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Top No. 5 picks in NFL draft (and a few busts)

There's no guarantee the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft leads to a player with five-star potential. But as the Bucs prepare for their No. 5 selection Thursday on the first of the three-day draft, there's promise of what could be. Several Hall of Famers — notably cornerback Deion Sanders (1989) — were taken there. So were standouts whose careers were hampered by injuries, including Bucs running back Cadillac Williams (2005). There are some for whom the jury is still out, including Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (2009). And there are some who appear to be starting something special, including Chiefs safety Eric Berry (2010) and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (2011), who made the Pro Bowl as rookies. Here's are the best and busts at No. 5.

Deion Sanders, CB Falcons, 1989

Sanders, the Hall of Famer known as "Neon Deion" and "Primetime," was as electrifying and colorful as a player could be and one of the best cornerbacks of all time. The former Florida State star was flashy and cocky but could back it up. He had 53 career interceptions, including nine returned for touchdowns (many capped with an entertaining dance). Sanders, an eight-time Pro Bowl player and two-time Super Bowl champion, also played major-league baseball for 10 seasons.

Mike Haynes, CB Patriots, 1976

Haynes, a member of the 1997 Hall of Fame class, turned into a dynamic cornerback and punt return specialist for the Patriots and Raiders, making nine Pro Bowls. The former Arizona State star was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary all-time team and began his career with a splash as the 1976 defensive rookie of the year.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB Chargers, 2001

Tomlinson was an instant star with the Chargers, and he has put together a Hall of Fame-type career as one of the top all-around backs. "L.T." has racked up 13,684 rushing yards, fifth all time, and became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season. Tomlinson, a five-time Pro Bowl player and the 2006 league MVP, is a free agent with his career winding down.

Mike Ditka, TE Bears, 1961

Ditka is known more for his work on the sideline, having won a Super Bowl with the Bears in 1985 and twice being named coach of the year. But Ditka is also a Hall of Fame tight end, having gone to five Pro Bowls and leading Chicago to a championship in 1963. He joins Tom Flores as the only people in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a player, a coach and an assistant

Junior Seau, LB Chargers, 1990

Seau quickly became an icon in San Diego, with the versatile linebacker known as the "Tasmanian Devil" getting elected to 12 Pro Bowls. He led the Chargers to an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX and was on the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. Seau, traded to the Dolphins in 2003, retired in 2005 before returning to the league and playing for the Patriots.

Len Dawson, QB Steelers, 1957

The Hall of Famer was traded by the Steelers and released by the Browns before landing with the Dallas Texans (who a year later became the Chiefs). Dawson led them to three AFL titles and a win in the fourth AFL-NFL championship game, earning MVP honors.

Honorable mentions: Ricky Williams, RB, Saints, 1999; Jamal Lewis, RB, Ravens, 2000; Kerry Collins, QB, Panthers, 1995; Terrell Buckley, CB, Green Bay, 1992.

Cedric Jones, DE Giants, 1996

Jones, part of the team that lost to the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, picked up just 15 sacks over five seasons. Despite knowing Jones is blind in one eye, New York took him high. He couldn't adjust to the left side, starting just 15 games. However, that did lead the Giants to move end Michael Strahan to that side, and he turned into a Hall of Fame-type player.

Curtis Enis, RB Bears, 1998

Enis, an All-American at Penn State in 1997, is one of the biggest draft busts of all time, reminiscent of the failures of former Nittany Lions running backs Ki-Jana Carter (No. 1 overall in 1995) and Blair Thomas (No. 2 overall in 1990). Enis was in the NFL for three years, totaling four touchdowns and 1,497 yards. Injuries played a role in his situation.

Trev Alberts, LB Colts, 1994

Alberts appeared like a can't-miss prospect coming out of Nebraska, where he was one of the school's best all-time linebackers and won the Dick Butkus Award in 1993 for being the nation's best at the position. But Alberts suffered major injuries that sidelined him, and he couldn't make the transition to the NFL. He had 69 tackles and four sacks over a three-year career.

Joe Smith can be reached at

Top No. 5 picks in NFL draft (and a few busts) 04/21/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 21, 2012 6:04pm]
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