Fourth pick overflowing with Hall of Famers

If the Cleveland Browns want to buttress their belief that they will find a very good player with the fourth overall pick, they need only look at history.

The draft's fourth pick has provided a laundry list of Hall of Famers; there are more from the fourth slot than at any other position in the draft (in the modern era, since 1967), according to ESPN Stats and Information.

The list of fourth overall picks includes so many all-time greats that choosing the best fourth pick is a lesson in splitting hairs.

Is it New England guard John Hannah? Or Pittsburgh defensive tackle Joe Greene? Or a pair of Bears running backs, Walter Payton or Gale Sayers? Then there's defensive ends Chris Doleman and Derrick Thomas, and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.

All taken with the fourth pick.

It stands to figure that a player taken that high should be good; that's what high picks are about. But of the last 50 fourth overall picks, nine have made the Hall -- almost 20 percent. A few others may have a chance, including A.J. Green, Philip Rivers, Edgerrin James, Charles Woodson, Willie McGinest, Paul Gruber and Kenny Easley. The fourth pick has produced 28 Pro Bowlers and 14 first-team All-Pros, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Here's some oddities and insight on the last 50 fourth overall picks:

  • If the Browns decided to use the fourth pick on a quarterback, there is precedent that it is a good idea. Three have been taken fourth overall among the last 50, two succeeded and one was done in by a gambling addiction. Hall of Famer Bob Griese helped Miami to an unbeaten season and a Super Bowl win. Rivers has played extremely well in San Diego. Only Art Schlichter did not fare well due to his gambling issues.

  • The fourth pick seems to be the haven of the offensive tackle, with 12 taken among the last 50. It's as if most drafts have three skill players and by the fourth pick teams say they will take the best lineman on the board. Ogden, Paul Gruber of Tampa Bay and D'Brickashaw Ferguson are among them.

  • No center has been taken fourth in the past 50 years. That would be quite a streak to break, except it won't happen this year.

  • The position breakdown goes this way: Three quarterbacks, seven running backs, seven wide receivers, 12 offensive tackles, one guard, five defensive ends, six defensive tackles, seven linebackers, one cornerback and one safety.

  • For Sammy Watkins fans, Green was a fourth pick, and he's been outstanding. But Peter Warrick was a fourth pick, and he was a bust.

  • Other busts include running back Brent Fullwood (Green Bay), running back Cedric Benson (Chicago), offensive tackle Mike Williams (Buffalo) and Schlichter. (It's really amazing that with all the scouting teams still wind up with guys that don't work out).

  • Trades of players drafted fourth have been interesting. Chris Hinton was part of the deal that sent John Elway from Baltimore to Denver. Rivers was drafted by New York, but traded to San Diego for Eli Manning.

Who are the ten best fourth overall picks? Here's one list, and yes it's purely subjective, though it of course starts with the Hall of Famers (except Griese):

  1. Joe Greene -- Dominant defensive tackle for the Steel Curtain. This Browns guy simply remembers too many times he demolished the Browns.

  2. Gale Sayers -- Barely better than Sweetness.

  3. Walter Payton -- It's not a knock to put him behind the other two, but it's also impossible to argue against putting him first or second.

  4. Jon Hannah -- Dominant offensive lineman of his era.

  5. Derrick Thomas -- 126 1/2 career sacks.

  6. Jonathan Ogden -- Became a new prototype for offensive tackles.

  7. Chris Doleman

  8. Dan Hampton

  9. Kenny Easley -- Best of the bunch not in the Hall.

  10. Edgerrin James -- Just edges out Paul Gruber.

It will be interesting one day to see how high Green and Woodson rank on this list in the future.