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Top NFL draft picks from 2015 NCAA Tournament's No. 1 seeds

The NCAA Tournament gets underway in earnest Thursday, with Duke, Kentucky, Villanova and Wisconsin as the No. 1 seeds.

Of the four, all but Wisconsin are distinctly basketball schools, but that didn't stop us from wondering about each school's football success. Specifically, since the draft is fast approaching, we wondered about the best draft pick from each school -- not necessarily the best player but rather the player who performed best relative to his draft status. It was an interesting exercise, if we say so ourselves, and some big names cropped up.

This list does not include current players, though we imagine two relatively recent Wisconsin alums -- Joe Thomas and J.J. Watt -- probably will end up on a list like this in the future even if both were first-round picks.


5. RB George McAfee
At Duke: 1937-39
Drafted: 1st round, 1940, by Philadelphia Eagles
Skinny: While McAfee was the second overall pick, the Eagles had an arranged deal with Chicago and took McAfee for the Bears. That was a wise decision for the Bears. McAfee had uncommon speed and was a big-time big-play threat on offense, defense and as a punt returner. His career was relatively short-lived -- he played eight seasons, having spent three years in the Navy during World War II -- but he was an All-Pro pick in 1941, was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the '40s and was a member of the NFL's 75th anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.

4. QB Clarence "Ace" Parker
At Duke: 1934-36
Drafted: 2nd round, 1937, by Brooklyn Dodgers
Skinny: He was a two-sport star, playing baseball at Duke and for the Philadelphia Athletics for two seasons. His selection revitalized the Dodgers' franchise, and he was one of the best players in the NFL from 1937-41; he was the NFL MVP in 1940 and also was a two-time first-team all-league pick. He served in the Navy from 1942-45, then played two more seasons in the NFL. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

3. LB Mike Curtis
At Duke: 1962-64
Drafted: 1st round, 1965, by Baltimore Colts
Skinny: Curtis was a fullback at Duke but moved to linebacker in the NFL, and became one of the most-feared middle 'backers of his era. The man known as "Mad Dog" laid the wood, to players and, on one occasion, to a fan. He was a two-time All-Pro pick and a four-time Pro Bowler. He played 14 NFL seasons for Baltimore, the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks, and had 25 interceptions.

2. G Ed Newman
At Duke: 1970-72
Drafted: 6th round, 1973, by Miami Dolphins
Skinny: The Dolphins were one of the best teams in the league when Newman joined them as a sixth-rounder in 1973. He enjoyed a 12-season NFL career and went from a guard on a run-oriented team to a guard on a team that featured Dan Marino's big arm. He was named All-Pro in 1984, his final season, and was a four-time Pro Bowler. He now is a judge in Miami-Dade County.

1. QB Sonny Jurgensen
At Duke: 1954-56
Drafted: 4th round, 1957, by Philadelphia Eagles
Skinny: He didn't become a starter until his fifth season in the league, but the wait proved worth it. In 1961, as a starter for the first time, he threw for a then-NFL-record 3,723 yards; it was the first of his five 3,000-yard seasons. He was a two-time All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler. He played 18 NFL season; the first seven were with the Eagles, and he finished with the Washington Redskins. Jurgensen, who threw for 32,224 yards and 255 TDs, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Take a look at the top 10 players from Kentucky to play in the NFL.


5. DT Bob Gain
At Kentucky: 1947-50
Drafted: 1st round, 1951, by Green Bay Packers
Skinny: Gain, who won the 1950 Outland Trophy, never played for the Packers, instead playing in the CFL in '51. That's too bad for the Packers. He returned to the States and played for the Cleveland Browns from 1952-64. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and was voted first-team All-NFL by various media outlets each season from 1957-60; he was a second-team pick each season from 1961-63.

4. DE Art Still
At Kentucky: 1974-77
Drafted: 1st round, 1978, by Kansas City Chiefs
Skinny: He was the second pick of the '78 draft, chosen behind only Earl Campbell. He played 13 seasons in the NFL, with the first 11 for Buffalo, and the last two with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and was a first-team All-NFL pick by four media outlets in 1980.

3. C Jeff Van Note
At Kentucky: 1966-68
Drafted: 11th round, 1969, by Atlanta Falcons
Skinny: The Falcons struck it big with this late-round selection, who never played center until he was in the NFL (he was a defensive end at UK who was drafted to be a linebacker). He played 18 seasons with the Falcons, started for 16 of them and missed just four games in that span. He was a five-time Pro Bowler.

2. C Dermontti Dawson
At Kentucky: 1984-87
Drafted: 2nd round, 1988, by Pittsburgh Steelers
Skinny: Dawson is at least in the discussion among the best centers of all time. He played 13 seasons with the Steelers and was a six-time All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. He started at guard as a rookie alongside Mike Webster -- also in the "greatest center ever" discussion -- then moved to center the next season. Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

1. QB George Blanda
At Kentucky: 1945-48
Drafted: 12th round, 1949, by Chicago Bears
Skinny: He played 26 seasons of pro football, a record that isn't likely to be broken. He played for four pro teams; in addition to the Bears, he saw action for the Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders as both a quarterback and a kicker. He was named the AFL's MVP in 1961 with the Oilers and twice led the AFL in passing yards (1961, '63). Blanda threw for 26,920 yards and 236 TDs in his career; he also made 335 career field goals. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. Not bad for a guy who started his career as a 12th-round selection.


