The Stanford football program has been extremely successful in producing NFL talent, which includes three Hall of Famers, two Super Bowl MVPs, "the best corner in the league," 11 First- Team All Pro players and 23 Pro Bowlers with a combined 68 appearances to date. This is part four of that series.
3. John Lynch
Third-round pick in 1993 NFL Draft
6'2", 220-pound safety
NFL playing career: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2003), Denver Broncos (2004-2007)
One of two Stanford baseball players to crack the top-three, Lynch absolutely deserves the Hall of Fame nod that hasn't yet come his way after two nominations. Lynch is undoubtedly the greatest defensive player to ever go from Stanford to the NFL.
In his fourth season with the Buccaneers, Lynch became a starter and started his journey to becoming one of the most feared tacklers in NFL history, as he would later be dubbed the 10th-most feared tackler ever by the NFL Network. Lynch made his first Pro Bowl in 1997 and would later make eight more Pro Bowls, two All-Pro First Teams and two All-Pro Second Teams. According to pro-football-reference.com, he was the league's most valuable player in 1999.
With Tampa, Lynch was a part of one of the best defenses in the 1990s and 2000s, if not league history, along with Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. The Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII by crushing the Oakland Raiders 48-21 thanks to 21 defensive points.
Unfortunately for Lynch, playing with two men already elected to the Hall of Fame has hurt his own chances at making the Hall, but he will more than likely end up in the Hall himself one day.
Over his final 11 years, Lynch only missed eight games. He would make the Pro Bowl in each of his final four seasons with the Broncos.
2. James Lofton
First-round pick in 1978 NFL Draft
6'3", 192-pound wide receiver
NFL playing career: Green Bay Packers (1978-1986), Oakland Raiders (1987-1988), Buffalo Bills (1989-1992), Philadelphia Eagles (1993), Los Angeles Rams (1993)
Though it's extremely hard to separate Nevers, Lynch and Lofton, Lofton ultimately edged out Nevers due to the length of his career and Lynch due to his current status as a Hall of Famer. All three could easily slide into the No. 2 spot.
However, Lofton more than earned this ranking. With 14,004 receiving yards accumulated over a 16-year career, Lofton sits at ninth in NFL history. If it wasn't for an injury-ridden year in 1982, Lofton could have had over 800 receiving yards in each of his first 10 seasons in the NFL, and he was still able to make the Pro Bowl and finish with 696 receiving yards in just nine games that year.
An eight-time Pro Bowler who made two All-Pro Second Teams and one First Team, Lofton average over 20 yards per catch five times in his career and ranks in the top-40 in NFL history in career yards per reception, receiving touchdowns and receptions in addition to receiving yards. Lofton was one of the best big-play creators there ever was in the NFL.
A long jump champion for the track and field team in college, Lofton took a flying start to his career, making the Pro Bowl in his first season and posting five 1,000-yard receiving seasons between 1980 and 1985. He continued to be an elite receiver all the way up to the end of his career, even recording a 1,000-yard season at 35 years old.
Lofton was sadly a part of the Buffalo Bills teams that lost four straight Super Bowls, though he was only around for three.