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Pittsburgh's 1974 draft all-time best

4/17/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

ESPN Stats & Information recently determined the best draft class in history for each of the 32 NFL teams and ranked them. According to its research, the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers were the runaway favorite.

Then ESPN.com's SportsNation let the fans decide -- and they agreed with the ranking.

NFL fans know the names: Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Mike Webster. Four Hall of Famers taken in one draft class. Pittsburgh's championship run of four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s immediately followed, including the 1974 title during this draft class' rookie campaign.

Frankly, there was not another draft that came close in terms of impact and star power.

To be fair, the NFL drafts in the 1970s were much longer. Pittsburgh selected 21 players over 17 rounds in 1974. So the numbers give the Steelers an advantage over many modern draft classes.

But even if you reduced Pittsburgh's class of 1974 to the modern-day opening seven rounds, it still remains the all-time best. Swann, Lambert, Stallworth and Webster were all taken within the first five rounds.

Coming in second in our SportsNation poll was the 1985 Buffalo Bills. That draft class was highlighted by the selections of defensive end Bruce Smith and receiver Andre Reed. Smith will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer and Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowler.