Special Report

The Best Value NFL Draft Pick Every Year Since 1970

When the 2022 NFL Draft begins on April 28, fans may only tune in to see which players their team selects with their first few selections. Yet Super Bowls can be won or lost in the later days of the draft, when teams are poring over lesser-known college players in the hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.

Though expectations for players diminish as the draft goes on, the best teams are able to find key contributors in later rounds – adding depth to their rosters and potentially finding a budding superstar that no one else has noticed. Each draft, one player has stood out as the smartest pick in the draft.

To determine the best value pick in every year’s NFL Draft, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from Pro Football Reference. Players were ranked based on the overall quality and longevity of their careers relative to where they were drafted. We evaluated each draft from 1970, when the AFL and NFL merged, through 2018.

The best value pick in a given draft is not necessarily someone who was selected in a late round. For instance, Peyton Manning was so far and away the best player drafted in 1998 that he ranks as the best value pick in that draft, even though he was selected first overall. However, most of the players on this list were chosen behind dozens of others, including some who were not even among the first 200 selections, but nonetheless went on to have stellar careers.

Players who are drafted later on typically need some good fortune to become NFL stars, and that starts with being drafted by the right team. Some NFL franchises have proved much more likely than others to find hidden gems. 

These organizations have top-tier scouting departments that find unheralded talent and quality coaches that can maximize players’ potential. Putting the right people in place to make these decisions is key for success, and it all starts with the owners. These are the best and worst owners in the NFL.

Click here to see the best value NFL draft pick every year since 1970

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