Unique Draft Paths for the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

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History has taught us that a player’s draft position has little to do with his eventual entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It’s certainly not among the selection criteria and it hasn’t proven to be a reliable predictor of his career development.

Of course, there’s Peyton Manning, Bruce Smith, Earl Campbell and Orlando Pace. All four are former No. 1 overall draft picks who now wear gold jackets.

But for every Bruce Smith in Canton, there seems to be a Sam Mills – an undersized, undrafted “gaming hero”.

The 2022 class of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees will recognize eight “heroes of the game”, including the late Mills, who lost his battle with cancer in 2005 at age 45.

Six of the eight 2022 picks are former players, but only three are former first-round picks.

Offensive Tackle Tony Boselli went to expansion Jacksonville Jaguars with the second overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft (the Bengals used the 1995 No. 1 pick on the former Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter, whose short professional career was marred by injuries). Boselli will enter Canton as the first member of the Jaguars to be eliminated.

A year before the Jaguars selected Boselli, the San Francisco 49ers made Notre Dame defensive tackle Bryant Young the seventh overall selection. He would go on to play all 14 professional seasons in “The Golden City”.

Defensive lineman Richard Seymour went to the Patriots as No. 6 overall from Georgia in the 2001 NFL Draft and would win three Super Bowls in New England before ending his career with the Raiders in ‘Oakland (now Las Vegas).

The aforementioned Mills is the only undrafted member of the Class of 2022. He has shown heroic levels of resilience throughout his life. The New Jersey native first earned a spot in Montclair State Division III as an extra.

He would eventually sign as a UDFA with the Cleveland Browns in 1981 but was cut before the regular season. In 1982, Mills was signed and then released before playing games with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.

It wasn’t until after a stint with the USFL that Mills finally stuck with the NFL. The five-time Pro Bowl selection played for the New Orleans Saints from 1986 to 1994 before joining the expansion Carolina Panthers as a free agent in 1995. Mills spent his days after -play as the Panthers linebacker coach. Although he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, he continued to coach throughout his health battle.

Former Oakland/Los Angeles (now Las Vegas) Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch joins Mills as a posthumous consecrated. Branch has totaled more career catches and receiving yards in his career than Hall of Famers such as Lynn Swann (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bob Hayes (Dallas Cowboys) and Paul Warfield (Cleveland Browns). He finally gets the call to Canton after 32 years on the waiting list.

Branch, a former junior college player, was taken by the Raiders in the fourth round (No. 98 overall) of the 1972 NFL Draft and he went on to help the franchise to three Super Bowl victories during his 14 year career.

Safety Leroy Butler spent his entire 12-year career in Green Bay after the Packers selected the second-round Florida State product (No. 48 overall) in the 1990 NFL Draft. in the Super Bowl had 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks during his career. Butler becomes the first defensive back from the 1990 draft to go to Canton. Three other members of this draft class have already been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and all three were first-round picks – Cortez Kennedy (Seattle Seahawks), Junior Seau (San Diego Chargers), Emmitt Smith (Dallas Cowboys).

OT Tony Boselli, Jaguars

Draft position: No. 2 overall (first round) – 1995

Seasons played: 7

All-Pro Selections: 3

Branch WR Cliff, Raiders

Draft position: No. 98 overall (fourth round) – 1972

Seasons played: 14

All-Pro Selections: 3

S Leroy Butler, Packers

Draft position: No. 48 overall (second round) – 1990

Seasons played: 12

All-Pro Selections: 4

DL Richard Seymour, Patriots/Raiders

Draft position: No. 6 overall (first round) – 2001

Seasons played: 12

All-Pro Selections: 5

LB Sam Mills, Saints/Panthers

Draft Position: Undrafted Free Agent – 1981

Seasons played: 12

All-Pro Selections: 3

DT Bryant Young, 49ers

Draft position: No. 7 overall (first round) – 1994

Seasons played: 14

All-Pro Selections: 2 (also 1999 NFL Comeback Player of the Year)


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