One of the most iconic movie scenes of all time took place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art when Rocky ran up the infamous steps at the end of a training montage showcasing his preparation for his upcoming match. It was so memorable, the city of Philadelphia put up a statue of Rocky, a fictional boxer from the film series with the same name, just to the right of the steps. That one scene turned the museum into a tourist attraction for over 40 years and, very soon, it will become the site of the 2017 NFL Draft.
The NFL agreed to host their 82nd annual draft in the city of brotherly love, specifically so that the players, when their names are called, can walk up those same iconic steps that Rocky made famous in 1976. It will be the first time the NFL Draft is going to be held outdoors.
It should be a monumental occasion for the NFL Draft and if you are interested in being a part of it, the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft will be on April 27th. It is a good idea to go for the first round, and not the other six rounds, because that has been the round that most of the NFL's greatest stars have been selected.
If you really wanted to break it down even further, you could find a Hall of Famer, or future Hall of Famer, at every single slot, from the 1st overall until the 32nd pick.
Let's take a look at the best player ever selected in the first round at every slot.
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32 Peyton Manning, QB, IND (1998)
There are several Hall of Famers in the NFL that were once the first pick in the draft. Some of those other players that almost made the list over Peyton Manning were Bruce Smith, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Orlando Pace, Terry Bradshaw, O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Earl Campbell, Chuck Bednarik, and Paul Hornung.
With such an amazing group of athletes, it's a true honor for Peyton Manning to be named the best No.1 pick in NFL history. But how could we pass up on a man who owns several NFL records including winning the most NFL MVP awards, he won five of them. He added two Super Bowl rings, in three appearances, and was named Super Bowl XLI's MVP. Oh, and do not forget the seven First-team All-Pro selections, 14 Pro Bowls, three Bert Bell awards, and two NFL Offensive Player of the Year trophies.
No one could run an offense and decode a defense like Peyton Manning. He was always the smartest man on the football field and he was able to play for 18 seasons in the NFL before retiring and preparing to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
31 Lawrence Taylor, LB, NYG (1981)
If Peyton Manning was the greatest offensive player of all time, then Lawrence Taylor is easily the best defender, right?
For 13 seasons, Lawrence Taylor lead the New York Giants defense to 115 wins and victories at both Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXV. He was more than just the QB of the defense, he was a monster that could cover the field, from sideline-to-sideline he was always running around, leading by example. He finished his Hall of Fame career with 132.5 sacks (That does not include his 9.5 sacks in 1981 because it did not officially count since the NFL did not start tracking sacks until 1982), nine interceptions, 33 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and he was named NFL MVP in 1986.
We forgot to mention that he owns just about every honor given out by the New York Giants for all of his accomplishments in the NFL.
30 3: Barry Sanders, RB, DET (1989)
The Detroit Lions have not been a threat in the NFL since 1957 when they won the championship game 59-14 over the Cleveland Browns. In fact, since 1993, the Lions have only made the playoffs seven times, losing in the Wild Card round every time. They have had losing seasons in 23 of the last 33 years, dating back to 1984. They are one of the NFL's worst franchises and have been a very long time.
So when they drafted Barry Sanders in 1989, things were going to change and all of the mistakes were soon to be forgotten. However, the Lions could not figure out that Barry Sanders needs help, he can't lead them to a Super Bowl by himself, although he almost did in 1991.
The Lions ruined one of the greatest running backs in NFL history by not surrounding him with better players. He retired at 31 years old, just so he would not have to play for the Lions anymore. Who knows how many Super Bowls he would have won if he played anywhere else in the league.
29 4: Walter Payton, RB, CHI (1975)
The fourth pick of the NFL Draft is one of the best based solely on the fact that the list of Hall of Famers selected in that slot is insane. It was an easy choice, however, once we saw the name of the legendary Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton.
Walter Payton ran for over 1,200 yards in a season ten times throughout his 13-year NFL career, an amazing stat that gets forgotten about. It should remind everyone just as incredible "Sweetness" was in Chicago. He actually averaged 4.4 yards per carry and nearly 1,300 per season making him one of the NFL's greatest running backs ever. He was also responsible for 133 total touchdowns (110 rushing, 15 receiving, eight passing).
