Best 21st century NFL draft classes: Cowboys, Ravens, more

This year is the 50th anniversary of the greatest draft class in NFL history, the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers drafted four different future Hall of Famers -- wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, linebacker Jack Lambert and center Mike Webster -- who would eventually help power them to four Super Bowl titles. No team since has come close to that draft accomplishment, but we've seen some pretty good and deep draft classes in recent years, with multiple players having strong NFL careers.

We decided to evaluate the best team draft classes of the 21st century. Our choices balance star players with depth. That last part is important because we wanted to choose classes where a lot of players had NFL careers rather than classes with just a couple of huge starts.

We limited our list to draft classes with at least four players with substantial NFL careers. That means you won't see teams such as the 2001 San Diego Chargers, who drafted Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson but not much more. Also, we judged these classes based on everything players did in the NFL, not just what they did for the teams that selected them on draft day. And with apologies to the 2022 New York Jets, 2023 Houston Texans and Los Angeles Rams, we didn't consider classes after 2021 because there's still so much to come for those players.

What were the best draft classes of the 21st century? We stacked them from No. 12 to No. 1: