0 of 32
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
The 2021 NFL draft is less than a month away, making this a hopeful time for all 32 organizations. While not every team earned an early first-round selection, each can believe a franchise-altering pick is waiting to be plucked.
After all, some of the league’s brightest stars—including Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Alvin Kamara and George Kittle—weren’t chosen in the first round.
Teams regularly miss on draft picks, of course, but that’s not what we’re going to focus on today. Instead, we’re going to look back at the best selection each team has made in the last 10 drafts.
Factors such as statistical production, accolades and career length were considered, with additional emphasis on how a player impacted their franchise—help your team reach a Super Bowl, and you deserve bonus points.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
1 of 32
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
We’ll kick things off with a future Hall of Famer and the Arizona Cardinals’ first selection of the last decade.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson was taken with the fifth pick in the 2011 draft. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons and was named an All-Pro three times.
Peterson has also been one of the most dependable members of the Cardinals during his 10-year career, missing only six games in 2019 because of a PED suspension and never sitting out because of injury. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason but unquestionably earned his reputation as one of Arizona’s all-time greats.
Quarterback Kyler Murray was considered, as the 2019 No. 1 pick appears to have a bright future as the franchise quarterback. Peterson’s Cardinals legacy, though, is cemented.
2 of 32
Danny Karnik/Associated Press
The Cardinals were happy to select Patrick Peterson in 2011. The Atlanta Falcons worked to secure Julio Jones. Atlanta traded five picks—including two first-rounders—to nab Jones one spot after Peterson.
While it was a hefty price to pay, it’s hard to argue Jones hasn’t been worth it. He’s consistently been among the best receivers in the 10 years since and remains a key cog in the Atlanta offense. Despite sharing the load with budding star Calvin Ridley, Jones produced 771 receiving yards and 51 receptions in just nine games last season.
Overall, Jones has racked up 848 catches for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns. He’s been named to the Pro Bowl seven times and has two All-Pro nods. Jones has also twice led the league in receiving yards and once topped it in receptions.
Getting Jones took a bold move, but it’s paid off in a huge way.
3 of 32
John Munson/Associated Press
The Baltimore Ravens have made several smart draft selections over the past decade, including Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Stanley, Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr. No pick, however, has been more important than the 2018 selection of quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This is about more than just the value of his position. The Ravens made a wise and aggressive play to land the Louisville product. Baltimore traded down twice in the first round and then traded for the 32nd choice to nab Jackson.
While Jackson didn’t start right away, he moved into the role by Week 11 of his inaugural campaign and helped the Ravens make the postseason. They’ve made the playoffs every year since, and the 24-year-old was the unanimous MVP in 2019.
With just 37 starts and 46 games to his credit, Jackson has already passed for 7,085 yards, rushed for 2,906 yards and accounted for 87 touchdowns.
It took guts for the Ravens to go all in on the dual threat, but that decision has helped to give Baltimore one of the best offenses in the league.
4 of 32
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Lamar Jackson isn’t the only quarterback from the 2018 draft to make this list. The Buffalo Bills scooped up Wyoming product Josh Allen with the seventh pick that year, and while Allen took time to develop, he arrived in 2020.
For the majority of last season, Allen was one of the league’s most dangerous and efficient passers. He finished with a completion percentage of 69.2, a passer rating of 107.2 and a 37-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Allen also helped Buffalo reach the AFC title game for the first time since 1993.
A dual threat in his own right, Allen has compiled 1,562 rushing yards and 9,707 passing yards and accounted for 93 touchdowns.
While Tre’Davious White and Tremaine Edmunds have been fine contributors, Allen gives the Bill a franchise quarterback for the first time since the Jim Kelly era. That’s just about the best feeling Buffalo could get out of a draft selection.
5 of 32
Chris Keane/Associated Press
Quarterback Cam Newton‘s final two years with the Carolina Panthers were injury-plagued, and he spent 2020 with the New England Patriots. For most of the past decade, though, he shined for Carolina.
Chosen out of Auburn with the top pick in 2011, the dual threat made an immediate impact on the NFL. Newton was named Offensive Rookie of the Year after passing for 4,051 yards, rushing for 706 yards and accounting for 35 touchdowns.
Four years later, Newton led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl 50. He took home regular-season MVP honors and made his third Pro Bowl.
