2022 NFL Draft: Best Picks of All-Time From Every Big 12 School

Who are the best NFL Draft picks from every Big 12 program? Which players turned into the greatest stars at the next level?

The current Big 12 programs have more than their share of good all-time NFL players and draft picks, but the superstars aren’t there compared to the other top leagues. Even so, who are the Big 12’s best NFL draft selections of all-time?

This isn’t a list of the top pro players to come from the Big 12 schools – these are the best draft picks.

That means that guys who had great careers for someone other than the teams that drafted them don’t get a whole lot of love, or aren’t on the list at all.

The goal for 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.

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Baylor Best NFL Draft Picks

LB Mike Singletary
1981, 2nd round, 38th pick overall, Chicago

Silver: DT Tom Sestak, 1962, 17th round, 132nd pick overall, Buffalo
Bronze: OT/DE Jimmy Ray Smith, 1954, 6th round, 64th pick overall, Cleveland

The Chicago Bears got their leader and defensive quarterback for some of the greatest Ds in NFL history. Singletary was a seven-time All-Pro who went to the Pro Bowl in each of the last ten seasons of his 12-year Hall of Fame career. He was named the 1985 and 1988 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Tom Sestak was a three-time All-Pro for Buffalo in the early 1960s. He only played seven years, but he was the anchor of the line.

Jimmy Ray Smith played seven years for Cleveland as a mainstay of the O line at left guard. He was a three-time All-Pro and went to five Pro Bowls.

Iowa State Best NFL Draft Picks

LB Matt Blair
1974, 2nd round, 51st pick overall, Minnesota

Silver: OG Keith Sims, 1990, 2nd round, 39th pick overall, Miami
Bronze: S Marcus Robertson, 1991, 4th round, 102nd pick overall, Houston

One of the leaders and stars of the amazing Purple People Eater defenses of the 1970s and 1980s, Blair played 12 years for the Vikings and was named to the 1980 All-Pro team with six Pro Bowl appearances.

Keith Sims got to three straight Pro Bowls as a starting left guard for Miami for eight years, while Marcus Robertson was named an All-Pro for the Houston Oilers, finishing with 22 interceptions in a ten-year run with the franchise.

Kansas Best NFL Draft Picks

RB Gale Sayers
1965, 1st round, 4th pick overall, Chicago

Silver: FS Nolan Cromwell, 1977, 2nd round, 21st pick overall, Los Angeles Rams
Bronze: QB John Hadl, 1962, 3rd round, 24th pick overall, San Diego

It might have been a way-too-short run, but Gale Sayers managed to earn All-Pro recognition five times in his five years as a starting running back.

John Riggins is a Hall of Famer, but that’s mostly for what he did for Washington, not the New York Jets. The same goes for tackle Mike McCormack, a Hall of Famer for Cleveland after spending one year with the New York Yanks.

Aqib Talib would be here, but he did his best work at Denver, not Tampa Bay.

Nolan Cromwell was an all-star quarterback for the Jayhawks, but he turned into a three-time All-Pro safety for the Rams over his 11-year career. John Hadl spent 11 years with San Diego throwing for close to 27,000 yards with 201 touchdowns going to five Pro Bowls.

Kansas State Best NFL Draft Picks

RB Larry Brown
1969, 8th round, 191st pick overall, Washington

Silver: QB Steve Grogan, 1975, 5th round, 116th pick overall, New England
Bronze: CB Terence Newman, 2003, 1st round, 5th pick overall, San Diego

Larry Brown only lasted eight years with Washington, but he was a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler running for 5,875 yards and 35 scores. In 1972, he earned the NFL MVP honor running for 1,125 yards and five scores and catching 37 passes.

Steve Grogan was with New England for 16 years, and while he was never an elite quarterback, he finished with close to 27,000 yards with 182 touchdown passes. He also ran for 35 scores.

Terence Newman was a slight disappointment for Dallas considering he was the fifth pick overall, but he went to two Pro Bowls and lasted nine years with the team making 32 interceptions before moving on to keep the career rolling.

Oklahoma Best NFL Draft Picks

RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
2007, 1st round, 7th pick overall

Silver: DE/DT Lee Roy Selmon, 1976, 1st round, 1st pick overall, Tampa Bay
Bronze: CB Bobby Boyd, 1960, 10th round, 119th pick overall, Baltimore

Outside of a massive scandal, Adrian Peterson worked out just fine for the Vikings with close to 12,000 yards in his first nine seasons. He ran for ten touchdowns or more in every year but the suspended 2014 and injured 2016 campaigns.

Lee Roy Selmon was the first ever draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, going on to have a nine-year Hall of Fame career with six straight Pro Bowl appearances. He was named the 1979 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Bobby Boyd doesn’t have a highway named after him like Selmon does, but the three-time All-Pro was among the best defensive backs of the 1960s with 57 career interceptions.

