Each NFL Team's Best Draft Since 1994

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IMarch 2, 2013

Each NFL Team's Best Draft Since 1994

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    The 2013 NFL draft is less than two months away. And in preparation of moving forward, we’re taking a look back.

    Revisionist history is one of the most popular non-contact sports around. All kidding aside, this is more about reminiscing than critiquing.

    So here’s a look at each team’s best draft dating back to 1994, the year the process was streamlined to seven rounds. We won’t be listing every pick that each club made in its best draft year, but rather emphasizing the key players selected and why a team’s respective draft belongs on the list.

    All things being equal, you won’t be getting equal answers here. While some franchises have not drafted as well as others during this period, others have hit home runs. 

    In some instances, it may appear that we’re being prisoners of the moment. But remember, we’re judging the entire draft, not just a team’s first round pick or picks.

    Agree or disagree? That’s up to you. Feel free to chime in and offer up your own suggestions.

Arizona Cardinals (2004)

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    It’s been a rough few seasons since the team’s last playoff appearance in 2009 and the franchise’s lone Super Bowl showing in 2008. Before that, the Arizona Cardinals hadn’t been to the postseason since 1998.

    In that Super Bowl season of ’08, the team’s 2004 draft provided four starters for that game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was the team’s first-round pick, and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett came via the third round. Both players remain with the franchise and have been named to 10 Pro Bowls combined, seven by Fitzgerald.

    Linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive end Antonio Smith came in the second and fifth rounds, respectively, and enjoyed solid careers with the team.

Atlanta Falcons (2008)

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    The Atlanta Falcons as we know them today have enjoyed five straight winning seasons, been to the playoffs four of those five years and been the NFC’s top seed in two of the last three seasons.

    The core of the current team was drafted by general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who added quarterback Matt Ryan and left tackle Sam Baker in the first round in 2008. Ryan threw a career-high 32 touchdown passes last season and helped lead the team to the NFC title game.

    Second-round pick Curtis Lofton was the team’s perennial leader in tackles before taking the free agency route to New Orleans in 2012.

    Dimitroff also added wideout Harry Douglas and Pro Bowl free safety Thomas DeCoud in the third round, and defensive end Kroy Biermann was a fifth-round selection from Montana.

Baltimore Ravens (1996)

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    First impressions are always important.

    First drafts, at least for one franchise, proved to be vital.

    The Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 when Art Modell opted to move the franchise. That April, the team owned the fourth and 26th overall picks in the draft. The first was used on tackle Jonathan Ogden, who will be enshrined this summer in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    The latter (ironically, obtained by the Browns from the San Francisco 49ers in 1995) was used on linebacker Ray Lewis, who just ended his career with a Super Bowl win over the Niners.

    Speaking of Lewises, the Ravens grabbed wide receiver Jermaine Lewis in the fifth round, a very productive return specialist who took back a kickoff for a touchdown in the team’s Super Bowl XXXV victory over the New York Giants.

Buffalo Bills (2009)

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    It’s hard to pinpoint a great draft for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1999, the longest active streak in the league.

    And since we’re only going back to 1994, the year after the Buffalo Bills made the final of their four straight Super Bowl appearances, it makes the task a little tougher.

    We’ll stay pretty recent and focus on 2009, where the team had a pair of first-round picks, one that stuck and one that, uh, didn’t.

    Defensive end Aaron Maybin was the 11th overall pick in 2009. In two seasons and 26 games with the team, he failed to record a sack and was let go in 2011.

    The Bills did more than alright with their next three picks, though. Center Eric Wood was the 28th overall pick in the draft. And in the second round, Buffalo grabbed heady safety Jairus Byrd and steady guard Andy Levitre.

Carolina Panthers (2007)

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    The Carolina Panthers look like a team on the rise with the recent additions of quarterback Cam Newton (2011) and linebacker Luke Kuechly (2012), both Rookie of the Year Award winners the last two years. But there’s a solid group of veterans thanks to the team’s draft in 2007.

    While injuries have been an issue as of later, linebacker Jon Beason was a terrific selection with the 25th overall pick and has been named to three Pro Bowls.

    In the second round, although former Southern Cal wideout Dwayne Jarrett proved to be a big disappointment, college teammate and center Ryan Kalil has also been a three-time Pro Bowler...and counting.

