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Best Offensive Draft Prospects in NFL History: Calvin Johnson, Andrew Luck, Julio Jones Hard To Replicate

Who are the best NFL Draft prospects in history on the offensive side of the ball? Andrew Luck, Calvin Johnson, and others top the list.

Thousands of NFL Draft prospects have come off the board on the offensive side of the ball over the years. In this article, we take on the task of naming the 25 best NFL Draft prospects in history on the offensive side of the ball.

Best Offensive Draft Prospects in NFL History

25) Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia (2024)

On the surface, it may seem hasty to include two 2024 NFL Draft prospects on our list of top all-time offensive prospects. But there was little disagreement about the merits of both Brock Bowers and Marvin Harrison Jr. — and Bowers comes in at 25th all time.

At 6’3″, 243 pounds, Bowers’ three-level framework as an alignment-versatile weapon was unmatched among his peers. His size-speed blend and RAC framework terrorized defenses as early as his true freshman season, and that dominance should carry over in the NFL.

24) Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State (2024)

The NFL has seen countless great wide receiver prospects pass through its halls. Marvin Harrison Jr. isn’t the best — but he’s assuredly one of the best, as his 2024 NFL Draft evaluation proved time and time again.

At a lean 6’3″, 209 pounds, Harrison boasted the elite physical qualities — size, speed, and explosiveness — of a true WR1, but he also showcased devastating route-running nuance and flexibility on tape, completing his profile as an immediate premier threat.

23) Bob Brown, OT, Nebraska (1964)

The NFL, since its inception, has steadily gotten bigger on average inside the trenches. Being bigger and faster, at a certain point, is always better — and Bob Brown was one of the offensive line prospects who accelerated that transition.

An All-American at Nebraska and the Offensive Lineman of the Year in his final collegiate season, Brown came into the NFL with a deadly combination of size and speed at 6’4″, 280 pounds.

With those tools, his physicality, and his football IQ, Brown became a Hall of Famer.

22) John Hannah, G, Alabama (1973)

Even in the early stages of the NFL, traits like positional and schematic versatility could be heavily coveted on the offensive line. John Hannah brought that in spades, which played a large part in him going fourth overall despite being 6’2″, 265 pounds.

Hannah was explosive, physical, and well-leveraged, but his unique understanding of the game allowed him to integrate quickly and become a seven-time All-Pro.

Alabama legend Bear Bryant is on record as saying Hannah was the best OL he ever coached.

21) Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State (1989)

The first player regarded as a “bust” on this list, Tony Mandarich was one of the most heavily anticipated prospects in the 1989 NFL Draft cycle, largely on account of his rare physical gifts.

Reportedly, Mandarich — who weighed well over 300 pounds — could run a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, jump 10’3″ in the broad, and rep 225 pounds on the bench press 39 times.

Though Mandarich never reached his potential, he did turn in a couple of solid seasons in Indianapolis.

20) Edgerrin James, RB, Miami (2000)

Edgerrin James was one of the rare running back prospects who checked every single box: Size, athleticism, running instincts, and receiving versatility. He was productive in college, and that production carried over to a Hall of Fame NFL career.

At 6’0″, 219 pounds with sub-4.4 speed, James was an energized athletic talent whose mix of smooth vision, redirection ability, and stark physicality made him a force to be reckoned with. To top it off, he was a receiving weapon ahead of his time.

19) Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (2021)

There’s always a concern that recency bias factors in more heavily for prospects in the current era of football. But if you poll 20 different evaluators, most will tell you that Kyle Pitts was the greatest TE prospect ever and a true unicorn at his position.

At 6’6″, 246 pounds, Pitts had the size and length inherent to his position — and he could use it well in the red zone — but he also possessed 4.44 speed, logic-defying flexibility, and a full route tree that granted him all-encompassing usage versatility.

18) Randall McDaniel, G, Arizona State (1988)

Randall McDaniel is unique among the others on this list. In his class, he fell to 19th overall. But there’s a strong case to be made that his weight played too much of a role in his evaluation. When an offensive lineman has 4.6 speed, you don’t overthink it.

With his combined blocking range, schematic versatility, and relentless mauler mentality, McDaniel quickly became a dominant force at the NFL level. He was a seven-time All-Pro, a 12-time Pro Bowler, and an eventual Hall of Fame inductee.