His greatest career accomplishment has to be when he broke the NFL's career rushing yards record, previously held by Jim Brown, and then preceded to add to it, finishing with almost 4,000 yards rushing than Brown's longstanding record of 12,312. Emmitt Smith ended up breaking it towards the ending of his career.
28 Junior Seau, LB, SDC (1990)
Normally, a legendary NFL linebacker such as Junior Seau, would expect to have seasons with 10 or more sacks, multiple times. He has never done it. The most sacks Junior Seau has ever had in one season was seven. He was more than just a stat king, he was an all-around athlete that covered just about anyone on the opposition.
He could cover the wide receivers, rush the QB, make the big tackles, recover any fumbles on the field, and just about anything he could do as the leader of the Chargers defense. For 13 of his 20 years in the NFL, he led the San Diego Chargers defense playing just about every game he could, only missing 1 game in his entire Charger career.
27 Jim Brown, FB, CLE (1957)
Long before Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Adrian Peterson, and Walter Payton was a beast of a man named Jim Brown. He was the Cleveland Browns fullback for nine seasons, being named league MVP four times and making 1st team All-Pro eight times. He was also named 1957 Rookie of the Year and was voted to nine Pro Bowls.
He was doing things on a football field that no one had seen before, like rushing for 1,300 yards or more, six different times, leading him to become the NFL's all time leading running back with 12,312 yards. He retired at 29 years of age, in 1965, to pursue other ventures including becoming an actor.
26 Champ Bailey, CB, WAS (1999)
When he was drafted in 1999 by the Washington Redskins, he immediately made an impact and had five interceptions, one sack, and a defensive touchdown in his rookie year. Champ Bailey got his biggest break when the Redskins signed Deion Sanders in 2000 giving Bailey time to learn from one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history while also shadowing Darrell Green, one of the second greatest cornerbacks in NFL history. Those two mentors taught him a lot about the game and turned him into an elite defender the following year.
But it was not until 2004, when he was traded to Denver, that he became the league's best shutdown defender. He would retire with 52 career interceptions, one behind Deion Sanders and two behind Darrell Green.
25 Ronnie Lott, DB, SF (1981)
Both San Francisco and Oakland benefited from the talents of Ronnie Lott. For the first ten years of his career, Lott was the heart and soul of the 49ers defense that would win four Super Bowls. He became one of the only players in NFL history to win two Super Bowls twice, at two different positions.
For Super Bowls XVI and XIX, he was on the right side of the field as their starting cornerback. But during the last two big games, Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV, he was their starting free safety.
Everyone loves Tyrann Mathieu because of his on-field awareness and overall ball-seeking abilities but it was Ronnie Lott who was the first and probably the greatest open-field tacklers ever.
24 Bruce Matthews, OG, HOU (1983)
After playing nearly two decades in the NFL with the Houston Oilers, and Tennessee after they moved away, Bruce Matthews missed a total of only eight games, which came in 1987 due to injury. He started in 293 of 296 games throughout his career at just about every line on the offensive line and starting in 1988, he started 224 consecutive games.
He was part of that infamous 1983 draft class which includes some others that also made this list, and a few more that did not, like Eric Dickerson, Richard Dent, John Elway, and Darrell Green. After he retired in 2001, it only took six years before he was named the newest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in his first year of eligibility, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history.
23 Rod Woodson, DB, PIT (1987)
In his rookie season, Rod Woodson played in eight games but only one of them mattered. During Week 11, the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing their rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. In the second quarter, with the Steelers up 6-3, Rod Woodson came into the game and made the biggest play of the week when he returned an interception 45 yards for the score. It was a fitting start to an illustrious NFL career.
Many NFL fans forget that not only was he a tough cornerback and hard-hitting free safety, he was also a kick and punt returner finishing with four total kick and punt returns for touchdowns.