While Newton’s time with Carolina didn’t end the way anyone might have hoped, his accomplishments over the first seven seasons were impressive. Recent draft picks Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore may make this list in the not too distant future, but Newton has been the Panthers’ brightest star over the past 10 years.
6 of 32
Gary McCullough/Associated Press
The Chicago Bears’ choice came down to offensive lineman Kyle Long and safety Eddie Jackson. Long, a first-rounder in 2013, was a three-time Pro Bowler in his first three seasons but was often injured over the next four, retired after 2019 and returned to join the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason.
Jackson, drafted in the fourth round in 2017, hasn’t spent as much time with Chicago as Long did. However, he has been equally impressive and has shown no signs of slowing down.
The former Alabama standout started all 16 games as a rookie, amassing 73 tackles, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. He was an All-Pro by his second season and has made two Pro Bowls.
A playmaker on the back end of the defense, Jackson has amassed 10 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and six defensive touchdowns.
While the Bears have largely missed on first-round picks, including Kevin White and Mitchell Trubisky, they landed a steal in Jackson.
7 of 32
Al Drago/Associated Press
One could argue that it’s too early for 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow to make this list. However, given the Cincinnati Bengals’ track record—the franchise has used first-round picks on Cedric Ogbuehi, John Ross and Billy Price—it isn’t.
One could also say Cincinnati lucked into Burrow. While that may be true, choosing the LSU product is the best decision the Bengals have made in some time.
Burrow was phenomenal in his 10 games as a rookie. He threw for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns while never once appearing overwhelmed by his role at the helm of a talent-starved team. Flashing physical skills and on-field acumen, Burrow appeared poised to become one of the league’s top signal-callers.
“I can honestly see Joe being MVP one day in this league,” Cincinnati linebacker Josh Bynes said on NFL Network (h/t AllBengals).
Seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green earned consideration, but Burrow represents the most important pick a franchise can make—that of a franchise quarterback.
8 of 32
Justin Berl/Associated Press
This was a tough decision, especially after Baker Mayfield’s late-season surge in 2020. The former Oklahoma quarterback appears on his way to becoming a franchise quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, which cannot be understated.
However, 2017 No. 1 pick Myles Garrett could be on his way to the Hall of Fame. He has consistently been among the league’s best pass-rushers since day one and has already logged 42.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 42 tackles for loss.
Garrett had seven sacks as a rookie and has had at least 10 in every season since. He’s been named to two Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro last season.
If Mayfield continues progressing, he could overtake Garrett on lists like this one. For now, however, Garrett is the best selection the Browns have made—possibly since their return to the NFL in 1999.
9 of 32
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press
Quarterback Dak Prescott had stiff competition, as recent Dallas Cowboys draft picks Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott and Leighton Vander Esch have been fantastic. Prescott, however, plays the most important position in the game and has done so at a high level.
Picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, Prescott immediately stepped in for the injured Tony Romo. He started all 16 games and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Cowboys haven’t looked back.
Prescott is a two-time Pro Bower and was leading the NFL with 1,856 passing yards when he suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 5 last season. While Dallas was fortunate Prescott was available, it made a great pick by selecting the Mississippi State product and has a franchise quarterback because of it.
10 of 32
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Several players from the 2011 draft have made this list, which should showcase the strength of that class. Teams did whiff in 2011, however, as players including Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Phil Taylor had underwhelming careers.
The Denver Broncos avoided one of those mistakes by picking former Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller with the second selection. Every team dreams of having a Hall of Fame-caliber sack artist, and that’s exactly what Denver got.
Despite missing 2020 following surgery, Miller has amassed 106 sacks, 135 tackles for loss and 490 tackles. While he had only eight sacks in 2019, he produced a solid 37 quarterback pressures.
An eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Miller also helped Denver win Super Bowl 50. He was named MVP for his performance against Cam Newton and the Panthers—one reason why this decision wasn’t particularly close.
11 of 32
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
This was a tough decision, not because the Detroit Lions have made a plethora of terrific recent picks but because they haven’t. Eric Ebron, Jarrad Davis and Ezekiel Ansah have disappointed more than they’ve impressed, so the choice came down to Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Kenny Golladay.
Golladay had a pair of strong seasons for Detroit but departed this offseason. Decker has been above average but far from elite—according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed seven sacks in just 653 pass-blocking snaps in 2019.