17) Chris Samuels, OT, Alabama (2000)

Chris Samuels had one of the quietest six-time Pro Bowl careers you’ll ever see. A large reason why is that he kept things deathly quiet on his side of the line — but with a loud, tenacious physicality that battered down defenders rep after rep.

At 6’5″, 325 pounds, Samuels was a freak of nature coming out of Alabama who’d started 42 games and allowed no pressures in his final season. To this day, he’s one of the standards of body typing and athleticism, and his power output could be overwhelming.

16) Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin (2007)

From start to finish, Joe Thomas’ football career defined excellence. He was a multi-year All-Big Ten performer at Wisconsin, a unanimous All-American and Outland Award winner in his final season, and a six-time NFL All-Pro and eventual Hall of Famer.

As a prospect, Thomas was an evaluator’s dream: An incredibly clean technical player who also had elite physical tools, headlined by a 4.93 40-yard dash, 33″ vertical, and 9’2″ broad jump at 6’6″, 312 pounds. His success was anything but a surprise.

15) Eric Dickerson, RB, SMU (1983)

The game of running back is a game of space. And RBs who can chew up space early in reps can use that to their advantage. With his size-speed combination at 6’3″, 220 pounds, Eric Dickerson was one of the best — and he has a golden jacket to show for it.

In his final two seasons at SMU, Dickerson racked up 3,045 yards and 36 TDs. His natural running ability — combined with his physical tools — was lethal, and those qualities in tandem led him to set the all-time record for rushing yards in a season.

14) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh (2004)

In just two seasons at the collegiate level, Larry Fitzgerald put up 161 catches for 2,677 yards, and 34 scores. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at 6’3″, 225 pounds. And on tape, he routinely outmatched defenders with his skills.

There weren’t too many evaluations easier than Fitzgerald’s. Often, he was simply stronger, more athletic, more talented, and more resolute than his opponents, and those traits allowed him to embark on a long and very successful NFL career.

13) Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma State (1989)

Some “best-of-all-time” prospects win over evaluators with their jaw-dropping physical profiles.

Barry Sanders wasn’t that kind of player. He measured in at just 5’8″, 203 pounds — but everyone knew he’d be an all-time great anyway. That’s a different level of “good.”

In his final year at Oklahoma State, Sanders amassed 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns on 344 carries, further cementing his reputation. His spatial awareness, change-of-direction ability, and creative instincts are all traits we may never see again, to the degree he had them.

12) Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn (1986-1987)

There have been a great many RB prospects to hit the NFL Draft circuit, but none have possessed the raw talent that Bo Jackson had in the 1986 and 1987 NFL Draft cycles. At 6’1″, 227 pounds, Jackson could reportedly run as fast as 4.13 in the 40-yard dash.

Jackson’s sheer size-speed combination was unheard of, and he could leverage that speed and density into overwhelming bouts of physicality and forward-pressing force. But just when you got comfortable overrunning his angles, he could capably counter with brutal jump cuts.

11) Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame (2018)

The discourse surrounding Quenton Nelson heading into the 2018 NFL Draft was unique to Nelson alone. Few prospects command that kind of universal respect as a dominant force, but Nelson did just that after a consensus All-American final season at Notre Dame.

At 6’5″, 325 pounds, Nelson was the model offensive guard. He set the tone with ruthless voracity, overwhelmed opponents with his power, torque, and strength, and got off the line with searing explosiveness and zeal. Six years into his career, he’s a three-time All-Pro.

10) Ron Yary, OT, USC (1968)

Ron Yary was so good that his team — the Minnesota Vikings — traded away two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Fran Tarkenton for the right to take Yary first overall in the 1968 NFL Draft. Yary proceeded to repay them with six All-Pro nods and seven Pro Bowl berths.

There’s a bit of an era adjustment that needs to be made for Yary, who played in what was a distinctly different time at 6’5″, 255 pounds. Nevertheless, Yary proved himself as a superlative talent. He was faster than you, more physical than you, and he would bury opponents in the dirt.

9) Jonathan Ogden, OT, UCLA (1996)

One of the standard-bearers of the offensive tackle position for evaluators, Jonathan Ogden was a four-year starter, a two-time first-team all-conference performer, and an elite athlete at 6’8″, 318 pounds — boasting 5.12 speed, a 31″ vertical, and a 9’5″ broad jump.

