With this year's NFL Draft rapidly approaching, we are steadily waiting to see who our favorite teams will select. We hope they don't take a JaMarcus Russell, and dream for a Tom Brady in the late rounds.
|Photo by: Jim McIsaac
This week, we're going to focus on the biggest winners from recent drafts. I will not be including last year's class in this assessment, because I feel like there should be a bigger body of work in which to judge how the players and teams perform. One good season does not necessarily make for a spectacular career, or a potential dynasty, for that matter, as far as teams go.
With that, here are my top picks.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Many people believe that Ozzie Newsome has become one of the all-time greats as GM of the Ravens. The 2007 draft saw the team select Ben Grubbs in the first, Marshal Yanda in the third, Le'ron McClain and Antwan Barnes in the fourth and Jared Gaither in the sixth. That was just one class. The next year brought them Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. That group alone makes them winners, but the next group of names is why they are a no doubt the top winner of recent drafts. Since 2009, Baltimore has made it their mission to find quality depth at each position. Michael Oher, Pernell Mcphee, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Jimmy Smith, Paul Krueger, Arthur Jones and Lardarius Webb. It is easy to hate on this team, but they continue to find quality talent on the big board. The Super Bowl win this past season is what sets them apart from my No. 2 team.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have quietly put together an exemplary group of football players. They have drafted the likes of Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Aldon Smith, Joe Staley and Colin Kaepernick. However, the pick that makes me put them in my top 5 is not the quarterback out of Nevada or the linebacker out of Mississippi, but the 2008 third-round pick out of Penn State. Navarro Bowman has quickly become one of the top linebackers in the NFL, right next to Patrick Willis. Bowman has led the vaunted Niners defense in tackles each of the last two seasons, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice. This group would have made San Francisco No. 1 overall on my list had they not lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl.
3. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is still a fairly young quarterback, and the Packers have put a solid group of players around him to put them in a position to consistently compete for the Lombardi Trophy. They have drafted numerous weapons for Rodgers to work with. Most notably, wideout Jordy Nelson, who has come into his own over the last two seasons. James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga round out an enormous amount of offensive talent. The thing that I believe has helped them more than anything is the defensive picks, and one undrafted free agent. Clay Matthews is a household name, and if you follow football, you know that Morgan Burnett is a quality safety in the league. You also have B.J. Raji, who helps stuffs the middle for Dom Capers. For me, the one player that accelerates them to the No. 3 spot is Sam Shields, the undrafted free agent out of Miami. Shields was a receiver and kick returner his first three years at the U, but his last season he switched to corner, and Green Bay found him as a free agent. He has become a nickleback threat to blitz with his blazing speed, and is a constant guy to watch for in the secondary.
4. Houston Texans
In recent drafts, the Texans have selected the likes of Duane Brown, Ben Tate, Jacoby Jones and James Casey. They also picked up Glover Quin, Connor Barwin, Kareem Jackson, Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed and Darryl Sharpton. Then there's the real beast of the group, J.J. Watt. He has become one of the top 5 defensive players in the NFL. Houston also found undrafted free agent Arian Foster, who has been one of the better running backs in the league over the last three seasons. These men have led the Texans to two-straight playoff births, and have created a lot of happiness and love for football in the city of Houston.
5. Atlanta Falcons
The Dirty Birds are flying high under coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff. We saw Atlanta trade up a couple seasons ago to take a monster receiver in Julio Jones. In recent years, they've selected players such as William Moore, Sean Weatherspoon, Kroy Biermann, Peria Jerry, Thomas DeCoud, Curtis Lofton, Sam Baker and Harry Douglas. The big pick came in 2008, when the Falcons selected quarterback Matt Ryan. Matty Ice is the reason why they continue to average 11 wins a season since he took over under center. Many people are critical of Ryan, and do not believe he is the guy to lead them to a Super Bowl, but he continues to win games and give hope to Atlanta fans everywhere.
That rounds out my biggest winners from recent drafts. Next week, we'll take a look at the biggest losers.