Ranking the 10 Best NFL Draft Hauls of the Past Decade
The NFL draft is often so exciting because if a team gets it right, it can be set up to contend for Super Bowls over several seasons. Fans can maintain some hope that their favorite franchise can find multiple future Pro Bowl selections throughout the draft.
That doesn't happen often, but there a few cases in which organizations nailed the draft process.
Today, we will be looking at the 10 best draft classes of the past decade. In order to make this list, a team needed to find at least two Pro Bowl selections, if not more. Hitting on a franchise quarterback after the top 10 picks certainly earns a boost, but nailing other picks is necessary to climb up the order.
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10. 2018 Indianapolis Colts
Notable Selections: OG Quenton Nelson (No. 6), LB Darius Leonard (No. 36), OG Braden Smith (No. 37), RB Nyheim Hines (No. 104)
The Indianapolis Colts originally had the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL draft but traded down to No. 6 in exchange for three-second round picks. Then they landed arguably the best offensive guard prospect in NFL history: Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame.
Since he was drafted, Nelson has started every game for Indianapolis and has twice been made an All-Pro selection. Not only is he one of the most powerful guards in football, but he is also one of the most athletic. He's already among the best offensive linemen in football and is only getting better at age 24.
In the second round, the Colts unearthed another All-Pro player. This time, it was linebacker Darius Leonard from South Carolina State.
As a rookie, Leonard started 15 games and totaled 163 tackles to go along with four forced fumbles, seven sacks and two interceptions. In 2019, he started 13 games and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. Leonard is now one of the best young linebackers in the league and a leader for the Colts defense.
On top of the two All-Pro selections, the Colts found two other key contributors on offense in offensive lineman Braden Smith and running back Nyheim Hines. The former has started 29 games at both right tackle and right guard, while the latter has tallied 1,258 yards from scrimmage on just 244 touches. Both figure to be key players for Indianapolis going forward.
Any draft class featuring multiple All-Pro players deserves praise. But adding other valuable players like Smith and Hines makes this one of the better hauls of the decade.
9. 2016 Tennessee Titans
Notable Selections: RT Jack Conklin (No. 8), RB Derrick Henry (No. 45), FS Kevin Byard (No. 64), WR Tajae Sharpe (No. 140)
Anytime you can find three Pro Bowl players in the same draft, that would certainly count as a fantastic haul. That's exactly what the Tennessee Titans did in 2016 as they drafted three players who would help them become competitive in the AFC.
In the first round, they selected Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin with the No. 8 selection.
Conklin was dominant as a rookie, making the All-Pro team after starting every game. While he hasn't been able to match his play from that season, he is still one of the better right tackles in the NFL and was paid handsomely by the Cleveland Browns in free agency this offseason.
In the second round, the Titans selected 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. His career started off slowly as he backed up DeMarco Murray and Dion Lewis, but there's hasn't been a better runner in the NFL over his last 20 games. Dating back to Dec. 2018, he has rushed for 2,165 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging over 5.4 yards per carry.
Henry was dominant in the 2019 playoffs, rushing for 446 yards in three games against the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans are finally embracing him as a workhorse, and they now have one of the most terrifying rushing attacks in the NFL.
But the best pick the Titans made in the 2016 draft came later on Day 2 when they selected free safety Kevin Byard at No. 64.
Since he became a full-time starter in 2017, Byard has racked up 17 interceptions and developed into one of the best ball hawks in the NFL. He was an All-Pro in 2017 and hasn't missed a start over the last three seasons.
While Conklin is no longer with the team, this was still an incredible draft class.
8. 2010 New England Patriots
Notable Selections: FS Devin McCourty (No. 27), TE Rob Gronkowski (No. 42), LB Brandon Spikes (No. 16), TE Aaron Hernandez (No. 113)
The New England Patriots have not had many successful drafts in the last decade, but their 2010 class was so good that it allowed them to extend their Super Bowl window for several more seasons.
