Sports

Every NFL team’s greatest draft class

Larry Fitzgerald (#11) of the Arizona Cardinals breaks away from James Harrison (#92) of the Pittsburgh Steelers for a touchdown during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Steelers edged Arizona 27-23 for their sixth Super Bowl title. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

All 32 franchises have had their moments when it comes to the NFL draft. A look at each team’s greatest class dating back to the start of the common draft.

This piece covers what is referred to as the Common Draft Era. The first NFL draft took place back in 1936. But from 1960-66, both the National Football League and American Football League conducted their own drafts. In many instances, a player was drafted by a team in each league.

When the NFL and AFL opted to merge on the field, they began drafting as one in 1967.

So here is the best class by each of the 32 franchises dating back to that year. There will be mentions of the draft prior to that not to overlook something historical. Now what constitutes a great draft class? It’s a look at the contributions from a group from top to bottom.

Arizona Cardinals: 2004

Notable Selections

1: WR Larry Fitzgerald

2: LB Karlos Dansby

3: DT Darnell Dockett

4: C Alex Stepanovich

5: DE Antonio Smith

6: C Nick Leckey

Best Pick: WR Larry Fitzgerald

How Did This Class Change The Franchise?

This class would prove to be very productive and was the foundation of the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 2008. And four of the Cardinals’ seven selections in 2008 started vs. the Steelers in Tampa. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has more career receptions and receiving yards than Larry Fitzgerald.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby spent eight of his 14 NFL seasons with Arizona and finished with 25 takeaways and 33 sacks with the Cards. Defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith were solid performers for the club. And the former totaled three sacks of Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLIII.

Atlanta Falcons: 2015

Notable Selections

1: OLB Vic Beasley

2: CB Jalen Collins

3: RB Tevin Coleman

4: WR Justin Hardy

5: DT Grady Jarrett

Best Pick: DT Grady Jarrett

How Did This Class Change The Franchise?

The 2015 season marked the debut campaign for head coach Dan Quinn. And the team added some vital pieces earlier that year in the form of defenders Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett. The latter remains on the roster and has earned a pair of Pro Bowl invites. The fifth-round pick has amassed 26.5 QB traps. And in Super Bowl LI vs. the Patriots, Garrett corralled Tom Brady three times.

Vic Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in his second season and certainly played a part in the team reaching Super Bowl LI vs. New England. Unsung Tevin Coleman teamed with Devonta Foreman to give Atlanta a 1-2 punch out of the backfield.


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