Updated: Sep 6
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.
Dallas Cowboys - LB Micah Parsons
There's a few viable candidates for Dallas, but it's tough to argue with what Micah Parsons just did as a rookie. For one, he logged 12 sacks on the year (good for third best ever by an NFL rookie) despite not playing as a full time pass rusher. But his impact extends everywhere on defense. He has the athleticism and size to stick with tight ends and power slots in coverage, and showcased elite closing speed and much better instincts than expected when filling run gaps.
True, it was only one season, but you can already make a solid case for Parsons as a top ten defensive player in the NFL. His rookie season was so strong, I have to give him the nod over some of the team's longer tenured players.
Honorable Mentions: WR CeeDee Lamb, RB Tony Pollard
New York Giants - DT Dexter Lawrence
The Giants are another team that I struggled to find a selection for. Their drafting over the past five seasons has been incredibly spotty, and very few picks have panned out as expected.
One pick that has, however, is DT Dexter Lawrence. The Clemson product has been incredibly stout against the run and offered plus-level pass rushing upside for a nose tackle. He hasn't quite played at the level of say, Vita Vea, but he's not too far behind. And glancing over the rest of the Giants selections during this timespan offers very little in the way of players who I feel could take this spot away from him.
EDGE Azeez Ojulari produced well as a rookie, and LT Andrew Thomas seems to have turned a corner as the Giants' blindside protector, but Lawrence's consistency every single year he's been in the league thus far gives him the nod.
Honorable Mentions: LT Andrew Thomas, EDGE Azeez Ojulari
Philadelphia Eagles - LT Jordan Mailata
Like the Giants, the Eagles have also had a very spotty record of talent accumulation over the past few seasons. Unlike the Giants, however, they managed to find a plus-level starting player at a high value position in the draft's final round.
Jordan Mailata has far and away earned this selection, showing incredible development since being taken as a seventh round pick in 2018 from the Australian National Rugby League's South Sydney Rabbitohs. His success as a developmental prospect has been unprecedented, and the team recently rewarded him with a four-year extension to be their LT of the future.
Honorable Mentions: WR Devonta Smith, TE Dallas Goedert
Washington Commanders - WR Terry McLaurin
Washington has plenty of viable candidates for this choice, mostly along the defensive line.
But as good as players like Jonathan Allen and Chase Young have been, McLaurin has been the team's best overall player since he was taken as a third round pick back in 2019. He is a true number one threat, and a top fifteen receiver in the league (at the very least). His dominance has also come despite having a total of 8(!) quarterbacks throw him the ball in his first three seasons.
The Commanders are also coming off a season where their vaunted defensive line drastically underperformed, while McLaurin continued his excellence - hauling in 77 passes and breaking 1,000 yards receiving for the second year in a row. That gives him the edge in this conversation.
Honorable Mentions: IDL Jonathan Allen, EDGE Chase Young