Around the League  

 

Every NFC team's best draft class in history

The 2014 NFL Draft is just days away. As such, Around The League is breaking down the best draft class of all time for each NFC team. Look for the breakdown of each AFC team here.

NFC East


Dallas Cowboys


Dallas Cowboys 1964
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
10
129
Roger Staubach
QB
131
6
HOF, best QB of 1970s
2
17
Mel Renfro
S/CB
174
10
HOF, 2-time Super Bowl champ
7
88
Bob Hayes
WR
132
3
HOF, Olympic gold medal, Super Bowl ring
13
172
Jerry Rhome
QB
71
0
Don Meredith's backup
9
116
Jake Kupp
G
154
0
9-year starter for several teams
6
73
Billy Lothridge
P/DB
104
0
Falcons' long-time punter


Thanks in part to the Herschel Walker blockbuster, Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys combined to draft nine starters in 1991 and 1992, propelling them to victories in three of the next four Super Bowls.

For a single draft, though, it comes down to the 1964 franchise-altering class versus the 1975 haul that included Randy "The Manster" White, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, Bob Breunig, Herbert Scott, Mike Hegman and Pat Donovan.

The '64 draft highlighted the ingenuity of general manager Tex Schramm and VP of player personnel Gil Brandt.

Mel Renfro, one of the greatest defensive backs in history, was the best running back prospect in the draft until he lost feeling in multiple fingers following a mirror-punching incident at Oregon.

Hall of Fame wide receiver Bob Hayes, later an Olympic gold medalist billed as the "World's Fastest Human," was a track star at small-school Florida A&M.

Heisman Trophy winner and Time magazine cover boy Roger Staubauch fell to the 10th round because of his five-year commitment to the Navy. He wouldn't embark on his Hall of Fame career until age 27.

The Cowboys could have had a fourth Hall of Fame selection. In Peter Golenbock's "Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes," Schramm disclosed that he would have drafted wide receiver Paul Warfield No. 4 overall had the Steelers not been willing to trade veteran Buddy Dial for defensive-line prospect Scott Appleton.

Fun fact: Think Jerry Jones is loyal to a fault with Jason Garrett? As the local media called for Tom Landry's head after a 13-38-4 record in four years, owner Clint Murchison Jr. rewarded his head coach with a 10-year contract extension just ahead of the 1964 draft.

New York Giants


New York Giants 1984
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
3
Carl Banks
LB
173
1
NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
1
27
William Roberts
G/T
195
1
Starter in Super Bowl XXI, XXV
3
59
Jeff Hostetler
QB
152
1
Winning QB in Super Bowl XXV
4
105
Gary Reasons
LB
134
0
6-year starter with Giants
7
171
Lionel Manuel
WR
90
0
1,000-yard season in 1988


Considering that the Cardinals, Bears and Packers are the only franchises with a longer history, it's surprising that the Mara Family's Giants don't have a definitive draft class.

The 1981 Lawrence Taylor draft added just one other long-term starter in guard Billy Ard. The 2007 class contributed heavily to the Super Bowl XLII title, but quickly fell off the map thereafter.

The 1984 haul wins by default then.

Carl Banks, Gary Reasons and William Roberts started for nearly a decade apiece as the Giants earned a pair of Lombardi Trophies under Bill Parcells. Jeff Hostetler was the winning quarterback in Super Bowl XXV. Lionel Manuel produced a rare 1,000-yard receiving season in an offense that skewed heavily to the run.

Fun fact: The 1956 class featured Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff, All-Pro defensive end Jim Katcavage and Pro Bowl kicker Don Chandler. Intending to quit football after a rough first training camp under Jim Lee Howell, Huff and Chandler got as far as the airport before offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi caught up, chided them and sent them back to the Giants with their tails tucked between their legs.

