The 2019 NFL Draft is on Thursday, as every team looks to find the next great NFL player to help bolster their roster and make a run at the Super Bowl. Of course, some teams have done better than others when it comes to drafting superstars. In preparation for this year’s draft, we count down the top 5 NFL Draft classes since 2000.
Notable Players: WR Andre Johnson, S Troy Polamalu, TE Jason Witten, QB Tony Romo (undrafted), TE Antonio Gates (undrafted)
Notable Players: WR Calvin Johnson, T Joe Thomas, RB Adrian Peterson, LB Patrick Willis, CB Darrelle Revis, RB Marshawn Lynch, T Joe Staley, S Eric Weddle, T Ryan Kalil, G Marshal Yanda
Notable Players: WR Amari Cooper, RB Todd Gurley, RB Melvin Gordon, DE Leonard Williams, CB Marcus Peters, S Landon Collins, DE Frank Clark, RB David Johnson, LB Kwon Alexander, WR Stefon Diggs
Notable Players: QB Jared Goff, QB Carson Wentz, QB Dak Prescott, DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott, CB Jalen Ramsey, WR Michael Thomas, WR Tyreek Hill, RB Jordan Howard, S Keanu Neal, LB Deion Jones, S Kevin Byard
No. 5: 2001 NFL Draft Class
Notable Players: QB Drew Brees, QB Michael Vick, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, G Steve Hutchinson, WR Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Steve Smith, DT Justin Smith, DT Richard Seymour
It’s crazy to think how polarizing of an athlete Michael Vick was, and he is still not the best QB in this draft. That honor belongs to the great Drew Brees, who will end up going down as one of the top-5 quarterbacks in NFL history. In addition to those two play-callers, this draft featured Hall-of-Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Steve Hutchinson. Two all-time great wideouts were drafted in 2001, as well. Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne were No. 1 receivers for the majority of their careers. Overall, this class featured superstars with incredible longevity, as well as high-quality pros like Justin Smith and Richard Seymour.
No. 4: 2004 NFL Draft Class
Notable Players: QB Ben Roethlisberger, QB Eli Manning, QB Philip Rivers, WR Larry Fitzgerald, S Sean Taylor, DT Vince Wilfork, DE Jared Allen, RB Steven Jackson, DT Darnell Dockett, T Jason Peters (undrafted), WR Wes Welker (undrafted)
The 2004 draft class will go down as the most interesting start to an opening draft night in NFL history. After making it clear that he would not play for the San Diego Chargers if drafted first overall, Eli Manning was indeed drafted first overall. Only to be traded shortly after for Philip Rivers. Both quarterbacks still start for their team, with Manning winning two Super Bowls with the Giants. Neither one is the most successful QB in the class, though. Ben Roethlisberger burst onto the scene as a youngster, leading the Steelers to two Super Bowl victories. It also helps that one of the greatest wide receivers of all-time was drafted in 2004. Larry Fitzgerald continues to break NFL records on the Arizona Cardinals. The late Sean Taylor was drafted by the Redskins this year and looked to be headed down the road to Canton before he tragically killed. Other notable players include defensive stars Vince Wilfork and Jared Allen.
No. 3: 2014 NFL Draft Class
Notable Players: DT Aaron Donald, DE Khalil Mack, DE Demarcus Lawrence, DE Jadeveon Clowney, QB Derek Carr, WR Mike Evans, WR Davante Adams, T Taylor Lewan, G Zack Martin, QB Jimmy Garropolo, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Sammy Watkins, CB Kyle Fuller, RB Devonta Freeman, LB Telvin Smith
The 2014 NFL Draft class features the three highest-paid defensive players in the NFL. Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack and Demarcus Lawrence were all, at one point, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. None of them were even the first notable defender drafted. Jadeveon Clowney was taken first overall that season after breaking the internet with his bone-crushing tackle/fumble recovery against Michigan in his last collegiate game. Pro Bowl wideouts Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks and Jarvis Landry were all taken this year. Starting quarterbacks Derek Carr and Jimmy Garropolo, as well as Pro Bowl offensive linemen Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin are also a part of this class.
No. 2: 2017 NFL Draft Class
Notable Players: QB Patrick Mahomes, QB Deshaun Watson, RB Alvin Kamara, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, TE George Kittle, CB Marshon Lattimore, RB Leonard Fournette, S Jamal Adams, RB Christian McCaffery, RB Kareem Hunt, RB Joe Mixon, RB Marlon Mack, RB Tarik Cohen, TE Evan Engram, QB Mitchell Trubisky, DE T.J. Watt, RB Dalvin Cook, TE David Njoku, RB Chris Carson, RB Aaron Jones
It’s hard to project the career longevity of a lot of these players, since it’s only been two seasons since they’ve been drafted. With that being said, reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes leads the way for the 2017 class, followed by guys like two-time Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara, 2018 DROY Marshon Lattimore, superstar stud and part-time gamer JuJu Smith-Schuster, YAC-machine George Kittle and all-around animal Christian McCaffery. Other notable guys include Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams and Deshaun Watson. This could end up being one of the best draft classes of all-time.
No. 1: 2011 NFL Draft Class
Notable Players: DE J.J. Watt, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Richard Sherman, QB Cam Newton, DE Von Miller, WR A.J. Green, WR Julio Jones, T Tyron Smith, DE Justin Houston, DE Robert Quinn, DE Ryan Kerrigan, RB DeMarco Murray, WR Randall Cobb
Speaking of one of the best draft classes of all-time, 2011 was quite the year for teams in the draft. Arguably the most decorated defensive end in history, J.J. Watt leads the way with his three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller is not far behind, either. Two of the top-10 wide receivers in the NFL were drafted in 2011, as A.J. Green and Julio Jones have been amongst the best pass-catchers in the league since their debuts. Top-tier cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman look like they are both headed for the Hall of Fame when they decide to hang it up. Oh yeah, and the No. 1 overall pick that year has already won an MVP. Cam Newton is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. What an incredible group of superstar athletes.