Who are the best NFL Draft picks from each of the SEC programs? Which players turned into the greatest stars at the next level?
Who were the best NFL draft picks from every SEC school?
Considering the conference dominates the NFL draft with all of its talent, 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.
Florida Best NFL Draft Picks
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.
Georgia Best NFL Draft Picks
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, the 1998 NFL MVP – and considering his value in the sixth round – were good enough to get the Hall of Famer 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.
Kentucky Best NFL Draft Picks
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.
Missouri Best NFL Draft Picks
TE Kellen Winslow
1979, 1st round, 13th pick overall, San Diego
Silver: CB Roger Wehrli, 1969, 1st round, 19th pick overall, St. Louis
Bronze: DE Justin Smith, 2001, 1st round, 4th pick overall Cincinnati
Kellen Winslow might be the greatest pre-2000 tight end ever, catching 541 passes for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns in his nine-year Hall of Fame career. He went to four straight Pro Bowls and earned three straight All-Pro honors as part of the high-octane Charger attacks.
Wehrli probably deserves the top spot, but he didn’t revolutionize his position like Winslow did. The Hall of Fame, three-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler was a mainstay of the Cardinal secondary for 14 years picking off 40 passes.
Justin Smith might have been a five-time Pro Bowler and 2011 All-Pro for San Francisco, but his seven years with Cincinnati to start things out were strong, too, coming up with 43.5 sacks.
South Carolina Best NFL Draft Picks
WR Sterling Sharpe
1988, 1st round, 7th pick overall, Green Bay
Silver: CB Bobby Bryant, 1967, 7th round, 167h pick overall, Minnesota
Bronze: DE John Abraham, 2000, 1st round, 13th pick overall, New York Jets
Sharpe just started to get in on the Brett Favre Green Bay Packer fun before getting hurt, cutting short his terrific career. He only played for seven years, but he was named to three All-Pro teams and went to five Pro Bowls catching 595 passes for 8,134 yards and 65 scores.
Bobby Bryant was serviceable, playing 13 years for the Vikings going to two Pro Bowls and picking off 51 passes. Longevity matters, doing a nice job for the Purple People Eater defenses that were so strong throughout the 1970s.
John Abraham might have been No. 1, but he only played six years for the Jets, going to three Pro Bowls and earning 2001 All-Pro recognition.
Tennessee Best NFL Draft Picks
QB Peyton Manning
1998, 1st round, 1st pick overall, Indianapolis
Silver: DE Reggie White, 1984, 1st round supplemental, 4th pick overall, Philadelphia
Bronze: TE Jason Witten, 2003, 3rd round, 69th pick overall, Dallas
You had better come really, really strong to get in the mix for the Tennessee top three.
About 20 different draft picks would’ve been considered for just about anyone else, but Peyton Manning … duh. Reggie White – after his USFL stint – double-duh.
11-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten has put together a Hall of Fame career as strong as any tight end in NFL history, catching 1,215 passes for 12,977 yards and 72 touchdowns for Dallas before leaving and coming back to Las Vegas.
Vanderbilt Best NFL Draft Picks
OT Will Wolford
1986, 1st round, 20th pick overall, Buffalo
Silver: DE Dennis Harrison, 1978, 4th round, 92nd pick overall, Philadelphia
Bronze: QB Jay Cutler, 2006, 1st round, 11th pick overall, Denver
Jay Cutler is the best pro to come from Vandy, but he only played three years for Denver. He went to a Pro Bowl, but his career has been defined by his tenure with Chicago. Even so, he’s better than most of the other options.
Jim Arnold is the only Commodore to ever make an All-Pro team, but 1) he’s a punter, and 2) he only played three years for Kansas City.
Will Wolford was a nice part of the Super Bowl-caliber Buffalo offensive lines, playing seven years for the Bills at left tackle – keeping Jim Kelly upright – going to two Pro Bowls. Dennis Harrison only played seven years for Philadelphia, but he grew into a terrific pass rusher.