This year’s NFL Draft featured some of the biggest names in collegiate football finally realizing their dream of reaching the big leagues. The talent level in this draft class was clearly evident, and it could go down as one of the top draft classes in recent memory if the top players reach their full potential. For this week’s Pick-Six, it only felt right to take a look at some of the best draft classes in history, with some of the biggest and best names the NFL has ever seen.
6. Class of 1981
This class may go down in history as the best defensive class in NFL history. With big Hall of Fame names like Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, Howie Long and Rickey Jackson, this class set up some of the best defensive groups in the league’s history. It also produced Hall of Fame guard Russ Grimm and All-Pro receiver (and NBC commentator) Cris Collinsworth. It produced historic talents on both sides of the ball, and will go down as one of the all-time great draft classes.
5. Class of 1967
This class will go down in history for its production of NFL legends and Hall of Famers. The class of 1967 has more total Hall of Famers than any other class in NFL history, and may hold that title for a long time. Bob Griese, Gene Upshaw, Ken Houston, and Floyd Little all made appearances in this draft class, which ended up being packed with legendary talents. This class probably won’t crack the list in twenty years after the current crop of talent has run its course, but for now it makes its way on the list at number five.
4. Class of 2001
This class is one of the more recent on the list, but the talent on this class gives it the chance to produce some quality Hall of Famers as they become eligible. All-Pro talents like LaDainian Tomlinson (eligible for the Hall of Fame next year), Drew Brees (still in the league) and Steve Hutchinson (future Hall of Famer) all came from the 2001 class. If not for a suspension, this class could’ve produced one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Michael Vick (Vick still produced great numbers in his shortened prime). Add in superstars like Michael Vick, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Richard Seymour, and Santana Moss, and this class was absolutely loaded.
3. Class of 2011
This class obviously hasn’t produced any Hall of Famers just yet, as it only occurred five years ago. However, this class could go down in history as the best ever once all of the players’ careers are over. Big names like Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, Richard Sherman, Cam Newton have all appeared in Super Bowls in their short careers, as well as Colin Kaepernick and Torrey Smith. Future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt also made an appearance in this draft class, and solid talents on both sides of the ball like A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Justin Houston, and DeMarco Murray were drafted in 2011. With all of this talent, we may be talking about this draft class as the best ever at some point down the line.
2. Class of 1996
This class hasn’t created a lot of Hall of Famers just yet, but the talent in this draft is endless. The lone Hall of Famer, Jonathan Ogden, is one of the best offensive linemen in the league’s history, and isn’t the only talented member of the Baltimore Ravens from this class. Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis came out of the 1996 class, as well as Brian Dawkins, Terrell Owens, and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Marvin Harrison. Other big names like Keyshawn Johnson, Eddie George, Mike Alstott, Lawyer Milloy and Tedy Bruschi were drafted in 1996, showcasing the huge star-power to come from this class.
1. Class of 1983
You can’t argue with the talent level in this draft class. 1983 went down in history as one of, if not the best quarterback class ever, producing talents like number one pick John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly, all Hall of Famers. It also added in Hall of Famers like running back Eric Dickerson, lineman Bruce Matthews, defensive end Richard Dent, and cornerback Darrell Green. It produced the second-most Hall of Famers in history, and its talents appeared in endless Super Bowls over their time in the league.