Best NFL Team Draft Picks of All-Time

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Best NFL Team Draft Picks of All-Time

The NFL Draft can make or break a team for years and years. Each team has had their fair share of busts and home runs as well in the draft. In this article, we examine not necessarily the best player ever drafted by the team, but the best overall pick from each team, based on what the player did and where they were drafted. Here are our best NFL team draft picks of all-time.

Arizona Cardinals – Larry Fitzgerald – round 1 – 3rd overall pick – 2004

Yes, he was the third overall pick in the 2004 draft class but talk about living up to the hype and then some. Anytime you draft a guy third overall and he does actually become a Hall of Famer, which Larry Legend will after he’s eligible in 2026, that’s a home run.

Atlanta Falcons – Jeff Van Note – 11.262 – 1969

Yes, there used to be a lot more rounds in the NFL Draft.  Van Note was chosen in the 11th round and wound up playing 18 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, making six Pro Bowls.

Baltimore Ravens – Ray Lewis – 1.26 – 1996

There are hits and misses at the end of the first round of the NFL Draft. Getting maybe the greatest linebacker to ever live that late in the round will go down as a hit.

Buffalo Bills – Thurman Thomas – 2.40 – 1988

Thurman Thomas was an incredible college player who became an even better pro and was enshrined in Canton for that very reason. In the second round, that’s a great pick.

Carolina Panthers – Steve Smith – 3.74 – 2001

Steve Smith was one of the most dominant wide receivers of the 2000s and burned teams for years. To get him in the third round is one of the great picks in NFL History.

Chicago Bears – Walter Payton – 1.4 – 1975

Few players have had as much of an impact on the NFL as Walter Payton, this is an all-time great pick.

Cincinnati Bengals – Ken Riley – 6.35 – 1969

Ken Riley was a Bengal his whole career and was a sixth-round pick. He is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was a lockdown cornerback.

Cleveland Browns – Jim Brown – 1.6 – 1957

Like the Walter Payton pick, you can make an argument that Jim Brown was the greatest running back of all-time whose impact can’t be overstated.

Dallas Cowboys – Roger Staubach – 10.129 – 1964

He was also drafted in the 16th round later that year by the AFL Kansas City Chiefs. Staubach was one of the greatest quarterbacks of his generation who led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins and resides in Canton after being a 10th round pick.

Denver Broncos – Shannon Sharpe – 7.192 – 1990

Always considered one of the great late round steals, Shannon Sharpe was a menace on the football field who had a big mouth and an even bigger game.

Detroit Lions – Barry Sanders – 1.3 – 1989

Hit on a running back and you are guaranteed to make this list. Barry Sanders was given no help from Detroit in his career but still proved to be the right pick at number 3. One of the greatest backs to ever play the game.

Green Bay Packers – Bart Starr – 17.200 – 1956

You thought Tom Brady was a late draft pick? How about Starr who was taken in the 17th round! He won two Super Bowls and 5 NFL Championships.

Houston Texans – J.J. Watt – 1.11 – 2011

It blows my mind to think that there were 10 players selected before JJ Watt who will go down as a top five defensive player of all-time.

Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning – 1.1 – 1998

This one might catch some flak since he was the first overall pick, but many forget that the Colts could have taken Ryan Leaf. How did that end up for Indy?

Jacksonville Jaguars – Maurice Jones Drew – 2.60 – 2006

MJD was an incredible running back in the mid-2000s and was chosen twice as a First Team All Pro.

Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes – 1.10 – 2017

The Chiefs traded way up in the 2017 NFL Draft to get Mahomes who Andy Reid had an eye on, and it has turned out pretty well for them. He already has three rings and will likely add a few more.

Las Vegas Raiders – Marcus Allen – 1.10 – 1982

He was a Super Bowl MVP and an excellent runner who is sitting in Canton. This was a big pick in 1982 and they nailed it.

Los Angeles Chargers – Dan Fouts – 3.64 – 1973

Fouts was one of the best QBs of his time and he went to six Pro Bowls and won Offensive Player of the Year while leading the Chargers to several great seasons.

Los Angeles Rams – Aaron Donald – 1.13 – 2014

Donald will also go down as a top five player of all-time on defense and will be remembered as one of the scariest guys to face in the 2010s and 2020s.

Miami Dolphins – Dan Marino – 1.27 – 1983

It still hurts me that Marino doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring but there is nothing to be disappointed about with this draft selection.

Minnesota Vikings – Fran Tarkenton – 3.29 – 1961

Tarkenton was taken in the third round and was a huge success for the Vikings who won an MVP and won three NFC Central Titles and is the greatest QB in the franchise’s history.

New England Patriots – Tom Brady – 6.199 – 2000

Need we really explain anything here?

New Orleans Saints – Marques Colston – 7.252 – 2006

This always seems like a very underrated pick given that Colston was a dominant wide receiver during his playing days and was Drew Brees favorite target en route to a Super Bowl.

New York Giants – Lawrence Taylor – 1.2 – 1981

Credit where credit is due for drafting maybe (??) the greatest defensive player to ever live.

New York Jets – Darrelle Revis – 1.14 – 2007

At 14th overall, Revis changed the way that the cornerback position was perceived and was the best lockdown corner in NFL history during his prime.

Philadelphia Eagles – Brian Dawkins – 2.61 – 1996

Dawkins is a Hall of Famer who was dug out in the second round. He made nine different Pro Bowls and was named a First Team All Pro four times.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Antonio Brown – 6.195 – 2010

Off the field issues aside, it was pretty incredible that Antonio Brown became the player he did given that he was drafted in the sixth round. We often forget that he led the league in yards twice and was a four-time First Team All Pro.

Seattle Seahawks – Richard Sherman – 5.154 – 2011

In the fifth round out of Stanford, there weren’t crazy expectations for Sherman who went on to lead one of the great defenses in NFL history with the Legion of Boom.

San Francisco 49ers – Joe Montana – 3.82 – 1979

There are so many Niners to choose from, especially recent guys like Fred Warner, George Kittle and maybe even Brock Purdy but we aren’t passing up Montana who was drafted in the third round before leading the Niners to four different Super Bowls.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lavonte David – 2.58 – 2012

The Bucs are another team with lots of guys to choose from, but I am going with Lavonte David. One of the most underrated linebackers of his time, he is a Super Bowl champ and will likely make his way to Canton.

Tennessee Titans – Earl Campbell – 1.1 – 1978

Campbell is a first overall pick that worked out extremely well for the Houston Oilers, winning an MVP and three different Offensive Player of the Year awards.

Washington Commanders – Sammy Baugh – 1.6 – 1937

Yes, we are going way back in time for this one. Baugh was taken in the second NFL draft ever and completely transformed the QB position.