At No. 27, the Patriots grabbed versatile defensive back Devin McCourty, who has started 155 games since 2010. He's a two-time Pro Bowl selection, but that doesn't even begin to show how much he's helped the organization.
McCourty has bounced back and forth from safety and cornerback, depending on the rest of the roster, and he has been a leader of the defense from the moment he's stepped on the field. He remains one of the league's most underrated defenders.
In the second round, the Patriots drafted arguably the best tight end the NFL has ever seen in Rob Gronkowski. Despite missing a significant amount of time due to injuries, he scored 65 touchdowns from 2010-15, averaging over 14 yards per reception.
Not only was he a fantastic receiver, but he was also one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. Though Gronk started just 100 games in his career, he was named an All-Pro four times and was recently selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team.
Later in the second round, the Patriots selected All-American linebacker Brandon Spikes, who went on to start 39 games for the Patriots from 2010-13. While he was never named to a Pro Bowl, he was an above-average run defender who lacked the overall athleticism to dominate in coverage.
On Day 3, the Patriots selected another tight end in Aaron Hernandez, who turned into one of the league's best tight ends from 2011-12. They released him before the 2013 season after he was charged with first-degree murder.
While the Hernandez selection and story hangs over this draft class, the McCourty and Gronkowski picks allowed the Patriots to win three more Super Bowls in the decade. For that reason alone, they deserve a spot on this list.
7. 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars
Notable Selections: CB Jalen Ramsey (No. 5), LB Myles Jack (No. 36), DE Yannick Ngakoue (No. 69), DT Sheldon Day (No. 103)
The Jacksonville Jaguars' 2016 draft class was almost good enough to catapult quarterback Blake Bortles and the rest of the team to the Super Bowl in 2017. Almost.
The draft couldn't have started any better for the Jaguars as All-American Jalen Ramsey fell past the Dallas Cowboys and into their lap at No. 5. While they ultimately dealt him to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks, he was quite productive in his 3.5 years with the team.
Ramsey started 51 games for the Jaguars, making three Pro Bowls and earning a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017. He recorded nine interceptions and was arguably the best cornerback in the league during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
In the second round, the Jaguars took a chance on linebacker Myles Jack, who fell due to a knee injury. He has since played 59 games for the team, totaling 287 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Before the 2019 season began, Jacksonville rewarded him with a four-year contract extension that made him one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL.
But the best pick of the Jaguars' draft came at No. 69 when they selected edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue from Maryland. He's recorded at least eight sacks in each of his NFL seasons and broke out in 2017 as he was named to the first Pro Bowl of his career. While Ngakoue has publically asked to be traded since he was franchise tagged, he has proved to be one of the biggest steals from the 2016 draft.
While it's likely that only Jack will be on this team at the beginning of the 2020 season, it's hard to ignore the amount of talent the Jaguars were able to find in this draft class.
6. 2015 Minnesota Vikings
Notable Selections: CB Trae Waynes (No. 11), LB Eric Kendricks (No. 45), DE Danielle Hunter (No. 88), WR Stefon Diggs (No. 146)
One of the most underrated draft classes of the last decade has to be the incredible haul the Vikings got in 2015. Despite having just one pick in each of the first four rounds, the Vikings were able to find two Pro Bowl players along with one of the best receivers in football.
At No. 11, the Vikings selected cornerback Trae Waynes from Michigan State. While he had just an adequate career in Minnesota (53 starts), he was paid handsomely by the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason. He hasn't been an elite corner, but he is a solid starter who is still just 27 years old.
At No. 45, Minnesota stole one of the league's most reliable linebackers in Eric Kendricks. Starting 70 games throughout his career for the Vikings, Kendricks was named an All-Pro in 2019 after recording 110 tackles along with four tackles for loss. He is one of the better coverage linebackers in the league and never has to leave the field.
In the third round, the Vikings landed one of the NFL's emerging stars in Danielle Hunter. Over the last two seasons, he has recorded 41 quarterback hits to go along with 29 sacks. He's been a Pro Bowler in back-to-back campaigns and is just 25 years old. The uber-athletic edge-rusher from LSU is quickly developing into one of the league's best pass-rushers.