    University of Georgia defensive end Charles Johnson was a third-round pick. The former Bulldog has totaled 33.0 sacks the last three seasons, including a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2012.

    Fifth-round tight end Dante Rosario has bounced around the league as of late, but in four seasons with the Panthers. his production in terms of receptions has gone up each year.

Chicago Bears (2003)

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    There’s a lot to be said for continuity, as well as better later than never.

    The Chicago Bears wound up with a pair of first-round picks in 2003. While defensive end Michael Haynes never lived up to his billing, quarterback Rex Grossman at least aided the team’s cause when he and the club went to Super Bowl XLI.

    But in the second and third round, the franchise nailed cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs, respectively. The duo continues to play good football these days.

    The Bears also got minimal contributions from defensive tackle Ian Scott—a fourth-round pick who was a two-year starter—as well as fifth-round wideouts Bobby Wade and Justin Gage.

Cincinnati Bengals (2001)

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    From top to bottom, the Cincinnati Bengals struck it rich in the 2001 NFL draft.

    Defensive end Justin Smith was the fourth overall pick that year, while wide receiver Chad Johnson was a few years away from his Ochocinco days when Cincinnati grabbed him in the second round.

    Two rounds later, the team grabbed Auburn University running back Rudi Johnson, who was one of the most consistent runners in the league.

    Finally, the Bengals used the last of their seven selections that April on a wide receiver named T.J. Houshmandzadeh. All four of these players were in their primes when the Bengals ended more than a decade of frustration and made the playoffs in 2005.

Cleveland Browns (2012)

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    We’ll go out on a bit of a limb here for a franchise that could use every benefit of the doubt available. So we’re opting for last year’s draft class.

    Last season, the Cleveland Browns added running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round. Richardson led the team in rushing, finished second in receptions and scored 12 of the team’s 28 offensive touchdowns.

    Weeden had his ups and downs, but he has some young receivers in Greg Little and Josh Gordon, whom the club added in the supplemental draft last summer.

    Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was a second-round pick and a 16-game starter in 2012, while third-round pick John Hughes added depth to the defensive line and totaled three sacks as a rookie.

    In the fourth round, wide receiver Travis Benjamin opened some eyes as a pass-catcher and punt returner, scoring a total of three touchdowns. And outside linebacker James-Michael Johnson started eight games this past season.

Dallas Cowboys (2005)

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    Bill Parcells’ third draft with the Dallas Cowboys may have been one of the best of the soon-to-be enshrined Hall of Famer’s tremendous NFL career.

    In the first round came defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who’s always in the discussion when it comes to the best pass-rusher in the league. There was more help for the front seven in the first round via Marcus Spears, and defensive end Chris Canty was added in the fourth round.

    Second-rounder Kevin Burnett was a productive linebacker for the Cowboys for numerous seasons, while running back Marion Barber was Dallas’ main running threat for a number of years.

    But the capper came in the seventh round with the selection of Auburn nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who, unfortunately, saw his streak of four straight Pro Bowl appearances end this last season.

Denver Broncos (2006)

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    The Denver Broncos have won the AFC West each of the last two seasons with a different quarterback at the helm.

    Funny, because our choice for the team’s best draft class since ’94 is led by a quarterback who never took the team to the playoffs.

    The Broncos made Jay Cutler the 11th overall selection in 2006, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be long-term in the Mile High City. While he was there, though, Cutler threw a lot of passes to wideout Brandon Marshall, the first of the club’s three choices in the fourth round.

    In the second round, Denver added tight end Tony Scheffler, who now toils for the Detroit Lions.

    That’s quite a bit of talent, but the Broncos still have a few key members of that class. The second of those fourth-round picks was defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who knows his way to the quarterback.

    And fifth-round selection Chris Kuper is the team’s starting right guard these days.

Detroit Lions (2009)

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    Just in case you need a reminder, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders was a first-round pick in 1989 (hence before 1994).

    With that in mind, the nod here for the Detroit Lions goes towards one of the team’s more recent classes.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford was the first overall pick in 2009. After having trouble staying healthy his first two seasons, he’s put up some big numbers the last two years.

    Also taken in the first round by the Lions that year was dependable tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who has caught 213 passes in his last three seasons.

