The 2021 NFL Draft is mere weeks away. The team here at CBS Sports is continuing our countdown to when the Jacksonville Jaguars are officially on the clock by ranking the best of the best to ever be selected in the top 32 spots. We've already gone through more than half of the draft -- which you can get caught up with here -- and today we'll be diving into the No. 13 overall selection.
This year, the Los Angeles Chargers own the No. 13 pick, and our CBS Sports NFL Draft experts peg the likes of Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, and South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn as possible selections. There's always a chance that in a decade or so from now, whichever player is the pick at No. 13 this year can ascend into this top five, but in the meantime, here's who made the cut.
5. Mike Kenn, tackle
When NFL teams select a tackle in the first round of the NFL Draft, their dream result is that they can just park him on the quarterback's blind side for a decade or more while he racks up Pro Bowls and All-Pro appearances, and they simply don't have to worry about the position again for a good, long while. With the No. 13 overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, that's exactly what the Falcons got when they selected Mike Kenn.
Kenn was a Day One starter for the Falcons on the left side of the offensive line, and in his 17 NFL seasons he played and started 251 of a possible 272 games at that spot. He played all 16 games in 10 of those 17 seasons, and 15 games in three more. That's the very definition of dependability at a spot where that attribute is difficult to find but incredibly valuable when you do. (He still holds franchise records for games started and games played.)
During that span, Kenn made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1980 through 1984, as well as All-Pro teams in five different seasons: First Team in 1980 and 1991, and Second Team in 1981, 1982, and 1983. Following his breakthrough 1980 season, the great Bill Walsh said of Kenn, "I've never seen any offensive tackle with his agility and quickness."
Kenn ultimately fell short of a Hall of Fame berth despite being selected as a semifinalist in 2014, but he had a very long, excellent career playing one of the most important positions on the field.
4. Franco Harris, running back/fullback
Of course, everyone knows what comes to mind first when Franco Harris' name is mentioned.
But Harris' career was more than just The Immaculate Reception. (Obviously, being that it happened during his rookie year.) Beginning with that very season, during which Harris was named Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns, Harris became one of the most productive ball-carriers of his era, racking up so many yards that when he eventually retired, he was just 192 yards short of the all-time record.
In 12 years with the Steelers, Harris reached 1,000 rushing yards eight times and double-digit touchdowns five times (including a league-high 14 in 1976). He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first nine NFL seasons and was named an All-Pro in three of them (First Team in 1977, Second Team in 1972 and 1975). And oh yeah, he was a major contributor to not one, not two, not three, but four Super Bowl victories (winning MVP of Super Bowl IX), and one of the most productive playoff running backs of all time. His 400 playoff rushing attempts are still the most in NFL history, while his 1,556 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns each rank second behind only Emmitt Smith.
The end of his Steelers career was a bit acrimonious, as a pay dispute with the Rooney family led to his being released prior to the 1984 campaign. He caught on with the Seahawks, but ultimately did not find much success and retired at the end of the year. It'd be more than two decades before he and the franchise he helped to so much success reconciled, which they did in 2006 when the Steelers beat... the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
Harris was of course elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, his second year of eligibility. He was named to the 1970s All-Decade Team, as well as the Steelers' All-Time Team. While his No. 32 jersey has not been officially retired by the Steelers, nobody else has worn it since he took it off his shoulder pads for the last time, and it is generally understood that nobody ever will.
3. Tony Gonzalez, tight end
1997 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 13 (California)
Team(s): Kansas City Chiefs (1997-2008), Atlanta Falcons (2009-2013)
The history of first-round tight ends is not all that great -- especially in recent years. But the Kansas City Chiefs landed a true gem when they took Tony Gonzalez at No. 13 overall back in 1997.
At the time he retired, Gonzalez was arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history. He's still the all-time leader among tight ends in both receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127, more than 2,000 ahead of the next-closest player), and he's second in receiving touchdowns (111, just five behind Antonio Gates).