In the 2024 NFL Draft, Los Angeles Chargers first-round pick Joe Alt came close to matching Ogden’s profile. But while Alt had the size, athleticism, and flexibility, Ogden took things a step further with his torque, power, and gnawing physicality working downfield.

8) Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma (2010)

Trent Williams, in a way, serves as the optimal representation of what’s possible at the offensive tackle position. Beyond being a two-time first-team All-Big 12 performer, he was a one-of-one athlete — with 4.88 speed and a 34.5″ vertical at 6’5″, 315 pounds.

Now, Williams — nicknamed “Silverback” — has morphed into one of the most menacing blockers in the NFL. In Washington, he was a seven-time Pro Bowler, and he’s been an All-Pro the last three seasons in San Francisco. His range and finishing power sets him apart.

7) Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (2011)

Julio Jones was the multi-dimensional “Create-a-Player” in the 2011 NFL Draft. At 6’3″, 220 pounds, he ran a blazing 4.34 40-yard dash, stacked up a 38.5″ vertical and a 11’3″ broad jump, and had an absurd 6.66 three-cone. And he wasn’t just an athlete; he could play.

It’s rare for players to have Jones’ physical tools alone. But Jones took it a step further, weaponizing those tools as an elite route runner and formidable threat at the catch point. NFL teams will consider themselves lucky if another prospect like Jones comes around.

6) Randy Moss, WR, Marshall (1998)

One could argue that Jones has a case to be ranked ahead of Randy Moss. Jones was an athletic freak in his own right, and he was arguably a cleaner prospect with a higher floor. But there’s simply no matching the physical potential that Moss brought to the fold.

At almost 6’4″ with 34″ arms, Moss ran a reported 4.25 40-yard dash and jumped 47″ in the vertical — and he wasn’t just a linear athlete, either. He could bend, cut stems, and redirect with ruthless quickness, and his ability to attack the ball was the cherry on top.

5) Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee (1998)

Peyton Manning didn’t become the elite version of Manning we remember until a couple of years into his NFL career. But even as a prospect and young player, the physical and mental qualities of a potential great were very visible.

At 6’5″, 230 pounds, Manning was a towering pocket passer with a hefty arm and active processing ability. As a prospect, he still had those young QB moments that so many others have — but his mental acuity and autonomy behind the line were traits to be emulated.

4) John Elway, QB, Stanford (1983)

A three-year starter coming out of Stanford, John Elway was so talented that he provoked a bidding war for the first overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. Unwilling to play for the Baltimore Colts, he was eventually dealt to the Denver Broncos — where he made history.

At 6’3″, 215 pounds, Elway fit the prototypical ideal — but what truly made him special as a prospect was his arm talent. His ability to stress defenses and throw WRs open with his velocity and angle freedom opened the door for the modern age of natural passers.

3) Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech (2007)

The WR prospects inside the top 10 on this list are all clustered together, but Calvin Johnson comes away as our top WR prospect of all time. At 6’5″, 239 pounds, with 4.35 speed and effortless redirection ability, Johnson was simply different.

Half the time, Johnson could beat defenses with his ability to stack and outmatch defensive backs. But even when defenses encased the vertical plane with five players, Johnson could win underneath, layer routes, and make tough catches against contact as if second nature.

2) Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (2012)

Three QBs are in the top 10 of our best offensive prospects of all time, but few QBs can challenge Andrew Luck’s claim as the best QB prospect in NFL history. In almost every category, Luck was the standard. It’s as simple as that.

Physically, Luck was a 6’4″, 240-pound passer with a live arm and 4.59 speed. Mentally, he was a sharp signal-caller and pocket operator with quick processing, a gunslinger mentality, and unflappable poise and competitive fire.

1) Orlando Pace, OT, Ohio State (1997)

Luck, Johnson, Elway, Manning, Moss, and Jones are all incredible prospects to look back on — but there’s one more prospect who superseded even them. That prospect is offensive tackle Orlando Pace, the first overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft.

There’s no such thing as a perfect prospect, but Pace was about as close as anyone can get. As his coach at Ohio State — John Cooper — remarked: “He was 6’7”, weighed 325 pounds, bench pressed 500 pounds, ran a 4.7 40, and went bear hunting with a switch.”

Pace ended up being a crucial piece of the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf,” and he cemented a Hall of Fame legacy with four All-Pro bids and seven Pro Bowl berths. And beyond all the rings and accolades — Pace himself was a once-in-a-lifetime prospect.