Philadelphia Eagles


Philadelphia Eagles 1986
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
9
233
Clyde Simmons
DE
236
2
Led NFL with 19 sacks in 1992
8
208
Seth Joyner
LB
195
3
SI's 1991 NFL Player of the Year
1
10
Keith Byars
FB
189
1
One of best pass-catching RBs of era
2
37
Anthony Toney
RB
67
0
Teamed with Byars for 5 seasons
4
106
Matt Darwin
LT
61
0
Randall Cunningham's blindside protector
12
315
Reggie Singletary
G
61
0
Started 31 games over 5 seasons
2
48
Alonzo Johnson
LB
18
0
Starting linebacker as a rookie


Fresh off an unprecedented dominance with the 1985-86 Bears, innovative coach Buddy Ryan brought his "4-6" defense to Philadelphia. Already boasting Reggie White up front and the Wes Hopkins-Andre "Dirty" Waters duo at safety, Ryan added four Pro Bowl-caliber stars in the 1986 and 1987 drafts.

The '86 class is highlighted by 1992 sack leader, Clyde Simmons, and SI's choice for 1991 NFL Player of the Year, Seth Joyner. The offense got a boost as well with versatile fullback Keith Byars, tailback Anthony Toney, left tackle Matt Darwin and guard Reggie Singletary.

You can read about the Eagles' obscenely talented "Gang Green" defense and the Randall Cunningham era in best-selling author Mark Bowden's "Bringing the Heat," which chronicles the 1992 season.

On a sidenote, Chip Kelly deserves plenty of credit for winning the NFC East in his debut season, but he couldn't have done it without a stacked 2012 class that includes quarterback Nick Foles, defensive end Fletcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, nickel back Brandon Boykin and pass rusher Vinny Curry.

Fun fact: In 1987, the Eagles not only drafted shooting star Jerome Brown and middle linebacker Byron Evans, but also picked up future Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter in the fourth round of the supplemental draft.

Washington Redskins


Washington Redskins 1981
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
3
69
Russ Grimm
G
140
4
Hall of Famer, member of "Hogs" O-line
5
119
Dexter Manley
DE
143
1
Franchise record 18.5 sacks in 1986
1
20
Mark May
G
159
1
9-year starter, "College Football Live"
9
231
Darryl Grant
DT
141
0
2-time Super Bowl champion
8
201
Charlie Brown
WR
68
2
Member of 'Fun Bunch' WRs
12
314
Clint Didier
TE
105
0
Second-leading receiver in Super Bowl XVIII


Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks in 10 years, thanks in part to the loaded 1981 draft class.

Hall of Famer Russ Grimm and first-round pick Mark May comprised the long-running guard duo on the Redskins' renowned "Hogs" offensive line. Not to be outdone on the nickname front, explosive deep threat Charlie Brown teamed with Hall of Famer Art Monk, Virgil Seay and Alvin Garrett in "The Fun Bunch" wide receiving corps.

For immediate impact, though, it's hard to surpass menacing pass rusher Dexter Manley, who averaged 15 sacks per season from 1983-86.

Ninth-round pick Darryl Grant and 12th-rounder Clint Didier also played key roles on a pair of Super Bowl teams.

Fun fact: Under the threat of civil rights legal action by the John F. Kennedy administration, the Redskins became the last NFL team to integrate, drafting the first black Heisman Trophy winner, Ernie Davis, in 1962.

NFC North


Chicago Bears


Chicago Bears 1965
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
3
Dick Butkus
LB
119
8
HOF, 1960s & 1970s All-Decade Team
1
4
Gale Sayers
RB
68
5
HOF, greatest rookie year in history
7
88
Dick Gordon
WR
115
2
Led NFL in receptions & TDs, 1970
11
144
Frank Cornish
DT
83
0
2-year starter for Bears
4
45
Jim Nance
RB
101
0
Signed with Pats, twice led AFL in rushing


With the third and fourth overall picks in the 1965 draft, the Bears selected Illinois' Dick Butkus and Kansas' Gale Sayers. There's never been a more dynamic offense-defense rookie tandem.

No player took the league by storm like "The Kansas Comet," the youngest Hall of Fame inductee ever. Sayers was the NFL's best runner, most efficient receiving tailback and premier kick returner through five seasons before a left knee injury essentially ended his career in 1970.

In his first season, Sayers amassed 2,272 combined rushing, receiving and kick-return yards and 22 touchdowns, a record for a rookie.

Butkus, meanwhile, led his new team in tackles, fumble recoveries and interceptions as a rookie. Two years later, he racked up a whopping 18 sacks -- unheard of for a middle linebacker.

