1983 Los Angeles Rams, 1983 Chicago Bears
The 1983 draft is known for its class of quarterbacks, but they were just the tip of the iceberg in the best overall draft the NFL has ever had.
The Bears took seven different players who became starters on the 15-1 Super Bowl champions three years later. The biggest name, and one of the best late-round selections ever, was DT Richard Dent, a four-time Pro Bowler taken in the eighth round. Between tackle Jimbo Covert (first), guard Tom Thayer (fourth), and guard Mark Bortz (eighth), the Bears found three-fifths of the offensive line that blocked for some of Walter Payton's best years. (Covert and Bortz also made two Pro Bowls each.) Wide receiver Willie Gault (first round), had a 10-year NFL career as a speedy deep threat with the Bears and Raiders. And for the secondary, the Bears grabbed four-time Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson (third) and CB Mike Richardson (second).
The Rams used their first-round selection to draft one of the league's all-time top running backs, Eric Dickerson (2nd overall pick), and their second-round selection to draft one of the top five receivers in all-time total yardage, Henry Ellard (32nd overall). They also got a six-year starter at linebacker in Mike Wilcher (second round), a six-year starter at defensive end in Doug Reed (fourth), and a safety Vince Newsome (fourth) who played 10 years.
1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
You know, we could have probably just done this list with the 10 best Pittsburgh Steelers drafts. No other team in the NFL comes close when it comes to getting good players year after year, with both early and late selections. Of course, the problem for the Steelers is that while three of the players from this draft won the Super Bowl, none of them did it in Pittsburgh. Eleven-time Pro Bowler Rod Woodson, taken with the 10th overall selection, finally won a ring with Baltimore in 2000. Safety Thomas Everett (fourth round) started for three teams over nine years and won two rings in Dallas. DT Tim Johnson also started for three teams and won his ring in Washington in 1991.
Even more remarkable were two linebackers chosen in the fifth and sixth rounds who combined for nine Pro Bowls: Hardy Nickerson and Greg Lloyd. And then the Steelers managed to find a name very familiar to ESPN viewers way down in the 10th round: Merril Hoge. When you manage to snag a guy with the 261st pick who ends up with an eight-year career and four years of at least 800 combined yards rushing and receiving, that's a good draft.
1989 Dallas Cowboys
This is actually the draft before the infamous Herschel Walker trade. The most famous player from this draft is No. 1 overall selection Troy Aikman. But six of the first seven players chosen by Dallas had careers of at least eight seasons and the longest, oddly enough, came for another team. The first pick of the second round, Steve Wisniewski from Penn State, was immediately dealt to the Raiders, where he spent 13 years as a starting guard and made five Pro Bowls. The Cowboys used another second-round pick on FB Daryl Johnston from Syracuse; he spent 11 years with the Cowboys and made two Pro Bowls. The first selection of round three was C Mark Stepnoski, who was a starter for 12 years with the Cowboys and Oilers/Titans and made five Pro Bowls. DE Tony Tolbert, who was a seven-year starter in Dallas and made one Pro Bowl, came in round four.
1990 Green Bay Packers
The year before, the Packers had used the second overall selection on Tony Mandarich. Umm, whoops? They made up for it in 1990, snagging six different players who played at least eight seasons. Unfortunately for Green Bay, many of them had their best seasons with other teams. Second-round DB LeRoy Butler played his entire career with the Packers and played in four Pro Bowls. But sixth-round LB steal Bryce Paup (sixth), who also played in four Pro Bowls, had his best years in Buffalo. LB Tony Bennett (first round) was gone to Indianapolis after four years with the Packers, LB Bobby Houston (third) started for the Jets from 1992-1996, DE Lester Archambeau (seventh) started for the Falcons from 1993-1999, and TE Jackie Harris (four) had a 12-year career with four teams. Numerous other players from this draft class also played a few NFL seasons as backups.