The greatest NFL draft picks of all-time from each SEC school.
Who were the best NFL draft picks from every SEC school?
Considering the conference is loaded with talent year after year after year, you’d think this would be easy.
This isn’t a list of the top pro players to come from the SEC schools – these are the best draft picks.
That means the 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 with 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.
OG John Hannah
1973, 1st round, 4th pick overall, New England
Silver: LB Derrick Thomas, 1989, 1st round, 4th pick overall, Kansas City
Bronze: TE Ozzie Newsome, 1978, 1st round, 23rd pick overall, Cleveland
John Hannah is the easy choice, playing 13 years for the Patriots and going to nine Pro Bowls and being named to seven All-Pro teams on the way to the Hall of Fame.
Derrick Thomas played 11 years for Kansas City cranking up 126.5 sacks in his Hall of Fame career, and Ozzie Newsome became one of the prototypes for NFL tight ends for Cleveland on his way to Canton.
DT Dan Hampton
1979, 1st round, 4th pick overall, Chicago Bears
Silver: S Steve Atwater, 1989, 1st round, 20th pick overall, Denver
Bronze: OT Jason Peters, 2004, undrafted, Buffalo
Dan Hampton might not have been the most famous star of the epic Chicago Bear defenses, but the four-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer was the best.
Lance Alworth was an all-timer for San Diego and would be an obvious choice, but he was drafted by San Francisco and Oakland in the NFL/AFL war.
Steve Atwater suffered from not being Ronnie Lott, but he made 1,038 tackles in his ten years with Denver going to eight Pro Bowls and being named to two All-Pro teams.
Jason Peters was an undrafted free agent who grew into a two-time Pro Bowl performer for Buffalo before turning in a fringe Hall of Fame career with Philadelphia – he was good enough for the Bills for five years to make the cut.
QB Cam Newton
2011, 1st round, 1st pick overall, Carolina
Silver: OT Willie Anderson, 1996, 1st round, 10th pick overall, Cincinnati
Bronze: C Forrest Blue, 1968, 1st round, 15th pick overall, San Francisco
Kevin Greene was one of the greatest pro players to come from Auburn, but he was just okay for the team that drafted him – the Los Angeles Rams – and became great with Pittsburgh and Carolina.
Cam Newton might not have the longevity quite yet, but he’s a record-setting MVP who carried the Panthers to the Super Bowl. Yeah, they lost, but he was the franchise quarterback Carolina needed.
Willie Anderson played 12 years for Cincinnati as a mainstay at right tackle, going to four Pro Bowls and being named to three All-Pro teams. Forrest Blue was an anchor for San Francisco for seven years, growing into a four-time Pro Bowl performer with two All-Pro nods.
RB Emmitt Smith
1990, 1st round, 17th pick overall, Dallas
Silver: LB Jack Youngblood, 1971, 1st round, 20th pick overall, Los Angeles Rams
Bronze: OT Lomas Brown, 1985, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Detroit
There’s obviously no other choice for the top spot than the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Emmitt Smith might have been a slam-dunk, but Jack Youngblood was named to more All-Pro teams (5 to 4) and went to one less Pro Bowl (8 to 7).
Flip a coin on the third-best option. Wilber Marshall might have been more sensational for Chicago, but Lomas Brown’s 11 years of service for Detroit with six Pro Bowls and 1995 All-Pro recognition won out. An argument could be made for Maurkice Pouncey, Fred Taylor and Kevin Carter, too.
QB Fran Tarkenton
1961, 3rd round, 29th pick overall, Minnesota
Silver: DT Richard Seymour, 2001, 1st round, 6th pick overall, New England
Bronze: RB Terrell Davis, 1995, 6th round, 196th pick overall, Denver
Fran Tarkenton gets credit for starting out his career at Minnesota – he went to two Pro Bowls in his first six years – and then coming back after five phenomenal years with the New York Giants. In his second stint, he went to three more Pro Bowls and was named to the 1975 All-Pro team for the Vikings, finishing his Minnesota career with close to 34,000 passing yards with 239 touchdowns.
Terrell Davis only played for six years with Denver, but his three All-Pro/Pro Bowl seasons, two Super Bowls, one Super Bowl MVP and 1998 NFL MVP – and considering his value in the sixth round – were good enough to get the No. 3 call.
Richard Seymour was every bit as valuable for New England, earning three All-Pro nods with five Pro Bowl appearances as one of the stars of a few championship Patriot defenses.
Champ Bailey might have a claim to the top spot, but he only spent five years at Washington – going to four Pro Bowls – before turning in a Hall of Fame career with Denver. Hines Ward has a claim with his 13 years at Pittsburgh.
C Dermontti Dawson
1988, 2nd round, 44th pick overall, Pittsburgh
Silver: C Jeff Van Note, 1969, 11th round, 262nd pick overall, Atlanta
Bronze: DE Art Still, 1978, 1st round, 2nd pick overall, Kansas City
It could be argued that Dawson belongs on the all-time team of most valuable draft picks. Taken 44th overall, he anchored the Steeler line for 13 seasons being named to six All-Pro teams and going to seven Pro Bowls in his Hall of Fame career.
It took Jeff Van Note a while to get into the mix, but once he got a start in his second season, he didn’t give up the spot in his 18-year career with five Pro Bowl trips along the way.
Art Still played ten years for Kansas City, going to four Pro Bowls and turning into a very good, very solid pass rusher.
OG Alan Faneca
1998, 1st round, 26th pick overall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Silver: WR/S Johnny Robinson, 1960, Dallas Texans
Bronze: CB Patrick Peterson, 2011, 1st round, 5th pick overall, Arizona
Alan Faneca belongs in the Hall of Fame. He’ll get there someday after an elite career, being named to six All-Pro teams in seven years and going to seven Pro Bowls in his ten years with the Steelers.
Johnny Robinson is an interesting case. He was drafted in the first round with the third pick overall by Detroit, but he ended up choosing the Dallas Texans – which turned into the Kansas City Chiefs – as a territorial pick. The fringe Hall of Fame candidate was a six-time All-Pro and went to seven Pro Bowls.
There might be players with more tenure than Patrick Peterson, but he quickly became one of the NFL’s elite stars with seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nods in his first seven years.
Kevin Mawae would’ve made the cut, but he didn’t start to stand out until he left Seattle for the Jets.