Ten years ago, I because writing mock drafts on a Blogger website just for the pure enjoyment. A lot has changed over the past decade, including the prevalence of mock drafts, better data available to evaluate a prospect, the new CBA changed the value of first round picks and, of course, the transition to this website. Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is over, let’s reflect on the best picks made this decade by draft position. Along with the overall talent of the player selected, we will also look into external factors, such as value pick (did the player fall to them) or how much a team gave up in a trade to acquire the player.
1. Cam Newton (QB/Carolina Panthers) – 2011
The draft process leading up to Newton was odd. He wasn’t the favorite to go first overall immediately and the Panthers did something somewhat unprecedented by taking him first overall just a year after selecting Jimmy Clausen in the second. Regardless, among all first overall picks since 2010, he is the only one to win MVP, only one to win Offensive Player of the Year, one of only two (along with Jared Goff) to make it to the Super Bowl and one of only two All-Pros (Jadeveon Clowney). Additionally, he is a three-time Pro Bowler and won Offensive Rookie of the Year.
2. Von Miller (OLB/Denver Broncos) – 2011
The 2011 NFL Draft was one of the best classes ever, so expect to see a lot more names from this class pop up. Miller has been a force since entering the league in 2011, making the All-Pro team seven times as well as seven Pro Bowl appearances. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011, but most importantly, he helped lead Denver to a Super Bowl victory over the Cam Newton-led Panthers. He was named Super Bowl MVP for his efforts. Miller is the Broncos all-time sack leader and should join the 100-sack club early next season.
3. Joey Bosa (DE/Los Angeles Chargers) – 2016
Surprisingly, a lot of sub-par players were selected No. 3 over the years, but Bosa was able to edge out some quality competition in Marcell Dareus and the underrated Gerald McCoy. It took Bosa some time to get on the field in 2016, missing the first month of the season with a hamstring injury, but he made an immediate impact in his NFL debut, registering two sacks, a hit and four hurries against the Raiders. He wound up leading the league in points per pass rush his rookie season, taking home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award before earning Pro Bowl honors in 2017. He is only 23 and his best years are still ahead of him.
4. Ezekiel Elliott (RB/Dallas Cowboys) – 2016
Elliott edged out stiff competition from Trent Williams and A.J. Green, but in just three seasons, he has made two All-Pro teams (first and second team), more than Williams and more first team appearances than Green. He has led the NFL in rushing twice and had it not been for a six-game suspension in 2017, may have led the league for three straight seasons.
5. Khalil Mack (EDGE/Oakland Raiders) – 2014
Mack, of course, is now a Chicago Bear, but the transition to the Midwest hasn’t slowed him down. He is a three-time All-Pro and is only the second player in NFL history to be named first team All-Pro in two different positions in the same season. In 2016, he won Defensive Player of the Year honors. Mack beat out Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry and Jalen Ramsey for this spot.
6. Julio Jones (WR/Atlanta Falcons) – 2011
One of the most significant trades in Falcons history, Atlanta got a superstar in Jones while the Browns completely failed to take advantage of the haul of picks they received in return. Jones has led the NFL in receiving yards twice, was a co-leader for receptions in 2015 and is a four-time All-Pro. He was the key player for Atlanta in their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, snagging a key reception that put the Falcons in field goal range late in the game, but Atlanta squandered the opportunity.
7. Mike Evans (WR/Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – 2014
It feels like many of the guys selected seventh overall have shown that they’re talented, but also haven’t shown their full potential at the same time. Evans wins out over Aldon Smith, who got in the own way of his success, Joe Haden and DeForest Buckner. Evans made the All-Pro team in 2016 and had a career-high 1,524 receiving yards in 2018.
8. Jack Conklin (OT/Tennessee Titans) – 2016
In a crop full of bad picks, Conklin emerges as the best of the bunch. He made the All-Pro team as a rookie and help solidify the Titans offensive line. He and left tackle Taylor Lewan formed one of the best tackle combos in the league. Unfortunately, during playoff loss to the Patriots, Conklin tore his ACL and came back to the field too soon in 2018 and struggled. With a full offseason to recover, there is hope he will return to form in 2019. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is an honorable mention.