"The second I saw him on the field, I knew my playing days were over," Hall of Fame linebacker Bill George said. "Nobody ever looked that good before or since."

Overshadowed by the Hall of Famers, seventh-rounder Dick Gordon ended up going down as one of the best wide receivers in franchise history. His 13 touchdown receptions in 1970 still stand as a Bears single-season record.

Fun fact: The 1983 class deserves mention for producing Hall of Fame pass rusher Richard Dent, All-Pro tackle Jimbo Covert, speedster Willie Gault, longtime guards Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer and starting defensive backs Dave Duerson and Mike Richardson. There's no "Super Bowl Shuffle" without that draft.

Detroit Lions


Detroit Lions 1967
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
2
34
Lem Barney
CB
140
7
HOF, 1960s All-Decade Team
1
7
Mel Farr
RB
69
2
1967 Rookie of the Year
3
60
Paul Naumoff
LB
168
1
13-year starter in Detroit
9
218
Mike Weger
S
123
0
6-year starter in Detroit


There are strong arguments for the 1951 and 1952 drafts that produced a pair of Hall of Famers and a half-dozen other stars (including legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall), while paving the way for NFL championships in 1952, 1953 and 1957. The key to the greatest era in franchise history, though, was stealing quarterback Bobby Layne from the New York Yanks in exchange for the inimitable Camp Wilson.

The Lions' best single draft class might just be 1967, with Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney as the centerpiece. Not to be outdone, Mel Farr "Superstar" took Rookie of the Year honors as a multi-dimensional threat out of the backfield.

That same draft also produced Pro Bowl linebacker Paul Naumoff and six-year starting safety Mike Weger.

Fun fact: Barney and Farr provided the background vocals on Marvin Gaye's classic hit "What's Going On?," one of Motown's most widely recognized songs.

Green Bay Packers


Green Bay Packers 1958
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
3
36
Ray Nitschke
LB
190
1
Hall of Famer, 5-time NFL champion
2
15
Jim Taylor
RB
129
5
HOF, first RB with 5 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons
4
39
Jerry Kramer
G
130
3
NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, 5-time champion
1
3
Dan Currie
LB
118
1
All-Pro & Cover of SI, 1961
6
62
Ken Gray
G
162
6
Released, made 6 Pro Bowls with Cardinals


The Packers nailed three drafts in a row from 1956-58, cushioning Vince Lombardi's arrival in 1959 after a 1-10-1 season.

Although the '56 and '57 classes turned out Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg and Paul Hornung, the '58 haul was the deepest.

Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke rivaled Butkus as the NFL's premier middle linebacker of the 1960s. Fullback Jim Taylor became the first player in NFL history with five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, averaging 14 touchdowns per during that span.

That class also featured 1960s All-Decade guard Jerry Kramer as well as All-Pro linebacker Dan Currie, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1961.

Those three 1950s draft classes laid the groundwork for five championships over a seven-year stretch during the 1960s.

Fun fact: Kramer teamed with pioneering sports journalist Dick Schaap for the 1968 best-seller "Instant Replay," a first-person account of the 1968 season.

Minnesota Vikings


Minnesota Vikings 1967
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
15
Alan Page
DT
218
9
HOF, 1971 MVP, Minnesota Supreme Court
7
167
Bobby Bryant
CB
161
2
4-time NFC champion, 2-time Pro Bowler
1
8
Gene Washington
WR
95
0
Vikings' leading receiver, 1968-70
2
28
Bob Grim
WR
134
0
Pro Bowl, 1971
8
197
John Beasley
TE
97
0
4-year starter in Minnesota
1
2
Clint Jones
RB
87
0
Kick returner, 1967-72


The 1998 and 2007 drafts are finalists because they produced Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson, two of the greatest players at their respective positions in NFL history.

For franchise impact, though, the 1967 class comes out on top for its influence on four Super Bowl clubs from 1969 through 1976.

The dominant player on Bud Grant's defense, Alan Page was a six-time All-Pro, the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1970, the first defensive player ever to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award (1971) and a Hall of Famer in 1988.

Not just the beating heart of the Vikings' famed "Purple People Eaters," Page is also one of the most fascinating and admirable figures in NFL history.