    In the second round, Detroit grabbed play-making safety Louis Delmas, who, after a solid start, has unfortunately been limited to just 19 games the last two years. In the third round, the team added linebacker DeAndre Levy, who has totaled five interceptions in four seasons.

    It is worth noting that Delmas and Levy could be unrestricted free agents on March 12.

Green Bay Packers (2009)

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    From Ron Wolf to Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers traditionally nail it when it comes to the NFL draft.

    You could debate a lot of the team’s drafts since 1994, but we’re opting for one of the more recent classes.

    In 2009, the Pack added nose tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round. Both have proven to be Pro Bowl players, especially Matthews. One of the premier pass-rushers in the league, Matthews is coming off a year in which he totaled 13.0 sacks in a dozen games.

    The team’s next pick came in the fourth round in offensive lineman T.J. Lang, who has been a primary starter the last two seasons and has played at both guard and tackle.

    The final standout from this class came in the seventh round in linebacker Brad Jones (who could be an unrestricted free agent soon). The former Colorado Buffalo can play both inside and outside linebacker, and that versatility is certainly a plus.

Houston Texans (2006)

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    From lots of promise to two-time AFC South champions, the Houston Texans have become a force in the conference.

    And it was really the first draft class of the Gary Kubiak Era, in 2006, that eventually jump-started the program—although the majority of these players are now elsewhere.

    Defensive end Mario Williams was the first overall pick in the draft that year, was a reliable performer and a two-time Pro Bowler until injuries were a factor and cut short his final two seasons with the team.

    Second-round pick DeMeco Ryans was also named to a couple of Pro Bowl with the Texans and was typically the team leader in tackles.

    Tackle Eric Winston was the second of two third-round picks by the team that year and was a very reliable and consistent right tackle. He, along with Williams and Ryans, is no longer with the club.

    But tight end Owen Daniels remains in Houston. The fourth-round selection is one of quarterback Matt Schaub’s favorite targets and wound up in the Pro Bowl this past season.

Indianapolis Colts (2012)

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    Yes, the Indianapolis Colts drafted wide receiver Marvin Harrison in the first round in 1996, quarterback Peyton Manning in the first round in 1998 and defensive end Dwight Freeney in the first round in 2002.

    Not bad, but obviously all in different seasons.

    When it comes to bang for your immediate buck, it may be hard to top what the franchise did in 2012.

    The Colts went from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 and a playoff appearance the past season. The team used its first four picks and six of its top seven selections on offensive help, and it paid off handsomely.

    First overall pick and quarterback Andrew Luck threw 23 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions and also ran for five touchdowns. Third-round wideout T.Y. Hilton caught 50 passes and led the team with eight total touchdowns. Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener combined for five touchdown catches.

    Add in running back Vick Ballard, who led the team in rushing, as well as wideout LaVonn Brazill, and the half-dozen rookies accounted for 22 of the team’s 40 total touchdowns in 2012.

    Not shabby, to say the least...

Jacksonville Jaguars (2002)

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    We’ll resist the obvious temptation to jump on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first-ever draft class of 1995, when they grabbed tackle Tony Boselli with the franchise’s first-ever pick.

    And in 1998, the team did tab running back Fred Taylor and safety Donovin Darius in the first round.

    But the choice here is 2002, when the team added future Pro Bowl defensive tackle John Henderson next to future Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.

    While second-round pick and tackle Mike Pearson couldn’t fill the shoes of Boselli (and who could?), third-round linebacker Akin Ayodele proved to be a consistent player for the Jags before moving on.

    But it was the fourth round in which the Jaguars grabbed quarterback David Garrard. Despite the team drafting Byron Leftwich in the first round in 2003, the former East Carolina standout would wind up a Pro Bowler and the last quarterback to win a playoff game for the franchise (2007).

Kansas City Chiefs (2010)

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    Andy Reid is the newest head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that has won just 25 games over the past five seasons—and 10 of those wins came in 2010.

    Speak of the devil, it was also the year the team added safety Eric Berry in the first round. The Pro Bowl defender is one of three starters in the Chiefs’ secondary drafted that year, joining safety Kendrick Lewis (fifth round) and cornerback Javier Arenas (second round).