Ragnow, however, is establishing himself as one of the best centers in the game. Selected with the 20th pick in 2018, the Arkansas product started 16 games as a rookie and has missed just three in three seasons.
In 2020, Ragnow was named to his first Pro Bowl. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t allow a sack and was responsible for just three penalties in 929 snaps. He should be an anchor along the line for years to come, and while centers don’t get a ton of attention, Ragnow was a tremendous pick.
12 of 32
Mike Roemer/Associated Press
The Green Bay Packers’ recent record of early-round draft picks is up and down. Kenny Clark and Jaire Alexander have become stars, while HaHa Clinton-Dix and Damarious Randall didn’t last long with Green Bay.
The Packers, however, absolutely nailed their 2014 selection of Fresno State receiver Davante Adams.
Picked in the second round, Adams was the ninth receiver chosen. He has established himself as one of the best in the game. Playing with a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers certainly aided his development, but by his fourth season, Adams was a perennial Pro Bowler.
He was an All-Pro in 2020 and led the NFL with 18 touchdown receptions—despite missing two games. When targeting Adams, Rodgers had an outstanding rating of 136.0. He was at 121.5 overall.
Adams is practically uncoverable one-on-one, and the 28-year-old should continue to rank among the league’s best.
13 of 32
Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
Pass-rusher J.J. Watt isn’t only the Houston Texans’ best draft selection of the past 10 years, he’s arguably the best player in franchise history. There’s a good chance that Watt will be the first true Texan in the Hall of Fame. Ed Reed, who played just seven games with the franchise, is Houston’s only Hall of Famer.
Taken with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft, Watt spent the next 10 years as the face of the franchise. He had 5.5 sacks as a rookie and then exploded from there. He had 20.5 sacks in his second pro season en route to his first of three Defensive Player of the Year awards. His second came just two years later, when he once again totaled 20.5 sacks.
Watt helped the franchise reach the postseason six times and finished his Texans career with 101 sacks, 61 passes defended and 172 tackles for loss.
He is a five-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro and a two-time league sack leader.
14 of 32
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
While Andrew Luck‘s career didn’t end as anyone could have predicted—injuries led him to retire after just seven years and six seasons—he remains the Indianapolis Colts’ best pick of the last decade.
There was some debate heading into the 2012 draft about whether Luck or Robert Griffin III was the player to pick at the top. Indianapolis banked on Luck, and the Stanford product immediately became a star.
Luck made the Pro Bowl in his first season and helped lead Indianapolis to the playoffs. He took the Colts to the postseason in each of his first three campaigns, making it to the AFC title game in 2014. In all, Luck had four Pro Bowl appearances, made the playoffs four times and finished with 23,671 passing yards, 171 passing touchdowns, 1,590 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Had Luck not retired early, he would likely be a future Hall of Famer. Still, for more than half a decade, he was one of the league’s few elite signal-callers. While recent draft picks Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard could vie for such a title in the near future, Luck is the gold standard.
15 of 32
John Raoux/Associated Press
While the Jacksonville Jaguars traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams during the 2019 season, he was the best draft selection they have made in recent memory. This isn’t a knock on quality players such as DJ Chark Jr., Josh Allen and James Robinson—who was signed as an undrafted free agent—but it is a testament to Ramsey’s elite status.
Chosen with the fifth pick in 2016, Ramsey has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons. He has two All-Pro nods and remains one of the league’s top cover corners.
In his last full season with Jacksonville, Ramsey allowed an opposing quarterback rating of just 76.4. He was dealt to the Rams in the middle of the 2019 season, netting the Jaguars two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder in return.
Overall, Ramsey has an impressive 58 passes defended, 11 interceptions, three forced fumbles, a defensive touchdown and 287 tackles. In his second season, he helped the Jaguars compile a 10-6 regular-season record and advance to the AFC Championship Game.
16 of 32
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
This decision wasn’t as easy as one might think. Fifth-round pick Tyreek Hill deserved consideration for being a late-draft gem who has five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nods on his resume.
But Kansas City’s selection of former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in 2017 lifted the franchise to new heights. The Chiefs traded up to grab Mahomes at No. 10, and there’s zero chance they regret it.
Mahomes sat for the majority of his rookie season, but in three years as a starter, he has taken Kansas City to two Super Bowls, won one (and was named MVP) and earned league MVP honors.
