Who are the best NFL Draft picks from each of the Big Ten programs? Which players turned into the greatest stars at the next level?
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 coming from the conference?
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.
Big Ten East
Indiana Greatest NFL Draft Picks
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. He caught 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.
Maryland Greatest NFL Draft Picks
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 an outside linebacker. That didn’t really work, so he was moved to defensive tackle and he became one of the greatest linemen 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.
Boomer Esiason became 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.
Michigan Greatest NFL Draft Picks
QB Tom Brady
2000, 6th round, 199th pick overall, New England
Silver: OL Dan Dierdorf, 1971, 2nd round, 43rd pick overall, St. Louis
Bronze: CB Charles Woodson, 1998, 1st round, 4th pick overall, Oakland
Good luck ever coming up with a better draft pick than New England taking Tom Brady in the sixth round in 2000. He turned out okay with a whopping 14 Pro Bowl honors, three All-Pro teams, and six Super Bowls … and then he left and won another Super Bowl.
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.
Michigan State Greatest NFL Draft Picks
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. He was 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.
WR Derrick Mason probably belongs on the list, but Ed Budde spent 14 years as a rock for the Kansas City offense, going to seven Pro Bowls and making two All-Pro teams.
Ohio State Greatest NFL Draft Picks
OT Jim Parker
1957, 1st round, 8th pick overall, Baltimore
Silver: OT Orlando Pace, 1997, 1st round, 1st pick overall, St. Louis
Bronze: LB Randy Gradishar, 1974, 1st round, 14th pick overall, Denver
Jim Parker was an all-timer of an All-Pro blocker, getting named to the team eight times at various spots for Baltimore. He was the anchor of some of the NFL’s greatest teams, and he helped keep Johnny Unitas upright.
Orlando Pace took a little while to warm up, and then he became a Hall of Fame blocker and one of the stars of the Greatest Show On Turf. He was a three-time All-Pro and went to seven Pro Bowls.
Randy Gradishar is on the short list of the greatest players to not be in the Hall of Fame despite going to seven Pro Bowls and being named to two All-Pro teams.
Penn State Greatest NFL Draft Picks
LB Jack Ham
1971, 2nd round, 34th pick overall, Pittsburgh
Silver: RB Franco Harris, 1972, 1st round, 13th pick overall, Pittsburgh
Bronze: RB Lenny Moore, 1956, 1st round, 9th pick overall, Baltimore
A standout even on a Pittsburgh defense full of all-timers, Jack Ham was a seven-time All-Pro on the way to a Hall of Fame career. Very consistent and very good for a very long time, he played 12 years for the Steelers at the highest of levels.
Franco Harris was the missing piece of the Pittsburgh Super Bowl puzzle, adding the rushing punch with close to 12,000 yards with 91 touchdowns in his Hall of Fame career. He started out going to nine straight Pro Bowls and was named a 1977 All-Pro.
Lenny Moore played 12 years for Baltimore earning five All-Pro honors in his Hall of Fame career.
Rutgers Greatest NFL Draft Picks
S Deron Cherry
1981, Undrafted, Kansas City
Silver: RB Ray Rice, 2008, 2nd round, 55th pick overall, 2008
Bronze: S Devin McCourty, 2010, 1st round, 27th pick overall, 2010
Rutgers has a horrible, horrible history of NFL draft prospects, so go ahead and put Deron Cherry in this even though he wasn’t drafted. Kansas City did just fine, getting a six-time Pro Bowl talent and three-time All-Pro with 50 picks in his 11-year career.
Ray Rice – up until it all went off the rails – was a terrific pro for six years, running for over 1,000 yards four times and going to three Pro Bowls.
Devin McCourty was only named to two Pro Bowls, but he became a huge part of the New England defense for over a decade.