EAST RUTHERFORD - Lawrence Taylor has been voted the Giants' most valuable draft choice of all time in a vote by NFL fans.
Taylor, the Hall of Fame linebacker, was the second overall selection of the 1981 draft. He played in 10 Pro Bowls, was a member of two Super Bowl championship teams and compiled 132.5 official sacks before retiring immediately after the final game of the 1993 season. Taylor was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, his first year of eligibility.
Defensive end Michael Strahan, quarterback Phil Simms and two more Hall of Fame linebackers – Harry Carson and Sam Huff – complete the top five in the fans' voting.
Four more Hall of Famers are included in the second five: running back Frank Gifford, wide receiver Don Maynard, defensive tackle Art Donovan and tackle George Connor. All but Gifford spent all or most of their careers with other teams. Linebacker Brad Van Pelt, a teammate of Taylor and Carson, is the 10th player on the list.
To commemorate the 75th Draft, which beings Thursday, the NFL asked fans to select the 75 Most Valuable Draft Picks of All Time, via its NFL Draft MVP voting platform. The program generated more than 44 million votes. The top 10 will be revealed during Thursday's draft coverage, while on Friday night the top 10 will be counted down.
Taylor was selected by the Giants immediately after the New Orleans Saints chose running back George Rogers at the top of the draft 29 years ago. Taylor had 9.5 sacks as a rookie in 1981, the last season in which they were not an official statistic. He went on to become the greatest and most influential defensive player of his generation and one of the finest pass rushers of all time. Taylor made the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons and was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1986, when he had 20.5 sacks.
Strahan was selected on the second round of the 1993 draft, the 40th overall pick (but he was the Giants' first choice that year, because they had used their first round pick in the previous year's supplemental draft). Strahan holds the franchise records for regular season games played (216) and sacks (141.1) and the NFL single-season mark with 22.5 sacks in 2002. He was a captain on the 2007 Super Bowl XLII championship team and retired soon after getting his ring.
Simms was the Giants' first round draft choice in 1979 and the first player ever chosen by legendary general manager George Young. He helped lead the Giants to two Super Bowl victories and was the MVP in a rout of Denver in Super Bowl XXI, when Simms completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Simms owns all of the Giants' significant career passing records, including attempts (4,647), completions (2,576), yards (33,462) and touchdowns (199).
Carson was a fourth-round draft choice in 1976 from South Carolina State. An inside linebacker, he was a nine-time Pro Bowler in a career that stretched from 1976-88. Carson led the Giants in tackles five times, was named first or second-team All-NFL six times and was a leader throughout his career, most notably on the 1986 Super Bowl champions. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Huff was a third-round draft choice in 1956 and helped lead the Giants to the NFL championship that season. He played in six title games and five Pro Bowls and finished his career with 30 interceptions. Huff was traded to Washington after the 1963 season and played five years for the Redskins, including 1969, when he was a player-coach. He was enshrined in the Hall of Game in 1982.
Gifford was the 11th overall selection of the 1952 draft. He played his entire career with the Giants before retiring after the 1964 season. Gifford played in seven Pro Bowls and was the first player to be selected to the game on both offense and defense. He was the 1956 NFL Player of the Year. Gifford still holds the Giants record with 78 touchdowns and is sixth in both rushing yards (3,609) and receptions (367).
Maynard was a ninth-round draft choice in 1959. He played just one year for the Giants – catching five passes and returning 24 punts – before jumping to the rival AFL Titans in 1960. Maynard played 13 seasons for the Titans/Jets and finished his career with 633 receptions for 11,834 yards and 88 touchdowns. He played on the Jets team that upset Baltimore in Super Bowl III and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Donovan was a 20th-round draft choice by the Giants in 1947. But he did not begin his career until 1950 with the Baltimore Colts. Donovan played for the Giants in 1951 and the Dallas Texans in 1952 before returning to Baltimore for the last nine years of his career. He played on two championship teams and in five Pro Bowls. Donovan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1968.
No. 9 on the fans' list is Van Pelt, a second-round selection in 1973. In the five seasons from 1976-80, Van Pelt made five Pro Bowls and Carson two as the linebackers were the best unit on teams that won a total of 24 games. He was the Giants' first selection that year, because the team had traded its first-round pick. Van Pelt played 14 seasons in the NFL. After leaving the Giants, he was with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1984 to 1985 and the Cleveland Browns in 1986. He played in 184 regular season games and had 20 interceptions and – unofficially – 24.5 sacks. Van Pelt died of a heart attack at age 57 on Feb. 17, 2009.
Connor was the Giants' first-round selection and the fifth overall choice of the 1946 draft. But he played his entire career (1948-55) with the Chicago Bears. Connor played in the first four Pro Bowls and was an All-NFL selection at three positions: tackle, defensive tackle and linebacker. He passed away on March 31, 2003.