He was also a part of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense, considered to be the single greatest defensive season in NFL history.
22 Michael Irvin, WR, DAL (1988)
Michael Irvin was the first player drafted, of the "Big 3" Dallas Cowboys superstars and future Hall of Famers, that would help turn the Cowboys into a dynasty throughout the 1990s. They drafted three consecutive first rounders that turned into Hall of Famers when they selected Irvin in 1988, then Troy Aikman in 1989 with the first overall pick, and finally, in 1990 they grabbed the future NFL leading rusher, Emmitt Smith. It would mark the single greatest three year NFL Draft by any one team, ever.
While the dynasty was still being molded, Michael Irvin was struggling in his first three seasons and had 78 receptions for 1,445 yards, and 12 touchdowns combined. But in his fourth year, when the Cowboys were finally ready for the big show, he exploded with 93 receptions for 1,523 yards (his most yards in a season ever), and eight scores. They would end up winning three of the next four Super Bowls with Irvin running around as one of the league's best wideouts.
21 Warren Sapp, DT, TB (1995)
For being such a star at defensive tackle, the one thing everyone remembers about him is that he loved to talk trash, a lot of it. He talked so much trash that he was fined multiple times by the NFL. But what turned him into a Hall of Famer was not his mouth, it was his ability to obliterate an offensive line in one of the toughest positions to sack a QB from, the defensive tackle spot.
He still managed to get 96.5 career sacks, which is right behind John Randle for second most all-time by a Defensive Tackle. He turned into a major contributor on defense for the 2002 Buccaneers squad that won Super Bowl XXXVII. He had one sack late in the fourth quarter when the Raiders were mounting a comeback. The sack lead to the infamous Derrick Brooks interception on the next play that he returned 44 yards for the score securing the Bucs victory.
If it was not obvious by now, Warren Sapp is not just the best 12th overall draft pick for Tampa Bay, he is the best first round draft pick they have made, ever.
20 Tony Gonzalez, TE, KAN (1997)
The 13th selection in the first round was maybe the toughest one to choose from because there are about four or five guys that easily could be argued as the best in this slot. The Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly, Pittsburgh legendary four time Super Bowl champion running back Franco Harris, and the greatest tight end to play the game, Tony Gonzalez. All three of them were considered but since Tony G. is considered the best TE in NFL history, we had to give him the nod.
For 17 seasons, Tony Gonzalez did everything possible to be the best in the NFL including averaging 78 receptions, 890 yards, and seven scores a season throughout his entire career. His consistent offensive output make him an easy first ballot Hall of Famer, once he is eligible. Among TE's, he is first in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for a career.
19 Jim Kelly, QB, BUF (1983)
Luckily, Jim Kelly is not tied with a ton of his Buffalo teammates for most Super Bowl appearances without a win. There is one more player out there that owns the distinguished record of most Super Bowls without ever winning a ring. Veteran offensive lineman Glenn Parker, who played for the Bills, owns it with five. He left Buffalo and ended up in New York, with the Giants, where he went on to lose Super Bowl XXXV.
But that does not stop the pain of losing four consecutive Super Bowls. That kind of losing streak turns even the best of players into chumps in the eyes of fans. They forget that Jim Kelly lead an incredible Buffalo offense for 11 seasons. He retired with 35,467 yards passing, 237 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 84.4 which lead to his eventual enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. He probably wished he won one but he still remains as one of the greatest all time. Even without a ring.
18 Alan Page, DT, MIN (1967)
For the first 12 years of his 16-year career, Alan Page was the anchor of the Minnesota Vikings defense and the leader of the defensive line that went to four Super Bowls. Unfortunately, they lost all four of them but it had very little to do with the play of their defense, rather, it was a lack of offensive production. Through all four of the Super Bowls Alan Page played in, the Vikings offense scored a total of 34 points combined, and that is including the 14 they scored against Oakland in Super Bowl XI.
Although he is a member of the Hall of Fame, his reputation is being lost to other statistical beasts that pad the stat lines for sacks because they did not keep track of that until the late '80s.
