

Players received points based on the following criteria:

Super Bowl loss (1 point)
Offensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Defensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Pro Bowl (2 points)
Super Bowl win (3 points)
AP All-Pro second team (3 points)
AP All-Pro first team (4 points)
AP Defensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Offensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Most Valuable Player (8 points)
Hall of Famer (15 points)

So, for example:

Peyton Manning has:

One AP Offensive Player of the Year award -- 6 points
Three AP MVP awards -- 24 points
Four AP All-Pro First Team awards -- 16 points
Three AP All-Pro Second Team awards -- 9 points
One Super Bowl win -- 3 points
Nine Pro Bowls -- 18 points
TOTAL: 76 points. That ranks Manning 13th out of 13,808 picks.

The keys to ESPN's rankings:

TEAM RANKINGS

We used the ranking system to determine the highest point total for a team's draft class. Some draft classes are boosted by just one player (drafting Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, for example, makes for a top draft class).

YOU GET YOUR VOICE

Fans will have a chance to vote for the all-time best draft classes starting April 2.

Special thanks to stats editor Jason Paradise and stats researcher Hank Gargiulo for their work on the rankings.