Stefon Diggs was also in this draft, coming off the board at No. 146. While the team traded him for a first-round pick and change this offseason, he had a memorable career in Minnesota.
Diggs started 63 games from 2015-19, catching 365 passes for 4,623 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also had one of the signature plays in franchise history, catching the game-winning touchdown in the Minnesota Miracle against the New Orleans Saints during the 2017 playoffs. He has proved to be one of the top 15 receivers in the league and was arguably the steal of the draft in 2015.
While just Hunter and Kendricks remain in Minnesota, that doesn't take away from how special this group was for the Vikings.
5. 2018 Baltimore Ravens
Notable Selections: QB Lamar Jackson (No. 32), OT Orlando Brown Jr. (No. 83), TE Mark Andrews (No. 86)
The further we get from the 2018 draft, the better the haul will look for the Baltimore Ravens. It not only rejuvenated a lackluster offense but also opened a Super Bowl window for the next decade.
The most notable pick was quarterback Lamar Jackson, who the Ravens traded up to land at No. 32. Since he took over as the starter, the Ravens have won 19 of their last 22 games as the signal-caller has emerged as a star.
He was an All-Pro selection and the league MVP after scoring 43 total touchdowns in 15 games during the 2019 season. He has made dramatic improvements as a passer, and the Ravens are starting to surround him with talent on offense that best utilizes his dual-threat skill set.
One such piece is Mark Andrews, who happened to be the second tight end the Ravens drafted in 2018 (after Hayden Hurst at No. 25).
Andrews had a breakout season in 2019, catching 64 passes for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns as he was named to the first Pro Bowl of his career. He's become one of Jackson's favorite weapons, especially down the middle of the field.
Another key piece the Ravens found in the third round was right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who fell in the draft due to an all-time-bad combine performance. But that hasn't impacted his play at all. He started all 16 games in 2019, making his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Baltimore also found interior offensive linemen Bradley Bozeman late on Day 3, and he started all 16 games last season. It's an incredible class for the Ravens that looks even stronger by the day.
4. 2017 New Orleans Saints
Notable Selections: CB Marshon Lattimore (No. 11), OT Ryan Ramczyk (No. 32), FS Marcus Williams (No. 42), RB Alvin Kamara (No. 67)
The New Orleans Saints' 2017 draft class looks more impressive every year since it features multiple Pro Bowlers.
With the No. 11 pick, the Saints pounced on the draft's best cornerback in Marshon Lattimore. He couldn't have started his career off any better after he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year upon securing 18 pass deflections and five interceptions. He was also a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 and 2019 and is widely regarded as one of the top five cornerbacks in the NFL after just three professional seasons.
At the end of the first round, the Saints traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks for the No. 32 pick, which they turned into All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramczyk from Wisconsin. Ramczyk has started all but one game for the Saints since he was drafted and is now one of the NFL's top right tackles.
Not only did the Saints crush the first round, but they also destroyed the second day.
At No. 42, they added one of the top free safeties in Marcus Williams. Over the last three seasons, he has recorded 10 interceptions along with two forced fumbles, proving himself an elite ball hawk.
Then in the third round, the Saints stole Alvin Kamara, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three years in the NFL. He's totaled 4,476 yards from scrimmage and 37 total touchdowns on just 728 touches, establishing himself as one of the league's most explosive offensive weapons and a perfect fit in head coach Sean Payton's offense.
The Saints also added linebacker Alex Anzalone (No. 76) and defensive end Trey Hendrickson (No. 103), who have appeared in a combined 52 games. It's tough to argue against this class, which includes three players with at least one Pro Bowl or All-Pro appearance.
3. 2010 Seattle Seahawks
Notable Selections: OT Russell Okung (No. 6), FS Earl Thomas III (No. 14), WR Golden Tate (No. 60), SS Kam Chancellor (No. 133)
This is the first time the Seattle Seahawks will appear on this list for their excellent drafting earlier in the decade, but it won't be the last.
