Of course this one is obvious. The New York Giants’ greatest outside linebacker selection quickly became the franchise’s greatest player of all time.
Lawrence Taylor, the second-overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft and one of the most elite players in league history, is unquestionable in this honor. He racked up 132 1/2 sacks over the course of a 13-year career with the G-Men, winning two Super Bowl championships and starring as a member of the stalwart Big Blue Wrecking Crew (the Pro Football Hall of Fame credits him with 142 sacks).
A three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner and the 1986 NFL MVP, L.T. single-handedly revolutionized football. His presence as a lethal pass rusher from the outside linebacker position in Bill Parcells’ 3-4 defense forced opposing teams to adapt accordingly by looking for bigger, stronger, faster left tackles to protect their quarterbacks, as you’ve likely learned from popular book and film The Blind Side.
Granted, those adjustments hardly worked against L.T., who racked up 10 or more sacks in seven consecutive seasons between 1984 and 1990. His influence on defensive football can be seen throughout the game today—though rule changes have certainly cut down on some of the great, physical play he once displayed at the Meadowlands.
As brilliant as L.T. was on the field, however, he was just as wild and crazy off of it. His career was marred by off-field issues involving drugs that muddled his image and caused concerns for many when it came time for him to appear on the Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 1999.
Though his image is far from spotless, the former Giants standout did enter the Hall of Fame on his first ballot and remains a beloved figure among Big Blue fans. The imprint he left within the organization is clear; even to this day, the Giants’ pass rush tends to be the most impressive quality for a defensive unit usually among the league’s best.