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10 greatest NFL draft classes of the 21st century

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We all have to admit the importance the NFL Draft has taken on during the 21st century, so what is the best NFL draft class of the 2000s?

After all, a huge part of the draft is grading the draft. Of course, when it comes time to judge the best NFL draft class or the greatest NFL draft picks since 2000, we have the benefit of hindsight. Even if there are still active players from these draft classes, we feel ready to start ranking the greatest draft classes since 2000.

Best NFL Draft class of the 2000s

Please don’t think that we’re trying to ignore years during the 1980s and 90s that may have produced the best NFL draft class ever. But the game has been played a little differently during the 21st century, so it seems reasonable to distinguish those 20-plus years from the decades of great draft classes that came before it.

With that in mind, here is our countdown of the greatest draft classes since 2000.

10. 2007

Admittedly, JaMarcus Russell didn’t set a good tone as the top overall pick in this draft. But the rest of the players in the first round more than made up for it.


Calvin Johnson is already in the Hall of Fame and players like Joe Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Joe Staley, and Greg Olsen all have a strong argument as well.

The likes of Eric Weddle, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Reggie Nelson, and Dwayne Bowe are also among the standout players that helped to make the 2007 class a special one, slipping into the top-10 of the best NFL draft class of the 2000s.

9. 2018

While it’s still early, this draft class has already produced a nice collection of Pro Bowlers and promising stars. Josh Allen looks like the crown jewel of the quarterback class with Lamar Jackson not far behind.

Nick Chubb and Mark Andrews look like they’ll be among the best at their position for many years to come. The defensive side of the ball also looks good with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Vita Vea, Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, Darius Leonard, and Harold Landry. Offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Orlando Brown also came out of the class of 2018 and boast plenty of potential.

8. 2016

The recent decline of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz has hurt this draft class a little. However, each of the first seven picks of this draft has gone to at least one Pro Bowl. The likes of Ezekiel Elliott and Jalen Ramsey have both become elite players at their position after being top-5 picks.


Derrick Henry and Michael Thomas both came out of the second round while Justin Simmons came out of the third round, showing some of the depth in this class. In fact, the later rounds helped to make this class one of the best with Dak Prescott and Tyreek Hill being selected on Day 3 and ultimately rising to superstar status.

7. 2010

Even if Sam Bradford didn’t live up to being the top overall pick, the rest of the top-10 in 2010 was on fire.

Defensively, this class gave us Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry, and Joe Haden while Trent Williams and Russell Okung represented for offensive linemen. The latter parts of the first round also produced Earl Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant.

Somehow, Rob Gronkowski slipped to the second round. Players like Emmanuel Sanders, Navorro Bowman, Jimmy Graham, Geno Atkins, Antonio Brown, and Kam Chancellor also warrant a special mention from this class.

6. 2003

For what it’s worth, this class had some major busts, starting with second overall pick Charles Rogers. However, this is one of the greatest draft classes of the 2000s because of players like Carson Palmer, Andre Johnson, Terrell Suggs, and Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu all being first-round picks.

We can’t forget the likes of Anquan Boldin, Jason Witten, and Asante Samuel who helped fill in the middle rounds. Plus, in the sixth round, the Giants found a wide receiver from Syracuse named David Tyree, who ended up leaving his mark on the game.

5. 2017 

While the book is far from finished for this class, the players from 2017 have already done enough to be considered among the greatest draft classes since 2000. It has to start with Patrick Mahomes, who went no. 10 overall and is already one of the greatest NFL draft picks since 2000.

The likes of Myles Garrett, Christian McCaffrey, T.J. Watt, and others have already stood out as big-time talents.

This was also a great year for running backs. In addition to McCaffery, the class of 2017 includes Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, and even Leonard Fournette. Also, let’s not forget George Kittle or Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, who were selected in the later rounds.

4. 2012

If only Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III could have avoided career-altering injuries, this class could have been ranked even higher. Nevertheless, those two were quality picks at the top of the draft.

The 2012 NFL Draft also produced Luke Kuechly, Stephon Gilmore, Fletcher Cox, Chandler Jones, and Harrison Smith in the first round. The later rounds gave us Alshon Jeffery, Bobby Wagner, T.Y. Hilton, Josh Norman, and even Kirk Cousins. Let’s not forget that Round 3 produced two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and (wait for it) Nick Foles.

3. 2011

More than a decade later, this class looks like it could be one of the all-time greats, not just one of the greatest draft classes since 2000.

The first seven picks and 12 of the first 16 picks have gone to at least one Super Bowl. The top overall pick was an MVP while the second overall pick Von Miller was a Super Bowl MVP.

Within the top-10, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, and Julio Jones are also going to go down as all-time greats at their position, as well as J.J. Watt at no. 11 overall. Looking deeper into this class, we’ll find Cameron Jordan, Cameron Heyward, Kyle Rudolph, Randall Cobb, and Justin Houston. We can’t forget Richard Sherman and Jason Kelce as Day 3 picks.

2. 2004

On quarterbacks alone, this can be considered one of the greatest draft classes since 2000.

Of course, we’re talking about Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger.

But let’s not overlook the offensive playmakers in this draft, including Larry Fitzgerald, Kellen Winslow, Roy Williams, and Steven Jackson. Oddly enough, one could argue that this was an even better year on the defensive side of the ball.

The class of 2004 produced the late Sean Taylor, as well as DeAngelo Hall, Jonathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, Bob Sanders, and Jared Allen. When all is said and done, there will be quite a few Hall of Famers coming out of this class.

1. 2001

Many years from now, it’s still going to be hard to argue against this being the best NFL draft class of the 2000s.

It came so early in the century too, yet this class has had staying power and contains many of the greatest NFL draft picks since 2000.

It starts with La’Dainian Tomlinson, Steve Hutchinson, and Richard Seymour, who are already in the Hall of Fame. But Drew Brees is bound to join them in Canton one day, and so could Chad Johnson and one or two other players from this class.

The Hall of Famers aside, the first and second rounds of the 2001 NFL Draft were full of Pro Bowlers and impact players. That list includes Leonard Davis, Dan Morgan, Santana Moss, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Wayne, Todd Heap, Matt Light, and Aaron Schobel.

There was also Steve Smith in the third round and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who was picked 204th overall. Last but not least, there is the first overall pick in this year’s draft, Michael Vick, who had a good career and made a positive impact on the class of 2001.

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