Seattle had two first-round picks in 2010, and it nailed both by selecting offensive tackle Russell Okung at No. 6 and safety Earl Thomas III at No. 14.
Okung has started 72 games for the Seahawks and 124 total in the NFL. His best season came in 2012 when he was named to the first Pro Bowl of his career.
Thomas has been the best safety of the decade, named to the Pro Bowl seven times. During his Seattle career, he recorded 28 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles as he was named an All-Pro selection in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He was recently included on the All-Decade Team, and only Richard Sherman (35) and Reggie Nelson (31) have had more interceptions than Thomas (30) since 2010.
The Seahawks actually added two Pro Bowl safeties in the class as they also selected strong safety Kam Chancellor at No. 133. He doesn't get the same recognition as Thomas, but when he was at the peak of his powers, there wasn't a more intimidating player in the entire NFL. He made four Pro Bowls from 2011-15 and started 93 games for the Seahawks between 2011 and 2017.
Seattle also found Golden Tate in the second round, and he has gone on to have a solid career with multiple teams. While he never eclipsed 900 receiving yards in Seattle, he had three 1,000-yard seasons with the Detroit Lions before joining the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
A receiver that talented is just the cherry on top for this excellent Seahawks draft class.
2. 2016 Dallas Cowboys
Notable Selections: RB Ezekiel Elliott (No. 4), LB Jaylon Smith (No. 34), DT Maliek Collins (No. 67), QB Dak Prescott (No. 135)
You can make a strong case that the Dallas Cowboys' draft haul from 2016 should sit atop this list since they selected three Pro Bowl players.
Their first pick got a lot of criticism at the time as they selected running back Ezekiel Elliott over Jalen Ramsey and DeForest Buckner. While you can make a case that they might have been better off with either of the defenders on their roster, it's hard to ignore the incredible production they have gotten from their star runner.
Elliott has been selected to three Pro Bowls and has totaled over 7,000 yards in 56 starts for Dallas, leading the league in rushing twice.
In the second round, Dallas took a chance on Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who had suffered a devastating knee injury in his final collegiate game. He missed all of the 2016 season but eventually made his way onto the field in 2017 and became a Pro Bowler in 2019. While you can make a case that he was actually better in 2018 than in 2019 (despite the Pro Bowl appearance), he's just 24 years old and has proved durable so far in his NFL career.
Still, the pick that made the draft for the Cowboys was selecting quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round.
He will soon be one of the league's highest-paid players and has started every game of his career. The team has yet to have a losing season with him under center, and he set career highs as a passer in 2019, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He's improved dramatically over the last three seasons and should receive a nice boost now that Mike McCarthy is serving as Dallas' head coach.
It's also worth noting that the Cowboys selected Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown (No. 189), who have started a combined 89 games over the last four seasons.
The 2016 draft helped Dallas re-open its Super Bowl window following the end of the Tony Romo era.
1. 2012 Seattle Seahawks
Notable Selections: DE Bruce Irvin (No. 15), LB Bobby Wagner (No. 47), QB Russell Wilson (No. 75), OL J.R. Sweezy (No. 255)
The Seattle Seahawks appear on our list for a second time because the 2012 class helped make them a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The biggest steal of the last decade came when they selected Russell Wilson in the third round.
Wilson has developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the entire NFL, and Seattle hasn't had a losing season since drafting him. With a Super Bowl win under his belt and another appearance in 2014, he is a near-lock to make the Hall of Fame at his current pace.
But the Seahawks didn't just find an elite quarterback after the first two rounds. At No. 47 overall, they also landed a five-time All-Pro linebacker in Bobby Wagner, who was recently named to the All-Decade Team. Wagner has started 118 games, totaling at least 100 tackles every season.
Those two selections alone are worthy of a top spot on this list, but adding players like Bruce Irvin, Robert Turbin (No. 106) and J.R. Sweezy put this collection at No. 1. All three helped contribute to the Super Bowl run.
It's going to be tough for any team to match the production of this draft class over the next decade.