50 Best Draft Picks From Small/Unknown Schools


One big, if not the biggest, pet peeves of mine is when fans or anybody sees their team draft a player from, let’s say San Diego State, and they cry out loud like they just saw “Two Girls, One Cup” or got a picture text from Brett Favre. They’re the same people who think the only good players come from the SEC, Texas, or California schools. It’s easy to make general judgments like that, especially if you’re a casual fan. If that’s the case, I have nothing against you. You don’t know any better. But in some places, where football is life (quite a few SEC and Big 12 places out there), people have trouble seeing past all the “great” wide receivers and quarterbacks from Florida or “future MVP quarterbacks” from Texas Tech. Pet peeve number two: huge stats in college don’t equal a good NFL prospect. I’m not saying everyone who follows and loves the SEC or Big 12 is like this, but in seeing so many comments on football websites, a lot of peoples’ love for their team gets in the way of seeing how a player stacks up as an NFL prospect.

Now, I’m not saying that the big/popular schools don’t produce a lot of NFL talent because they absolutely do. I’m just trying to let it be known that scouting departments, for the most part, do their homework on the entire country, not just the ACC, Big 10/12, SEC, and Pac 10, although that is where a ton of the talent comes from.

In order to prove to you that smaller and unknown schools produce big-time talent, I’ve compiled a list of very good players, some legendary, that I’ve seen in my lifetime that came from those types of schools. I went back in the NFL Draft’s history and went through every team’s draft since 1987, the year I was born. I came up with 89 players who could be considered for my list. In addition to those players, I probably missed quite a few more players since I only started seriously following football in 1996 when I was nine years old.

The list is in alphabetical order, NOT ranked in order of greatness (I just know if there are any comments on this, it’ll be from some guy criticizing me because Jared Allen is first). Some players on the list are young and have quite a few years left, so I put their age to show that even though they may only have one Pro Bowl selection, they still have years left to get more accolades. Kurt Warner is not on the list because he was undrafted out of Northern Iowa. Check out the list after the jump.

1.       Jared Allen DE, Idaho State – 3x Pro Bowl, 3x 1st Team All-Pro

2.       Larry Allen OL, Sonoma State – 6x 1st team All-Pro, 11x Pro Bowl, XXX Super Bowl champ, 1990’s & 2000’s All-Decade Team

3.       Isaac Bruce WR, Memphis – 1x All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowl, Super Bowl XXXIV champ

4.       Dexter Coakley OLB, Appalachian State – 3x Pro Bowl

5.       Ben Coates TE, Livingstone – 5x Pro Bowl, 2x AP 1st Team All-Pro, 1990’s All-Decade Team, Super Bowl XXXV champ

6.       Chris Cooley TE, Utah State – 2x Pro Bowl, 28

7.       Bryan Cox LB, Western Illinois – 3x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro

8.       Hugh Douglas DE, Central State (OH) – 3x Pro Bowl, DROY

9.       Donald Driver WR, Alcorn State – 3x Pro Bowl

10.   Jahri Evans OG, Bloomsburg – 27, 1x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, Super Bowl XLIV champ

11.   Marshall Faulk RB, San Diego State – 7x Pro Bowl, 3x 1st Team All-Pro, XXXIV Super Bowl champ, AP NFL MVP, 3x NFL OPOY

12.   Brett Favre QB, Southern Mississippi – 11x Pro Bowl, 3x 1st Team All-Pro, 3x AP NFL MVP, Super Bowl XXI champ, 1990’s All-Decade Team, numerous NFL records

13.   Joe Flacco QB, Delaware – 2008 NFL ROY

14.   Rich Gannon QB, Delaware – 4x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro, AP NFL MVP

15.   La’Roi Glover DT, San Diego State – 6x Pro Bowl, 1x 1st Team All-Pro

16.   Rodney Harrison S, Western Illinois – 2x Pro Bowl, 2x 1st Team All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl champ