    Versatile Dexter McCluster (second round) can play wide receiver or running back, while tight end Tony Moeaki (third round) has had some issues staying healthy as of late after a solid rookie showing. And don’t forget third-round guard Jon Asamoah, who has started 31 of 32 games since 2011.

    Reid and company certainly have a talented foundation to work with, one that should be capable of more than two victories in 2013.

Miami Dolphins (1997)

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    Although the Miami Dolphins’ first-round pick in 1997 barely saw the field, they managed to make up for that with a few other notable selections.

    Wide receiver Yatil Green was the 15th overall selection that year. His NFL career lasted eight games, as injuries proved to be his undoing.

    Still, the team did manage to grab Louisville cornerback Sam Madison in the second round. He was named to four Pro Bowls with the club, totaling 31 interceptions in nine seasons with the Dolphins.

    But it was in the third round that then-head coach Jimmy Johnson tabbed Akron defensive end Jason Taylor, who proved to be one of the game’s best defensive players for more than a decade.

    In 15 NFL seasons with the Dolphins, Washington Redskins and New York Jets, Taylor totaled 139.5 sacks, eight interceptions (three returned for scores) and 29 fumble recoveries (six returned for touchdowns), the vast majority of that coming in his 13 seasons in Miami.

Minnesota Vikings (1998)

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    Some of the Minnesota Vikings’ best years came in the early 1990s with Dennis Green as the head coach.

    But the franchise made a pair of significant pickups in the 1998 draft that kept this team contending for a bit longer.

    Wide receiver Randy Moss got more attention for his off-the-field issues before he wound up the 21st overall selection that year.

    Moss burst onto the scene by catching 17 touchdown passes as a rookie. And following last season’s performance with the San Francisco 49ers, only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (197) has totaled more touchdowns receptions than Moss (156) in league annals.

    The other player that jumps out from the class is sixth-round center Matt Birk from Harvard. The Ivy League proved to be a six-time Pro Bowler for the Purple Gang and recently concluded his NFL career in Super Bowl XLVII, getting a ring at the expense at Moss and the 49ers.

New England Patriots (2003)

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    Yes, the New England Patriots managed to find quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. But from top to bottom, Bill Belichick and company did pretty well in 2003.

    In the first round, they opted for defensive lineman Ty Warren, who perhaps never got his just due for his consistent play with Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork around.

    Safety Eugene Wilson was a solid player as well, and fellow second-round pick Bethel Johnson provided the team with some big plays on special teams during a season in which the franchise would win its second Super Bowl.

    In the fourth round, Belichick and staff opted for Central Florida defensive back Asante Samuel, one of the league’s best ball-hawkers to date. And in the fifth round, they found a reliable center in Dan Koppen.

    For good measure, the Pats added a solid pass-rusher in the seventh round with the addition of linebacker Tully Banta-Cain.

New Orleans Saints (2006)

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    You were expecting the New Orleans Saints’ class of 1999?

    For those needing a refresher course, that was the year that then-head coach Mike Ditka and the team traded away their entire draft and selected running back Ricky Williams.

    In 2006, the Saints owned the second overall pick and grabbed running back Reggie Bush. After five seasons of sometimes sensational moments, he was dealt to the Miami Dolphins.

    But the team really hit pay-dirt the rest of the way. In the second round, the Saints opted for safety Roman Harper, who can always be found amongst the team leaders in tackles. And in the fourth round, New Orleans grabbed offensive lineman Jahri Evans, now one of the best guards in the NFL.

    In the seventh round, not only did the team find its current right tackle in Zach Strief, it uncovered a gem in wide receiver Marques Colston, he of 532 catches and 58 touchdown receptions in just seven seasons.

New York Giants (2005)

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    There was the temptation to pick the New York Giants’ 2007 draft class (Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, to name a few). Those players had immediate impact as rookies, especially in the team’s surprise win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

    But we’re opting to go two years before that, the year after quarterback Eli Manning joined the team.

    As it turned out, the Giants drafted just four players in 2005. But the top three all made (and continue to make) their presence felt.

    In the second round, the team took LSU cornerback Corey Webster, who has been the team’s most consistent player in the secondary for numerous seasons. One round later, defensive end Justin Tuck was selected. The former Golden Domer has totaled 10 or more sacks in three of his last six seasons.

