Ranking Every NFL Draft Class, 2004-2013 From WhatIfSports.com image

Ranking the past 10 NFL Draft classes

We use our Dream Team feature to rank the most pro-ready NFL Draft class of the last 10 years

May 9, 2014

The NFL Draft is a time of optimism across the league. Top draft picks have the potential to turn perennial losers into playoff hopefuls, and postseason regulars into championship contenders. However, despite year-round preparation, the Draft remains a high-risk venture. Many rookies need seasoning before they are able to contribute, and even the most highly-lauded picks can be declared busts in just a year or two (see: Russell, JaMarcus).

With this in mind, we set out to determine which draft from the past 10 years produced the most pro-ready offensive weapons. Using our Dream Team feature, we assembled squads with the top players from every draft. We selected each player's rookie season and used default units for defense, offensive line and special teams.

How the teams were created:

We selected the top draftees at each position, always giving deference to a higher draft pick over a lower one, regardless of production. However, if a player did not register any stats during his rookie season, he was skipped over. This eliminated a number of players that missed their first seasons due to injury. Several quarterbacks, most notably Aaron Rodgers, were also eliminated since they didn't log any time while learning the position as a backup.

After the position requirements were filled (three quarterbacks, three running backs, four wide receivers, three tight ends), we filled out the remaining five skill positions with the highest-drafted players available, regardless of position.

For defense, offensive line and special teams, where a unit is chosen instead of individual players, we selected the 2013 Seattle Seahawks for every team. Finally, we filled out each rosters with the highest-drafted kicker and punter. Kickers proved a challenge for the 2008 and 2010 teams. In 2008, two kickers were drafted but both were waived before the start of the season. We substituted Garrett Hartley, who was an undrafted free agent in 2008. In 2010, no kickers were drafted and no undrafted free agents saw playing time. We settled for David Buehler, who was drafted in 2009 but didn't become a starter until 2010.

How the lineups were selected:

Our NFL Dream Team feature assigns values to every player and unit based on statistical production for the season. The highest-valued, best-performing players earned the start, rather than the nod going to the high-drafted players. As a result, Mike Glennon (3rd round, 73rd overall) started at quarterback for the 2013 team, despite E.J. Manuel (1st round, 16th overall) and Geno Smith (2nd round, 39th overall) going earlier in the 2013 NFL Draft.

How the games were simulated:

After creating each Dream Team, we used our NFL simulation engine to play the 10 teams in a round-robin tournament. Every team in the tournament played every other team 1,001 times. The simulation generated each team's win percentage (Win %), points for (PF) and points against (PA).

Check out the results below and click the roster links to see each team's lineup:

Ranking the Past 10 Draft Classes
RankDraft ClassWin %PFPAView Roster
1201266.923.017.52012 Roster
2200464.124.219.52004 Roster
3200855.321.719.92008 Roster
4201151.520.920.52011 Roster
5201351.020.219.92013 Roster
6200750.721.521.22007 Roster
7200646.620.121.12006 Roster
8201039.517.420.92010 Roster
9200938.818.322.22009 Roster
10200535.717.322.02005 Roster

Our Dream Team feature assigned Cam Newton of the 2011 Draft with the highest individual player rating. The next three highest-rated players were all on the 2012 roster: Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Doug Martin. No surprise that the 2012 class performed the best in the simulation. Also contributing to the 2012 roster were Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright.

Finishing a close runner-up was the 2004 class, a balanced group led by Ben Roethlisberger. He enjoyed a deep and talented receiving corps consisting of Michael Clayton, Larry Fitzgerald, Lee Evans and Roy Williams. The 2004 Draft also featured a strong running back contingent, with Kevin Jones, Steven Jackson and Julius Jones all submitting solid rookie seasons.

The lowest-ranked team in the simulation was the 2005 class, which started Charlie Frye at quarterback. Through running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams had great rookie seasons, the lack of a pass attack ultimately doomed the 2005 class.

Create your ultimate NFL roster using our Dream Team feature. Take that roster and simulate it against ANY TEAM IN NFL HISTORY using our NFL SimMatchup tool.

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Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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