We’re roughly a week out from the next era of NFL rookies being selected by teams. It’s an exciting time for fan bases because this can many times decide the fortunes of your franchise for decades.
This revisionist evaluation looks back at the best class per franchise in the past 10 years in the NFC West, and if I’m being honest, it’s a bit confusing. That’s primarily because there aren’t any true home-run draft classes by anyone in the division with the exception of the Seahawks. Yet three of the four franchises have been in the Super Bowl at least once. It truly speaks to the elite abilities of the coaches of the three teams who still have the same leaders from the Super Bowl run in addition to building on a few good players in each class.
This was a bit of a toss-up between the 2010 class that included Russell Okung, Golden Tate, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. One first-ballot Hall of Famer in Earl Thomas, an arguable Hall of Famer in Chancellor and the other headliners of the class would make a minimum of one Pro Bowl each—yet they finish second to the 2012 class. The crown jewel being Russell Wilson in the third round and Bobby Wagner in the second. A Super Bowl QB that’s arguably top 5 in the league at the most important position always tips the scale. The value of where they selected the two future Hall of Fame players in Wagner and Wilson adds to the significance of this particular draft class. Add in the other four starters that were selected and this is somewhat of a video game-type of year for the Hawks.
Other notable picks: Bruce Irvin, Jeremy Lane, JR Sweezy, and Robert Turbin
It’s been a rough run of the mill for the Arizona Cardinals. Generally, my findings and thoughts are if you can find three quality starters in each draft, job well done by the front office. The Cardinals have struggled to do that throughout the decade. My choice is the 2013 draft. Most Arizona fans would refer to this as the Honey Badger. The two time all pro and recent Super Bowl Champ.
Other notable picks: Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor
To some LA Rams “fans” it may be hard for them to remember the era of the franchise when defense dominated games for multiple years. Thirty points were accumulated over multiple games, not the first three quarters of a single game like we’ve seen at times under the McVay era. The 2012 Rams draft brought this defensive culture to St. Louis before the relocation to LA. They drafted three defensive players that’d go on to start for the franchise for multiple years in Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson. They also established their kicking game when they selected 2018 NFC Championship hero Greg Zuerlein in the 6th round.
Other notable picks: Brian Quick
The most polarizing pick would be the 49ers 2011 class where Colin Kaepernick was selected in the second round. They also chose Aldon Smith in the first round. Had it not been for his off-the-field issues, he was on his way to becoming a multi-all-pro selection after his first in 2012. With both key players of the 2011 class having such short-lived careers, I was inclined to go with their 2010 draft class. Mike Iupati was one of their two first-round selections, and he’s gone on to be a reliable starter and a one-time all pro. The star of the class was NaVarro Bowman. He was lights out for a 5-year span alongside Patrick Willis on the vaunted Jim Harbaugh 9ers defense. It seems odd with how short-lived his time was in the NFL given his impact tallying four All-Pro selections.
Other notable picks: Taylor Mays