Oh, and Mahomes has also thrown for 14,152 yards and 114 touchdowns with just 24 interceptions while making the Pro Bowl in each of his three full years.
Simply put, Mahomes is the sort of draft pick teams dream about. He has delivered statistically and in the big picture—Kansas City should remain a Super Bowl favorite as long as he is behind center.
17 of 32
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Khalil Mack, Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs all deserved consideration for the Las Vegas Raiders, but quarterback Derek Carr was the top choice.
A woefully underappreciated quarterback, Carr has been nothing short of a franchise staple since being drafted in the second round in 2014. Carr is a three-time Pro Bowler who continues to produce at a franchise-quarterback level.
The former Fresno State star has been fantastic over the past two seasons, though he hasn’t received a Pro Bowl nod since his third straight trip in 2017. In 2019, he passed for 4,054 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Last season, he threw for 4,103 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
While Carr may not be considered among the league’s elite quarterbacks, he is a centerpiece, and at 30 years old, he should remain that way for the foreseeable future.
18 of 32
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
As is the case with Joe Burrow, it may be early to crown Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. When a team lands a franchise quarterback, however, it must be considered a tremendous pick—and that’s exactly what the Chargers appear to have in the 2020 No. 6 selection.
Herbert was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year after he threw for 4,336 yards in 15 games. He also shattered a rookie record with 31 passing touchdowns. Perhaps more importantly, he showcased poise, a high football IQ, athleticism and arm talent.
“He can sling the ball,” new Chargers tight end Jared Cook said, per Gilbert Manzano of the Orange County Register.
While Herbert’s physical tools were never in question, he has proved he possesses intangibles as well.
Pass-rusher Joey Bosa was considered, as he’s been impressive since he was drafted third in 2016. Given the importance of the quarterback position, though, Herbert got the nod.
19 of 32
Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
This was unquestionably one of the easiest choices to make. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald isn’t just the Rams’ best draft pick of the last decade, he’s also one of the best picks of any team over that span. The Pittsburgh product lasted until No. 13 in the 2014 draft.
To say Los Angeles should be happy with its return would be an understatement. Donald has become arguably the best player at any position in football. A difference-maker on the interior, Donald has racked up sacks and accolades during his seven years.
Donald has never not made the Pro Bowl and is a six-time All-Pro. He’s also a three-time Defensive Player of the Year with an incredible 85.5 sacks. He has produced a minimum of 45 quarterback pressures in each of the last three seasons—a wild number for a down lineman.
Donald would likely be headed to the Hall of Fame if his career ended today. The 29-year-old, however, should remain the face of the Rams defense long into the future.
20 of 32
David Becker/Associated Press
This was a relatively easy decision, as cornerback Xavien Howard has become one of the league’s best players at his position. Drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the second round in 2016, Howard was a steal.
Somehow, five cornerbacks were drafted ahead of Howard that year. Of those five, only Jalen Ramsey has emerged as a star.
But one could argue Howard is just as good or better. He is a two-time Pro Bowler who has twice led the league in interceptions. He continues to improve too, and was a lockdown defender last season.
In 2020, Howard allowed an opposing quarterback rating of just 48.3.
Howard has 22 career interceptions to go with 55 passes defended, two forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown. He’s one of the best defenders in the game and a franchise centerpiece.
21 of 32
David Berding/Associated Press
The Vikings have hit on some recent draft picks, including running back Dalvin Cook and wideout Justin Jefferson. Safety Harrison Smith, however, has been a mainstay since 2012.
Selected 29th, Smith came out of Notre Dame and made an immediate impact. He started 16 games and totaled 104 tackles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
Smith has five Pro Bowl selections and has appeared in at least 13 games in eight of his nine seasons.
Overall, he has 747 tackles, 66 passes defended, 28 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, four defensive touchdowns and 13.5 sacks.
With a rare combination of playmaking ability, reliability and staying power, Smith hasn’t only been one of the Vikings’ best picks of the past decade but he’s also been one of their best players.
22 of 32
Winslow Townson/Associated Press
For as great as the Patriots have been over the past decade, they haven’t drafted particularly well in the early rounds—a point chairman and CEO Robert Kraft conceded.
“I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years, and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft told reporters.