Cornerback Bobby Bryant also played on four NFC champions. No. 8 overall pick Gene Washington was a first-team All-Pro in 1969. Fellow wide receiver Bob Grim earned a Pro Bowl berth in 1971.

Fun fact: After retirement, Page went on to become the first African-American associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

NFC South


Atlanta Falcons


Atlanta Falcons 2008
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
3
QB
94
2
Franchise record for passing yards, 60-34 as starter
2
37
LB
96
0
Falcons' leading tacker, 2009-11
1
21
LT
70
0
Started 61 games over 6 seasons
3
98
S
89
1
78-game starter, 2012 Pro Bowl
5
154
LB
82
0
Jack-of-all-trades on defense
3
84
WR
79
0
1,000-yard season, 2013


I had hoped to find a draft class that would allow me to celebrate Jerry Glanville's late 1970s "Grits Blitz" defense, but there were no worthy candidates.

The best draft class was the one that earned general manager Thomas Dimitroff the first of his two Executive of the Year awards for quickly reviving the franchise following the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal and Bobby Petrino's subsequent decision to take a powder.

The 2008 haul was highlighted by Matt Ryan, who led the Falcons to the most successful five-year stretch in franchise history in his first half-decade as quarterback. That draft also produced a left tackle, a leading tackler, a starting safety and two key role players.

Fun fact: Gearing up for the 40-yard dash at the 1989 NFL Scouting Combine, soon-to-be Falcons first-rounder Deion Sanders sauntered over to Raiders owner and noted speed-fetishist Al Davis and proclaimed, "OK, Al, we're gonna run this juuuust this once."

Carolina Panthers


Carolina Panthers 2001
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
3
74
WR
182
5
Greatest player in franchise history
2
44
Kris Jenkins
DT
108
4
3-time All-Pro
1
11
Dan Morgan
LB
59
1
Recorded 25 tackles in Super Bowl XXXVIII
4
106
Chris Weinke
QB
29
0
1-14 as rookie starter


The 2007 draft gave the Panthers pass rusher Charles Johnson, linebacker Jon Beason and center Ryan Kalil, but it doesn't quite stack up to the one that propelled John Fox's club to Super Bowl XXXVIII.

The 2001 class is headlined by Steve Smith, not just the face of the franchise for a decade but also the most underappreciated superstar receiver of his generation.

One of the NFL's premier middle linebackers before concussions prematurely ended his career, Dan Morgan recorded a game-high 18 tackles (Or 25, if you believe Panthers coaches) in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.

Three-time All-Pro Kris Jenkins was one of the most disruptive interior defenders of his era, teaming with end Mike Rucker to form an imposing defensive-line tandem in Charlotte.

Fun fact: Three of the first four first-round draft picks in franchise history went on to become a recovering alcoholic (Kerry Collins), a murder-for-hire mastermind (Rae Carruth) and an out-of-control drug addict (Jason Peter), respectively.

New Orleans Saints


New Orleans Saints 1981
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
2
51
Rickey Jackson
LB
227
6
Hall of Famer, 128 career sacks
1
1
George Rogers
RB
92
2
Led NFL in rushing en route to Rookie of the Year
12
305
Jim Wilks
DE
183
0
Started 154 games over 13 seasons
3
57
Frank Warren
DE
189
0
Started 83 games over 14 seasons
3
71
Hoby Brenner
TE
175
1
Led Saints in receiving, 1985
6
144
Johnnie Poe
CB
100
0
Started 90 games over 7 seasons
2
29
Russell Gary
S
80
0
4-year starter in New Orleans
10
249
Hokie Gajan
RB
45
0
Averaged 5.4 YPC over 4 seasons with Saints


The 2006 class featuring Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Roman Harper helped revitalize New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but the 1981 haul is a sneaky pick as one of the must fruitful in NFL history.

Second-round pick Rickey Jackson became the Saints' first Hall of Fame selection after racking up 128 sacks as the most decorated of the No. 1 linebacker corps of all time.

Early in his career, Jackson was outshined by first overall pick George Rogers, who set an NFL rookie record with 1,674 rushing yards. Rogers' running ability is credited with revitalizing a moribund franchise.

