Who are the best picks from each of the 14 Big Ten programs. Here’s a look with the 2016 NFL Draft approaching.
With the history of the Big Ten, there are loads and loads of Hall of Famers and all-time great NFL draft picks to choose from. So who are the best of all-time?
This isn’t a list of the top pro players to come from the Big Ten schools – these are the best draft picks.
That means that guys who had great careers for someone other than the teams that drafted them get knocked down a peg, or aren’t on the list at all.
The goal for any draft pick is to get a player who performs at a high level for a long period of time, so longevity matters over one short burst of greatness. You’ll get the idea.
LB Dick Butkus
1965, 1st round, 3rd pick overall, Chicago
Silver: LB Ray Nitschke, 1958, 3rd round, 36th pick overall, Green Bay
Bronze: G Les Bingaman, 1948, 3rd round, 15th pick overall, Detroit
When you’ve sent six players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it takes a special type of legend to make the top three. Red Grange? He should be here, but he wasn’t drafted. Bobby Mitchell is in Canton, but it’s for what he did in Washington, not Cleveland.
Dick Butkus is the easy No. 1. He might have had a relatively short career, but he became – arguably – the greatest linebacker of all-time in just nine years.
Ray Nitschke had a longer run than Butkus and was a part of several legendary teams – he might have had the better overall career, but he wasn’t close to earning the same honors.
No. 3 was tricky considering three of the Illini Hall of Famers weren’t drafted. Les Bingaman played seven strong years for Detroit on both sides of the ball, going to three Pro Bowls and earning two All-Pro honors.
DE Pete Pihos
1945, 5th round, 41st pick overall, Philadelphia
Silver: DE Earl Faison, 1961, 1st round, 7th pick overall, San Diego
Bronze: C Bob DeMarco, 1960, 14th round, 157th pick overall, St. Louis
Pete Pihos is the lone Hall of Famer, playing nine years for Philadelphia and turning out to be way ahead of his time, catching 373 passes over his career finishing with spots on four straight All-Pro teams and with seven Pro Bowls.
Earl Faison only played five years for San Diego, but he made his era count going to the Pro Bowl each season and earning All-Pro honors four times.
Center Bob DeMarco had a 15-year career, doing most of his big things with St. Louis going to three Pro Bowls and getting on two All-Pro teams in his nine years.
DT Alex Karras
1958, 1st round, 10th pick overall, Detroit
Silver: LB Andre Tippett, 1982, 2nd round, 41st pick overall, New England
Bronze: S Paul Krause, 1964, 2nd round, 18th pick overall, Washington
Three Hawkeyes are in the Hall of Fame, but Emlen Tunnell wasn’t drafted. Alex Karras was, but he’s not in the Hall of Fame thanks to a gambling scandal and ridiculous oversight. He played 12 years for the Lions being named to three All-Pro teams.
Andre Tippett is in the Hall after a dominant career as an elite pass rusher and devastating outside linebacker. The two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler was a nice value in the mid-second round.
Krause makes the cut, but he probably shouldn’t. The Hall of Fame defensive back picked off 81 passes, but he spent 12 years with Minnesota and just four with Washington. However, he was fantastic in those four years with the Redskins, intercepting 12 passes as a rookie and earning two All-Pro nods.
DT Randy White
1975, 1st round, 2nd pick overall, Dallas
Silver: DT/OG Stan Jones, 1953, 5th round, 54th pick overall, Chicago
Bronze: QB Boomer Esiason, 1984, 2nd round, 38th pick overall, Cincinnati
Dallas tried to make Randy White into an outside linebacker. That didn’t really work. Then he was moved to defensive tackle, and he became one of the greatest of all-time being named to seven All-Pro teams, winning a Super Bowl, and getting into the Hall of Fame.
Stan Jones was a Hall of Famer for the Bears going to seven Pro Bowls and getting on three All-Pro teams in his 12 years, while Boomer Esiason turned into an MVP in 1988 and took Cincinnati to the Super Bowl. After famously having to wait too long and dropping in the draft, he went on to throw for over 27,000 yards with 187 touchdowns for the Bengals.
QB Tom Brady
2000, 6th round, 199th pick overall, New England
Silver: OL Dan Dierdorf, 2nd round, 43rd pick overall, St. Louis
Bronze: CB Charles Woodson, 1st round, 4th pick overall, Oakland
If Tom Brady isn’t the greatest quarterback of all-time, he’s without question the greatest quarterback of all-time taken in the sixth round. Yeah – the pick worked.
Dan Dierdorf is in Canton after a brilliant 13-year career with the Cardinals, earning All-Pro honors three times as a tackle.
Charles Woodson was terrific for Oakland in both his stints to start and end his career, but he was at his best late with Green Bay. He still makes the cut after starting out with four Pro Bowls and a 1999 All-Pro season for the Raiders in his first eight years.
CB Herb Adderley
1961, 1st round, 12th pick overall, Green Bay
Silver: OG Joe DeLamielleure, 1st round, 26th pick overall, Buffalo
Bronze: OG Ed Budde, 1st round, 8th pick overall, Kansas City
Herb Adderley turned into the playmaking Hall of Fame defensive back the Green Bay secondary worked around in his nine years, being named to four All-Pro teams as the premier corner of the 1960s.
Joe DeLamielleure played seven years for Buffalo before going to Cleveland, but the three-time All-Pro’s work for the Bills were enough to earn a Hall of Fame bust, helping to pave the way for O.J. Simpson.
Ed Budde spent 14 years as a rock for the Kansas City offense, going to seven Pro Bowls and making two All-Pro teams.
DE Carl Eller
1964, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Minnesota
Silver: LB Bobby Bell, 1963, 7th round, 56th pick overall, Kansas City
Bronze: DT Leo Nomellini, 1950, 1st round, 11th pick overall, San Francisco
Seven Gophers are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the top three draft picks were easy, starting with Carl Eller. The five-time All-Pro played 15 years for Minnesota and getting on five All-Pro teams. The star of the Purple People Eater defensive front helped the Vikings get to four Super Bowls.
Bobby Bell was drafted by Minnesota, but he chose Kansas City and the AFL. It all worked out just fine as he made six All-Pro teams and won a Super Bowl over the Vikings on the way to Canton.
Leo Nomellini went to ten Pro Bowls and was on six All-Pro teams as one of the superstar defensive tackles of the 1950s.