5. T/G John Mellus
At Villanova: 1935-37
Drafted: 9th round, 1938, by New York Giants
Skinny: He played four seasons for the Giants and also spent four seasons in the AAFC, with San Francisco and Baltimore. Mellus was a first-team All-NFL pick by The Associated Press in 1941.

4. LB Al Atkinson
At Villanova: 1962-64
Drafted: 6th round, 1965, by Baltimore Colts
Skinny: While he was drafted by the Colts, he also was selected that year by the AFL's Buffalo Bills and signed with the Bills. Both teams missed out: The Bills cut him, and he was picked up by the New York Jets, for whom he played 10 seasons; he was a starter for seven of them, including on the Jets team that upset the Colts in Super Bowl III. He was a second-team All-AFL pick in 1968.

3. RB Brian Westbrook
At Villanova: 1997-2001.
Drafted: 3rd round, 2002, by Philadelphia Eagles
Skinny: He played nine NFL seasons and was a two-time first-team All-Pro selection. He had two 1,000-yard seasons and also was a prolific receiver, four times catching at least 60 passes in a season.

2. G/C Sam Gruneisen
At Villanova: 1959-61
Drafted: 25th round (AFL draft), 1962, by San Diego Chargers
Skinny: He played 12 pro seasons and was a starter for eight of those seasons. He was acquired in the same draft as Lance Alworth and John Hadl, and once went six consecutive seasons without missing a single start. He later became a college and pro assistant.

1. DE Howie Long
At Villanova: 1977-80
Drafted: 2nd round, 1981, by Oakland Raiders
Skinny: He played 13 seasons and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro pick and an eight-time Pro Bowler. He finished with 84 career sacks (he also had 7.5 as a rookie, when sacks weren't an official stat) and was a key part of some great Raiders teams in the 1980s.

Take a look at the top 10 players from Wisconsin to play in the NFL.


5. TE Dave Kocourek
At Wisconsin: 1956-58
Drafted: 19th round, 1959, by Pittsburgh Steelers
Skinny: The Steelers used a 19th-round pick on Kocourek, but he never played a down for them. Too bad -- the Steelers had uncovered a late-round jewel. Kocourek played in the CFL as a rookie, then signed with the AFL's Los Angeles (soon to be San Diego) Chargers. He became a star with the Chargers. Kocourek was a four-time All-Star and three times finished in the top 10 in the league in receiving yards -- impressive for a tight end in those days. He played in eight league championship games, including a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders; he also played one season for the Miami Dolphins.

4. CB Troy Vincent
At Wisconsin: 1988-91.
Drafted: 1st round, 1992, by Miami Dolphins
Skinny: Vincent was the seventh overall pick in 1992 and played 15 seasons in the NFL. He was one of the best corners of his era. He spent his first four seasons in Miami before leaving for Philadelphia in free agency. He was an All-Pro pick in 2002 and played in five Pro Bowls, all for the Eagles. Vincent led the NFL with seven interceptions in 1999 and finished his career with 47 picks. He played for four teams, also having stints with Buffalo and Washington. Vincent currently serves as NFL executive vice president of football operations.

3. RB Alan "The Horse" Ameche
At Wisconsin: 1951-54
Drafted: 1st round, 1955, by Baltimore Colts
Skinny: He was a Heisman winner who also turned into a great pro, although his career lasted just six seasons because of an Achilles injury. Ameche, who was the third overall pick in the draft, left Wisconsin with a then-NCAA-record 3,212 yards. He was the NFL's rookie of the year and an All-Pro pick in 1955, when he led the NFL in rushing. His first NFL carry was a 79-yard TD run. That '55 season started a run of four consecutive Pro Bowl selections. He was on the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1950s. Ameche scored the winning TD in overtime in the 1958 championship game against the New York Giants -- a contest called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." (A bit of trivia: He attended Bradford High in Kenosha, Wis. -- the same school attended by Melvin Gordon and Trae Waynes, as well as actor Daniel J. Travanti, who starred in the TV show "Hill Street Blues.")

2. DT Tim Krumrie
At Wisconsin: 1979-82
Drafted: 10th round, 1983, by Cincinnati Bengals
Skinny: A 10th-round pick who played in the NFL for 12 seasons, started for 10 of them and was one of the best interior linemen in the NFL during his career? That's Krumrie. He was an All-Pro pick in 1988 and also a two-time Pro Bowler. He played all 12 of his seasons with the Bengals, and later became an NFL assistant.

1. C Mike Webster
At Wisconsin: 1971-73
Drafted: 5th round, 1974, by Pittsburgh Steelers
Skinny: Getting maybe the best center ever in the fifth round? Not bad. And consider that Pittsburgh selected Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert and John Stallworth in the same draft. Webster played 17 seasons in the NFL, with all but two for the Steelers (he spent the final two seasons of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs). Webster was a nine-time All-Pro pick and was the center on the NFL's All-Decade team for both the 1970s and 1980s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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