We tried to be as analytical as possible to rank the first round of the last 10 years of the NFL draft. We could rank each class by their college accolades. But we quickly found out that everyone drafted is a Butkus award winner, Biletnikoff winner, Big 10 Player of something, ACC Something of the Year, or MVP of the Uber Eats Bowl. That is why they are in the NFL, because they were good in college.
Instead, we rank them by their NFL accolades. Here is how we did it:
- 1 point per Pro Bowl appearance.
- 2 points per second team All-Pro.
- 3 points per first team All-Pro.
- 4 points per another award like Offensive Player of the Year, MVP, or Defensive Rookie of the Year.
- We didn’t count statistic leadership. Leading the league in passing touchdowns or leading the league in interceptions didn’t get you very far. If you led in a category, you will probably be first team All-Pro. This approach also evens the playing field with defensive players and the offensive line who don’t have as many statistical categories.
The admitted problem with this methodology is that longevity helps. Justin Jefferson could only make two Pro Bowls. That is just a fact. Amari Cooper has four Pro Bowls but he isn’t better than Justin Jefferson. But longevity and consistency should matter. Sure, Aaron Donald has eight Pro Bowls because he is good every year, not just every now and then. Odell Beckham has never been first team All-Pro which brings down his draft class.
To counter longevity, we have added a multiplier for 2019, 2020, and 2021 since some of those players are going to be good for a while (see Nick Bosa and Justin Herbert). And some players haven’t received any accolades like Joe Burrow. It is equally hard to know who hasn’t broken out yet or ever will (see Jerry Jeudy, Trevor Lawrence, or Devonta Smith). Consequently, longevity, consistency does imply a better draft class and the more recent draft classes just aren’t going to be viewed better than Patrick Mahomes’ draft class because they aren’t yet.
In compiling this list, the other fact that jumps out is what happens when the Offensive Rookie of the Year or Defensive Rookie of the Year wasn’t in the first round. Well, that means the GM’s screwed up and didn’t pick the right NFL ready players. That draft class loses four points a piece. Tough.
Just for fun, here are the top five players receiving the most points using this system:
- Aaron Donald – 45
- Luke Keuchly – 26
- Cordarrelle Patterson – 26
- Zack Martin – 26
- Khalil Mack – 25
- Patrick Mahomes – 21
- TJ Watt – 19
- Fletcher Cox – 19
- Todd Gurley – 19
- Deandre Hopkins – 18
Yes, Cordarrelle Patterson. He is a four-time first team All-Pro, three-time second team All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowl, and placed on the All-Decade Team for the 2010’s. And yes, there will be a future article about why Devin Hester should be in the Hall of Fame.
So there’s our methodology, and here are the last ten NFL first rounds ranked accordingly:
#10 2019 — 35 Points
This class is anchored by Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa but nobody in the class has made the All-Pro team except for Jeffrey Simmons who made the second team and the only one to make the Pro Bowl all three years. Household names like Daniel Jones and Josh Jacobs didn’t contribute much.
#9 2020 — 42 Points
It is true that Joe Burrow has not even been invited to a Pro Bowl so we gave this class some points. Tristan Wirfs was a first team All-pro and Justin Jefferson is a second team All-Pro and will be good for a very long time. Henry Ruggs will not.
#8 2016 — 56 Points
Even with the longevity, no player in this class consistently made the All-Pro team or the Pro Bowl. High profile picks like Carson Wentz and Jared Goff didn’t materialize. Joey Bosa and Jalen Ramsey were excellent. Ezekiel Elliott and Deforest Buckner were good, just not great.
#7 2021 — 60 Points
The Offensive (Ja’marr Chase) and Defensive Rookies of the Year (Micah Parsons) came from the first round but the real difference is that both of those players made the All-Pro team and so did Rashawn Slater. These players propelled this year in front of 2020 and 2019.
#6 2013 — 66 Points
Even though this class was drafted 9 years ago, they fall in the bottom half of the ranking. Patterson and Hopkins combined for two-thirds of their points. Xavier Rhodes and Lane Johnson contributed a bit, but Kyle Long and Sheldon Richardson (even after Defensive Rookie of the Year) didn’t materialize long term.
#5 2015 — 68 Points
Todd Gurley and Marcus Peters carry this class but it falls off dramatically after that. Gurley was an Offensive Player of the Year and they both have made the All-Pro team a couple of times. Jameis Winston didn’t really rock our world and Brandon Scherff has five Pro-Bowl.
#4 2018 — 70 Points
Saquon Barkley seemed like he was going to win awards forever but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Lamar Jackson (MVP), Quenton Nelson (3-time first team All-Pro), and Minkah Fitzpartick did the damage. 2018 also loaded up on volume by contributing 13 of the 32 first round picks to at least a Pro-Bow.
#3 2017 — 93 Points
I would say this is the quarterback class because of Patrick Mahomes (MVP, Super Bowl MVP, Offensive Player of the Year), Deshaun Watson, and, of course, Mitchell Trubisky (One Pro Bowl). However, TJ Watt (Defensive Player of the Year) and Myles Garrett (3 All-Pro nods) did some serious damage themselves. Christian McAffrey really could have propelled this class but the injuries hurt.
#2 2012 — 134 Points
Though Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin were the highest profile pick in this draft, the most successful players were defensive including Luke Keuchly (7 Pro Bowls, Defensive Player of the Year, five-time first team All-Pro), Fletcher Cox (4-time All-Pro, All Decade Team), Stephon Gilmore (Defensive Player of the Year), Chandler Jones (two-time first team All-Pro and All Decade Team) and David DeCastro (three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro-Bowl). However, Robert Griffin is a pretty good analyst on ESPN.
#1 2014 — 158 Points
Jadeveon Clowney was the number one pick and Odell Beckham had the big highlight, this class was carried by Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack. Mack hasn’t been as effective lately but he is still a four-time All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year. Donald has more hardware than Amazon including three Defensive Player of the Year awards, seven first team All-Pro’s, and eight Pro-Bowls. Zack Martin is a seven-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro-Bowler. This class also cashed in on volume with 14 players with at least a Pro-Bowl nod.
Weekly Dimes are created by our editors and analysts through extensive research, collaborative discussion, and a healthy amount of water-cooler banter. If there is ever a list that is missing something–please leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you!