The defensive-end duo of Frank Warren and Jim Wilks contributed 98 sacks while playing more than a dozen seasons each in the Big Easy. The '83 draft also produced a 12-year starter at tight end (Hoby Brenner), six-year starter at cornerback (Johnnie Poe), a four-year starter at safety (Russell Gary) and a change-of-pace back with a career average of 5.4 yards per carry (Hokie Gajan).

Fun fact: You know that Mike Ditka parted with the Saints' entire 1998 draft for the opportunity to grab Ricky Williams. But did you know Bengals owner Mike Brown' rejected Ditka's offer of six 1999 draft picks plus two more first-round picks and a second-rounder because he couldn't pass up Akili Smith?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1995
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
12
Warren Sapp
DT
198
7
HOF, '90s & 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL Media analyst
1
28
Derrick Brooks
LB
224
11
HOF, 9-time All-Pro, 2002 DPOY
2
43
Melvin Johnson
S
50
0
16-game starter in 1996
4
105
Jerry Wilson
S
120
0
Waived, played 10 seasons in NFL


Much like the Ravens in the AFC, there's only one possible answer to this question. Prior to the drafting of Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in 1996, the Buccaneers had suffered through 13 consecutive losing seasons.

Tony Dungy arrived on the scene with his Tampa-2 defense, in which Sapp, Brooks, safety John Lynch, cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Hardy Nickerson thrived.

Sapp and Brooks went on to become the prototype three-technique tackle and weakside linebacker, respectively, as Cover 2 schemes became all the rage for nearly a decade. Starting in 1997, the Bucs made the playoffs in five of six seasons, finally hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in 2003.

By at least one statistical measure, the 2002 Bucs defense is the best in NFL history.

Fun fact: The king of one-liners, original Bucs coach John McKay provided one of the best quotes in sports history when asked about his team's execution after a loss. "I think it's a good idea," McKay quipped.

NFC West


Arizona Cardinals


Arizona/St. Louis/Chicago Cardinals 2004
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
3
WR
156
8
Greatest postseason by a WR in NFL history
3
64
DL
158
3
Tied Reggie White's record with 3 Super Bowl XLIII sacks
2
33
LB
152
0
Franchise's leading tackler of past decade
5
135
DE
140
1
Pro Bowl, 2011
6
167
Nick Leckey
C
65
0
2-year starter in Arizona
4
100
Alex Stepanovich
C
46
0
Started 30 games over 3 years with Cardinals


For a good chunk of their history, the Cardinals were an NFL laughingstock -- a poorly run franchise to which established players dreaded being traded.

In the midst of all that failure, though, the organization produced stout draft classes in 1952 (Ollie Matson), 1962 (Larry Wilson, Charley Johnson), 1963 (Jackie Smith, Larry Stallings), 1971 (Dan Dierdorf, Mel Gray) and 1979 (Ottis Anderson, Roy Green).

Although Kurt Warner garners much of the credit for the Cardinals' lone Super Bowl appearance, the backbone of that team was acquired through the 2004 draft.

Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is the proud owner of the most prolific postseason run by a wide receiver in history, racking up 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven touchdowns in four playoff games.

That class also features three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, leading tackler Karlos Dansby and defensive end Antonio Smith.

Fun fact: The Cardinals and Bears -- both based out of Illinois in 1920 -- are the only remaining franchises from the original American Professional Football Association (APFA) created in Ralph Hay's hupmobile showroom. The Bears were born as the Decatur Staleys, leaving the Cardinals as the NFL's longest-running franchise nickname.

San Francisco 49ers


San Francisco 49ers 1986
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
4
96
Charles Haley
DE
169
5
5-time Super Bowl champion
4
101
Steve Wallace
LT
176
1
First-team All-Pro, 1992-93
3
76
John Taylor
WR
121
2
Caught winning TD in final seconds of Super Bowl XXIII
3
56
Tom Rathman
FB
131
0
Versatile lead blocker for Roger Craig
6
162
Don Griffin
CB
161
0
8-year starter in San Francisco
3
64
Tim McKyer
CB
170
0
3-time Super Bowl champion
4
102
Kevin Fagan
DE
83
0
Premier run-stuffer at defensive end
2
39
Larry Roberts
DE
89
0
Rotational pass rusher on 2 Super Bowl teams


Much like the Steelers prior to Chuck Noll, the 49ers were one of the NFL's least-storied franchises prior to Bill Walsh's arrival on the scene.

