Commentary

Second Round: Two Jacks, all kings

Steelers Ham and Lambert join Singletary, Hendricks among second-round great LBs

Originally Published: April 15, 2010
By Sheldon Spencer | ESPN.com

Jack Ham & Jack LambertUS PresswireA pair of Steelers second-round picks, linebackers Jack Ham (1971) and Jack Lambert (1974), anchor a stellar defense.
The NFL draft's second rounds have produced great linebackers in abundance. Consider some of the players who were among the many "also considered" for ESPN.com's second-round draft all-stars.

The quartet of Willie Lanier (1967, Kansas City Chiefs), Bill George (1951, Chicago Bears), Rickey Jackson (1981, New Orleans Saints) and Andre Tippett (1982, New England Patriots) would be a solid first team for any round. Each is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Jackson entering with the rest of the Class of 2010 this summer).

Our starting quartet of Jack Ham (1971, Pittsburgh Steelers), Jack Lambert (1974, Steelers), Ted Hendricks (1969, Baltimore Colts) and Mike Singletary (1981, Chicago Bears) have bronzed busts too. The group also has plenty of championships to its credit, with Ham and Lambert providing four Super Bowl rings apiece thanks to their run with the dominant Steelers of the 1970s and early '80s.

Ham, Lambert, Hendricks and Singletary were second-round selections, but each established himself as top-flight talent early.

Former Penn State star Ham intercepted three passes in a preseason game his rookie season to clinch a starting job. In 1972, he had seven interceptions on his way to 32 in his career. He was elected to eight straight Pro Bowls.

Lambert emerged from Kent State of the Mid-American Conference to become the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year. He eventually broke Ham's record with nine straight Pro Bowl selections.

Eleven other defensive prospects were taken in the 1969 NFL-AFL draft before the Colts snagged Hendricks, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound defensive end from Miami (Fla.). Hendricks became a Colts starting linebacker by Game 7 of his rookie season and helped pace the franchise to its first Super Bowl victory in his second year. He would later collect three more rings with the Oakland Raiders.

Like Hendricks, former Baylor star Singletary became a starter by the seventh game of his rookie season -- despite Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan's disdain for rookies. By his third game as a starter, Singletary earned a game ball for a 10-tackle performance. For 11 consecutive seasons, he ranked either first or second on the Bears in tackles.

Oddly enough, the Bears landed Singletary by trading up two slots in the 1981 draft with the San Francisco 49ers -- the team Singletary coaches today.

Sheldon Spencer is an NFL editor at ESPN.com. Thanks to ESPN's Stats & Information crew for their researching efforts, as well as Pro-Football-Reference.com and the Pro Football Hall Of Fame's Web site.