Every NFL team’s best draft class since 2000: Revealing top 32 drafts of 21st century

Written by on April 10, 2024

Free agency, since its inception in the early 1990s, has played a significant role in the success (or failure) of NFL franchises but the NFL Draft also plays a large part in helping determine which team is crowned league champion on a yearly basis. Simply put, teams consistently drafting quality players have generally been in position to win one or multiple championships. In contrast, teams that struggle to select the right prospects perennially find themselves with one of the top picks in the draft.

With the 2024 NFL Draft just around the corner, we decided to take a look back at each team’s best draft since 2000. Older draft classes clearly have an advantage, but potential already shown in some recent draft classes did result in some from the last few years cracking this list.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Arizona Cardinals: 2004

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 3 Larry Fitzgerald WR
2 33 Karlos Dansby LB
3 64 Darnell Dockett DT
4 100 Alex Stepanovich C
5 135 Antonio Smith DE
6 167 Nick Leckey C
7 202 John Navarre QB

The Cardinals’ 2004 draft class starts with Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Fame receiver who was the team’s best player during their 2008 Super Bowl run. With their second- and third-round picks, the Cardinals picked two other players who would play prominent roles on their ’08 NFC title team: linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. In the fifth round, Arizona selected defensive end Antonio Smith, who received 39 starts in five years in Arizona before earning his first Pro Bowl selection after joining the Texans.

Atlanta Falcons: 2008

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 3 Matt Ryan QB
1 21 Sam Baker T
2 37 Curtis Lofton LB
3 68 Chevis Jackson DB
3 84 Harry Douglas WR
3 98 Thomas DeCoud DB
5 138 Robert James LB
5 154 Kroy Biermann LB
6 172 Thomas Brown RB
7 212 Wilrey Fontenot DB
7 232 Keith Zinger TE

Atlanta’s best draft class came down to the two drafts that saw it select Matt Ryan (2008) and Michael Vick (2001) with its first-round picks. While Vick helped the Falcons win a pair of playoff games that included a trip to the NFC title game in 2004, Ryan led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016. Ryan, who is seventh all time in career passing yards and ninth in touchdown passes, spent 14 seasons in Atlanta, while Vick spent just five seasons as the Falcons’ starting quarterback.

Atlanta’s 2008 draft also produced Pro Bowl defensive back Thomas DeCloud (third round) and NFL starters in tackle Sam Baker (first round), linebacker Curtis Lofton (second round) and receiver Harry Douglas (third round).

Baltimore Ravens: 2018

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 25 Hayden Hurst TE
1 32 Lamar Jackson QB
3 83 Orlando Brown Jr. T
3 86 Mark Andrews TE
4 118 Anthony Averett CB
4 122 Kenny Young LB
4 132 Jaleel Scott WR
5 162 Jordan Lasley WR
6 190 DeShon Elliott S
6 212 Greg Senat T
6 215 Bradley Bozeman C
7 238 Zach Sieler DE

While Baltimore’s 2008 draft class produced two players (Joe Flacco and Ray Rice) who played a prominent role in the team’s 2012 championship run, the Ravens’ 2018 class has the potential to be even better. The ’18 draft class includes former league MVP Lamar Jackson, four-time Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (who is currently with the Bengals after winning a Super Bowl with the Chiefs in 2022) and perennial Pro Bowler Mark Andrews.  

Baltimore’s ’18 draft class also includes offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman, a starting-caliber offensive lineman, plus another key contributor in linebacker Kenny Young, who was part of the trade that landed the team corner Marcus Peters. Tight end Hayden Hurst has enjoyed a productive career. 