Oklahoma State Best NFL Draft Picks

RB Barry Sanders
1989, 1st round, 3rd pick overall, Detroit

Silver: DT Kevin Williams, 1st round, 9th pick overall, Minnesota
Bronze: RB Thurman Thomas, 2nd round, 40th pick overall, Buffalo

Barry Sanders is obvious – he would’ve finished his career as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher if he didn’t decide to get out early. The six-time All-Pro, ten-time Pro Bowler, and 1997 MVP closed out his career with 15,269 yards and 99 scores. He retired just a year after rushing for 2,053 yards.

The only problem with Thurman Thomas’s career is that he wasn’t Barry Sanders. The Hall of Famer went to four Super Bowls, earned two All-Pro spots, and was a five-time Pro Bowler in his 13 years.

Kevin Williams had a Hall of Fame-level career, spending 11 years with Minnesota with six Pro Bowl appearances and spots on five All-Pro teams.

TCU Best NFL Draft Picks

DT Bob Lilly
1961, 1st round, 13th pick overall, Dallas Cowboys

Silver: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, 2001, 1st round, 5th pick overall, San Diego
Bronze: QB Sammy Baugh, 1937, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Washington

There might be plenty of strong Horned Frogs who went on to rock at the next level, but Bob Lilly would’ve made almost any school’s top three. The 14-year Hall of Fame star for Dallas – and arguably the greatest defensive tackle of all-time – went to 11 Pro Bowls and was a seven-time All-Pro.

LaDainian Tomlinson came up with a special nine years for San Diego with 12,490 yards and 138 scores. The Hall of Famer and 2006 NFL MVP was named to three All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowls.

Sammy Baugh played 16 years for Washington throwing for almost 22,000 yards in his Hall of Fame career.

Texas Best NFL Draft Picks

RB Earl Campbell
1978, pick overall, 1st round, 1st pick overall, Houston

Silver: S Earl Thomas, 2010, 1st round, 14th pick overall, Seattle
Bronze: LB Tommy Nobis, 1966, 1st round, 1st pick overall, Atlanta

Earl Campbell had a short but special career for the Houston Oilers, running for 9,407 yards and 74 touchdowns in his seven seasons going to six Pro Bowls while being named All-Pro in his first three years. He was the 1978 NFL Offensive Player of the Year in his rookie season, and followed it up with the 1979 NFL MVP and the 1980 Offensive Player of the Year.

Everyone’s trying to find an Earl Thomas type at safety. He was a seven-time Pro Bowl performer and named to three straight All-Pro teams from 2012 to 2014.

There are several choices for the No. 3 spot. Tommy Nobis played 11 years for Atlanta going to five Pro Bowls and earning All-Pro honors in 1967.

Bobby Layne might be a Hall of Famer, but he quarterbacked Detroit after being drafted by Chicago and playing one year for the Bears.

Texas Tech Best NFL Draft Picks

QB Patrick Mahomes
2017, 1st round, 10th pick overall, Kansas City

Silver: LB Zach Thomas, 1996, 5th round, 154th pick overall, Miami
Bronze: LB/C E.J. Holub, 1961, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Dallas Texans

One MVP, four Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl win and another appearance are enough to put Patrick Mahomes in the top spot, but there’s an argument for the linebacker.

Is Zach Thomas ever going to Canton? He played 12 years for Miami making 1,035 tackles going to seven Pro Bowls and being named to five All-Pro teams. Not bad for a fifth-rounder.

E.J. Holub was taken by both the Dallas Texans and the Cowboys. He went with the Texans and spent his entire career with the Texan/Kansas City Chief franchise, going to five Pro Bowls and being named to the 1962 and 1963 All-Pro teams.

Joe Walter was never an all-star, but he played 12 years for Cincinnati turning into a steady starter at right tackle. By the way, Wes Welker would be close, but he wasn’t drafted and was good for Miami for two years before moving on.

West Virginia Best NFL Draft Picks

LB Sam Huff
1956, 3rd round, 30th pick overall, New York Giants

Silver: OT Joe Stydahar, 1936, 1st round, 6th pick overall, Chicago
Bronze: LB Darryl Talley, 1983, 2nd round, 39th pick overall, Buffalo

While Sam Huff played his last five years in Washington, he made his Hall of Fame career as a New York Giant with four Pro Bowl appearances and earning two All-Pro nods in 1958 and 1959.

Joe Stydahar went to the Hall of Fame after being named a four-time All-Pro in his nine years with Chicago.

Part of the run to four Super Bowls, Darryl Talley was a two-time Pro Bowl performer in his 12 years with Buffalo making 1,095 tackles and 38 sacks.

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