Since the NFL’s first draft in 1936, thousands of players have heard their names called in the first round.
In this year’s edition, which kicks off Thursday night, 32 more will join that list. USC currently leads the NCAA with 80 first round picks. Will Sam Darnold make it 81?
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QUIZ: Can you name the colleges of the past 25 No. 1 NFL Draft picks?
Last year, as has been the case for the past 82 years, a large handful of the first 32 came from the SEC. In the 82 first rounds since the draft started in 1936, 397 SEC players have been picked in the first round — more than any other conference. The next closest conference is the Big Ten, which has seen 373 players get drafted in the first round. No other conference has more than 300 and, unsurprisingly, the Power 5 (SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, Big 12) is responsible for 78.5 percent of all first-round draft picks (all but 402 of them, actually).
In 2017, 12 of the 32 players selected in the first round — including No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett — hailed from SEC schools. The Big Ten had the second most with seven picks, the Pac-12 had six, and the ACC had four. The Big 12 lagged behind its Power 5 cohorts with only one pic — No. 10 overall Patrick Mahomes II, from Texas Tech.
Only two players were selected from non-Power 5 schools last year — No. 5 overall Corey Davis from Western Michigan (MAC), and No. 13 overall Haason Reddick from Temple (American).
In those 82 first rounds, there have now been (let’s check our math here…) 82 first overall picks. Again, it’s the SEC that comes out on top with 19 of those, the latest coming in the form of Texas A&M’s Garrett to the Browns. The Pac-12 is right behind with 17, and the Power 5 as a whole accounts for an impressive 76.6 percent of all No. 1 draft picks since 1936.
But a conference is nothing without its schools. On that level, USC stands (relatively) alone. The Trojans have had 80 first round draft picks — more than any other school. Some names that might stick out? Junior Seau, Keyshawn Johnson, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Brian Cushing, and two Clay Matthews (Jr. and III). Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson joined that list last year as the 18th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans.
Ohio State is close on USC’s tail with 77 first round picks (think Orlando Pace, A.J. Hawk, Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn, Jr., Ezekiel Elliott, etc.). Notre Dame (66 total, including Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown) and Miami (65 total, including Jim Kelly, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, etc.) are the only other schools with more than 60.
And it’s little surprise that in 2017, national champion Alabama was the most represented, seeing four of its players (Marlon Humphrey, Jonathan Allen, OJ Howard, and Reuben Foster) taken in the first round. LSU had three, (Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams, and Tre’Davious White), as did Ohio State (Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Gareon Conley), while four schools — Clemson, Michigan, Stanford, and Wisconsin saw two players drafted in 2017’s first round.
With Garrett’s selection by the Browns, Texas A&M got its first-ever No. 1 overall pick. They’ve got some work to do to catch up with the leaders in that category — Notre Dame and USC.
The Irish and the Trojans are also the only schools with five No. 1 overall picks. Notre Dame had Angelo Bertelli (1944 by the Boston Yanks), Frank Dancewicz (1946 by the Boston Yanks), Leon Hart (1950 by the Detroit Lions), Paul Hornung (1957 by the Green Bay Packers), and Walt Patulski (1972 by the Buffalo Bills).
USC’s top overall picks were Ron Yary (1968 by the Minnesota Vikings), O.J. Simpson (1969 by the Buffalo Bills), Ricky Bell (1977 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Keyshawn Johnson (1996 by the New York Jets), and Carson Palmer (2003 by the Cincinnati Bengals).
Stanford, Auburn and Georgia each have four No. 1 overall picks to their name, and just 12 other schools have more than one.
Garrett also became Texas A&M’s ninth player drafted in the top 5 (Von Miller being the most noteworthy), and the No. 2 overall pick — Mitchell Trubsiky — became North Carolina’s second top-5 pick since Julius Peppers went No. 2 in the 2002 draft.