2. Randy Gradishar, LB, 1974
With the No. 14 overall pick in 1974, the Broncos found one of the greatest players they ever had. It is a crime that he is not a member of the Hall of Fame.
Gradishar could do it all. He was as good as any linebacker in the league during his era and was the leader of the famed “Orange Crush” defense.
Gradishar’s athleticism was underrated and he could get after the ball carrier or drop back into coverage. He was an absolute tackling machine but he also had 20 career picks, a good number for a linebacker.
Gradishar went to seven Pro Bowls, was a six-time All-Pro and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978.
When the NFL recently enshrined more former players than normal as part of the league’s 100th season, many figured Gradishar had a good chance to get the call. It was a shock when he didn’t.
Of all the players not already in the Hall, you can make a case that Gradishar is most deserving.
His playing career lasted only 10 seasons and ended following the 1983 campaign, which leaves many to wonder how good he was because they never saw him play.
Gradishar was as good as it got.