17.   Joe Horn WR, Itawamba CC (MS) – 4x Pro Bowl

18.   Vincent Jackson WR, Northern Colorado – 1x Pro Bowl, 27

19.   Chris Johnson RB, East Carolina – NFL OPOY, 2000+ rushing yards in 1 year, 2x Pro Bowl, 1x 1st Team All-Pro

20.   Leon Lett DT, Emporia State – 3x Super Bowl champ, 2x Pro Bowl

21.   Brock Marion DB, Nevada-Reno – 3x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl champ

22.   Brandon Marshall WR, Central Florida – 2x Pro Bowl,

23.   Rashean Mathis CB, Bethune-Cookman – 1x Pro Bowler, 1x 1st Team All-Pro

24.   Robert Mathis DE, Alabama A&M – 2x Pro Bowl, Super Bowl XLI champ

25.   Keenan McCardell WR, UNLV – 2x Pro Bowl, 2x Super Bowl Champ

26.   Steve McNair QB, Alcorn State – 3x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, AP NFL MVP

27.   Brian Mitchell RB/KR, Louisiana-Lafayette – 1x Pro Bowl, Super Bowl XXVI champ, 1x 1st Team All-Pro, multiple return records

28.   Terrell Owens WR, Tennessee-Chattanooga – 5x All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowl, 2000’s All-Decade Team

29.   Bryce Paup DE/OLB, Northern Iowa – 4x Pro Bowl, 1995 DPOY

30.   Robert Porcher DE, South Carolina State – 3x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro

31.   Joey Porter LB, Colorado State – 4x Pro Bowl, 1x 1st Team All-Pro, Super Bowl XL champ, NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team

32.   Willie Roaf OT, Louisiana Tech – 11x Pro Bowl, 6x 1st Team All-Pro, 1990’s & 2000’s All-Decade Team

33.   Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB, Tennessee State – 1x Pro Bowl, 24

34.   Michael Roos OT, Eastern Washington – 1x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 28

35.   Shannon Sharpe TE, Savannah State- 8x Pro Bowl, 4x AP 1st Team All-Pro, 3x Super Bowl champ, 1990’s All-Decade Team

36.   Darren Sharper S, William & Mary – 5x Pro Bowl, 2x AP 1st Team All-Pro, Super Bowl XLIV champ, 2000’s All-Decade Team

37.   Jimmy Smith WR, Jackson State – 5x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl champ

38.   Michael Strahan DE, Texas Southern – 7x Pro Bowl, 4x 1st Team All-Pro, Super Bowl XLII champ, 2x NFC DPOY, NFL record 22.5 sacks in single season, 2000’s All-Decade Team

39.   Patrick Surtain CB, Southern Mississippi – 3x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro

40.   Jason Taylor DE, Akron – 3x 1st Team All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowl, 2000’s All-Decade Team, AP NFL DPOY

41.   Adalius Thomas LB, Southern Mississippi – Super Bowl XXXV champ, 2x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro

42.   Adam Timmerman OL, South Dakota State – 2x Super Bowl champ, 2x Pro Bowl

43.   Michael Turner RB, Northern Illinois – 1x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 28

44.   Osi Umenyiora DE, Troy – 2x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, Super Bowl XLII champ

45.   Brian Urlacher LB, New Mexico – 6x Pro Bowl, 4x All-Pro, DROY, AP NFL DPOY, 2000’s All-Decade Team

46.   DeMarcus Ware OLB, Troy – 4x Pro Bowl, 3x 1st Team All-Pro, 2000’s All-Decade Team

47.   Roddy White WR, Alabama-Birmingham – 2x pro bowl

48.   Aeneas Williams CB, Southern- 8x Pro Bowler, 4x All-Pro, 1990’s All-Decade Team

49.   DeAngelo Williams RB, Memphis – 1x All-Pro, 1x Pro Bowl, 27

50.   Erik Williams OL, Central State (OH) – 4x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro