Who are the best NFL Draft picks from each of the Pac-12 programs. Which players turned into the greatest stars at the next level?
USC is as good as anyone when it comes to cranking out historic NFL draft picks, and the Pac-12 overall isn’t bad, but some programs are shockingly light.
Who were the best draft picks ever from the Pac-12 programs?
This isn’t a list of the top pro players to come from the Pac-12 schools – these are the best draft picks.
That means 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.
California Best NFL Draft Picks
QB Aaron Rodgers
2005, 1st round, 24th pick overall, Green Bay
Silver: TE Tony Gonzalez, 1997, 1st round, 13th pick overall Kansas City
Bronze: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, 1st round, 31st pick overall, Oakland
The problem with Cal is that most of the top players did big things for teams that didn’t draft them. Hall of Fame LB Les Richter was drafted by the Dallas Texans, but spent his career with the Los Angeles Rams. Hardy Nickerson didn’t do most of his big things with Pittsburgh, and Marshawn Lynch did his best work for Seattle, not Buffalo.
Aaron Rodgers was worth the wait until the 24th pick. The 2011, 2014 and 2020 NFL MVP, three-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler, and 2010 Super Bowl MVP is on the short list of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
Tony Gonzalez finished his career as the most productive tight end of all-time catching 1,325 passes for over 15,000 yards and 111 touchdowns. The Hall of Fame talent was named to six All-Pro teams with Kansas City going to 14 Pro Bowls.
Nnamdi Asomugha finished up his career with a few dud seasons, but in his eight years in Oakland he went to three Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro.
Oregon Best NFL Draft Picks
QB Dan Fouts
1973, 3rd round, 64th pick overall, San Diego
Silver: DT Haloti Ngata, 2006, 1st round, 12th pick overall
Bronze: QB Norm Van Brocklin, 1949, 4th round, 37th pick overall
While he never played in a Super Bowl, much less win one, Dan Fouts got to the Hall of Fame throwing for over 43,000 yards with 254 touchdowns, earning his way on two All-Pro teams and six Pro Bowls.
Haloti Ngata will be a sure-thing Hall of Famer after anchoring the great Baltimore defense for nine years with a Super Bowl, two All-Pro seasons, and five Pro Bowl honors.
Norm Van Brocklin was a Hall of Fame bomber who did some big things for Philadelphia, but he spent the first nine years of his career with the Los Angeles Rams going to six Pro Bowls.
Oregon State Best NFL Draft Picks
WR Chad Johnson
2001, 2nd round, 36th pick overall, Cincinnati
Silver: RB Steven Jackson, 2004, 1st round, 24th pick overall, St. Louis Rams
Bronze: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 2001, 7th round, 204th overall, Cincinnati
Forgetting all the weirdness and the painfully unfunny self-promotion, Chad Johnson was a whale of a receiver for Cincinnati catching 751 passes for 10,783 yards and 66 scores in his ten years, being named to two All-Pro teams and going to six Pro Bowls.
Steven Jackson turned into one of the best all-around backs in the 2000s catching 407 passes and running for 10,138 yards for the Rams on the way to three Pro Bowls.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh was always second banana next to Johnson, but he put up some massive numbers of his own catching 507 passes in his eight years with the Bengals.
Stanford Best NFL Draft Picks
QB John Elway
1983, 1st round, 1st pick overall, Baltimore
Silver: WR James Lofton, 1978, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Green Bay
Bronze: S John Lynch, 1993, 3rd round, 82nd pick overall, Tampa Bay
Okay, technically, John Elway probably shouldn’t count according to the criteria of players needing to rock for the teams that drafted them. He was Baltimore’s draft pick, and the franchise famously botched it, but it was a post-draft trade that Denver was able to make. An exception is being made to give the Cardinal credit for their top star.
Tom Brady might have more Super Bowls, and name a slew of other quarterbacks and they could be in the Greatest of All-Time category, but in terms of drama, and what he had to work with early in his career, Elway belongs in the discussion.
James Lofton finished up putting up some huge numbers or the Raiders and Buffalo, but the Hall of Famer was dominant for Green Bay catching 530 passes for 9,656 yards and 49 scores going to six Pro Bowls and getting on the 1981 All-Pro team.
Flip a coin between Richard Sherman and John Lynch for the final spot. Sherman went to five Pro Bowls and earned three All-Pro nods as an elite corner for Seattle before getting hurt, but Lynch was a force for Tampa Bay for 11 years before finishing up with five straight Pro Bowl seasons for Denver. He went to five Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro for the Buccaneers.
Washington Best NFL Draft Picks
RB Hugh McElhenny
1952, 1st round, 9th pick overall, San Francisco
Silver: DT Arnie Weinmeister, 1945, 17th round, 166th pick overall, New York Yanks
Bronze: C Olin Kreutz, 1998, 3rd round, 64th pick, Chicago
Remember, Hall of Famer Warren Moon went to the CFL first and wasn’t drafted, and Mark Brunell was drafted by Green Bay, not Jacksonville.
Hugh McElhenny ended his career with three other teams, but for nine years he was a force for San Francisco, being named to two All-Pro teams and going to five Pro Bowls in his Hall of Fame career.
Arnie Weinmeister started out with the New York Yanks and slid over to the New York Giants once the Yanks went away. A five-time All-Pro defensive tackle was an easy lock for the Hall of Fame as a devastating interior pass rusher.
Olin Kreutz was the mainstay and leader for the Chicago line for 13 years going to six Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro in 2006.
Washington State Best NFL Draft Picks
QB Drew Bledsoe
1993, 1st round, 1st pick overall, New England
Silver: DT Keith Millard, 1984, 1st round, 13th pick overall, Minnesota
Bronze: FB Keith Lincoln, 1961, 2nd round, 15th pick overall, San Diego
Drew Bledsoe did some nice things with Buffalo and Dallas, and he’s most famous for his time at New England before getting hurt to open the door for Tom Brady to be Tom Brady. Bledsoe put up an amazing run for the Patriots, throwing for close to 30,000 yards and helping get them to two Super Bowls.
Keith Millard only played for six years with the Vikings, but he was the 1989 NFL Defensive Player of the Year with two All-Pro and Pro Bowl appearances. He was a rock next to Chris Doleman in the interior of the line.
Keith Lincoln played seven years or San Diego going to four Pro Bowls and being named to the 1963 and 1964 All-Pro teams finishing his time with the Chargers running for close to 2,700 yards and catching 123 passes.