What happened to each B1G team's top draft pick in the last 20 years?
When you think about the great B1G players in the NFL during the last 20 years, you probably think of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, J.J. Watt and Charles Woodson, just to name a few.
But amazingly, none of them cracked this list.
In fact, it might surprise some that among the top draft picks for each B1G team, only one was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Considering eight of the 14 current B1G teams had players selected in the first three picks of the draft in the last 20 years, that’s saying something.
But if anything, it says that unanimous All-Americans aren’t locks to make it past their rookie deals.
Here’s how things worked out for each B1G team’s highest-drafted player in the last 20 years:
LB Kevin Hardy (first round, 2nd overall) — The Dick Butkus Award winner played alongside one of the most talented group of linebackers the B1G has ever seen. As a result, he and Simeon Rice were selected second and third in the 1996 draft. Hardy had a solid nine-year NFL career that saw him earn All-Pro honors in 1999, during which he led the Jacksonville Jaguars to their best season in franchise history.
DT Nathan Davis (second round, 32nd overall) — The lone second-rounder on this list, Davis’ NFL career never really got started after he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1997. “Big Nate” played sparingly in just two seasons in the NFL and had a bit of a second life playing in the CFL. Still, he’s been called one of the Falcons’ top busts in franchise history. His calling card could’ve been as a shot-putter, which was where he set two Indiana records and won three B1G titles.
OT Robert Gallery (first round, 2nd overall) — After winning the Outland Trophy in 2003, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King dubbed Gallery one of the “best offensive lineman prospects in years.” But on the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders, the former Hawkeye was moved around on the offensive line and he never truly found a home. He had cups of coffee with the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots before his career ended in 2012.
TE Vernon Davis (first round, 6th overall)* — Davis never played in the B1G, but Maryland proudly claims him as one of its best pros ever. The freakish tight end has had his lows — the Mike Singletary incident sparked one of the greatest rants ever — and his highs. Despite the fact that he’s had his fair share of injury issues, the 10-year veteran played in two Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls and he even was tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns in 2009. He’s not a Hall of Famer, but he’s still one of the better tight ends in the last 20 years.
OT Jake Long (first round, 1st overall) — It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight years since Long was the top pick in the draft. That’s also the last time a B1G player went No. 1 overall. The former Michigan All-American started off his career with four straight Pro Bowl appearances, but injuries have prevented him from returning to form. Long is still trying to overcome two torn ACLs, which was a struggle with the Atlanta Falcons this year. Though he’s been far from a bust, Long doesn’t appear that he’ll ever meet the high bar he set for himself early in his career.
WR Charles Rogers (first round, 2nd overall) — It’s ironic that in the Mark Dantonio era, Michigan State has been known for churning out successful pros outside of the first round. But before Dantonio, Rogers was the most productive receiver ever at MSU, where he broke the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a touchdown catch. Some thought he would be Detroit’s Randy Moss. Instead, he failed three drug tests, he couldn’t stay healthy, he was out of shape, and ultimately, out of the league in three years.
RB Laurence Maroney (first round, 21st overall) — Fittingly, Minnesota is represented by a workhorse tailback. Three straight years of 1,000 yards led to the Patriots rolling the dice on Maroney in 2006. Unfortunately, he’s one of the reasons why the Mel Kiper Jr-types believe running backs are never worth a first-round pick. Maroney carved out a role in New England’s for four years, even as the team’s feature back during its 18-0 start. But after a brief stint in Denver, Maroney’s career was over by 2010. Thus is the life of an NFL running back.
DT Ndamukong Suh (first round, 2nd overall)* — Mel Kiper Jr. might’ve shocked some by suggesting Suh could be the most dominant defensive tackle prospect he’d ever seen. Say what you want about the former Husker’s temper tantrums, but there’s no denying he was one of the league’s best players during his time in Detroit. A four-time first-team All-Pro, the Miami Dolphins signed Suh to a six-year, $114 million contract with $60 million guaranteed, which was the largest deal ever for a defensive player. His first year in Miami wasn’t what many were hoping for, but the 29-year-old still figures to be one of league’s more dominant forces for years to come.
LB Napoleon Harris (first round, 23th overall) — Harris proved to be versatile on and off the field. At Northwestern, he played football and basketball as a freshman. He then focused on just football, where he played outside linebacker and defensive end. The highlight of his seven-year NFL career came when he started for the AFC-Champion Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. After he retired in 2009, Harris became a politician and has been a member of the Illinois Senate for the last three years. Typical Northwestern.
OT Orlando Pace (first round, 1st overall) — The most accomplished player on this list, Pace had quite the college and professional pedigree. The former Heisman Trophy candidate — the offensive lineman finished fourth in the voting — was named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century team. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-team All-Pro, Pace earned a spot in the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. Even better, he got the nod this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “The Pancake Man” might also be the best nickname on this list, too.
DE Courtney Brown (first round, 1st overall) — Few could get after the quarterback like Brown could. The All-American racked up an NCAA-record 33 sacks in his four years leading Joe Paterno’s defense. Unfortunately for Brown, the Cleveland Browns had the No. 1 overall pick in 2000. His only full season came in his rookie year, and after five injury-plagued seasons in Cleveland, he played closed his career in Denver. Because of his chronic health issues, Brown was another Cleveland draft bust.
DE Ryan Kerrigan (first round, 16th overall) — The former B1G Defensive Player of the Year was one of the rare first-round hits for Dan Snyder. Kerrigan hasn’t missed a game since he was drafted in 2011, and he’s been a model of consistency. The pass-rushing specialist signed a five-year, $57.5 million contract extension before the 2015 season to stay in Washington. The 27-year-old outside linebacker has all the makings of a Pro-Bowl pass-rusher for years to come, especially if his impeccable health maintains.
OT Anthony Davis (first round, 11th overall)* — The homegrown kid was a major recruiting victory for Greg Schiano, and he proved to be even better than advertised. The second-team All-American spent four years anchoring Jim Harbaugh’s successful San Francisco 49ers teams. But once Harbaugh left the NFL, so did Davis. He took a one-year break from football to let his body heal after suffering a severe concussion at the end of the 2014 season. Davis did announce he planned on returning to the team in 2016, and that he would be “the best right tackle in the NFL.” The woeful 49ers wouldn’t mind that.
OT Joe Thomas (first round, 3rd overall) — Thomas could retire this year and he’d still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That’s how good he’s been. The former Badger All-American made the Pro Bowl every year since joining the league in 2007. He’s the only offensive lineman ever to start his career with nine Pro Bowl appearances. The 31-year-old hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, either. The six-time first-team All-Pro was just named Pro Football Focus’ offensive lineman of the year. Unfortunately for Thomas, all of those awards came in Cleveland. Even if he never makes it to a playoff game, he’ll at least have a safe spot behind Jim Brown as the second best player in franchise history.
*Never played in B1G