17 Jerry Rice, WR, SF (1985)
Jerry Rice proved to the 49ers front office that they made the right choice selecting him 16th overall in the 1985 draft, his first year in the league. But it wasn't until his Week 14 matchup against the NFC West leader, Los Angeles Rams, that Jerry Rice truly made his mark. He ended up catching 10 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown in a loss. Over the last two games, Rice would catch 11 passes for 193 yards. His final three games of the 1985 regular season saw him turn into the future of the 49ers offense. In 1986, he had 86 receptions for 1,570 yards, the most receiving yards in a single-season for his entire career, and 15 touchdowns.
Before long, he was nearly impossible to shutdown turning him into the greatest receiver to play in the NFL, ever. His NFL records are nearly untouchable, second place is not even close in all three major categories. Jerry Rice retired with 224 more receptions, 6,961 more receiving yards, and 41 more touchdowns than second place. Those numbers alone are nearly better than most NFL WR's.
16 Emmitt Smith, RB, DAL (1990)
Just as Jerry Rice was the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Emmitt Smith was the greatest running back too. Both men played during the same era and it gave us a terrific rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys which lasted nearly 10 years going 3-6 against them during the regular season.
But it was all Dallas Cowboys when Emmitt Smith was their star running back in the playoffs. During the postseason, he matched up against the 49ers three times, going 2-1 against them in the process. His performances in the NFC Championship games helped the Cowboys secure all three of their Super Bowl rings. In three games against the 49ers in the NFC Championship, he had 276 rushing yards, 17 receptions, 149 receiving yards, and six total touchdowns. The Cowboys truly got their money's worth from their 17th pick of the 1990 NFL Draft.
15 Art Monk, WR, WAS (1980)
When the Washington Redskins added Art Monk to their roster in 1980, it was a massive upgrade from a team that struggled in passing the year before without a star wideout on the team. Danny Buggs led the team in receiving with 46 receptions for 631 yards and one touchdown. So in his first season, Art Monk was their star WR from day one and finished on the All-Rookie team with a team leading 58 receptions, 797 yards, and three touchdowns.
By 1984, Monk broke the NFL's single season record for receptions with 106 for 1,372 yards, the best season of his career, and seven scores. He would continue to run past defenders en route to three Super Bowl rings and a Hall of Fame career that remains one of the best in Redskins history.
14 Randall McDaniel, OG, MIN (1988)
Randall McDaniel was smooth, quick, and had the best feet in the NFL. He was very agile and able to move around, blocking just about every single future Hall of Fame defensive lineman that matched up against him. He was strong, lean, and built like a machine. If there was a perfectly built offensive guard, it would be sculpted from Randall McDaniel's frame. He was 6'4", 290 pounds, and could stop a dump truck heading towards him at full speed. He helped lead the Vikings, and eventually the Buccaneers, and ended up heading to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, nine First-team All-Pro's and was inducted into the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames.
His distinguished career was highlighted by his health and versatility. He was always healthy and ended up playing in 202 consecutive games because of it.
13 Jack Youngblood, DE, RAM (1971)
As far as sacks are concerned, the NFL official statistics do not begin until 1982 when the league finally decided to start tracking a player's sacks. As far as tackles go, it was not until 1994 that anyone began tracking it. It would not be official until 2001. So when you see the NFL defensive record books and notice a lot of the records owned by more recent folks, now you know why.
Jack Youngblood (Pictured Above in HOF Jacket) is a man that deserved both of those statistics to be tracked to justify his amazing play from the defensive end position he dominated for many years with the Rams.
But earlier last year, John Turney, member of the Pro Football Researchers Association, released an updated list of Career Sacks leaders and Youngblood was given 150.5, good enough for fifth all-time.
12 Randy Moss, WR, MIN (1998)
When the Minnesota Vikings drafted Randy Moss, he came in with a reputation of being a little too-cocky but that was his style and it worked for him because he could backup everything he said. His speed is legendary, ranking among the top ten fastest players in NFL history, but it takes more than just the ability to outrun your opponents to become one of the NFL's greatest wide receivers of all time.
