Ranking Each NFL Draft Class from 2011-2020

"2011 NFL Draft stage" by Marianne O'Leary is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The 2018 Draft Holds Generational QB Talent

By: Josh Shippen

The draft is a very unpredictable entity. For every Andrew Luck there is a Blake Bortles. For every Adrian Peterson there is a Trent Richardson. So coming up just before the draft, this ranking will be an evaluation of the talent in every draft class from 2011 to 2020.

  1. 2018 – The Quarterback Draft

Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnlod, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson. Three of these players are currently extremely successful starters with their respective teams, including a former MVP winner in Lamar Jackson, and both Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen still have a fair chance to be good quarterbacks. 

Players such as Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Jaire Alexander, and Fred Warner are examples of players that have extremely high ceilings and have already established themselves as some of the best at their positions. Many other very talented players were also selected that will become solid starters on their respective teams for years to come.

Some duds of this class include Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold from the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets respectively. Both are already on different teams and had extremely unsuccessful tenures on the teams they were drafted by. Other duds include Cincinnati Bengals center Billy Brice, and New England Patriots running back Sony Michel in the first round.

The depth in this class could be a little better, but it is unquestionable that this class is extremely top heavy with very talented stars, some of which will likely be known as generational talents in later years.

  1. 2017 – The Browns Missed out on Mahomes Draft

In a similar vein to the 2018 draft, this class was very top heavy with stars but perhaps might include a little more disappointment and a little less stars. The 2017 draft is monumental because the odds are great that this class holds the successor to Tom Brady as the face of the NFL, and the best quarterback in the league.

Patrick Mahomes T.J. Watt and Alvin Kamara are all arguably the best at their positions, and even if somebody wanted to make the claim that Kamara was not the best then what about Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook? 

The top ten of the draft was admittedly quite lackluster, while Patrick Mahomes, Myles Garret, Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson are all elite, Solomon Thomas, Leonard Fournette, Corey Davis, John Ross, Mike Williams, and especially Mitch Trubisky could all be considered busts. 

The depth in this class is considerably better than in 2018, Aaron Jones and George Kittle turned out to be excellent late round picks that have both signed substantial extensions. This class has very good depth and definitely has stars.

  1. 2014 – The Wide Receiver Draft

This class features the best defensive player of our generation, and possibly the best defensive player in NFL history. I am speaking of course of Aaron Donald. His presence alone in this draft makes this one of the better classes in the NFL. 

What hurts this class is the extremely lackluster top four. Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Blake Bortles, and Sammy Watkins are all on different teams, and Robinson and Bortles are two of the biggest busts of the last ten years. Additionally, the presence of Johnny Manziel in this draft does not do the class any favors.

The depth after the early disappointments of this draft is quite impressive. Odell Beckham Jr. turned out to be one of the best young receivers in the NFL for a fair stretch and late round players such as Devonta Freeman and Telvin Smith did a great job stepping up for select seasons.

The wide receivers are what make this draft, here is a list of all WR’s picked in rounds one and two: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Davante Adams, Cody Latimer, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry. That is an insanely good class.

  1. 2011 – The Defense Draft

Wow what a great first seven picks! A.J. Green and Julio Jones ended up being two of the most prolific wide receivers of the 2010’s, Marcell Dareus and Aldon Smith ended up being extremely talented defensive players, but the real blue chip talents of this draft were Cam Newton, Von Miller, and Patrick Peterson. Newton had an MVP season with the Carolina Panthers and Von Miller had a defensive player of the year season and solidified himself as one of the best defensive players of all time. Meanwhile Pat Pete had multiple Pro Bowl berths with a dud team in the Arizona Cardinals. Oh and let’s not forget the generational talent of J.J. Watt at eleventh overall, that seems important.

Although this early class was strong, it has had a very rapid deterioration. Although it is indeed due to age it seems to have hit early, and hit all at once. For example, J.J. Watt and Von Miller have been on and off of IR for years now, Patrick Peterson and Cam Newton have had two of the biggest falls from grace in recent memory, and Aldon Smith has battled personal problems that have kept him in and out of becoming suspended.

The duds of this class are very substantial duds. At quarterback, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder ended up becoming one of the worst first round draft classes ever seen, and players like Phil Taylor, Danny Watkins, and Jonathan Baldwin were all run out of the league within five years of their career start despite being picked in the first round.

The depth in this class must be acknowledged, players like K.J. Wright, Julius Thomas, DeMarco Murray, Jurrell Casey, and Justin Houston were all Pro Bowl level players, all of whom were picked in the third round or after. This is a very strong class.

  1. 2016 – The Ohio State Draft

This class has its gems; DeForest Buckner and Joey Bosa are two of the best at their respective positions, and Jalen Ramsey and Ezekiel Elliot have certainly had their moments. That being said, the deterioration of some of the more lauded players of this class is rather astounding. Carson Wentz had one of the biggest falls from grace in recent memory and Jared Goff never fully lived up to expectations.

One big red flag in this draft was the disappointing wide receivers in this draft. Will Fuller is an OK player at wide receiver, but Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell are some of the worst first round wide receivers ever. Very disappointing.