Buffalo Bills: 2001

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 21 Nate Clements DB
2 46 Aaron Schobel DE
2 58 Travis Henry RB
3 76 Ron Edwards DT
3 95 Jonas Jennings T
4 110 Brandon Spoon LB
5 144 Marques Sullivan G
6 178 Tony Driver DB
6 195 Dan O’Leary TE
6 196 Jimmy Williams DB
7 214 Reggie Germany WR
7 238 Tyrone Robertson DT

A Pro Bowler in 2004, Nate Clements started in 168 regular-season games during his career. Aaron Schobel carved out a nine-year career that saw him earn two Pro Bowl nods while tallying 78 sacks. Travis Henry, a Pro Bowler in 2004, rushed for 2,794 yards and 23 touchdowns over a two-year span. Ron Edwards made 98 career starts over a 12-year career, while Jonas Jennings started in each of his 75 career games before injuries forced him to retire following the 2008 season. Marques Sullivan and Jimmy Williams also made quality contributions as Day 3 picks, though the latter’s came with other teams after he failed to make the Bills’ opening roster as a rookie.

A big “what if” from the Bills’ 2001 draft class is linebacker Brandon Spoon, a fourth-round pick who recorded 65 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two interception returns for touchdowns as a rookie. Spoon’s career essentially ended the following summer, when he tore his biceps before the start of the 2002 season. Spoon spent that season on injured reserve before being cut by the Bills before the start of the 2003 season. He signed with the Rams the following offseason but suffered a torn hamstring during training camp.

Carolina Panthers: 2005

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 14 Thomas Davis LB
2 54 Eric Shelton RB
3 79 Evan Mathis G
3 89 Atiyyah Ellison DT
4 121 Stefan Lefors QB
5 149 Adam Seward LB
5 169 Geoff Hangartner C
5 171 Ben Emanuel DB
6 189 Jovan Haye DE
6 207 Joe Berger T

Carolina’s 2012 class produced two of the team’s best players during its 2015 Super Bowl run (Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman), but the Panthers’ 2005 class is significantly deeper, with five draft picks from that class going on to have considerably long and successful careers. Headlining that draft class is linebacker Thomas Davis, who earned All-Pro honors during the Panthers’ memorable 2015 season. Guard Evan Mathis, a third-round pick, enjoyed a 12-year career that saw him earn two Pro Bowls selections as well as an All-Pro nod in 2013.

While three of the Panthers’ top five picks turned out to be busts, they made up for it by selecting three productive players during the fifth and sixth rounds. Center Geoff Hangartner made 85 starts over a nine-year career. Defensive end Jovan Haye made 45 starts over a three-year span, while offensive lineman Joe Berger, the Panthers’ final pick in the ’05 draft, enjoyed a 13-year career that saw him make 46 starts during his final three seasons.

Chicago Bears: 2000

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 9 Brian Urlacher LB
2 39 Mike Brown DB
3 69 Dez White WR
3 87 Dustin Lyman TE
4 125 Reggie Austin DB
6 170 Frank Murphy WR
6 174 Paul Edinger K
7 223 James Cotton LB
7 254 Michael Green DB

You could make an argument for the depth of the 2003 class winning out, as the Bears were able to find solid contributors on Day 3 to go with their Day 2 picks of Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs. The issue is their two first-round picks were spent on Michael Haynes, who only lasted about 2 1/2 years without making much of an impact, and Rex Grossman, who only spent one year as the primary starter (albeit it one that involved a Super Bowl run).

But in 2000, the Bears made their first two picks count, starting with Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher at No. 9 overall. The four-time first-team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler ranks in the top 10 all time of solo tackles in a career to go along with plenty of other accolades. Second-round pick Mike Brown was a first-team All-Pro in his second season, and while he never reached those heights again, he enjoyed a long, productive career that also included a Pro Bowl bid. And the 2000 class had some supporting contributors as well, with Dez White racking up 155 catches in four years with the Bears after being taken in the third round, seventh-rounder Michael Green making 45 starts while playing 81 games in his six years in Chicago, and kicker Paul Edinger putting together a couple solid seasons before the sixth-rounder played his way out of town.

Cincinnati Bengals: 2020

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 1 Joe Burrow QB
2 32 Tee Higgins WR
3 65 Logan Wilson LB
4 107 Akeem Davis-Gaither LB
5 147 Khalid Kareem DE
6 180 Hakeem Adeniji T
7 215 Markus Bailey LB

Cincinnati’s ’20 class edges out its ’21 class that featured Ja’Marr Chase and Evan McPherson. Burrow led the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl in 2021 and backed that up with his first Pro Bowl selection in 2022. He has enjoyed a successful partnership with Higgins, who went over 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons. Wilson had a breakout 2021 season that included his late-game interception against Ryan Tannehill in the second round of the playoffs that set up the Bengals’ game-winning field goal. 