New England, however, did hit on Joe Thuney in a big way. The North Carolina State product was chosen in the third round and immediately became a fixture of the Patriots offensive line.
Thuney has never been named to a Pro Bowl, but he’s been among the league’s most reliable players since he was drafted in 2016. He has started every game over the past five years and has rarely missed a snap, playing at least 97 percent of the time.
While Thuney played well enough to earn the franchise tag last offseason, the Patriots allowed him to walk in free agency this year, and he signed with Kansas City.
23 of 32
Brian Westerholt/Associated Press
This was a difficult group to whittle down to one. The New Orleans Saints have hit on recent draft picks such as Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Cesar Ruiz. Pass-rusher Cameron Jordan, however, has been a mainstay since he was drafted in 2011 and deserved the nod.
Chose 24th out of Cal, Jordan got off to a slow start. He had just one sack as a rookie before producing eight in his second season.
Jordan exploded with a 12.5-sack campaign in 2013, which earned him his first of six Pro Bowl honors. An All-Pro in 2017, Jordan has established himself as one of the league’s most consistent and dominant edge-defenders.
He has produced double-digit sacks in five of his 10 seasons and has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past four years. Thomas and Kamara are certainly important to New Orleans, but Jordan is too, and his consistency and longevity gave him an edge.
24 of 32
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
The New York Giants’ recent draft history isn’t stellar. The jury is still out on quarterback Daniel Jones, and while Saquon Barkley could become an all-time great, his career has been up and down.
Barkley amassed 2,028 scrimmage yards as a rookie, 1,003 rushing yards in 2019 and missed all but two games with a torn ACL last season.
New York’s selection of wideout Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 was a great one, though. The Giants picked the former LSU standout at No. 12, and Beckham became a sensation.
While he has spent the last two years with the Browns, he had five tremendous—albeit sometimes injury-marred—seasons with the Giants. He topped 1,300 receiving yards and made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons. He again topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2018 before netting a first-round pick, a third-rounder and safety Jabril Peppers in a March 2019 trade with the Browns.
While New York may be happy to have moved on from Beckham’s brash personality, it hasn’t had an offensive weapon like him since.
25 of 32
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
The New York Jets have a checkered track record when it comes to recent early draft picks. Calvin Pryor, Dee Milliner and Darron Lee didn’t work out, while Sam Darnold remains unproven. New York did, however, nail its 2017 selection of safety Jamal Adams.
The Jets chose Adams sixth out of LSU in 2017, and he became both a starter and a star.
Adams had 83 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in his rookie season. He was a Pro Bowler by his second year and an All-Pro in Year 3. Of course, Adams was traded along with a fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks last year, which netted New York two first-round picks, a third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald.
Thus far in his career, Adams has amassed 356 tackles, 21.5 sacks, two interceptions and seven forced fumbles. Arguably the best box safety in the game, Adams was a great pick by the Jets. It’s a shame they couldn’t keep him.
26 of 32
Rich Schultz/Associated Press
There was a time when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz seemed like a lock for a list like this one. He was briefly on an MVP trajectory before suffering a torn ACL in 2017, had numerous injuries thereafter, regressed in 2020 and finally was traded to the Colts.
While Wentz experienced a rapid rise and equally unexpected fall, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has been consistently great since he was drafted in 2012.
Selected with the 12th pick, the former Mississippi State star had 39 tackles, 5.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and three passes defended as a rookie. While Cox didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his fourth season, he racked up 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss over his first three years.
Since then, Cox has made the Pro Bowl six times in six years and was an All-Pro in 2018. He helped Philadelphia win the Lombardi Trophy in 2017, and he remains one of the league’s most disruptive interior linemen.
Last season, Cox had 6.5 sacks, 22 quarterback pressures and nine tackles for loss.
27 of 32
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press
This was one of the tougher decisions, as the Pittsburgh Steelers regularly uncover talent in the draft. From JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool to David DeCastro and Devin Bush, several candidates exist.
But Pittsburgh’s decision to choose T.J. Watt with the 30th pick in 2017 might just mean there will be another Steeler in Canton. That may seem hyperbolic, but the Wisconsin product is certainly headed in that direction.
Watt has already amassed 49.5 sacks and 59 tackles for a loss, and he has logged at least 13 sacks in his last three campaigns. He’s been to the Pro Bowl in all three seasons as well, with two All-Pro nods also on his resume.