As mentioned earlier the quarterback position is very interesting. Despite Carson Wentz’s early succes his fall from grace leaves many questions regarding his success. Aside from that, Jared Goff has been mildly disappointing at first overall and Paxton Lynch was downright terrible as a first round pick. The bright spot of this draft for quarterbacks is Dak Prescott who had an incredible rookie season and is certainly the future in Dallas.

The depth of this class is to be admired for sure. Dak Prescott ended up landing in the late fourth round, and players like Matt Judon and Tyreek Hill were actually not picked up until the fifth round of the draft which is insane considering the talent of those two players.

  1. 2019 – The Second Josh Allen Draft

Some talent is definitely present in this draft. Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa’s first two NFL seasons have been incredibly promising, and they were the two first players taken in this draft. However after that most of these players have either had one good season, one OK season, or no good seasons at all. Clelin Ferrell looks like a bust at third overall, and players like Daniel Jones have yet to prove their worth.

The defense early in this draft is amazing. Devin White and Josh Allen look like future stars, and White was one of the best players on a Super Bowl winning defense on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The depth in this draft is prevalent in the second round. D.K. Metcalf, Mecole Hardman, and A.J. Brown have all made the Pro Bowl within the first two seasons of their NFL careers and have been parts of very notable receiver cores.

This draft features more developmental players than most drafts. Examples include Clelin Ferrel, Rashan Gary, and Brian Burns. This is overall a very OK draft class with a couple stars, and the class I would describe as most average on this list.

  1. 2015 – The Short Lived Class

While there is talent to speak of with some of these players, an astounding number of them have not been able to stay with the teams they were drafted by, despite being in the league for only six seasons. In fact, out of the first fifteen players picked only three (Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat, DeVante Parker) were retained by the teams they were drafted by. Not good.

Additionally, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota who were picked first and second overall in the draft have been reduced to the backup role since being drafted. But wait it gets better, Winston became the first quarterback to throw thirty touchdowns and thirty interceptions in a season, which is not a statistic that players should strive to accomplish.

The other duds in this class are pretty bad ones. Kevin White, Ereck Flowers, and Danny Shelton have all been lackluster to terrible at their respective positions. Multiple late first rounders and second rounders have been ineffective, more than in a usual draft class. 

The class is not without its studs, Leonard Williams has turned out to be an excellent defensive player and Stefon Diggs who was not selected until the fifth round was an excellent receiver in Minnesota and then possibly the best in the league in Buffalo.

  1. 2020 – The Offensive Tackle Draft

When I say the offensive tackle draft I absolutely mean the offensive tackle draft. The group has a lot of studs, for example Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, and Tristan Wirfs, and some really bad downers in Austin Jackson, Andrew Thomas, and Isaiah Wilson who is no longer in the NFL anymore. 

The offensive tackles are not the only duds in this draft, the defensive backs have at least to this point suffered a lot in their first season. Jeff Okudah, who was supposed to be one of the best corners of the future ended up with a 42.5 rating on Pro Football Focus, and A.J. Terrel, C.J. Henderson, and Damon Arnette all massively underperformed in 2020.

The studs are far and few but they are here, both quarterbacks picked early in Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow had extremely good seasons excluding Burrow’s midseason injury, and Tua Tagovailoa showed promising starts. 

The 2020 class has a lot of room to improve, not only because they are all rookies but because the year in which they played was marred with virus inconsistencies and a slew of injuries that the NFL has never seen. Football is more unpredictable than any sport, and rookies are absolutely no exception.

  1. 2012 – The Suck for Luck Draft

I’ll say it outright, half of the top ten players of this class suck. Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon, Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne, and Mark Barron were all top ten picks that had horrible seasons that ended in very forgettable careers.

The quarterbacks were very hit and miss in this draft, on one hand Andrew Luck looked like the most promising quarterback of his generation before his startling retirement and Robert Griffin III was supposed to be the next big thing in the NFL. Well, we all know how that went. The rest of the quarterbacks consists of a mix of booms and busts and everything in between. From Brandon Weeden to Kirk Cousins, from Brock Osweiler to Russell Wilson.

This draft featured way too many duds whose careers ended early. Quinton Coples and Kendall Wright are noteworthy examples of this rule. 

Overall, this was a class that came in with high expectations, but almost no performance from its players to back it up.

  1. 2013 – The Eric Fisher Draft

This draft is notorious for being horrible. It’s entirely possible that this draft features the worst top ten picks of the modern football era. Eric Fisher, the first overall pick, looked like a solid bust for years until he finally developed into a Pro Bowl starter late into his career. And then he got cut so yeah, that’s how that went.

Notable busts include Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Jonathan Cooper, Tavon Austin, Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack, D. J. Fluker, and D.J. Hayden. That might not seem substantial, but consider that this is from the top 12 players picked. That is horrible.

The only bright spots of this draft are the second and third rounds, Le’Veon Bell, Travis Kelce, and Darius Slay were all at one point some of the very best at their positions, and with the exception of Bell are all performing at an extremely high level.

Overall, this was a terrible class. Historically bad. I do not believe that we will ever see a class this astoundingly bad again, but as we have seen anything is possible in today’s day and age.

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