Before 2020, the Bengals’ 2001 class was the franchise’s best during this century. That draft produced one of the league’s best receiving duos during the 2000s in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The duo would combine to catch 1,393 catches for 18,296 yards and 111 touchdowns over their careers while helping the Bengals win an AFC North division title in 2005.

The ’01 draft also produced Pro Bowl running back Rudi Johnson and defensive end Justin Smith, who earned five consecutive Pro Bowl selections as well as an All-Pro nod during his time with the 49ers following seven solid years in Cincinnati.

Cleveland Browns: 2018

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 1 Baker Mayfield QB
1 4 Denzel Ward CB
2 33 Austin Corbett C
2 35 Nick Chubb RB
3 67 Chad Thomas DE
4 105 Antonio Callaway WR
5 150 Genard Avery LB
6 175 Damion Ratley WR
6 188 Simeon Thomas CB

While his time with the franchise didn’t end on a high note, Baker Mayfield certainly left his mark in Cleveland. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 while helping the Browns post their best record in four years. Two years later, Mayfield helped lead Cleveland to its greatest win (a wild-card win in Pittsburgh) since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999. He has had a career resurgence in Tampa Bay. 

Denzel Ward has emerged as a two-time Pro Bowler, while Nick Chubb has become one of the league’s best running backs. Only Derrick Henry has more rushing yards than Chubb since the start of the 2018 season. 

Along with Mayfield, Ward and Chubb, the Browns also picked a few other solid contributors such as Austin Corbett, Chad Thomas and Genard Avery.

Dallas Cowboys: 2016

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 4 Ezekiel Elliott RB
2 34 Jaylon Smith OLB
3 67 Maliek Collins DT
4 101 Charles Tapper DE
4 135 Dak Prescott QB
6 189 Anthony Brown CB
6 212 Kavon Frazier S
6 216 Darius Jackson RB
6 217 Rico Gathers TE

Ezekiel Elliott, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing champion, and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott headline the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class. But the class also includes linebacker Jaylon Smith, who blossomed into a Pro Bowl player despite having to sit out his entire rookie season after suffering a major knee injury during the final game of his college career.

The Cowboys’ 2016 draft class also includes defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who recently signed with the 49ers, and cornerback Anthony Brown, who recently signed with the Jets after spending the 2023 season with the 49ers. 

Denver Broncos: 2006

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 11 Jay Cutler QB
2 61 Tony Scheffler TE
4 119 Brandon Marshall WR
4 126 Elvis Dumervil DE
4 130 Domenik Hixon WR
5 161 Chris Kuper G
6 198 Greg Eslinger C

While he never led the Broncos to the promised land, first-round pick Jay Cutler earned his first (and only) Pro Bowl selection in Denver before spending eight seasons as the Bears‘ franchise quarterback, helping lead them to an NFC Championship game appearance in 2010.

While second-round pick Tony Scheffler enjoyed a solid eight-year NFL career, what really sets this Broncos draft apart from the others is their fourth-round selections of six-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos also got significant value out of guard Chris Kuper, a fifth-round pick who made 79 starts in eight seasons in Denver.

Detroit Lions: 2013

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 5 Ezekiel Ansah DE
2 36 Darius Slay DB
3 65 Larry Warford G
4 132 Devin Taylor DE
5 165 Sam Martin P
6 171 Corey Fuller WR
6 199 Theo Riddick RB
7 211 Michael Williams TE
7 245 Brandon Hepburn LB

The Lions successfully hit on each of their first three picks in 2013, when they acquired 2015 Pro Bowl defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, five-time Pro Bowl defensive back Darius Slay and three-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford. Detroit also found late-round value in punter Sam Martin and running back Theo Riddick. Each of these players played significant roles in the Lions’ playoff seasons in 2014 and in 2016.