With a league-leading 15 sacks and a remarkable 61 quarterback pressures in 2020, Watt easily could have been named Defensive Player of the Year over winner Aaron Donald. While some might feel Watt was robbed, he will likely win the award a time or two before his career comes to a close.
28 of 32
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
The San Francisco 49ers have had some draft hits over the past decade, from Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner to Nick Bosa and Brandon Aiyuk. Tight end George Kittle, however, is on another level. He is arguably the best player at his position—and at a minimum, he’s in the top two, alongside Travis Kelce.
Chosen in the fifth round in 2017, Kittle did not take long to develop. The Iowa product had 515 receiving yards and 43 receptions as a rookie despite starting only seven games. By his second season, he was a Pro Bowler, racking up 1,377 yards and five touchdowns.
Kittle again topped the 1,000-yard mark and made the Pro Bowl in 2019 while helping San Francisco reach Super Bowl LIV.
While he was limited to eight games in 2020, Kittle still produced 634 yards on 48 receptions. He remains one of the most explosive offensive mismatches in the game and should be a tremendous asset for years to come.
29 of 32
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
This might have been the easiest decision to make. Hall of Fame quarterbacks don’t come around often, and the Seahawks likely have one in Russell Wilson. That they landed the Wisconsin product in the third round in 2012 seems almost unbelievable in retrospect.
Wilson has led Seattle to two Super Bowls and has won one. He’s been named to seven Pro Bowls and has led the NFL in passer rating and in passing touchdowns.
In 2020, Wilson was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year.
While not a traditional dual-threat signal-caller, Wilson’s escapability and scrambling prowess have made him one of the league’s most difficult quarterbacks to defend. He’s amassed 4,506 rushing yards and 33,946 passing yards and accounted for 289 touchdowns in just nine seasons.
Wilson remains one of the league’s elite quarterbacks, and there’s nothing better than landing one of those in the draft.
30 of 32
John Bazemore/Associated Press
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have garnered plenty of attention for building a Super Bowl squad through free agency and trades—with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Shaquil Barrett and Antonio Brown headlining the additions—it’s important to recognize they landed many key contributors in the draft.
From Devin White and Tristan Wirfs to Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jamel Dean, many of the team’s best players were draft picks.
Tampa Bay’s 2014 selection of former Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans, however, stands out as one of the most important in recent memory.
Evans was selected seventh and quickly made an impact as a red-zone threat. He caught 12 touchdown passes as a rookie and has 61 overall. He has 532 receptions, 8,266 receiving yards and three Pro Bowl appearances.
Remarkably, Evans has also topped the coveted 1,000-yard mark every single year.
31 of 32
Matt Patterson/Associated Press
This wasn’t the easiest decision, as left tackle Taylor Lewan has been fantastic since he was drafted in 2014. Running back Derrick Henry, however, is the identity of the Tennessee Titans and has become one of the most unstoppable forces in the NFL.
The former Alabama standout was picked in the second round in 2016, and while he was a role player early in his career, he has been a centerpiece over the past three years.
Henry has topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of the past three seasons while leading the league in rushing yards, attempts and touchdowns in each of the last two. He rushed for 2,077 yards in 2020, which helped him earn his first All-Pro nod and his second Pro Bowl selection.
Despite not becoming a starter until his third season, Henry has rushed for 5,860 yards and 55 touchdowns with an impressive five yards per carry.
With an outlandish combination of size, strength and breakaway speed, Henry might be the most important piece on the roster.
32 of 32
Mark Tenally/Associated Press
While some might consider the Washington Football Team’s winning the NFC East with a 7-9 record in 2020 a fluke, it wasn’t. Washington has built a solid foundation through the draft, with players such as Terry McLaurin, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Chase Young becoming key contributors.
The selection of right guard Brandon Scherff—the fifth pick in 2015—is the best choice the franchise has made over the past 10 drafts. He’s been a key cog in the offensive line and has made four Pro Bowls.
In 2020, Scherff was named an All-Pro for the first time.
His future in Washington is cloudy, as he was franchise-tagged for the second straight year and doesn’t appear close to signing an extension.
“We haven’t talked since he signed,” head coach Ron Rivera said, per Ethan Cadeaux of NBC Sports Washington.
Still, Scherff will be back for his seventh season in his role as a franchise cornerstone.
Advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.