In professional sports, the top leagues find their talent in annual drafts. The National Football League probably has the most watched and popular draft every April and May. Major League Baseball’s draft gets very little attention, as does the National Hockey League.
Over in the NBA, they have the draft lotterya��something not used in the other major sports. The NBA’s draft selection process probably ranks second to the NFL in terms of people paying attention.
But looking across the board at all the drafts held, if you had to guess, what college would you say delivers the most OVERALL No. 1 draft picks to professional sports teams?
In the NHL, their draft process began in 1976. Just two players would make it to a team in the league after being drafted No. 1 overall. Those two players were Rick DiPietroa��and Joe Murphy, drafted in 1986a��ultimately suiting up for the Detroit Red Wings.
Boston University gave DiPietro to the NHL while Michigan State was the alumnus of Murphy.
Aside from No. 1 picks, NHL players selected in the first round mostly came from five universities. The University of Michigan has produced 20 first-round draft picks, a total matched by the University of Minnesota. North Dakota University has actually sent 16 players to the NHL while the University of Wisconsin is not far behind with 12. Michigan State University has fifth-most with nine.
In Major League Baseball, most really good players come out of high school and head right for the minors. But Arizona State has actually produced three overall No. 1 picks in baseball’s annual drafta��which began in 1965. Rick Monday was the first ever overall top pick. Floyd Bannister and Bob Horner are the other two Arizona State players to follow suit.
There are a handful of other colleges that had a No. 1 pick, of course. But none of those schools had more than one.
While collegiate football is immensely popular, the NCAA hoops side of things probably has an edge due to a�?March Madness.a�? Once that tournament concludes with a new champion crowned, all eyes are upon players who bolt for the NBA. There are many colleges who have sent a player to the pros as a No. 1 pick, but Duke and Kentucky sit atop the heap by sending three players each throughout the history of the NBA draft.
Art Heyman, Elton Brand and Kyrie Irving are the three Blue Devil players drafted first in their respective drafts. John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns represent the Wildcats from Kentucky.
Back in NFL history, When Cam Newton was selected first in 2011, he followed in fellow alumni Aundray Bruce, Bo Jackson, Tucker Frederickson and Ken Rice’s footsteps as Auburn players picked with the first selection in the draft.
The University of Georgia also had four NFLers picked No. 1. They were Matthew Stafford, Harry Babcock, Charley Trippi and Frank Sinkwich. The great Notre Dame University saw Walt Patulski, Paul Hornung, Leon Hart, Frank Dancewicz and Angelo Bertelli having their names called first in the years 1972, 1957, 1950, 1946 and 1944a��in the order the names have been listed.
USC and Stanford round out the schools who have had four players drafted first in the NFL draft. From Southern Cal came Carson Palmer, Keyshawn Johnson, Ricky Bell, O.J. Simpson and Ron Yary. Meanwhile the Cardinal sent Andrew Luck, John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Bobby Garrett to the pros as number ones.
If you combine the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB to see what school has produced the most No. 1 draft picks, you have to discount the National Hockey League since they have had just two in history that played college hockey.
With that said, if you count the players drafted just in the first round and add that to players in other pro leagues in the same category, you will find that the University of Michigan has sent 24 athletes to the NHL, NFL and NBA.
Notre Dame lags far behind with eight, five to the NFL and three to the NHL. Ohio State has six with an even split between the NFL and NHL.
If we take a 180 degree turn and look at players drafted LAST in the NFL draft, that man actually has a label. It’s been called a�?Mr. Irrelevanta�?, which began in 1976 when a former player named Paul Salata started the annual rite of passage for athletes taken with the final pick in the draft and tabbed himself with the nickname. Kelvin Kirk became the first Mr. Irrelevant and the player picked last in 2017 was Denver’s Chad Kelly.
Players selected last actually receive a trophy called the a�?Lowsman Trophya�? which is a spin-off of the more famous Heisman Trophy. But instead, with a player fumbling a football. Colleges that have sent the most players to the pros as being drafted last in the process are Colorado (Jim Kelleher, Randy Essington). Northwestern State also sent two last picks to the NFL (Mike Almond, Michael Green). South Carolina counts two with Ryan Succop and Justice Cunningham. Then there is little Weber State who saw Cam Quayle and Tim Toone picked with the final call in the draft.
As far as NFL teams having the most Mr. Irrelevants, that belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. They have done it three times. But not to be outdone, the Oakland Raiders have had the final pick in the draft and put it to use six times.
Several teams have done it three times and others twice. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers landed the best player of those picked last when they drafted Tyrone McGriff in 1987 with the 333rd pick overall. Ryan Succop has also had a pretty solid career kicking in the NFL.
So if you think NCAA champion Alabama in football has sent a lot of players to the pros, that might be true. But sending them first is not a common thing for the Crimson Tide.
Harv Aronson is in the process of renaming his website to Harvard Avenue.A�In the meantime, you can still find more from him right here.