The 2011 draft class will forever be highlighted by the incredible defensive trio that changed the game as we know it, while also helping dictate where their teams can focus entering the 2013 NFL Draft. Here’s a look at the teams that have gotten the most out of their 2011 draft class and — surprise — J.J. Watt‘s team is not one of them.
San Francisco 49ers: Jim Harbaugh‘s first go at draft weekend turned in to a spectacular success. With the guidance of first-year general manager Trent Baalke, the Niners struck gold in each of the first four rounds with outside linebacker Aldon Smith (first), quarterback of the future Colin Kaepernick (second), valuable nickel corner Chris Culliver (third) and tailback Kendall Hunter (fourth). Not to mention, nabbing arguably the league’s best blocking fullback in Bruce Miller with the 211th overall selection. No wonder San Fran was able to make such a quick turnaround.
Denver Broncos: John Elway‘s first foray into managing the NFL Draft game plan worked out amazingly and — much like Harbaugh — better than everyone else. There’s beginner’s luck, and then there’s what the Broncos’ new executive vice president of football operations pulled off in 2011. First he made the moderately surprising move of passing on Marcell Dareus to pick up Von Miller with the second overall selection. Orlando Franklin (third) turned out to be one of the league’s best young right tackles, while Rahim Moore (second) actually had a solid 2012 campaign before The Flacco Play, with Pro Football Focus grading him out as a top-10 safety for the regular season.
Seattle Seahawks: This one ranks behind Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Company’s 2012 and 2010 hauls, but still rings mighty impressive. K.J. Wright proved a thumper at linebacker while James Carpenter (first) and John Moffit (second) comprise starting pieces of a bruising offensive line. But the obvious star here is Richard Sherman, as it’s always nice to get the league’s next great cover corner in the fifth round.
New England Patriots: Here’s another one that doesn’t quite rank above the franchise’s 2010 class, but packs plenty of punch in starting left tackle Nate Solder (first) along with scary young tailbacks Shane Vereen (second) and Stevan Ridley (third).
More NFL Draft at Rant Sports: I analyzed which teams got the most and least out of their draft classes from 2012 (most, least), 2011 (most, least), 2010 (most, least) and 2009 (most, least), along with the kings of the draft over that span.