The 10 Best Draft Picks in NFL History
The NFL Draft is arguably the single most important event of the offseason. NFL teams look to not only solidify their current roster, but also assess their long term need in order to ensure success for years to come. The draft has become an entertaining event over the years, with fans coming from all over the country to support their favorite football teams. You can even bet on the NFL Draft, as Bovada Sportsbook offers a number of unique draft wagers. With the 2022 NFL Draft coming up on April 28 in Las Vegas, we’ve reviewed decades of draft selections and put together a list of the 10 best draft picks in NFL history.
- Michael Strahan – 1993
Defensive end may not be the flashiest position in football but the New York Giants captured lightning in a bottle when they selected Strahan 40th overall in the 1993 NFL Draft. Known for his gap-toothed smile, Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowler and led the league in sacks on two separate occasions (2001, 2003). Despite falling out of the first round on draft day, Strahan was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory in 2008.
- Dan Marino – 1983
The 1983 NFL Draft had one of the best quarterback classes of all-time. While Marino was a talented, young passer coming out of Pittsburgh, he ended up falling down the draft board as a result. Eventually picked late in the first round at 27th overall by the Miami Dolphins, it didn’t take long for Marino to prove his value; the young QB went off in his sophomore season for a then-record 5,084 yards, an unfathomable total at the time. Although he never won a Super Bowl, Marino retired with nearly all of the NFL’s major passing records.
- Deacon Jones – 1961
Drafted all the way back in 1961, Deacon Jones is one of the greatest late-round draft picks ever made. Selected by the Rams in the 14th round at 186th overall, Jones went on to become an eight-time Pro Bowler, five-time NFL sack leader and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Named to the 1960s All-Decade Team, Jones was nicknamed ‘The Secretary of Defense’ and is one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.
- Jerry Rice – 1985
As the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft, you can be sure that the first 15 teams were kicking themselves for not selecting the Mississippi Valley State receiver when they had the chance. Rice went on to become the greatest receiver in NFL history, winning three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Even with today’s pass happy style of play, Rice still owns nearly every major receiving record, including most receptions (1,549) and most receiving yards (22,895).
- Bart Starr – 1956
Coming out of Alabama in 1956, the Green Bay Packers made a great late round pick when they selected quarterback Bart Starr in the 17th round of the NFL Draft (200th overall). Starr was an integral part of the Packers dynasty during the 50s and 60s, winning a total of five NFL championships and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Despite his late draft selection, Starr became an NFL legend for his leadership and play on the gridiron.
- Terrell Davis – 1995
As the only running back to make this list, Davis was a late round draft pick who managed to become one of the best rushers of his generation. Selected in the sixth round (196th overall) of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, Davis provided a great return on Denver’s draft investment. When it was all said and done, the running back had won an NFL MVP award, two Super Bowls along with two Super Bowl MVPs and just the fourth 2,000 yard rushing season in NFL history.
- Brett Favre – 1991
He’ll always be remembered for his time with the Green Bay Packers, but Brett Favre was actually drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round (33rd overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. The gunslinger quarterback didn’t play much in Atlanta before being traded to Green Bay, where he became an 11-time Pro Bowler and 3-time NFL MVP. In addition to leading the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 1997, Favre became the NFL’s ultimate ironman with 297 consecutive games played, a quarterback record that still stands today.
- Joe Montana – 1979
The 49ers dynasty of the 1980’s can largely be attributed to their third round pick at the 1979 NFL Draft, where they selected Notre Dame quarterback, Joe Montana. While other quarterbacks may have been selected before him, Joe Cool got the last laugh as he won four Super Bowl titles with the 49ers, earning Super Bowl MVP honors on three separate occasions. As one of only two quarterbacks to ever win the NCAA National Championship and the Super Bowl, Montana is now a football legend and one of the winningest players in NFL history.
- Lawrence Taylor – 1981
Taylor is the highest draft pick on this list, with the New York Giants selecting the star linebacker with the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. Taylor more than lived up to the hype during his time in the league, finishing his career with 10 Pro Bowl Selections, 8 First-Team All-Pro nods, 3 NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and 2 Super Bowl championships. As if all of that weren’t enough, LT became one of only two defensive players to ever win the NFL MVP award and is widely considered the greatest defensive player in football history.
- Tom Brady – 2000
The top spot on this list shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as seven-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady has dominated the NFL for the better part of the past two decades. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much hype surrounding the young quarterback coming out of Michigan in the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady ended up being drafted in the 6th round (199th overall) and has since said that he was able to use this perceived slight as motivation throughout his career. The results are undeniable, as Brady is now the league’s all-time leader in quarterback wins, passing completions, passing touchdowns, passing yards and countless other NFL records.
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