The Lions’ 2023 draft class — led by Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch — might eventually surpass the ’13 class, though. The trio played an integral role in the Lions reaching last year’s NFC title game. 

Green Bay Packers: 2008

Rd Ov Player Pos
2 36 Jordy Nelson WR
2 56 Brian Brohm QB
2 60 Pat Lee DB
3 91 Jermichael Finley TE
4 102 Jeremy Thompson DE
4 135 Josh Sitton T
5 150 Breno Giacomini T
7 209 Matt Flynn QB
7 217 Brett Swain WR

Devoid of a first-round pick in 2008, the Packers made up for it by using a second-round pick on Jordy Nelson, who is in the top five in franchise history in career catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. His nine-catch, 140-yard, one-touchdown performance helped the Packers defeat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

While tight end Jermichael Finley enjoyed a solid six-year run with the Packers, what truly sets Green Bay’s 2008 draft apart from the rest are the selections of offensive linemen Josh Sitton and Breno Giacomini in the fourth and fifth rounds. Sitton was a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his eight seasons in Green Bay, while Giacomini made 86 career starts and was a starter on Seattle’s 2013 championship team. Matt Flynn once threw six touchdowns in one game before signing a three-year deal with the Seahawks, which is not bad for a seventh-round pick.

Houston Texans: 2023

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 2 C.J. Stroud QB
1 3 Will Anderson Jr. LB
2 62 Juice Scruggs OL
3 69 Tank Dell WR
4 109 Dylan Horton DL
5 167 Henry To’oTo’o LB
6 201 Jarrett Patterson  OL
6 205 Xavier Hutchinson  WR
7 248 Brandon Hill  DB

It might be premature, but I’m ready to put Houston’s ’23 class ahead of Houston’s ’06 class that produced Mario Williams, current Texans coach DeMeco Ryans, offensive tackle Eric Winston and tight end Owen Daniels. 

The Texans’ most recent draft class produced last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in Stroud, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in Anderson, and two other promising players in Dell and To’oTo’o. It’ll be interesting to see how this class matches last year’s success in 2024. 

Indianapolis Colts: 2018

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 6 Quenton Nelson G
2 36 Darius Leonard LB
2 37 Braden Smith G
2 52 Kemoko Turay OLB
2 64 Tyquan Lewis DE
4 104 Nyheim Hines RB
5 159 Daurice Fountain WR
5 169 Jordan Wilkins RB
6 185 Deon Cain WR
7 221 Matthew Adams LB
7 235 Zaire Franklin LB

Guard Quenton Nelson, the team’s first-round pick in the ’18 draft, was a three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler in each of his first six seasons. Indianapolis also struck gold with its second-round pick, linebacker Darius Leonard, who made three All-Pros before injuries changed his career trajectory. 

Guard Braden Smith has turned into a quality starter, while running backs Nyheim Hines (fourth round) and Jordan Wilkins (fifth round) put up decent numbers during their initial seasons in Indianapolis. Second-rounders Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis made some solid contributions, while seventh-rounder Matthew Adams served as a key special-teams contributor during his time with the Colts. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: 2016

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 5 Jalen Ramsey CB
2 36 Myles Jack OLB
3 69 Yannick Ngakoue DE
4 103 Sheldon Day DT
6 181 Tyrone Holmes OLB
6 201 Brandon Allen QB
7 226 Jonathan Woodard DE

This Jaguars’ draft class was chosen ahead of the team’s 2019 draft class (that includes pass rusher Josh Allen and the ’21 draft that brought Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne to Jacksonville. While it’s a top-heavy group, the Jaguars’ 2016 draft class includes six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey (first round), linebacker Myles Jack (second round) and 2017 Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Each of those players played a significant role in the Jaguars’ run to an AFC Championship game in 2017.

Kansas City Chiefs: 2017

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 10 Patrick Mahomes QB
2 59 Tanoh Kpassagnon DE
3 86 Kareem Hunt RB
4 139 Jehu Chesson WR
5 183 Ukeme Eligwe LB
6 218 Leon McQuay S

The reasoning behind making this Chiefs’ draft class the best is pretty simple: Patrick Mahomes. While this was the draft that saw Kansas City land a future two-time league and Super Bowl MVP, Kansas City also drafted running back Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing as a rookie before continuing his career with the Browns in 2019. Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon started 23 games in Kansas City before continuing his career with the Saints. 

Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders: 2014

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 5 Khalil Mack LB
2 36 Derek Carr QB
3 81 Gabe Jackson G
4 107 Justin Ellis DT
4 116 Keith McGill DB
7 219 T.J. Carrie DB
7 235 Shelby Harris DE
7 247 Jonathan Dowling DB

The Raiders landed a future NFL Defensive Player of the Year (Khalil Mack) as well as their franchise quarterback (Derek Carr) with their first two picks, and the pair has been to 12 combined Pro Bowls. The Raiders’ third-round pick that year, Gabe Jackson, started at both guard positions during his first seven seasons with the Silver and Black. 

Day 3 defensive tackle Justin Ellis had 54 starts in 117 career games, while a pair of seventh-rounders in this class went on to become solid contributors as well. Defensive back T.J. Carrie had 54 career starts, while defensive end Shelby Harris is still going strong as a member of the Cleveland Browns. 

San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers: 2001

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 5 LaDainian Tomlinson RB
2 32 Drew Brees QB
3 67 Tay Cody DB
4 112 Carlos Polk LB
5 132 Elliot Silvers T
5 139 Zeke Moreno LB
7 201 Brandon Gorin T
7 244 Robert Carswell DB

While this certainly wasn’t their deepest draft, you can’t do much better than a class that includes the selections of a Hall of Fame running back in LaDainian Tomlinson and a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees.

The 2006 NFL MVP, Tomlinson retired as the league’s fifth all-time career rushing leader. Brees, who led the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in 2009, is No. 2 all time in career passing yards and touchdown passes. Of the rest of the class, Brandon Gorin had a solid run for a seventh-round pick, making 27 starts for three different teams following his exit from San Diego.

St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams: 2005

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 19 Alex Barron T
2 50 Ron Bartell DB
3 66 O.J. Atogwe DB
3 81 Richie Incognito G
4 117 Jerome Carter DB
4 134 Claude Terrell G
5 144 Jerome Collins TE
6 192 Dante Ridgeway WR
6 210 Reggie Hodges P
7 250 Ryan Fitzpatrick QB
7 251 Madison Hedgecock FB

You could certainly argue for the 2014 class based on three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald alone, but taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick and watching him bust is a significant ding to the class overall. Rams fans could also make a case for the team’s 2020 draft class that produced running back Cam Akers (first round), receiver Van Jefferson (second round) and safety Jordan Fuller (sixth round). 

This 2005 class doesn’t have an Aaron Donald type of player, but it features a lot of depth up and down the board. The top four picks all started at least 75 games, with guard Richie Incognito being the best of the bunch with four Pro Bowls and 164 starts. Then you come to the seventh round, where the Rams took a quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who made 147 starts with nine different teams during a winding NFL career. 

Miami Dolphins: 2018

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 11 Minkah Fitzpatrick S
2 42 Mike Gesicki TE
3 73 Jerome Baker LB
4 123 Durham Smythe TE
4 131 Kalen Ballage RB
6 209 Cornell Armstrong CB
7 227 Quentin Poling LB
7 229 Jason Sanders  K

Minkah Fitzpatrick has blossomed into an All-Pro-level player since being traded from Miami to Pittsburgh early in his second season (Miami received a 2019 first-round pick it used to draft offensive tackle Austin Jackson in the 2020 draft). Mike Gesicki has been a productive pass-catcher over the course of his career and was a safety valve during Tua’s first several seasons. Jerome Baker, who recently signed with Seattle, has become one of the NFL’s most versatile linebackers. Jason Sanders, the team’s final pick in the ’18 draft, was tabbed as an All-Pro in 2020 after making over 92% of his field goal attempts. 

This class beat out the Dolphins’ 2012 class that featured quarterback Ryan Tannehill (first round), linebacker Olivier Vernon (third round) and running back Lamar Miller. 

