Which NFL draft slots produce the most success?


With the 2023 NFL Draft just a week away, it’s crunch time for teams across the league.

Every franchise will enter the draft looking for potential star players. Even if a draft class is necessarily strong, there’s always value to be found.

Since the draft was cut to 12 rounds in 1977, every single round has produced at least one player who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These stars don’t just grow on trees, but it is certainly possible for a late-round pick to develop into a hidden gem.

Here’s a full look at the success of players from each round and certain draft slots since 1977:

What draft position has produced the most Hall of Famers?

Since 1977, two draft positions have produced the most Pro Football Hall of Famers: Nos. 1 and 4 overall. Both slots have seven Hall of Famers, with the number potentially growing in some upcoming years.

Here are the seven Hall of Famers drafted No. 1 overall:

  • Earl Campbell, 1978
  • John Elway, 1983
  • Steve Young, 1984 (supplemental draft)
  • Bruce Smith, 1985
  • Troy Aikman, 1989
  • Orlando Pace, 1997
  • Peyton Manning, 1998

Looking ahead, there are several future inductees who will soon join this list. Eli Manning (2004) is a likely selection after winning two Super Bowl MVPs for the New York Giants. Matthew Stafford (2009) probably needs a few more productive seasons, but a Super Bowl win with the Los Angeles Rams strengthened his case. It’s way too early for a few other players, but Myles Garrett (2017) and Joe Burrow (2020) are starting to build their cases.

Here are the seven Hall of Famers drafted No. 4 overall:

  • Dan Hampton, 1979
  • Reggie White, 1984
  • Chris Doleman, 1985
  • Derrick Thomas, 1989
  • Jonathan Ogden, 1996
  • Charles Woodson, 1998
  • Edgerrin James, 1999

The No. 4 pick list will likely be adding Philip Rivers (2004). Recently retired wide receiver A.J. Green (2011) and the ageless Lane Johnson (2013) could also join the club someday. In the way-too-early category, Andrew Thomas (2020) and Sauce Gardner (2022) need another decade or so of similar production to garner consideration.

What is the worst slot in the NFL draft?

There are plenty of draft slots in later rounds where no players have amounted to anything. But strictly looking at the top 10, every single slot has produced at least one Hall of Famer since 1977.

To narrow it down, Nos. 7 and 9 overall have produced the fewest Hall of Famers among the top 10 spots with two each.

At No. 7, Bryant Young (1994) and Champ Bailey (1999) are the two inductees. Young, a defensive tackle for the 49ers, was inducted in 2022, while Bailey, a cornerback for Washington and Denver, was a first-ballot selection in 2019.

Bruce Matthews (1983) and Brian Urlacher (2000) are the two Hall of Famers from pick No. 9. Matthews is one of the NFL’s greatest offensive linemen, playing for 19 years with the Houston Oilers and eventually the Tennessee Titans before becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2007. Urlacher was a linebacker with the Bears for 13 seasons and, like Matthews, was a first-ballot selection.

How many Hall of Famers were picked outside the first round?

There have been 38 players who have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame while being selected in rounds two through seven since 1977. In addition, four players over that span have been inducted after going undrafted.

Here are some of the best selections by round and the year they were drafted:

Second round

  • Mike Singletary, 1981
  • Howie Long, 1981
  • Rickey Jackson, 1981
  • Andre Tippett, 1982
  • Brett Favre, 1991
  • Michael Strahan, 1993
  • Brian Dawkins, 1996

Third round

  • Joe Montana, 1979
  • Curtis Martin, 1995
  • Ronde Barber, 1997

Fourth round

  • Charles Haley, 1986
  • Cris Carter, 1987

Fifth round

  • Kevin Greene, 1985
  • Zach Thomas, 1996

Sixth round

  • Joe Klecko, 1977
  • Terrell Davis, 1995

Seventh round

  • Shannon Sharpe, 1990

When is the 2023 NFL Draft?

The 2023 NFL Draft will be held from April 27-29 in Kansas City. The first round will take place on April 27, with the second and third rounds on April 28 and the fourth through seventh rounds on April 29.

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