    Finally, the G-Men made Southern Illinois Brandon Jacobs a fourth-round pick. The sometimes bruising back rushed for 4,849 yards and 56 touchdowns in seven seasons with the club.

New York Jets (2006)

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    Yes, the Jets remain the only team to select four players in the first round in one draft. That was in 2000, when they picked defensive ends Shaun Ellis (12th) and John Abraham (13th), quarterback Chad Pennington (18th) and tight end Anthony Becht (27th).

    But the choice here is 2006, when the Green and White also had multiple selections in the first round and opted for tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold, who have seen their share of Pro Bowl invitations.

    While second-round pick Kellen Clemens (Oregon) didn’t materialize into the team’s quarterback of the future, the Jets did get their share of contributions from safety Eric Smith (third) and versatile Brad Smith (fourth).

    And speaking of the fourth round, the Jets also grabbed running back Leon Washington, who proved, and continues to prove, that he is one of the best kick returners in NFL history.

Oakland Raiders (2000)

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    More than a decade ago, there were certainly plenty of chuckles going around the Oakland Raiders.

    These days, there hasn’t been much smiling for a franchise that has gone a combined 49-111 the last 10 seasons.

    But back in 2000, the Raiders used a first-round pick on placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, who has certainly stood the test of time and has seemingly has gotten better as the years have worn on.

    The second round brought talented but somewhat raw wideout Jerry Porter, who certainly had his moments.

    Three rounds later, the Silver and Black went kicker once again with the selection of punter Shane Lechler, arguably the best player at his position today.

Philadelphia Eagles (2002)

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    The foundation for what proved to be the Philadelphia Eagles’ only Super Bowl appearance under head coach Andy Reid was built in 2002.

    The team used its first three selections on help for the secondary, and it all paid off with first-round cornerback Lito Sheppard, as well as second-round picks on safety Michael Lewis and cornerback Sheldon Brown. Sheppard (twice) and Lewis (once) wound up making a combined three Pro Bowls with the team.

    But the team really hit the jackpot in the third round by picking up versatile running back Brian Westbrook, a two-time Pro Bowler who could usually be found amongst the league leaders in total yards from scrimmage. The former Villanova star also returned two punts for touchdowns.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1998)

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    Coming off a season in which they came one game short of the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers got noticeably stronger via the 1998 draft, and it eventually paid off down the road.

    First-round pick Alan Faneca proved to be one of the best guards in the league in the last 20 years or so. The former LSU product was named to nine Pro Bowls, seven with the Black and Gold.

    Wide receiver Hines Ward was the final pick in the third round. He recently capped off a career in which he caught 1,000 passes (85 for scores) and was the MVP of the team’s Super Bowl XL win over the Seattle Seahawks.

    The team also added cornerback DeShea Townsend in the fourth round. The former Alabama standout totaled 21 interceptions in 12 seasons with the team.

    Finally, sixth-round running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala had his moments and proved to be just as hard to tackle as his name was to spell.

St. Louis Rams (1994)

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    For the majority of the 1990s, the Rams were a foundering franchise, be it in Los Angeles or St. Louis.

    These days, despite some progress under Jeff Fisher last season, the team hasn’t enjoyed a winning campaign since 2003.

    But it was in 1994, the franchise’s final season in Los Angeles, in which the club came up big in the draft. It started with first-round tackle Wayne Gandy, who spent his first seasons with the team and then 10 more with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

    The star of this group was second-round wideout Isaac Bruce, who ranks seventh in NFL history with 1,024 receptions. He also caught the game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Kurt Warner in the team’s Super Bowl XXXIV win over the Tennessee Titans.

    Second-round safety Toby Wright spent five seasons with the team and picked off six passes in 1995. Safety Keith Lyle, a third-round pick, totaled 28 interceptions in his seven seasons with the Rams.

San Diego Chargers (2005)

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    We won’t bring up the fact that the San Diego Chargers drafted the two quarterbacks that have won three of the last six Super Bowls in Drew Brees and Eli Manning...for the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants, respectively.

    Instead, we’ll focus on the year after Manning’s rights were dealt to the Giants for the rights to quarterback Philip Rivers—a trade that certainly reaped some benefits.