Minnesota Vikings: 2007

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 7 Adrian Peterson RB
2 44 Sidney Rice WR
3 72 Marcus McCauley DB
4 102 Brian Robison DE
5 146 Aundrae Allison WR
6 176 Rufus Alexander LB
7 217 Tyler Thigpen QB
7 233 Chandler Williams WR

Adrian Peterson, the team’s first-round pick in the ’07 draft, won league MVP honors in 2012 and is fifth all time on the NFL’s career rushing list. Second-round pick Sidney Rice earned Pro Bowl honors in 2009, catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns that season while helping the Vikings advance to the NFC Championship game. Defensive end Brian Robison recorded 60 sacks over his 11-year career with the Vikings. And while he spent more of his career as a backup, quarterback Tyler Thigpen managed to carve out an eight-year career, a considerably impressive feat for a seventh-round pick.

New England Patriots: 2010

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 27 Devin McCourty DB
2 42 Rob Gronkowski TE
2 53 Jermaine Cunningham LB
2 62 Brandon Spikes LB
3 90 Taylor Price WR
4 113 Aaron Hernandez TE
5 150 Zoltan Mesko P
6 205 Ted Larsen C
7 208 Thomas Welch T
7 247 Brandon Deaderick DE
7 248 Kade Weston DT
7 250 Zac Robinson QB

If you want to give this to the 2000 class for Tom Brady alone, that’s fair. But we’re highlighting the much better depth in the 2010 class. Devin McCourty started 205 games for the Patriots and helped New England win three Super Bowls and five AFC titles since being taken in the first round. Rob Gronkowski, who played a significant role in the Patriots’ second wave of Super Bowl wins, is regarded as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez had a productive three seasons before his career ended prematurely.

Second-round linebacker Brandon Spikes made 54 starts during his six-year career. And while he never played a down for the Patriots, offensive lineman Ted Larsen (sixth round) made 88 starts in 137 career regular-season games. 

New Orleans Saints: 2006

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 2 Reggie Bush RB
2 43 Roman Harper DB
4 108 Jahri Evans T
5 135 Rob Ninkovich DE
6 171 Mike Hass WR
6 174 Josh Lay DB
7 210 Zach Strief G
7 252 Marques Colston WR

Sean Payton’s first draft in New Orleans was his best. While he may not have lived up to his pre-draft hype, running back Reggie Bush was a versatile, highly productive player and a key piece to the Saints’ 2009 championship team. Safety Roman Harper was a two-time Pro Bowler during his 11 seasons with the Saints, while guard Jahri Evans earned four straight All-Pro and six Pro Bowl selections from 2009-14. Fifth-round pick Rob Ninkovich won two Super Bowls as a starting defender for the Patriots.

The Saints struck gold in the seventh round with the selections of guard Zach Strief and receiver Marques Colston. Strief spent half of his 12-year career with the Saints as a starter, while Colston retired after the 2015 season as the Saints’ all-time leader in catches (711), yards (9,759) and touchdowns (72).

New York Giants: 2004

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 4 Philip Rivers* QB
2 34 Chris Snee G
4 97 Reggie Torbor LB
5 136 Gibril Wilson DB
6 168 Jamaar Taylor WR
7 203 Drew Strojny T
7 235 Derrick Ward RB
7 253 Isaac Hilton DE

The Giants spent the No. 1 overall pick on longtime star quarterback Philip Rivers, only to trade him to the Chargers in exchange for Eli Manning, who went on to set just about every Giants passing record while also leading Big Blue to two Super Bowl wins over Bill Belichick’s Patriots.

New York spent its second-round pick on guard Chris Snee, who enjoyed a 10-year career with the Giants that included four Pro Bowl selections and an All-Pro nod in 2008. Defensive back Gibril Wilson played a significant role on the Giants’ 2007 championship team, recording 92 tackles and four interceptions during the regular season. Running back Derrick Ward rushed for a career-high 1,025 yards in 2008 while averaging a league-best 5.6 yards per carry, a banner season for a former seventh-round pick.

