Updated: Sep 6, 2022
Written By Aaron Ussery
With the NFL Draft now bearing down on us, now is a great time to check back on how teams have fared over the last few years. In this article I take a look back at the one player each team selected over the past five years that has had the most positive impact on their team's fortunes.
Denver Broncos - CB Patrick Surtain II
The Broncos track record over the past five drafts has been, in a word, grim. I struggled to find a single player taken from 2017 - 2020 who I felt warranted this spot. There have been good showings from guys like WR Courtland Sutton and EDGE Bradley Chubb, but injuries have limited their ability to stay on the field. Other players such as G Dalton Risner and LT Garrett Bolles have been excellent over some stretches but also have lacked consistency.
In the end, I settled on last year's first round pick Patrick Surtain II as the choice. He and RB Javonte Williams were both excellent performers as rookies, but the value that Surtain added as a true lockdown corner was apparent from early on. He looks like someone who could develop into a perennial Pro Bowler as one of the game's most important positions.
Honorable Mentions: LT Garrett Bolles, RB Javonte Williams
Kansas City Chiefs - QB Patrick Mahomes
Duh. What do I even need to write here?
Maybe I'll just include this little nugget: Patrick Mahomes is 26 years old, and already possesses a total of 8 playoff wins in his career thus far. To put that in perspective - Aaron Rodgers, who is 38, has a total of 11.
Number 15 good.
Honorable Mentions: CB L'Jarius Sneed, C Creed Humphrey
Las Vegas Raiders - EDGE Maxx Crosby
Despite an absolutely abominable overall track record the past five years, the Raiders did manage to add at least one high-level talent to the roster.
Next to only TJ Watt and possibly Myles Garrett, Crosby was probably the most impactful EDGE rusher in the NFL last season. He's managed to build upon his immense physical tools in order to become one of the league's best defensive linemen. The fact that the team found him in the fourth round makes it all the sweeter, and he's already been rewarded with a four-year extension.
Crosby was the clear choice for me here, despite a solid push from WR Hunter Renfrow.
Honorable Mentions: WR Hunter Renfrow, LT Kolton Miller
Los Angeles Chargers - QB Justin Herbert
There were a lot of strong choices here. S Derwin James makes a very strong case as the defense's best player, core leader, and overall "glue guy". LT Rashawn Slater was selected as a Second Team All-Pro in his rookie season, at a position where that almost never happens. ultimately it couldn't be anyone else.
Justin Herbert has very quickly established himself as one of the best QBs in the NFL. He possesses elite arm talent, decision making skills, and underutilized mobility. His teammates have immediately taken to him as a leader and someone to rally around, no small feat when you consider he was drafted to fill that same locker room void left behind by Philip Rivers.
His presence has also made the Chargers one of the most attractive free agency destinations in the league, helping them net players like C Corey Linsley, G Matt Feiler, and CB JC Jackson over the past several off-seasons. The team's future feels incredibly bright with him at the helm.
Honorable Mentions: S Derwin James, LT Rashawn Slater