Best NFL Draft Picks of the Past 10 Years

Many of the players selected in later rounds became superstars. But a few of the players were taken in the first round, including our top choice.
Hill had 119 receptions for 1,799 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023.
Hill had 119 receptions for 1,799 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The best NFL draft picks of the past 10 years include quarterbacks, receivers, defensive linemen and a tight end. Check out @MattVerderame’s ranking of the top 10:

Let’s be clear off the top: This isn’t about the best players and who went where over the past decade in the NFL draft. It’s about value and how that marries with selecting an elite talent.

Of course, there are a few times where a player went in the first round, and he was still an exceptional get at his draft slot. Think Patrick Mahomes. But many of the names below are from later rounds, players who were seen as Day 2 and 3 talents who became superstars.

Which ones were the top tier of the past decade? Let’s break it down.

10. Maxx Crosby, DE, Las Vegas Raiders

  • Draft slot: 2019, Round 4, Pick 106

A two-time second-team All-Pro, Crosby has established himself as one of the league’s best pass rushers. Throughout his five-year career with the Raiders, the 2019 fourth-rounder has 52 sacks. He’s also led the league in tackles for loss with a combined 45 the past two seasons. Few players are more disruptive on a down-to-down basis than Crosby.

9. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

  • Draft slot: 2017, Round 5, Pick 146

There’s something about pick No. 146. Stefon Diggs and Matthew Judon were also taken with that selection over the past decade, but nobody has been better from this spot than Kittle. The 49ers tight end has put forth a Hall of Fame resumè, with a trio of 1,000-yard seasons and four All-Pro team selections. He’s also one of the best blocking tight ends in NFL history.

8. Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs

  • Draft slot: 2016, Round 2, Pick 36

Jones has been a cornerstone of Kansas City’s dynasty. He’s arguably one of the 10 greatest players to ever play defensive tackle, already amassing 75.5 sacks, including three double-digit sack campaigns. Jones has also been an All-Pro five of the past six years, all of which have seen the Chiefs reach the AFC title game.

7. Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

  • Draft slot: 2014, Round 2, Pick 53

Adams has been one of the league’s best receivers over the past 10 seasons. Between his time with the Green Bay Packers and Raiders, he has over 10,000 receiving yards along with five seasons of at least 1,100 yards. Going into his age-32 season, Adams remains one of the elite wideouts in the game. 

6. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson
Jackson is a two-time NFL MVP in his six seasons. / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft slot: 2018, Round 1, Pick 32

Jackson has proven to be one of this century’s biggest steals. In Baltimore, he has won a pair of MVP awards, one vote shy of being unanimous on both occasions. He has also made the playoffs every year but one of his six seasons, taking the Ravens to the AFC championship game in 2023. All told, Jackson has registered 154 touchdowns and more than 21,000 total yards.

5. Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers

  • Draft slot: 2022, Round 7, Pick 262

Is it possible to find better value than Purdy with the final pick of the 2022 draft? Initially considered the third-string quarterback behind Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy emerged as the starter due to a Garoppolo injury and was a rookie sensation, helping San Francisco to the NFC title game. In ’23, Purdy threw for 4,280 yards and 31 scores, leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

4. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

  • Draft slot: 2014, Round 1, Pick 13

Although he’s the only retiree on this list, Donald was so brilliant that he has to be on it. In 10 years with the Rams, Donald racked up 111 sacks despite constant double-teams. He was named a first-team All-Pro eight times and dominated inside during the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI win over the Bengals. He’ll walk into Canton as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

3. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins

  • Draft slot: 2016, Round 5, Pick 165

Hill has become the premier weapon in football, making the Pro Bowl each of his eight NFL seasons while garnering first-team All-Pro honors on five occasions. Last year, he caught 119 yards for a league-high 1,799 yards.

2. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

  • Draft slot: 2016, Round 4, Pick 135

Cowboys fans may have a love-hate relationship with Prescott, but finding a borderline top-10 quarterback in the fourth round is obscene value. Prescott has guided the Cowboys to four NFC East titles and a pair of playoff victories, albeit falling short of the conference title game. He’s thrown for 29,459 yards and 202 touchdowns across eight campaigns.

1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes has never failed to reach the AFC championship game in his six years as a starter.
Mahomes has never failed to reach the AFC championship game in his six years as a starter. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft slot: 2017, Round 1, Pick 10

Mahomes is the only choice. He’s the best player in football, a generational talent who has won three Super Bowls in six years as a starter. He’s a two-time NFL MVP, three-time Super Bowl MVP, has two 5,000-yard seasons and has never failed to reach the AFC championship game. Selected 10th, he is the best value of the past decade.

Honorable mention: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (2017–1–7); Stefon Diggs, WR, Houston Texans (2015–5–146); T.J. Watt, Edge, Pittsburgh Steelers (2017–1–30); Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (2017–3–69); Fred Warner, ILB, San Francisco 49ers (2018–3–70); Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (2020–1–22); Micah Parson, Edge, Dallas Cowboys (2021–1–12)

John Pluym


John Pluym is the managing editor for NFL and golf content at Sports Illustrated. A sports history buff, he previously spent 10 years at ESPN overseeing NFL coverage. John has won several awards throughout his career, including from the Society of News Design and Associated Press Sports Editors. As a native Minnesotan, he enjoys spending time on his boat and playing golf.