Recently the NFL completed its draft in the Music City. Some think Dave Gettleman may have overdone it on Tennessee whiskey when he chose Daniel Jones with the 6th overall pick. Fan bases either rejoiced, whined, or were too drunk to care. It got me thinking. I wondered from 2009 through 2018 what five NFL teams were the best (read: luckiest) with the draft. Worry not, Blitzers. I dug deep and did the research. My list is based on Pro Bowlers and All-Pros on active rosters. Only players drafted since 2009 were eligible. This list is based on my research and my opinions, so naturally there is no scientific formula involved. The painstaking review of rosters was all the MZE brain could handle. So, without further ado, I give you the best drafters in the past decade.
5. Minnesota Vikings
You’re probably out there saying, “Oooh, big surprise! The guy whose Twitter handle pays homage to the Vikings’ head coach put his team on the list.” (thanks for following btw). Not so, my friends. Let me share with you the key players that made me put the Vikings on the list. In 2010 the Vikings drafted Everson Griffen with the 100th pick. Griffen has made three Pro Bowls in his career. That same year the New York Giants took Linval Joseph 54 spots earlier. Joseph has been a Viking since 2014 and has appeared in two Pro Bowls.
One year later the Vikings went deer hunting. They took Kyle Rudolph with the 43rd pick. Kyle has made it to the Pro Bowl twice. In 2012 the Vikings went back to the Golden Dome and grabbed safety, Harrison Smith, with the 29th pick. Harry has been to the Pro Bowl four times and was named an All-Pro in 2017. That same season the Redskins took some fourth round insurance when they picked Kirk Cousins with the 102nd pick. Kirk was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and threw for 30 touchdowns in 2018.
The 2013 draft netted the Vikings Xavier Rhodes with the 25th overall pick. The Rhodes have been tough traveling for opposing receivers ever since. He’s been to the Pro Bowl twice and was named an All-Pro in 2017. In 2014 the Vikings raised the Barr with the 9th pick in the draft taking linebacker, Anthony Barr. Since becoming a Viking, Barr has made it to the Pro Bowl four times. That same year some undrafted kid from Minnesota State tried out for the Vikings. He made the squad, playing special teams. Since then he’s made it to a pair of Pro Bowls and has become the team’s most reliable wide receiver, giving Vikings’ fans that lovin’ Thielen, Adam Thielen to be exact. Rounding out my list is the 2015 88th overall pick of the draft. Danielle “Bounty” Hunter was picked out of LSU. He already has 40 career sacks and has made it to a Pro Bowl. Now, if they could only win a Super Bowl.
4. Houston Texans
When I looked into this team I didn’t think they had enough to even be considered. Old MZE was dead wrong. Beginning with 2011 the Texans brought in some electricity when they picked some guy named J.J. Watt 11th overall. Watt’s been to five Pro Bowls and has been an All-Pro five times since being drafted. In 2012 the Miami Dolphins took Lamar Miller with the 97th pick. After four seasons there he joined the Texans in 2016. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and has over 7,400 scrimmage yards in his career. In 2013 the Texans took a wide receiver with the 27th overall pick in the draft.
DeAndre Hopkins has paid off big making it to three Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro twice since being drafted. In 2014 nobody thought anything was funny when the Texans chose Jadeveon Clowney first overall. With 29 career sacks and three Pro Bowls, no one’s laughing. In 2015 the Texans found Benardrick McKinney at the 43rd pick of the draft. He has 239 career tackles and made his first Pro Bowl in 2018. In 2017 the Texans found another gem in the first round. At number 12 overall they grabbed quarterback, Deshaun Watson, out of Clemson. His 2018 got him his first Pro Bowl appearance. In case you lost count, that’s four first round picks in 10 years making names for themselves in the NFL. Houston, I don’t think you have a problem.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the recent drama in the Steel City that makes any of the Real Housewifes series look tame, the team still has some solid talent drafted from the last ten years. In 2010 the Cleveland Browns took Joe Hayden with the 7th overall pick. After seven seasons in Cleveland, the Steelers added the two-time Pro Bowler to its roster in 2017. That same 2010 draft year saw Pittsburgh grab center, Maurkice Pouncey, 11 picks after Hayden went. Pouncey has been a mainstay on the Steelers offensive line, making seven Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro twice.
The 2011 draft saw the Steelers draft Cameron Heyward at 31 overall. The defensive end out of Ohio State (sorry, I will not put that three-letter word in front of the college so deal) has recorded 45 career sacks while making the Pro Bowl twice and being named an All-Pro once. In 2014 the Steelers added Army graduate Alejandro Villanueva to the roster as an undrafted free agent. They’re glad they chose to go Army as the offensive lineman has made the Pro Bowl twice. The 2017 draft saw Pittsburgh add two exciting young players.