New York Jets: 2000

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 12 Shaun Ellis DE
1 13 John Abraham DE
1 18 Chad Pennington QB
1 27 Anthony Becht TE
3 78 Laveranues Coles WR
5 143 Windrell Hayes WR
6 179 Tony Scott DB
7 218 Richard Seals DT

The Jets’ first draft of the new millennium remains their best, although the 2022 draft that brought Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson to New York is gaining traction. 

Back in 2000, the Jets spent their first two first-round picks on defensive ends Shaun Ellis and John Abraham, who combined to record 207 sacks while earning seven Pro Bowl nods during their careers. The duo helped the Jets make the playoffs four times in a six-year span from 2001-06.

With the 18th overall pick, the Jets selected quarterback Chad Pennington, who helped lead New York to the playoffs on three different occasions. Pennington, a two-time Comeback Player of the Year Award recipient, led the Dolphins to their most recent AFC East division title in 2008. Pennington’s favorite target in New York was 2000 third-round pick Laveranues Coles, who is top five in franchise history in career catches, yards and touchdowns.

Philadelphia Eagles: 2012

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 12 Fletcher Cox DT
2 46 Mychal Kendricks LB
2 59 Vinny Curry DE
3 88 Nick Foles QB
4 123 Brandon Boykin DB
5 153 Dennis Kelly T
6 194 Marvin McNutt WR
6 200 Brandon Washington G
7 229 Bryce Brown RB

While the Eagles’ 2009 draft (headlined by LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin) deserves consideration, Philadelphia’s 2012 draft was a little deeper. It also played a significant role in the franchise winning its first Super Bowl title in 2017. The Eagles’ first pick that spring was defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, a six-time Pro Bowler and 2018 All-Pro. Second-round pick Mychal Kendricks was a starter on the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning defense before joining the Seahawks during the 2018 offseason.

Philadelphia’s third-round pick, quarterback Nick Foles, earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013 while throwing 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Four years later, he earned Super Bowl MVP honors after throwing three touchdowns in the Eagles’ 41-33 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Dennis Kelly has also proven to be a solid contributor for a fifth-round pick, making 54 starts while appearing in 131 games for the Eagles, Titans, Packers, Colts and Jets. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: 2010

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 18 Maurkice Pouncey C
2 52 Jason Worilds DE
3 82 Emmanuel Sanders WR
4 116 Thaddeus Gibson DE
5 151 Chris Scott G
5 164 Crezdon Butler DB
5 166 Stevenson Sylvester LB
6 188 Jonathan Dwyer RB
6 195 Antonio Brown WR
7 242 Doug Worthington DT

Pittsburgh’s 2010 draft produced two potential Hall of Fame talents, a two-time Pro Bowler and a solid defender. Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ first-round pick that spring, was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team. Seventh-round pick Antonio Brown, a fellow member of the 2010 All-Decade Team, led all NFL receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns from 2013-18.

Third-round pick Emmanuel Sanders blossomed into a Pro Bowl-level player for the Broncos, while second-round pick Jason Worilds recorded 25.5 sacks in five seasons before calling it quits after the 2014 season.

San Francisco 49ers: 2007

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 11 Patrick Willis LB
1 28 Joe Staley T
3 76 Jason Hill WR
3 97 Ray McDonald DE
4 104 Jay Moore DE
4 126 Dashon Goldson DB
4 135 Joe Cohen DT
5 147 Tarell Brown DB
6 186 Thomas Clayton RB

First-round pick Patrick Willis — who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer — was named to the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight NFL seasons. He was the best player on a 49ers defense that helped San Francisco advance to three straight NFC title games from 2011-13. The team’s second first-round pick, tackle Joe Staley, was a six-time Pro Bowler who started in each of his 181 career regular-season games.

Defensive end Ray McDonald was a starter for five of his eight seasons with the 49ers, while defensive back Dashon Goldson earned consecutive Pro Bowl berths that included an All-Pro selection in 2012. Fellow defensive back Tarell Brown, a fifth-round selection, made 63 starts in 117 career regular-season games. Willis, Golden and Brown combined to rack up 35 interceptions in their careers.