After guiding the franchise to Super Bowl victories in 1981 and 1984, Walsh executed a series of masterful trades leading up to the 1986 draft, turning eight picks into 14.

That impressive haul produced more than a half-dozen contributors to the next three Super Bowls in 1988, 1989 and 1994.

Five-time Super Bowl champion pass rusher Charles Haley headlined a class that also featured versatile fullback Tom Rathman, playmaking wide receiver John Taylor, offensive tackle Steve Wallace and key defenders Tim McKyer, Don Griffin, Kevin Fagan and Larry Roberts.

The 1986 draft was the bridge to a dynasty viewed by some as the greatest in NFL history.

Fun fact: Walsh originally targeted Morehead State's Phil Simms and Clemson's Steve Fuller in 1979 before settling on Joe Montana in the third round. While working out Fuller at Clemson, Walsh serendipitously discovered the quarterback's roommate, 10th-round pick Dwight Clark.

Seattle Seahawks


Seattle Seahawks 2010
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
1
14
S
64
3
Led historically great 2013 pass defense
5
133
S
63
2
Tone-setting hard hitter on Super Bowl XLVIII defense
1
6
LT
45
1
Russell Wilson's blindside protector
2
60
WR
58
0
Seahawks' No. 1 receiver, top punt returner in 2013
4
111
CB
34
0
Premier nickel back during 2013 season
6
185
TE
34
0
14-game starter over 4 seasons


With apologies to the 1990 draft featuring Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy and productive running back Chris Warren, the 2010 class is already the strongest in franchise history.

Forming the league's most-imposing safety tandem, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor led a historically great pass defense that stonewalled the Broncos' record-breaking offense in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The 2010 draft also featured Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, top-notch nickelback Walter Thurmond, wide receiver Golden Tate -- all of whom contributed to the lone Lombardi Trophy in Seahawks history.

Fun fact: Seventeen picks before the Falcons selected Brett Favre at No. 33 overall in 1991, the Seahawks grabbed Dan McGwire -- baseball slugger Mark's brother. At 6-foot-8, McGwire is still the tallest quarterback ever drafted by an NFL team.

St. Louis Rams


St. Louis/Los Angeles/Cleveland Rams 1977
Round
Pick
Player
Position
Games
Misc
2
31
Nolan Cromwell
S
161
4
UPI Defensive Player of the Year, 1980
3
79
Wendell Tyler
RB
108
1
Led NFL with 5.1 YPC en route to Super Bowl, 1979
4
91
Vince Ferragamo
QB
75
0
Starting QB in Super Bowl XIV
1
23
Bob Brudzinski
LB
180
0
Started 4 years, traded to Dolphins for 3 picks
2
50
Billy Waddy
WR
75
0
Deep threat on Super Bowl XIV team
5
134
Jeff Williams
G
56
0
Traded to Redskins, started 37 games in 3 years


I couldn't bring myself to nominate a draft class prior to 1950, at a time when college stars were still opting to go into fields such as teaching rather than taking a chance on an NFL career. It's worth noting, though, that the 1945 Cleveland Rams jump-started the most successful run in franchise history by drafting Hall of Famers Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch and Tom Fears.

Finalists for the modern era came down to 1957 (Lamar Lundy, Jack Pardee), 1961 (Deacon Jones, Marlin McKeever), 1962 (Merlin Olsen, Roman Gabriel), 1971 (Jack Youngblood, Isiah Robertson), 1975 (Dennis Harrah, Doug France) and 1983 (Eric Dickerson, Henry Ellard).

The one that led to the most immediate success was the 1977 class featuring 1980 UPI Defensive Player of the Year, Nolan Cromwell.

Third-round running back Wendell Tyler led the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry in 1979 while fourth-rounder Vince Ferragamo took over as the starting quarterback en route to a Super Bowl XIV berth versus the Steelers.

Fun fact: Fed up with Baltimore in 1972, owner Carroll Rosenbloom executed a tax-free swap of franchises with newly installed Los Angeles Rams owner Robert Irsay.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks out the crystal ball and predicts the potential surprises that could shake up the NFL Draft.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15