Randy Moss was an excellent route runner who caught just about everything thrown in his direction, something that was very apparent in the 1998 season when he helped Randall Cunningham lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 15-1 record and a NFC Championship appearance. He would eventually make his way to New England where his partnership with Tom Brady would turn into a perfect 16-0 season in 2007. The same season in which he caught 23 touchdowns.
11 Andre Rison, WR, IND (1989)
In his 13 seasons in the NFL, Andre Rison spent time with several NFL teams. He played with the Indianapolis Colts, the team that drafted him, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, and, the team he had his best time with, the Atlanta Falcons.
From 1990 to 1994, he was a big part of the Falcons offense and in that short time period, he caught 423 passes, 5,633 yards, and 56 touchdowns. For his career, he nearly doubled that output, with 743 receptions, 10,205 yards, and 84 touchdowns. His luckiest moment was signing with the Green Bay Packers just before they went on to win Super Bowl XXXI, giving him his one and only championship ring.
10 Ty Law, CB, NWE (1995)
During his rookie season, Ty Law had three interceptions, one sack, and 47 tackles in just seven starts. He gradually grew into a Pro Bowler from the left CB position after a 1998 season where he had nine interceptions, a New England Patriots team record. It would not be the last time he reached that mark. In 2005, he ended up catching ten of those with the New York Jets, including returning one of them for a touchdown.
For his career, he ended up with 53 interceptions, which puts him 24th on the all time list. He finished first in the NFL in two different seasons with another top ten finish in 2003. His seven defensive touchdowns are 5th all time for most in a career. His defensive contributions were a huge part of the Patriots dynasty in the 2000's and led to two Super Bowl rings.
9 Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB (2005)
After last weekend's performance against the New York Giants, it is not far fetched to think that Aaron Rodgers just might be the most accurate and intelligent QB in NFL history, and he has several years left to play and only one Super Bowl ring.
Over the past six seasons, he has been getting even better, having thrown less than 10 interceptions a year. He has started 88 games since 2011 and has thrown for an average of 4,017 yards, 35 touchdowns, and seven picks per season. He is also a deadly accurate hurler having thrown over 65% of his passes for completion. For his career, he has a ridiculous 297 touchdowns and only 72 interceptions for a TD-INT ratio that has led to a 104.1 QB rate, the best in NFL history. His ratio itself is among the best of all time and remains in the top ten.
8 Ted Washington, NT, SF (1991)
The San Francisco 49ers did not get to know the real Ted Washington after drafting him in 1991. They kept him for three years before he went to Denver, then Buffalo, Chicago, New England, Oakland, and finally, Cleveland. He was not a trouble-maker, just had a big ego and loved to be a part of the club so he did things to fit in that turned into some legal troubles while in San Francisco, which could be why he was traded to Denver.
But outside of his issues, this man was a shutdown defender that could secure an offensive line right down to the fullbacks. He was a run-stopping, QB-hitting, terror that played almost every game in his career, when healthy. His health was never that much of an issue so he was able to start 204 games throughout his career from 1991 until 2007.
7 Ray Lewis, LB, BAL (1996)
If you were to go back and compare all of the players drafted in the first round of all NFL drafts, Ray Lewis just might be the greatest one of them all. His list of accomplishments go beyond anything the league had ever seen prior to 1996. He was similar to LT because he would give up his body with no concern to his safety, just to help the team get the win. He reminded us of Charles Woodson when he would drop back and cover the receivers, making big play after big play. He could line up on the defensive line as an End or a Tackle. There was simply nothing he could not do.
His 1,573 (2,055 if you add assisted tackles) career tackles is second all-time behind Jessie Tuggle. He was well-balanced and also had 41.5 career sacks, 31 career interceptions, three defensive touchdowns, 20 fumble recoveries, and 20 forced fumbles. He is also a two-time Super Bowl champion and was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP.
If you make a list of the NFL's greatest overall defense players, Ray Lewis might be debatable as the top choice but there is no denying he is in everyone's top five.