This class was challenged by the 49ers’ 2019 draft class that produced pass rusher Nick Bosa (first round), receiver Deebo Samuel (second round) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (fifth round). 

Seattle Seahawks: 2010

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 6 Russell Okung T
1 14 Earl Thomas DB
2 60 Golden Tate WR
4 111 Walter Thurmond DB
4 127 E.J. Wilson DE
5 133 Kam Chancellor DB
6 185 Anthony McCoy TE
7 236 Dexter Davis LB
7 245 Jameson Konz TE

While the Seahawks’ 2012 class includes two of the best Day 2 picks of the last 20 years in quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, Seattle’s 2010 draft class produced four Pro Bowl players and two crucial members of the team’s “Legion of Boom” secondary. Seattle used their second first-round pick on safety Earl Thomas, who would become a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Fellow defensive back Kam Chancellor, a fifth-round pick, would earn four Pro Bowl selections during his eight-year career. The two played a key role in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII title and consecutive NFC championships.

Tackle Russell Okung, the No. 6 overall pick in that draft, made two Pro Bowls while being an eight-year starter on Seattle’s offensive line. Golden Tate helped the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl before earning his first Pro Bowl selection during his first season with the Lions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2015

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 1 Jameis Winston QB
2 34 Donovan Smith T
2 61 Ali Marpet C
4 124 Kwon Alexander OLB
5 162 Kenny Bell WR
6 184 Kaelin Clay WR
7 231 Joey Iosefa FB

The Buccaneers’ drafts from 2018-20 included several players who would contribute to Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV title. That being said, the Buccaneers’ best draft this century remains their 2015 draft, when they selected quarterback Jameis Winston, tackle Donovan Smith, center Ali Marpet and outside linebacker Kwon Alexander with their first four picks.

Winston, who is preparing for his first season with the Browns, led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019. Smith just helped the Chiefs capture their third Super Bowl in five years. Marpet called it a career after being selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2021. Alexander was having success with the Steelers last year before an injury prematurely ended his season. 

Tennessee Titans: 2016

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 8 Jack Conklin T
2 33 Kevin Dodd DE
2 43 Austin Johnson NT
2 45 Derrick Henry RB
3 64 Kevin Byard S
5 140 Tajae Sharpe WR
5 157 LeShaun Sims CB
6 193 Sebastian Tretola G
7 222 Aaron Wallace OLB
7 253 Kalan Reed CB

While second-round pick Derrick Henry is the crown jewel, the Titans had four other players from this draft become starters during the first four years of their careers. Right tackle Jack Conklin, an All-Pro in 2016, has continued to have success with the Browns. Nose tackle Austin Johnson recently signed with the Bills and has 55 starts in 116 games. Safety Kevin Byard earned All-Pro honors in 2017 after leading the NFL with eight interceptions. He earned a second All-Pro nod in 2021 after tallying five picks, 13 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. 

We’d be remiss not to take a second to further acknowledge Henry, who rushed for 2,170 yards (including the postseason) while leading the Titans to the AFC Championship game in 2019. Henry again led the NFL in rushing in 2020 while becoming the eighth 2,000-yard back in league annals.

Washington Commanders: 2012

Rd Ov Player Pos
1 2 Robert Griffin III QB
3 71 Josh LeRibeus G
4 102 Kirk Cousins QB
4 119 Keenan Robinson LB
5 141 Adam Gettis G
6 173 Alfred Morris RB
6 193 Tom Compton T
7 213 Richard Crawford DB
7 217 Jordan Bernstine DB

This draft class produced two future Pro Bowl quarterbacks (first-round pick Robert Griffin III and fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins), the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year (Griffin), a two-time Pro Bowl running back (fifth-round pick Alfred Morris) and a starting offensive lineman (sixth-round pick Tom Compton). The duo of Griffin and Morris helped the franchise capture a division title in 2012, while Cousins, a Pro Bowler for Washington in 2016, was named to three more Pro Bowls during his six-year run with the Vikings. 

The post Every NFL team’s best draft class since 2000: Revealing top 32 drafts of 21st century first appeared on CBS Sports.

Reader's opinions

Leave a Reply

Current track