    With the 12th overall selection thanks to the Giants, the Bolts added outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who totaled 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons (42 games) and was named to the Pro Bowl each year. Unfortunately, his career has been marred by controversy and suspension.

    Later in the first round, the Chargers selected defensive end Luis Castillo, a solid starter for most of his seven seasons with the team.

    But the beauty of this class came later in two players who now make their home in the NFC South. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson was a second-round pick and a two-time Pro Bowler with San Diego, while all-purpose runner Darren Sproles was the Chargers’ fourth-round pick.

San Francisco 49ers (2007)

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    The San Francisco 49ers team that just came up short in Super Bowl XLVII began to take significant shape with the aid of the 2007 draft.

    The first round brought Pro Bowlers in inside linebacker Patrick Willis and left tackle Joe Staley. Meanwhile, the third round brought starting defensive tackle Ray McDonald.

    One round later, the Niners grabbed safety Dashon Goldson in the fourth round—another player who wound up being named to the Pro Bowl.

    All four of the aforementioned players are starters.

    By the way, the team’s class of 2010 was far from shabby as well, as tackle Anthony Davis, guard Mike Iupati and linebacker Navorro Bowman were all taken within the first three rounds.

Seattle Seahawks (2010)

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    Although the Seattle Seahawks made the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 2005, it’s one of the franchise’s most recent draft classes which laid the foundation for present and the future.

    In 2010, the Seahawks made Russell Okung the sixth overall pick in the draft. Eight selections later, they grabbed safety Earl Thomas. Okung is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, Thomas his second.

    Speaking of second, the team took wideout Golden Tate in the second round, and he really came into his own last season with the help of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

    In the fifth round, Pete Carroll and company added safety Kam Chancellor, who has also proven to be a Pro Bowl player. And sixth-round tight end Anthony McCoy caught 18 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995)

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    It took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quite a few years to win a Super Bowl. And it’s taking some time for the team to get back to the playoffs.

    But during a time in which the Bucs were annually making a pair of first-round draft choices, it would be hard to top what they managed in 1995.

    Defensive tackle Warren Sapp was thought to be a top-10 pick at the very least. But when it was all said and done, he slipped to 12th, and the Bucs made sure he stopped there. The former Miami Hurricane will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

    Later in the first round, there was another player who figures to be heavily discussed when it comes time to see if there’s a place for him in Canton, Ohio. Linebacker Derrick Brooks was the 28th selection that April, and he proved to be one of the most complete defensive players in the game. An 11-time Pro Bowler, Brooks totaled 25 interceptions during his career, returning six for scores.

    That year, the Bucs used seven of their eight draft choices for defensive help. The first two proved to be an amazing pair indeed.

Tennessee Titans (1995)

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    To be clear, those looking for the Tennessee Titans' 1995 draft class will find it filed up the letter H, as in the Houston Oilers.

    The franchise would become the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and the Titans in 1999. But it was four years earlier than that that the team secured the services of quarterback Steve McNair in the first round.

    Second-round pick Anthony Cook was a solid defensive lineman for the team for four seasons, while third-round wide receiver Chris Sanders was a bigger factor in his first three years with the club than in his final four seasons with the team.

    Running back Rodney Thomas, another third-round pick (Texas A&M), actually rolled up 1,151 yards from scrimmage and scored seven touchdowns as a rookie. Unfortunately, he also fumbled eight times during his rookie campaign.

    But the coup of this class proved to fifth-rounder Gary Walker. The 11-year veteran spent his first four seasons with the team and went on to earn Pro Bowl invites with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.

Washington Redskins (2012)

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    The NFC East titles and playoff appearances have been too few and too far between for the Washington Redskins as of late.

    In 2012, the franchise won its first division crown since 1999 and made its first trip to the postseason since 2007.

    Much of the credit for last season’s success has to go to a pair of newcomers who got the job done.

    Second overall pick Robert Griffin III was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, as the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback guided a much-improved Washington offense. The Redskins scored 436 points last season, up significantly from 288 in 2011.

    Meanwhile, sixth-round selection and running back Alfred Morris finished second in the league with 1,613 yards rushing, helping Mike Shanahan’s club lead the NFL in rushing yards per contest.

    And if Griffin isn’t ready to start the season due to the knee injury he suffered in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it is fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins to the rescue.