9. Luke Kuechly (ILB/Carolina Panthers) – 2012
The Panthers got their face of the franchise with Cam Newton in 2011 and a year later got their defensive leader in Kuechly. Inside linebackers generally don’t get selected this high in the draft, but Kuechly is a special talent. Along with winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, Kuechly is a six-time All-Pro and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith is an honorable mention.
10. Patrick Mahomes (QB/Kansas City Chiefs) – 2017
Todd Gurley is more than an honorable mention, but Mahomes gets the edge for winning league MVP last season, his first year as a starter. Regarded for his arm talent, Mahomes forced opposing defenses to defend every blade of grass on the field, torching them for 5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. Along with the MVP award, Mahomes was named Offensive Player of the Year and made both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.
11. J.J. Watt (DE/Houston Texans) – 2011
A surefire Hall of Famer, Watt easily earned this spot. Watt pretty much broke all of our pass rush metrics in his peak, and returned to dominant form last season after struggling with injuries. He has led the league in sacks twice, been named All-Pro five times and won three Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
12. Odell Beckham Jr. (WR/New York Giants) – 2014
Beckham has lit the NFL on fire since entering the league in 2014, becoming the fastest player in NFL history to reach 250 receptions and 5,000 receiving yards. He has made two All-Pro teams and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year despite missing the first month of the season.
13. Aaron Donald (DT/St. Louis Rams) – 2014
Right now, Donald is flat-out the most dominant defensive player in the league who still produces despite being constantly double-teamed. He led the league in pressure score and points per pass rush last year and has won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors. Other accolades include five Pro Bowls, four All-Pro nods and he led the league in sacks in 2018.
14. Earl Thomas (S/Seattle Seahawks)
A key player on one of the best defenses in the decade, Thomas was a piece of Seattle’s famed “Legion of Boom.” He made five All-Pro teams during his time in Seattle and went to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one of them.
15. Jason Pierre-Paul (EDGE/New York Giants) – 2010
A raw, athletic player who didn’t even play football until high school, Pierre-Paul developed into a solid pass rusher for the Giants. He was a key contributor to the Super Bowl winning team in 2011, making his first ever Pro Bowl and to date his only All-Pro team. While he will be remembered for a Fourth of July incident in which he lost one of his fingers, he was still a solid contributor upon his return. He was traded to Tampa Bay last season and became the first Buccaneer to post 10 or more sacks in a season since 2005.
16. Zack Martin (Dallas Cowboys) – 2014
Dallas invested heavily into their offensive line and now have one of the best units in the league and Martin’s star has shined brightest among the bunch. He has the most All-Pro nods along that line with five along with five Pro Bowl nominations. He has made the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams each year of his career. He is only 28 and already a potential Hall of Famer.
17. C.J. Mosley (ILB/Baltimore Ravens) – 2014
When Mosley was drafted, he had big shoes to fill as the successor to Ray Lewis, who retired in 2012. Mosley didn’t let anyone down, making four All-Pro teams and four Pro Bowls. He recently left the Ravens to sign with the Jets.
18. Maurkice Pouncey (C/Pittsburgh Steelers) – 2010
Cornerback Marcus Peters deserves some recognition too, but Pouncey was immediately one of the best centers in the NFL upon being drafted. He made four All-Pro teams in his first five seasons and earned his fifth All-Pro nod in 2018. He has also made seven Pro Bowls during that time and has played a key role in the emergence of James Conner last season while Le’Veon Bell sat out.
19. Leighton Vander Esch (ILB/Dallas Cowboys) – 2018
A lot of Cowboys fans hated this pick when he was selected, but they were quickly won over once he stepped on the field. Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team last season as a rookie and is the only player selected 19th overall since 2010 to make either honor.
20. Kyle Long (G/Chicago Bears) – 2013
Long toiled in anonymity for a few years among casual fans while the Bears weren’t in contention, but he was quietly one of the best guards in football, earning three Pro Bowl selections and an All-Pro nod. Since signing an extension in 2016, however, he has struggled with injuries.
21. Chandler Jones (EDGE/New England Patriots) – 2012
Jones was an immediate starter for the Patriots and in his first game, strip sacked Titans quarterback Jake Locker, leading to a defensive touchdown. He is still a high impact player today and one of the few bright spots in Arizona, where he landed following a 2016 trade. He led the NFL in sacks in 2017 and has won a Super Bowl, made one All-Pro team and three Pro Bowls.
22. Demaryius Thomas (WR/Denver Broncos) – 2010
Drafted along with Tim Tebow, the two connected on one of the most significant plays in franchise history. But Thomas didn’t see his full potential until Peyton Manning came to the Mile High City. He posted five consecutive 1,000 receiving yard seasons, helping the Broncos put together one of the best offenses in the league during that period. Thomas helped the Broncos make two Super Bowl appearances, winning one, while also being named to a pair of All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowls.
23. Dee Ford (EDGE/Kansas City Chiefs) – 2014
In his contract year, Ford finally reached his potential, making the first Pro Bowl of his career last season as he was one of the league’s best pass rushers. Ford is the best player in a crop of guys who were under performers in their career.
24. David DeCastro (G/Pittsburgh Steelers) – 2012
Despite being one of the most talented guard prospects in quite some time, DeCastro fell on draft night likely due to positional value. He has made those who passed on him regret it, earning three All-Pro selections and four Pro Bowls in his career. Saints edge rusher Cameron Jordan and receiver Dez Bryant are honorable mentions.
25. Dont’a Hightower (LB/New England Patriots)
The defensive leader in New England, Hightower has made one Pro Bowl and an All-Pro in his career along with his three Super Bowl rings. Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is an honorable mention.
26. Whitney Mercilus (EDGE/Houston Texans) – 2012
Oddly enough, not a single player taken 26th overall since 2010 has made a Pro Bowl. Mercilus, however, has made a Pro Bowl and is one of the more underrated players in the league as J.J. Watt and Jadevon Clowney tend to command more attention.
27. DeAndre Hopkins (WR/Houston Texans) – 2013
Hopkins has been one of the best players to come out of the 2013 NFL Draft and is now one of the best receivers in the league today. Last season was something special as he dropped zero passes and graded out as the No. 1 receiver according to Pro Football Focus. He is a three-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler. Honorable mention goes to Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty.
28. Mark Ingram Jr. (RB/New Orleans Saints) – 2011
Nearly every player selected 28th has had a rough career in the NFL, including Ingram, who is a two-time Pro Bowler, but only had two 1,000-yard rushing season in his career. Ironically his best season came when Alvin Kamara arrived in New Orleans. Ingram rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns while splitting time with Kamara in 2017.
29. Harrison Smith (S/Minnesota Vikings) 2012
Operating as the center fielder for the Vikings, Smith has made an impact since day one and in 2017 was the highest graded player in the league according to Pro Football Focus. He is a four-time Pro Bowler and has made back-to-back All-Pro teams.
30. Muhammad Wilkerson (DE/New York Jets)
A two-time All-Pro, Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damion Harrison helped give the Jets one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. He spent last season with Green Bay and is currently unsigned.
31. Travis Frederick (C/Dallas Cowboys) – 2013
When Dallas traded up to select Frederick, it was somewhat surprising as many thought that he would be available by the time Dallas selected again, but they didn’t want to take that risk and it’s clear to see why. Frederick has been a stellar piece of the Cowboys offensive line, making three All-Pro teams and four Pro Bowls.
32. Ryan Ramczyk (OT/New Orleans Saints) – 2017
One of the many great draft selection in 2017 by New Orleans, Ramczyk has played both left and right tackle for the Saints and made an All-Pro team last year.