2022 NFL Draft: Best Picks of All-Time From Every SEC School

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2022 NFL Draft: Best Picks of All-Time From Every SEC School

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2022 NFL Draft: Best Picks of All-Time From Every SEC School

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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 – roughly a quarter of every draft lately is made up by SEC players – but this is way harder than you might think.

This isn’t a list of the top pro players to come from the SEC schools – these are the best draft picks.

If an SEC player came up with a great career for someone other than the team that drafted him, he’s not on this list, or he’s diminished a bit.

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.

2022 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, Analysis
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Alabama Best NFL Draft Picks

OG John Hannah
1973, 1st round, 4th pick overall, New England

Silver: LB Derrick Thomas, 1989, 1st round, 4th pick overall, Kansas City
Bronze: WR Julio Jones, 2011, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Atlanta

John Hannah is the easy top choice, playing 13 years for the Patriots with nine Pro Bowls and 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.

Ozzie Newsome became one of the prototypes for NFL tight ends for Cleveland on his way to Canton, but Julio Jones has carved out a better all-around career with seven Pro Bowls in his nine seasons in at Atlanta with two All-Pro teams.

Arkansas Best NFL Draft Picks

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 on the epic Chicago Bear defenses, but the four-time Pro Bowl rock and Hall of Famer was arguably the best player.

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 status-wise during his era from not being Ronnie Lott, but he made 1,038 tackles in his ten years with Denver on the way to eight Pro Bowls and 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.

Auburn Best NFL Draft Picks

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

This was one of the biggest surprises doing this. Auburn has had plenty of good NFL start, but it didn’t crank out a ton of all-timers like you might think.

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 be done at Carolina, but he was a record-setting MVP who carried the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance. Yeah, they lost, but he was the franchise quarterback the team 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.

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 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

Dawson belongs on any 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.

LSU Best NFL Draft Picks

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 season 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 for KC.

There might be players with more tenure than Patrick Peterson, but he quickly became one of the NFL’s elite stars with eight Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nods.

Kevin Mawae would’ve made the cut, but he didn’t start to stand out until he left Seattle for the Jets. Andrew Whitworth has an argument for all he did for Cincinnati.

Mississippi State Best NFL Draft Picks

C Kent Hull
1986, Free Agent, Buffalo Bills

Silver: DE Fletcher Cox, 2012, 1st round, 12th pick overall, Philadelphia
Bronze: LB Joe Fortunato, 1952, 7th round, 80th overall, Chicago

The Mississippi State options are just plain sad – but Dak Prescott is going to be at the top of this list very, very soon.

Kent Hull wasn’t drafted, but he became an 11-year starter for Buffalo during the glory days, going to three Pro Bowls and being named a two-time All-Pro.

Joe Fortunato had a good career with the Bears, being named to three All-Pro teams and going to five Pro Bowls in his 12-year career.

Fletcher Cox will soon be pushing for the top spot unless Dak gets there first, going to six Pro Bowls, earning an All-Pro nod. He was a lead star for a Super Bowl-winning defense.

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.

Ole Miss Best NFL Draft Picks

QB Eli Manning
2004, 1st round, 1st overall pick, San Diego Chargers*

Silver: QB Patrick Willis, 2007, 1st round, 11th overall pick, San Francisco
Bronze: LB Larry Grantham, 1960, 15th round, 178th overall pick, New York Titans

Even though this piece is based on draft picks for the teams that drafted them, the exception is made for draft day trades – the New York Giants get credit for making the deal for Manning, even though San Diego technically drafted the future Hall of Famer.

Manning had a far better career than he gets credit for in the age of Tom, Peyton, Drew and Aaron, winning two Super Bowls and throwing for over 57,000 yards and 366 touchdowns in his 16 seasons.

Patrick Willis might have been the best linebacker in football during his brief seven-year career, going to seven Pro Bowls and being named to five All-Pro teams.

Larry Grantham was part of a territorial draft selection process by the AFL, the five-time All-Pro put in a Hall of Fame-worthy career – he deserves to be in.

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 from the Vols would’ve been considered for just about anyone else, but Peyton Manning … duh. Reggie White – after his USFL stint – double-duh.

And yeah, Philadelphia is getting credit for drafting White.

11-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten 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 taking off – and later coming back.

Texas A&M Best NFL Draft Picks

DE Von Miller
2011, 1st round, 2nd pick overall, Denver

Silver: DB/P Yale Lary, 1952, 3rd round, 34th pick overall, Detroit
Bronze: OT Richmond Webb, 1990, 1st round, 9th pick overall, Miami

This is so tough.

You don’t know Yale Lary, and it’s really, really boring to put a guy No. 2 because of his punting to go along with 50 interceptions, but the Hall of Famer played 11 years for Detroit, was named to three All-Pro teams, and was a part of nine Pro Bowls. He probably deserves to be in the top spot.

Von Miller has a Super Bowl MVP, eight Pro Bowl appearances and three All-Pro teams on the resumé from his time at Denver – he’s just a better pick than Lary.

Richmond Webb went to the Pro Bowl his first seven years in the league, being named to two All-Pro teams over his ten years with the Dolphins.

Lester Hayes deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and should be No. 3A on the list – and, based on his overall career, should probably be on over Webb.

A case could also be made for punter Shane Lechler, who doubled everyone else when it comes to All-Pro recognition, being named to six teams.

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

Yuck.

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 was 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.

2022 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, Analysis
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OTsOGs & Cs | DEs & Edge | DTs
LBs | Ss | CBs | 50 Greatest Value Draft Picks Ever
NFL Draft by college over last 5 years: 1-130 rankings

 

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