The NFL Draft, or the “Player Selection Meeting,” is an annual event in which National Football League (NFL) teams select eligible college football players to join their respective rosters. It was first held in 1936 and has been a significant event in American football ever since.
Before the draft was established, teams in the NFL used to sign players from colleges directly, leading to a competition for the best talent. As a result, the weaker teams were unable to get the best players, making the league less competitive overall. To address this issue, the NFL introduced the draft system as a more equitable way of distributing talent among the teams.
1. Peyton Manning (QB) – 1998, Indianapolis Colts:
Manning is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. He led the Colts to a Super Bowl XLI victory and also won Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos. Manning is a 14x Pro Bowl selection, 5x NFL MVP, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. John Elway (QB) – 1983, Baltimore Colts (traded to Denver Broncos):
Elway is a two-time Super Bowl champion (XXXII, XXXIII) and Super Bowl XXXIII MVP. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 9 times, was the 1987 NFL MVP, and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
3. Bruce Smith (DE) – 1985, Buffalo Bills:
Smith is the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks with 200. He is an 11x Pro Bowl selection, 8x First-team All-Pro, 2x NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Terry Bradshaw (QB) – 1970, Pittsburgh Steelers:
Bradshaw led the Steelers to 4 Super Bowl victories (IX, X, XIII, XIV) and was the Super Bowl MVP twice (XIII, XIV). He is an 8x Pro Bowl selection and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. Troy Aikman (QB) – 1989, Dallas Cowboys:
Aikman won 3 Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) with the Cowboys and was named the Super Bowl XXVII MVP. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
6. Earl Campbell (RB) – 1978, Houston Oilers:
Campbell was one of the most dominant running backs in NFL history. He is a 5x Pro Bowl selection, 3x First-team All-Pro, 3x NFL rushing yards leader, 1979 NFL MVP, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
7. Orlando Pace (OT) – 1997, St. Louis Rams:
Pace played a crucial role in the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. He is a 7x Pro Bowl selection, 3x First-team All-Pro, Super Bowl XXXIV champion, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
8. O.J. Simpson (RB) – 1969, Buffalo Bills:
Simpson was a dominant running back in the 1970s. He is a 6x Pro Bowl selection, 5x First-team All-Pro, 4x NFL rushing yards leader, and the first player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
9. Mario Williams (DE) – 2006, Houston Texans:
Williams had an impressive career as a defensive end, amassing 97.5 career sacks. He is a 4x Pro Bowl selection and 1x First-team All-Pro.
10. Eli Manning (QB) – 2004, San Diego Chargers (traded to New York Giants):
Eli Manning won 2 Super Bowls (XLII, XLVI) with the Giants and was named the Super Bowl MVP both times. He is a 4x Pro Bowl selection and holds several Giants franchise records.