A monster-sized (6-foot-5, 247 pounds) target over the middle of the field, Gonzalez was just about as unstoppable as it gets for well over a decade. He made 14 (FOURTEEN!) Pro Bowls in 17 years, an all-time record at tight end and tied with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for the most ever among offensive players. His six First Team All-Pro berths are also the most among tight ends, and he added four Second-Team selections on top of them.
More than that, though, Gonzalez was the prototype for the modern, pass-catching tight end, which arguably would not exist in its current form were it not for his influence on the offenses in Kansas City and Atlanta. Using a play of his size and agility to dominate linebackers and safeties opened up all kinds of possibilities for his teams, paving the way for players like Gates, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and more. It's rare to find a player who truly changes the nature of his position forever, but that's what Gonzalez did.
Gonzalez walked right into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and was also named to both the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team and its 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was that good.
2. Bob Lilly, defensive lineman
1961 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 13 (TCU)
Team(s): Dallas Cowboys (1961-1974)
What does it take to ascend past a player who retired as arguably the best tight end in NFL history? How about being both "Mr. Cowboy" and the key player in Dallas' vaunted Doomsday Defense that was so dominant in the 1960s and 1970s?
Lilly began his career as a defensive end, but it was when Tom Landry moved him inside to tackle that both he and the Dallas defense truly took off. Lilly became known as the "unblockable, unstoppable, force of The Doomsday Defense," as NFL Films' feature on the team would one day refer to him. He was a menace rushing the passer from the interior, using his agility and his four-point stance to propel himself through the creases in opposing offensive lines.
His play earned him 11 Pro Bowl nods during his 14-year career, along with seven First-Team All-Pro selections and one on the second team. He helped lead the Cowboys to their first-ever Super Bowl, notching a 29-yard sack of Bob Griese that ranks as one of the best defensive plays in Super Bowl history. Everything that made Lilly great could be seen in action on that one play: his quick get-off, his ability to slice through double-teams, his relentless pursuit of offensive players all over the field that was unlike any other defensive tackle of his era.
Lilly would eventually become the first Cowboys player inducted into the team's Ring of Honor (and though they don't retire jersey numbers, they have never allowed another player to wear No. 74 during a regular-season game), as well as the first player who spent his entire career with the Cowboys to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was so good for so long that he was named to not one, but two of the NFL's All-Decade Teams (1960s and 1970s), as well as the league's 75th Anniversary and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams; and when the league ranked its 100 greatest players, he checked in No. 26 on the list.
1. Aaron Donald, defensive tackle
2014 NFL Draft: Round 1, No. 13 (Pittsburgh)
Team(s): St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (2014-Present)
What Lilly was to his era, Donald is to his -- but somehow even better. Because Donald is not just the NFL's best defensive tackle and not just its best defensive lineman, but the best defensive player in the league, regardless of position. He may even be the best overall player, period. And that has been true for, conservatively, six of his seven professional seasons.
Considered undersized for an interior defensive lineman during the pre-draft process, Donald slipped out of the top 10 despite his prodigious talent and production during college. He has been dominant from Day One, and remains the most unblockable player in the league, bar none. With the caveat that I was born in 1987 and thus did not see Lawrence Taylor's best and most productive seasons before he tailed off, Donald is the single best defensive player I have ever seen and likely will ever see. He is impossible.
His 85.5 sacks in his first seven seasons are third-most in NFL history behind only Reggie White and DeMarcus Ware, and the next defensive tackle does not show up on that list until John Randle's 70, which rank 25th. Tackles for loss have only been officially tracked since 1999, but his 131 in his first seven seasons are so far ahead of the next-closest player (Chandler Jones and Ndamukong Suh at 94) that it's hard to believe anyone has ever had more. He's that much better than everyone who has played his position, and he's been rewarded accordingly.
He has been a Pro Bowler every year of his career and a First Team All-Pro in six of his seven seasons, falling short only as a rookie. He is already a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, tying him with Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt for the most DPOY trophies in league history -- and Donald has probably been robbed two or three times, with voters merely awarding a player that happened to record more sacks, presumably because they were bored. Oh, and he's still 29 years old. There's plenty left for him to accomplish, and no sign of him slowing down any time soon.