On defense they went with some pedigree, taking T.J. Watt, J.J.’s little brother, with the 30th pick. He’s accumulated 20 sacks in two seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2018. On the offensive side of the ball they got JuJu Smith-Schuster from USC with the 62nd overall pick. The bike-riding wide receiver made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and already has over 2,300 yards receiving. That’s some good JuJu.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Out in the land of coffee, the Seahawks have given opponents the jitters quite a bit thanks to some solid drafting. In 2010 the Seahawks found a gem with the 133rd pick in the draft. Kam Chancellor, defensive back from Virginia Tech, was an anchor in the “Legion of Boom” defense. Since draft day he’s been named to four Pro Bowls. While he missed the 2018 season and will miss 2019 due to a severe neck injury, he is still part of the Seahawks thus getting him included on this list. Also in 2010, the San Francisco 49ers went with an offensive guard out of Idaho with the 17th overall pick.
Mike Iupati spent five seasons in San Francisco then the last four in Arizona. The four-time Pro Bowler was signed by the Seahawks in March of 2019. The 2011 draft saw the Seahawks add another pair of Pro Bowl players. At the 99th overall pick that year the Seahawks took linebacker, K.J. Wright, from Mississippi State. Wright has 480 career solo tackles and made the Pro Bowl in 2016. After the draft, the Seahawks added an undrafted free agent wide receiver out of Stanford. Doug Baldwin has over 6,500 career receiving yards and two Pro Bowl appearances.
The 2012 draft netted the Seahawks yet another dynamic duo in the draft. With the 47th overall pick, the Seahawks found Utah State linebacker, Bobby Wagner. Wagner has 591 career solo tackles, has made five Pro Bowls, and has been named an All-Pro four times. In the next round with the 75th overall pick, the ‘Hawks took undersized quarterback, Russell Wilson. Ever heard of him? Russ is a five-time Pro Bowler with over 25,600 career passing yards and a Super Bowl ring. Six players and 20 Pro Bowls among them. That’s more potent than a double-shot of espresso.
1. Los Angeles Rams
After my many hours of research, I settled on the Rams as the team with the best draft class over the past ten seasons and I won’t even talk about recently-signed 2009 linebacker draftee, Clay Matthews, who made six Pro-Bowls and was named an All-Pro in 2010 as a Packer. Wait, I think I just did. In 2011 the Rams signed undrafted free agent, Jake McQuaide, out of Ohio State. This long-snapping specialist made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017. In 2012 the Rams went kicker with the 171st overall pick when they grabbed Greg “Legatron” Zuerlein from Missouri Western. He’s converted 83.5% of his career field goals, hit 28 from 50+ yards, and made the Pro Bowl in 2017 when he converted 95.0% of his field goals. Also in 2012 the Rams found themselves another big leg when Johnny Hekker was signed as an undrafted free agent punter out of Oregon State. Hekker is averaging 47.0 yards per punt in his career. In 2018 he actually made a field goal and an extra point. Oh and the four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro also has 156 career passing yards.
The 2014 13th overall pick went to the Rams and with it they took Aaron Donald. Donald has 59.5 career sacks, has made five Pro Bowls, and is a four-time All-Pro. In 2015 Georgia running back, Todd Gurley II, was taken 10th overall in that draft. He has over 4,500 rushing yards in four seasons, has made three Pro Bowls, was named an All-Pro twice, was the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year, and in 2017 was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year. Eight picks later the Chiefs took cornerback, Marcus Peters, out of Washington. The two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro was signed by the Seahawks in 2018.
The Rams padded their roster with two more Pro Bowl players in 2016, one via draft and one via undrafted free agency. Cory Littleton, a linebacker from Washington, was signed after the draft. Littleton made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 with 125 combined tackles and three interceptions. That same year the Rams had the first overall pick in the draft. With it they chose California quarterback, Jared Goff. After struggling in his first season, Goff has gone on to two Pro Bowl appearances in the last two seasons and led the Rams to Super Bowl LIII. Now, if the team can finally decide on a home city, all would be right with the world.
There you have it. The MZE top five teams from the 2009-2018 draft classes are in the books. Sure, these teams drafted well. But at the end of the day, did it really matter? After all, these five teams account for exactly ONE Super Bowl win in the last 10 years (Seahawks won Super Bowl 48. The Steelers barely missed, winning it all BEFORE the 2009 draft).
So, who would you put on this exalted list? Let us know in the comments.
Until next time, Blitzers, may you be a late round sleeper on the weekends, may you never need to send a scout home unless she forgot to bring your Thin Mints, and may your drafts always be ice cold.
Yours in football,