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.
North Carolina has placed 55 players in the NFL draft since 2000, edging out South Carolina by one pick. That ranks tied for 27th among all schools. A pair of defensive ends -- Julius Peppers and Robert Quinn -- lead a group lacking in depth. Peppers has enjoyed a dominant NFL career and is one of only 10 players in the 30-school series with 30-plus points. Three of the Tar Heels' top picks -- Peppers, Alge Crumpler and David Thornton -- were UNC teammates in the early 2000s.
UNC had a two-year drought from the draft from 2015-2016, but the past year was a resurgent one for the program, as six Tar Heels were selected in 2017, including No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky.
Best picks of the century from North Carolina
1. Julius Peppers, defensive end
Drafted by:Panthers, No. 2 overall pick (Round 1), 2002
Skinny: Peppers has been one of the NFL's true standard bearers for pass rushers since entering the league in 2002. His 143.5 career sacks rank fifth all-time, right between Hall of Famers Michael Strahan (141.5) and Chris Doleman (150.5). The nine-time Pro Bowl selectee returns to Carolina this fall for his 16th NFL season and second stint with the Panthers.
2. Robert Quinn, defensive end
Drafted by:Rams, No. 14 overall pick (Round 1), 2011
Skinny: Quinn was the second defensive end off the draft board in 2011, three picks after J.J. Watt. Quinn's career flashed brilliantly over a three-year stretch from 2012-2014, during which he registered 40 sacks. He was selected to back-to-back Pro Bowls during this peak, and was a first-team All-Pro in 2013. Quinn's production has tailed off since then, as he's ended the last two seasons on injured reserve.
3. Alge Crumpler, tight end
Drafted by:Falcons, No. 35 overall pick (Round 2), 2001
Skinny: Crumpler spent the first seven seasons of a 10-year career in Atlanta, where he was selected to four Pro Bowls in a row (2003-2006) as a key target for QB Mike Vick. His most productive year came in 2005, when he set career bests in catches (65) and yardage (877).
4. Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver
Drafted by:Giants, No. 29 overall pick (Round 1), 2009
Skinny: Having lost WR Plaxico Burress to an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot and the resulting fallout, the Giants went into the 2009 draft with a need at receiver and filled it with Nicks. He had six productive seasons in New York and won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants, as well. He enjoyed his best pro seasons in 2010 and 2011 with 1,000-yard campaigns and appeared to be headed for a long, highly productive NFL career, but injuries took their toll on him and he was out of the league by his late 20s.
5. David Thornton, linebacker
Drafted by:Colts, No. 106 overall pick (Round 4), 2002
Skinny: Always the underdog, Thornton was initially a walk-on at UNC and didn't get his draft call until the fourth round. After playing in a reserve role as a rookie, Thornton was an NFL starter for seven seasons in Indianapolis and, beginning in 2006, Tennessee. Hip surgery kept him out of action in 2010, and he retired in 2011 with 809 career tackles.
Total number of picks from North Carolina since 2000: 55
2017 draft picks from North Carolina (6): QB Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (Round 2, No. 2 overall), DL Nazair Jones, Seahawks (Round 3, No. 102 overall), WR Mack Hollins, Eagles (Round 4, No. 118 overall), WR Ryan Switzer, Cowboys (Round 4, No. 133 overall), RB T.J. Logan, Cardinals (Round 5, No. 179 overall), RB Elijah Hood, Raiders (Round 7, No. 242 overall).
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.