A look back at the best and worst picks of the 1996 draft 14 years ago:
Ray Lewis, ILB, Miami (Fla.)
Baltimore Ravens: Round 1, Pick 26
Lewis continues to intimidate ball carriers as the familiar face and motivating force of Baltimore’s defense, which has taken all different shapes over the past 14 years. Every team would love to draft a player who would compete so passionately and well for so long.
Terrell Owens, WR, Tennessee-Chattanooga
San Francisco 49ers: Round 3, Pick 89
It was a great draft for wideouts — from Keyshawn Johnson at No. 1 to Marvin Harrison at No. 19 to well beyond the first round. But Owens has proved to be the most productive in the class, as he ranks third all-time in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Brian Dawkins, S, Clemson
Philadelphia Eagles: Round 2, Pick 61
Dawkins was the 11th defensive back chosen, but he has been the best of the group. An eight-time Pro Bowl player, Dawkins was the standout playmaker in the Eagles’ secondary for 13 seasons before leaving to become a vital leader for a young Broncos defense in ’09.
Zach Thomas, ILB, Texas Tech
Miami Dolphins: Round 5, Pick 154
At 5-11, 230 pounds, Thomasremains the inspiration for all undersized linebackers. He was a tackling machine who consistently ranked with Lewis in AFC honors. His quickness, heart and determination made his lack of height a non-issue.
La’Roi Glover, DT, San Diego State
Oakland Raiders: Round 5, Pick 166
He was named to the all-decade team on the strength of six Pro Bowls and 83.5 career sacks. Unfortunately for Oakland, all those sacks came after his rookie year during productive stints in New Orleans, Dallas and St. Louis. In his prime, Glover repeatedly burned opposing linemen with great quickness.
Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska
St. Louis Rams: Round 1, Pick 6
Phillips was loaded with the talent to become an explosive superstar, but his off-field explosions cost him. His life has been marred by numerous arrests for assault, including domestic abuse. He also was lacking as a team player and was cut by St. Louis after a season and a half. He found brief success in the CFL, but last year he started serving a prison sentence of more than 31 years.
Jamain Stephens, OT, North Carolina A&T
Pittsburgh Steelers: Round 1, Pick 29
Pittsburgh has a habit of finding stars from smaller schools, but Stephens never put in enough work or rounded himself into shape to take advantage of his raw physical gifts. He was cut in 1999 and became a short-lived Bengals backup.
Andre Johnson, OT, Penn State
Washington Redskins: Round 1, Pick 30
Don’t worry: No one will ever confuse him with the Texans wide receiver of the same name. His Nittany Lions pedigree didn’t help one bit in the NFL, as Johnson flamed out in Washington after only one season. He ended up playing in three career games — all with the Lions, his third team.
Alex Van Dyke, WR, Nevada-Reno
New York Jets: Round 2, Pick 31
Somehow, the Jets whiffed on what turned out to be a very deep and productive wide receiver class. Van Dyke ended up with 26 career
receptions. He was taken between Eric Moulds and Amani Toomer, and both
Muhsin Muhammad and Bobby Engram went later in Round 2.
Bryant Mix, DE, Alcorn State
Houston Oilers: Round 2, Pick 38
After hitting on Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair with the third
overall pick in 1995, the Oilers made a mistake by going back to that well. Mix played in seven games for Houston/Tennessee, registering one sack. After Simeon Rice went third overall, it was a bad end class.
1. New York Jets, Keyshawn Johnson, WR, Southern Cal
2. Jacksonville, Kevin Hardy, OLB, Illinois
3. Arizona, Simeon Rice, DE, Illinois
4. Baltimore, Jonathan Ogden, OT, UCLA
5. New York Giants, Cedric Jones, DE, Oklahoma
6. St. Louis, Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska
7. New England, Terry Glenn, WR, Ohio State
8. Carolina, Tim Biakabutuka, RB, Michigan
9. Oakland, Rickey Dudley, TE, Ohio State
10. Cincinnati, Willie Anderson, OT, Auburn
11. New Orleans, Alex Molden, CB, Oregon
12. Tampa Bay, Regan Upshaw, DE, California
13. Chicago, Walt Harris, CB, Mississippi State
14. Houston, Eddie George, RB, Ohio State
15. Denver, John Mobley, OLB, Kutztown
16. Minnesota, Duane Clemons, DE, California
17. Detroit, Reggie Brown, LB, Texas A&M
18. St. Louis, Eddie Kennison, WR, LSU
19. Indianapolis, Marvin Harrison, WR, Syracuse
20. Miami, Daryl Gardener, DT, Baylor
21. Seattle, Pete Kendall, G, Boston College
22. Tampa Bay, Marcus Jones, DE, North Carolina
23. Detroit, Jeff Hartings, C, Penn State
24. Buffalo, Eric Moulds, WR, Mississippi State
25. Philadelphia, Jermane Mayberry, G, Texas A&M-Kingsville
26. Baltimore, Ray Lewis, ILB, Miami (Fla.)
27. Green Bay, John Michels, OT, Southern Cal
28. Kansas City, Jerome Woods, S, Memphis
29. Pittsburgh, Jamain Stephens, OT, North Carolina A&T
30. Washington, Andre Johnson, OT, Penn State
31. New York Jets, Alex Van Dyke, WR, Nevada
32. Arizona, Leeland McElroy, RB, Texas A&M
33. Jacksonville, Tony Brackens, DE, Texas
34. New York Giants, Amani Toomer, WR, Michigan
35. Tampa Bay, Mike Alstott, FB, Purdue
36. New England, Lawyer Milloy, S, Washington
37. Dallas, Kavika Pittman, DE, McNeese State
38. Houston, Bryant Mix, DE, Alcorn State
39. Cincinnati, Marco Battaglia, TE, Rutgers
40. New Orleans, Je’Rod Cherry, S, California
41. San Diego, Bryan Still, WR, Virginia Tech
42. St. Louis, Tony Banks, QB, Michigan State
43. Carolina, Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Michigan State
44. Denver, Tory James, CB, LSU
45. Minnesota, James Manley, DT, Vanderbilt
46. San Francisco, Israel Ifeanyi, DE, Southern Cal
47. Seattle, Fred Thomas, CB Tennessee-Martin
48. Houston, Jason Layman, OT, Tennessee
49. Dallas, Randall Godfrey, ILB, Georgia
50. San Diego, Patrick Sapp, LB, Clemson
51. Indianapolis, Dedric Mathis, DB, Houston
52. Chicago, Bobby Engram, WR, Penn State
53. Buffalo, Gabe Northern, DE, LSU
54. Philadelphia, Jason Dunn, TE, Eastern Kentucky
55. Baltimore, DeRon Jenkins, CB, Tennessee
56. Green Bay, Derrick Mayes, WR, Notre Dame
57. Oakland, Lance Johnstone, DE, Temple
58. Kansas City , Reggie Tongue, S, Oregon State
59. St. Louis, Ernie Conwell, TE, Washington
60. Jacksonville, Michael Cheever, C, Georgia Tech
61. Philadelphia, Brian Dawkins, S, Clemson
This story appears in April 14’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only digital sports daily, sign up today.
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.