6 Dan Marino, QB, MIA (1983)
How many QBs in NFL history have accomplished more than Dan Marino without ever winning a Super Bowl? Better yet, name some quarterbacks that are among the greatest ever without a Super Bowl ring.
Warren Moon and Fran Tarkenton come to mind, followed by Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Donovan McNabb, and Randall Cunningham. All of these men share the same dilema, that it is vital to win a Super Bowl at some point in your career or you need to produce even more numbers all year long.
Dan Marino still holds several NFL passing records including all of the Monday Night Football records that he earned throughout his career. His list of accolades does not stop there. He also has been selected to nine Pro Bowls, three First-Team All-Pro's, and four Second-Team All-Pro's, including an NFL MVP award.
5 Derrick Brooks, LB, TB (1995)
For the longest time, Derrick Brooks was the heart and soul of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. He was the star linebacker for a team that had Brad Johnson as their starting QB. That alone should tell you what you need to know about how good the defense was that year. They were so dominating that they ended up scoring three defensive touchdowns in the Super Bowl, with Derrick Brooks scoring the final one to secure the win.
That was just a highlight of the career that has turned Derrick Brooks into a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was also selected to eleven Pro Bowls and named an NFL All-Pro nine different times.
4 Nick Mangold, C, NYJ (2006)
Unfortunately for him, Nick Mangold is the league's best center but is stuck with the New York Jets, at least until 2018. He was the Jets second first round draft pick of back in 2006 using their first one on D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
By the end of his rookie season, Nick Mangold had worked his way into contention for the annual league Rookie of the Year award, but would lose out to Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans, who had a strong first year in the NFL and could not be ignored. That season, Mangold started all 16 games for the Jets while providing the best protection he could for his QB. In 2016, Mangold only participated in eight games for the Jets but should bounce back to form next fall when he once again suits up for New York.
3 Reggie Wayne, WR, IND (2001)
Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison became the second best QB-WR duo in NFL history while with the Indianapolis Colts. But their success was not turning into Super Bowl victories, yet. They were missing a piece of the puzzle so in 2001, they went ahead and drafted the Miami Hurricane, Reggie Wayne.
His addition to the Colts potent offense turned them into a true Super Bowl contender and they found themselves winning a ring in 2006. The following season Reggie Wayne caught 104 receptions for 1,510 yards and 1o touchdowns, his best season of his career. He would continue to play until 2014. He retired with 1,070 receptions, 14,345 yards, ranked 10th all time in both, and 82 touchdowns, ranked 23rd all time.
2 Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, OAK (2003)
Between 2005 and 2010, Nnamdi Asomugha was the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL. By 2007, opposing QB's were so afraid to throw in his direction that they only completed 10 passes on 31 attempts against him for the entire season, which is so low that researchers from Pro Football Weekly seem to think it's the less anyone has ever thrown towards a defender in many years.
In 2008, he would continue to dominate receivers and striking fear in the eyes of QB's. For the season, they only threw the ball in his direction 27 times with only 8 completions, beating the mark from the year before. 2009 was once again another season of shutting people down and QB's continued to avoid him, throwing towards him 27 times with 13 completions.
Between 2007 and 2010, opposing QBs only threw in Asomugha's direction 1.9 times, on average, and 0.68 completions, per game.
1 Drew Brees, QB, SDC (2001)
Yes, yes, yes, we already know he was not selected in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, please calm down. However, the 32nd pick of the draft wasn't even added to the first round until after 2001 and we did technically say best player at each slot. So let's all agree that he belongs right where we have him.
Not too long ago, a great running offense was a playoff lock back then. Now, however, it is all about the passing attack thanks to Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Drew has broken record after record, including breaking his own records numerous times in anything from most completions in a season with 471, most 300 or more yards passing in a season with 13, and most consecutive seasons with over 4,000 yards passing at 11 years in a row.
The Miami Dolphins, and Nick Saban, regret the day they ever let Drew Brees sign in New Orleans. They almost had him but let him slip away thus changing the futures of all of the above.
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