Who are the best draft picks of the century from the most prominent programs in college football? College Football 24/7 set out to answer this question by ranking the top draft picks since 2000 from the 30 schools that have produced the most picks since that year.
Players were ranked through a formula in which they received points for honors they've acquired in their NFL career, including being selected to the Pro Bowl (including as injury replacements) and being selected first-team All-Pro. Players were also rewarded relative to where in the draft they were selected. First-round picks benefited least because a strong career would be expected; seventh-round picks benefited most. In some cases, a bonus for longevity or outstanding play was granted. See the full formula below the list of top picks.
Michigan State has produced 56 draft picks since 2000, which ranks tied for 25th among all schools. Only four of those 56 have made a Pro Bowl, however, and only two have made more than one. Retired linebacker Julian Peterson, with five career Pro Bowls to his credit, led all former Spartans with 11 formula points. MSU has placed more than its share of defensive backs into the NFL in recent years, although none merited ranking. Among them: Demetrious Cox, Trae Waynes, Darqueze Dennard, Tony Lippett and Montae Nicholson.
Best picks of the century from Michigan State
1. Julian Peterson, outside linebacker
Drafted by:49ers, No. 16 overall pick (Round 1), 2000
Skinny: Peterson played six seasons for the 49ers, earning first-team All-Pro honors in 2003. A freakish athlete, he once took snaps at four different positions in a game for San Francisco, as he could rush the passer and cover tight ends. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 and made three consecutive Pro Bowls with his new team, notching a career-high 10 sacks in 2006. The next stop for Peterson was Detroit, as the Lions traded Cory Redding and a fifth-round pick to Seattle for Peterson in 2009. He started for two years in Detroit before retiring.
2. Le'Veon Bell, running back
Drafted by:Steelers, No. 48 overall pick (Round 2), 2013
Skinny: The Steelers made Bell the second running back off the board in the 2013 draft, after Giovani Bernard. Bell's patient running style has set him apart and helped make him one of the best in the game. He was selected first-team All-Pro in 2014, his second NFL season, and last year he averaged a career-high 105.7 yards per game. He's also been a prolific receiver, with 227 receptions in just 47 career games (4.8 per game). Suspensions have shortened each of Bell's last two seasons, but he's been highly effective when in the lineup. Bell made the Pro Bowl last year on just 12 starts.
3. Kirk Cousins, quarterback
Drafted by:Redskins, No. 102 overall pick (Round 4), 2012
Skinny: Cousins was considered a game-manager type coming out of MSU, which is why he was available in Round 4. He began his career as a backup to fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, but Jay Gruden picked him to be the full-time starter heading into the 2015 season, and he's emerged as one of the NFL's better quarterbacks. His 69.8 percent completion rate led the NFL in 2015. Last year, his 4,917 passing yards ranked third in the league, and he was selected to his first Pro Bowl. His contract status has been an ongoing hot topic in Washington, as the club has placed the franchise tag on him in consecutive years.
4. Domata Peko, defensive tackle
Drafted by:Bengals, No. 123 overall pick (Round 4), 2006
Skinny: After playing in a reserve role as a rookie, Peko emerged as a 10-year starter for the Bengals. That's an absolute steal for a fourth-round pick. He hasn't missed a regular-season start since 2009, serving as a stalwart run stuffer in the middle of the D-line, and now he'll carry that streak to a new club as Peko signed a two-year contract with the Broncos in March worth $7.5 million.
5. Plaxico Burress, wide receiver
Drafted by:Steelers, No. 8 overall pick (Round 1), 2000
Skinny: At 6-foot-5, Burress was a tall target for his QBs. The most productive season of his career came in 2002, when he made 78 catches for 1,325 yards and 7 TDs for Pittsburgh. He posted four 1,000-yard receiving seasons -- two with the Steelers and two with the Giants -- yet was never selected to a Pro Bowl. Burress caught a touchdown in Super Bowl XLII, helping the Giants upset the Patriots for the title. Burress accidentally shot himself at a nightclub in 2008, and was sentenced to a two-year jail term on a firearms charge. He returned to the NFL with the New York Jets in 2011 and made 8 TD catches that year, but he fizzled out soon after, reuniting with the Steelers to close out his career.
Total number of picks from Michigan State since 2000: 56
Draft multiplier: Total points for first-round picks x 1.1; second-round picks x 1.2; third-round picks x 1.3; fourth-round picks x 1.4; fifth-round picks x 1.5; sixth-round picks x 1.6; seventh-round picks x 1.7.
Tiebreaker: Ranking edge to lower-drafted player within same round.
Specialists and fullbacks: For players honored primarily as specialists or fullbacks, their total points were devalued. Kickers and punters were not included in this exercise.