The 5 Best Team Drafts Of The 2010s

Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020 NFL Draft kicking off a new decade of draft experience, now is a great time to look back and appreciate what some of the best of the 2010s had to offer. 

If you want to find a fast-track to NFL success and postseason play, one draft equal to what we saw from the best of the best this past decade can help provide the needed boost to work into contention. A valuable lesson in all of this retrospect? Even the best draft classes have players that don't pan out.

But when combing through the classes of the 2010s, these five classes leaped off the page as the cream of the crop.

2010 Seattle Seahawks

  • Russell Okung, OT
  • Earl Thomas, S
  • Golden Tate, WR
  • Walter Thurmond, CB
  • E.J. Wilson, DE
  • Kam Chancellor, S
  • Anthony McCoy, TE
  • Dexter Davis, LB
  • Jameson Konz, FB 

Four high profile starters in one offseason are about as good as any team can possibly hope for. For the Seahawks, landing a foundational piece in Okung and securing a dynamic game-changer in Thomas on defense marked a successful draft with their first-round selections alone. But to then secure Tate and Chancellor on top of that? This is one hell of a haul. 

Before this point, Seattle was mired in an underwhelming stretch, the tailspin of their Super Bowl 40 defeat to Pittsburgh in early 2006 marked the peak of the prior regime. The Seahawks entered the 2010 draft with a 9-23 record over their past two seasons. But strong drafts in 2010, 2011 (when they landed Richard Sherman) and again in 2012 had them positioned to make a big leap; one that would eventually include a Vince Lombardi Trophy during the 2013-14 season.

2012 Seattle Seahawks

  • Bruce Irvin, DE
  • Bobby Wagner, LB
  • Russell Wilson, QB
  • Robert Turbin, RB
  • Jay Howard, DL
  • Korey Toomer, LB
  • Jeremy Lane, DB
  • Winston Guy, DB
  • J.R. Sweezy, OL
  • Greg Scruggs, DE

Getting top-level quarterback play in the third-round of any draft class is going to rank a team highly among its peers, no matter what. It just so happens Seattle nailed down a potential Hall of Fame middle linebacker ahead of Wilson in the third round. To say that the Seahawks got "good" value for Wilson would be like stating that Michael Jordan was "kind of" intense — a gross understatement that hardly provides justice for just how significant the pick was.

The Seahawks had ridden the wave of this incredible three year stretch of talent to eight consecutive winning seasons with Wilson behind center from 2012-19. If you wanted to find their last eight winning seasons prior to 2012, you'd have to go all the way back to 1990. But hey, that's what two elite drafts in three seasons, plus Sherman, K.J. Wright, James Carpenter, Byron Maxwell and others in 2011, will do for you.

2015 Minnesota Vikings

  • Trae Waynes, CB
  • Eric Kendricks, LB
  • Danielle Hunter, DE
  • T.J. Clemmings, OT
  • MyCole Pruitt, TE
  • Stefon Diggs, WR
  • Tyrus Thompson, OT
  • D.J. Dubose, DE
  • Austin Shepherd, OT
  • Edmond Robinson, LB

The Vikings added a plus starter to each of their three levels of the defense in 2015, highlighted by the incredible value of Hunter. Hunter, who turns 26 halfway through the 2020 season, already has 54 1/2 career sacks and is coming off consecutive 14 1/2 sack seasons. Kendricks is a dynamic three-down linebacker who enjoyed arguably the best season of his career in 2019, but he's been good for most of his career too. Waynes started slowly with nine starts in his first two seasons before becoming a staple for the last three years, but cap limitations forced Minnesota to let him walk. His absence will be sorely missed in 2020, as will that of Stefon Diggs, who has ranged from a run-after-catch threat to volume receiver to down-the fiel- target throughout his five years in Minnesota.

Diggs was traded to Buffalo this offseason. His legacy will live on with the selection of LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who was picked with the selection Minnesota got in return for his services from Buffalo. Any time a team can flip a fifth-round selection for a first-round player after multiple 1,000 yard receiving seasons, it has won its investment.

2016 Dallas Cowboys

  • Ezekiel Elliott, RB
  • Jaylon Smith, LB
  • Maliek Collins, DL
  • Charles Tapper, DE
  • Dak Prescott, QB
  • Anthony Brown, CB
  • Kavon Frazier, S
  • Darius Jackson, RB
  • Rico Gathers, TE 

The Cowboys are the latest beneficiary of an incredible steal in the middle rounds for a quarterback. Prescott is the face of the 2016 draft class despite being the fifth selection made by Dallas. His development as a player has seen him evolve from a rookie passer weaned in with a heavy dose of the run game to nearly surpassing 5,000 yards last season. Prescott is the engine that makes the Cowboys’ offense hum, even if fellow 2016 pick Elliott is the workhorse. Dallas' entire offensive identity for the second half of the decade was snatched up in a single draft; the Cowboys have gone 40-24 over that stretch while averaging over 24 points per game. The postseason success has yet to come, but the hope is that a coaching change will help catapult this talented group to new heights.

Defensively, Smith was a big roll of the dice. He's paid off in some respects but his impact against the pass isn't where it would need to be for him to be considered an all-time steal. Instead, he's a strong starter and a complimentary piece to the standouts of this draft in Prescott and Elliott.

2017 New Orleans Saints

  • Marshon Lattimore, CB
  • Ryan Ramczyk, OT
  • Marcus Williams, S
  • Alvin Kamara, RB
  • Alex Anzalone, LB
  • Trey Hendrickson, DE
  • Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE

There's hitting on picks and then hitting on picks. This is about as good a draft from top to bottom as you'll ever see. 

Anzalone struggles with durability but is a plus starter when he's on the field. Hendrickson is a strong rotational rusher; he's a good compliment to 2018 first-round pick Marcus Davenport. And then there are the top four picks who aren’t just plus starters but legitimate difference makers. Lattimore and Williams pair for half of New Orleans' high powered secondary and form a critical group that helps keep the clamps on opposing offenses once the Saints' firepower produces points.

And then there's Ramczyk and Kamara, who keep opposing defenses on their heels. Both are assets in every phase of the game: running or passing. Kamara has logged nearly 4,500 offensive yards from scrimmage in his first three seasons combined, whereas Ramczyk is arguably the top right tackle in pro football.

Written By:

Kyle Crabbs

Director of Scouting

Kyle Crabbs is the Director of Scouting for The Draft Network. Prior to his time with TDN, Kyle worked for seven years as the founder of his own third-party scouting service, NDT Scouting. Providing media coverage and also consultation services for agencies, Crabbs penned an annual NFL Draft Prospectus featuring 300+ player profiles on an annual basis from 2014-2020. Crabbs is currently the co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast with fellow TDN scout Joe Marino and helps coordinate TDN's national scouting effort.

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