The 1996 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 20–21, 1996, at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. No teams chose to claim any players in the supplemental draft that year.
This draft is considered one of the best draft classes ever for the position of wide receiver. Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Eddie Kennison, Marvin Harrison, Eric Moulds, Bobby Engram, Terrell Owens, Muhsin Muhammad, Amani Toomer, Jermaine Lewis, and Joe Horn have all achieved success in the pros, with all except Kennison, Engram, and Toomer having reached the Pro Bowl at least once, and a total of 26 Pro Bowl appearances for the group. In addition to the class having had several successful receivers, none of the five wide receivers drafted in the first round have been busts, as all of them spent at least a reasonable amount of time as starters in the NFL. Combined, 1996 wide receivers (through the end of the 2006 season) have totalled 7,646 receptions for 105,866 yards, eclipsing any other class by more than 1,000 receptions and 10,000 yards.
As of 2016, it was the last draft without a quarterback selected in the first round. Previously, the 1988 draft had been the last with no quarterback selected in the first round.
It was also one of the best draft years for middle linebackers, with two potential hall of famers in Ray Lewis and Zach Thomas selected. Lewis won Super Bowl XXXV and was selected MVP of that game. Lewis also won Super Bowl XLVII in the final game of his career, and made 13 career Pro Bowls while Thomas has made 7. Other linebackers who made at least one Pro Bowl from this draft are Tedy Bruschi, Kevin Hardy, Simeon Rice, John Mobley, and Donnie Edwards. Randall Godfrey, Earl Holmes, and Carlos Emmons also had solid careers in the league.
On draft day, the St. Louis Rams traded running back Jerome Bettis and a third round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a second round pick for that year, as well as a fourth round pick the following year. The trade was made immediately after the Rams drafted Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips. Bettis went on to have a successful career with the Steelers as well as being one of the team's most popular players, while the Rams wouldn't have another feature back until they traded for Marshall Faulk three years later due to Phillips' off-field problems.