Adam Watts: Montana and Sanders together? Dream on

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a football world where Joe Montana hands off to Barry Sanders, Dan Marino throws passes to Marvin Harrison, and Dick Butkus lines up on the same defense as JJ Watt. This week, The Globe sports editor Doug ...

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a football world where Joe Montana hands off to Barry Sanders, Dan Marino throws passes to Marvin Harrison, and Dick Butkus lines up on the same defense as JJ Watt. This week, The Globe sports editor Doug Wolter, editor-in-chief Ryan McGaughey, news reporter Karl Evers-Hillstrom, and myself brought this fantasy land to life as we conducted The Globe All-Time Football Draft.

In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, a group of long-time NFL reporters and former NFL executives conducted a 12-team draft of the greatest players in football history.

Inspired, we had our own four-team all-time football draft. We selected 24 players each -- one starter at all 11 positions on both offense and defense plus a punter and a kicker. After the draft we went in reverse draft order to select a coach.

We assumed each player would be considered at the peak of their powers and also that a player’s greatness would translate across any era. It doesn’t matter that “Mean” Joe Greene at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds would be undersized to play defensive tackle in 2017. He was a dominant force in his time and that is how he is considered in this draft.

Karl drew the first pick and surprised us all by selecting offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, saying the game is won in the trenches and he wanted to make sure his team had the best o-line possible. As it turns out, his quarterback, Peyton Manning (selected in the 22nd round) is thankful for his general manager’s choice of a blindside protector. Three-of the-next four picks were pass rushers. Ryan (not influenced at all by his Giants fandom) selected Lawrence Taylor with the second pick, Doug took Reggie White with the third pick, and after selecting Deion Sanders with the fourth pick of the first round, I selected Deacon Jones fifth overall. Doug then (of course, not influenced by his Lions fandom) selected Barry Sanders at six, Ryan doubled down on pass rush with Bruce Smith at seven, and Karl addressed his defense with Dick Butkus at eight.


Assuming that there would be plenty of offensive skill-position talent available throughout the draft, Ryan, Karl, and I all let offensive skill position players fall farther than we expected. We figured we could gain the greatest advantage by finding the elite position players rather than choosing from a flooded pool of quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs. But Doug wanted to make sure he had his pick of skill position talent, selecting Sanders in Round 2, Jerry Rice in Round 3, and Joe Montana in Round 5 (in the middle, he sniped my man Ray Nitschke in the fourth). Ryan made Dan Marino the first quarterback off the board in the fourth.

For the most part, we eschewed modern-era players in favor of the greats from the past, but Karl bucked that trend, selecting JJ Watt in the 15th round and Rob Gronkowski in the 17th. And frankly, there was no criticism to be had about those selections. In fact, their talents may be transcendent enough that the rest of us underrated each of them.

Starting off with his first two selections of Taylor and Smith, Ryan may have built the most intimidating defensive front seven, adding 70s Steelers teammates Jack Lambert in the ninth and Jack Ham in the 13th. He then filled in the line with late-round selections Michael Strahan (14th), Merlin Olsen (17th) and Howie Long (18th).

I have to say I got the steal of the draft when I selected Jim Brown in the eighth round. Running behind an intimidating wall of Jonathan Ogden (third round), Larry Allen (ninth), Chuck Bednarik (fourth), Bruce Matthews (10th), and Forrest Gregg (seventh), Brown is going to run roughshod over this hypothetical league. Plus, I selected Jim Taylor (the only player ever to win a rushing crown ahead of Brown) to play fullback. I have to admit though, that Doug’s thunder and lightning pairing of Sanders at tailback and Earl Campbell at fullback is probably on par with my backfield.

Karl again surprised us all by making Ladainian Tomlinson the fourth rusher off the board in the 19th round -- after Doug took Sanders, I took Brown, and Ryan took Walter Payton -- leaving the likes of Gale Sayers, OJ Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Emmitt Smith on the table. Karl was also the last one to take a quarterback when he selected Manning after Ryan took Marino, Doug took Montana and I took Brett Favre (not at all influenced by my Packers fandom). Johnny Unitas, John Elway, Otto Graham, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr and many more all-time signal callers went undrafted.

Other true greats that went un-drafted include Jim Thorpe, Derrick Thomas, Lynn Swann, Kevin Mawae, Jerry Kramer, Carl Eller, Dick LeBeau, Cris Carter, “Bullet” Bob Hayes, Junior Seau and many, many more.

You can find all four of our complete teams listed in draft order below. What do you think of our teams? Whose team do you think is the best? You decide. Send us a message at or leave a comment on this story on The Globe’s Facebook page.

KARL -- 1, Anthony Munoz, OT. 2, Dick Butkus, LB. 3, Ray Lewis, LB. 4, Joe Greene, DT. 5, John Hannah, OG. 6, Jim Parker, OT. 7, Alan Page, DT. 8, Rod Woodson, CB. 9, Ed Reed, S. 10, Dermontti Dawson, C. 11, Mike Haynes, CB. 12, Tom Mack, OG. 13, Gino Marchetti, DE. 14, Willie Lanier, LB. 15, JJ Watt, DE. 16, Michael Irvin, WR. 17, Rob Gronkowski, TE. 18, Lance Alworth, WR. 19, Ladainian Tomlinson, RB. 20, Emlen Tunnell, S. 21, Lorenzo Neal, FB. 22, Peyton Manning, QB. 23, Morten Andersen, K. 24, Shane Lechler, P. COACH: Bill Belichick.RYAN -- 1, Lawrence Taylor, LB. 2, Bruce Smith, DE. 3, Jim Otto, C. 4, Dan Marino, QB. 5, Ronnie Lott, S. 6, Gene Upshaw, OG. 7, Darrell Green, CB. 8, Walter Payton, RB. 9, Jack Lambert, LB. 10, Joe DeLamielleure, OG. 11, Dan Dierdorff, OG. 12, Bronko Nagurski, FB. 13, Jack Ham, LB. 14, Michael Strahan, DE. 15, Ron Mix, OT. 16, Marvin Harrison, WR. 17, Merlin Olsen, DT. 18, Howie Long, DT. 19, Kellen Winslow Sr., TE. 20, Lem Barney, CB. 21, Donnie Shell, S. 22, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. 23, Sean Landeta, P. 24, George Blanda, K/QB. COACH:  Don Shula.DOUG -- 1, Reggie White, DE. 2, Barry Sanders, RB. 3, Ray Nitschke, LB. 4, Jerry Rice, WR. 5, Joe Montana, QB. 6, Bob Lilly, DT. 7, Randy White, DT. 8, Tony Gonzalez, TE. 9, Mike Webster, C. 10, Art Shell, OT. 11, Randall McDaniel, OT. 12, Mel Blount, CB. 13, Earl Campbell, FB. 14, Herb Adderley, CB. 15, Bobby Bell, LB. 16, Larry Little, OG. 17, Ted Hendricks, LB. 18, Ken Houston, S. 19, Mike Munchak, OG. 20, Adam Vinatieri, K. 21, Eric Berry, S. 22, Calvin Johnson, WR. Lee Roy Selmon, DE. 24, Sammy Baugh, P/QB. COACH: Bill Parcells.ADAM -- 1, Deion Sanders, CB. 2, Deacon Jones, DE. 3, Jonathan Ogden, OT. 4, Chuck Bednarik, LB/C, 5, Don Hutson, WR. 6, Dick “Night Train” Lane, CB. 7, Forrest Gregg, OT. 8, Jim Brown, RB. 9, Larry Allen, OG. 10, Bruce Matthews, OG. 11, John Randle, DT. 12, Mike Singletary, LB. 13, Mike Ditka, TE. 14, Randy Moss, WR. 15, Troy Polamalu, S. 16, Charles Woodson, S. 17, Warren Sapp. 18, Derrick Brooks, LB. 19, Brett Favre, QB. 20, Jim Taylor, FB. 21, Paul Hornung, K/RB. 22, Julius Peppers, DE. 23, Ray Guy, P. 24, Jim Ringo, C. COACH: Vince Lombardi.

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