The Art of Drafting: An Analysis Of The NFL’s Most Successful Mid And Late-Round Drafting Teams

As the 2023 NFL Draft approaches and teams put the finishing touches on their war rooms, we embarked on an investigation of all teams heading into the draft. Our goal was to uncover the best teams at discovering hidden gems beyond the obvious first-round picks.

We delved into the past 10 drafts, examining picks from the second round and beyond, in order to identify all Pro Bowlers selected in the later rounds. We wanted to identify and acknowledge those teams that were successful with their scouting and due diligence before drafting.

Here’s what we discovered…

NFL teams winning and losing late in the draft

  • The Baltimore Ravens have picked the highest number of Pro Bowlers in the second round or beyond the past 10 drafts. A total of 28 Pro Bowl appearances have come from their middle and “late” round picks.
  • The Seahawks came in second, with 25 Pro Bowl appearances from players drafted in rounds 2 and lower, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs with 24 appearances.
  • The New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals have been the worst two teams at finding gold in the later stages of the draft. Only two of their respective Pro Bowlers were drafted by them in the second round or later.
  • The New York Giants, New England Patriots, and Denver Broncos are all tied as the next-worst organizations when it comes to selecting late-round gems in the past decade. These teams have each produced only three Pro Bowl appearances from players drafted in the second round or beyond.

Find your team in the table below:

Does draft success equal wins?

While our analysis is not exhaustive, there may be some correlation between selecting late-round gems and competing for trophies. The Kansas City Chiefs, who have appeared in three of the last four Super Bowls, rank third in our research, suggesting that general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid have developed a successful system.

Since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012, the Seattle Seahawks have been a dominant force in the NFC. It is no surprise that they rank high on our list, given their recent roster talent. The team’s future success is uncertain after signing Geno Smith to a new three-year contract following his impressive first season as the starting quarterback.

Despite being led by arguably the greatest coach of all time, Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots rank low in our research. This further highlights how Belichick and Tom Brady carried the franchise for almost two decades without relying heavily on late-round draft picks.

We are eager to follow this year’s draft and will be paying close attention to the later rounds to see if any team can dethrone the Baltimore Ravens as the champions of finding late-round talent. Additionally, with the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers, the New York Jets may finally have the pieces in place to redeem themselves. Regardless of what happens, we look forward to seeing the new rookie class finding new homes across the country.

Our research

This research looks at the number of Pro Bowl appearances by players who have been drafted in the second round and beyond by each team in the past 10 drafts. If a player is traded or released and subsequently picked up by another team and goes on to play in the Pro Bowl, he would count toward the total of the team that drafted him. This research is based on data available on pro-football-reference.