Best Picks in NFL Draft History

Joe Montana. Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA/REX/Shutterstock (9287894ab)

The 2018 NFL Draft is now over, and it’s going to be a few years before we know anything about the careers of the players who were chosen this spring. But all names on the draft board eventually become full careers, and the draft allows us to observe which teams knew what they were doing. These are some of the best choices ever made.

Joe Montana, 82nd pick, 1979

The San Francisco 49ers built their dynasty in the 1980s with smart drafting, as the free agency didn’t yet exist in that decade. Montana was taken out of Notre Dame with the last pick of the third round and went on to lead the 49ers to four Super Bowls before going to Kansas City in the 1990s. Two of his Super Bowl wins were over the Cincinnati Bengals, who spent the third overall pick on quarterback Jack Thompson. Thompson tossed 33 touchdowns in his entire career; Montana nearly did that in 1987 alone, throwing 31 touchdowns in a strike-shortened year. Ouch.

Bart Starr, 200th pick, 1956

This was the 17th round back then, a round that no longer exists. By today’s standards, Bart Starr would be a sixth-round pick… and even that’s still far too low for the Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Famer. Starr and Vince Lombardi combined to make Green Bay into Titletown, USA, winning five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls. Meanwhile, 169 picks earlier, the Chicago Cardinals chose John Roach as their quarterback in the third round. What became of Roach? He became an NFL champion himself in 1961 and 1962… as Bart Starr’s backup with the Packers.

Tom Brady, 199th pick, 2000

Another sixth-rounder, another Hall of Famer. Brady still isn’t done winning 18 years later, having led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl victories and turning what was long a league-wide joke into the game’s model franchise. While Brady has dominated in New England, the Cleveland Browns have cycled through 25 quarterbacks, without finding a single successful option. One of those choices was Spergon Wynn, taken 16 picks before Tom Brady. Wynn’s career total was one single touchdown… 487 fewer than Brady.