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Ranking the 10 best NFL Draft picks in Syracuse history

We’ve had quite a few. But which have been the best ones?

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Donovan McNabb #5

The Syracuse Orange football program has had quite a few players selected in the NFL Draft over the years -- 214 in all — including 20 first rounders.

But which of those would be the top 10 selections overall?

With this year’s NFL Draft coming up next week, and there being a slim chance we hear a Syracuse player’s name called, we figured this would be an interesting exercise. Have your own rankings instead? Share those below.

*note: didn’t include Rob Moore, since he was supplemental draft


1. Jim Brown, running back (1957)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/6th/Cleveland Browns

If you believe the large banner up at the Carrier Dome, he’s the best player ever. And the numbers he put up during his NFL career largely back that up. In nine seasons, he ran for 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns, to go along with 262 receptions, 2,499 receiving yards and another 20 scores. Brown’s averages of 104 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry are still tops among Hall of Fame backs. And while Brown was a great player on the field, that doesn’t excuse his actions (physical abuse) toward women off of it -- something that should be mentioned in the same breath of any remarks about his athletic performance.

2. Marvin Harrison, wide receiver (1996)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/19th/Indianapolis Colts

After his record-setting Syracuse career, Harrison quickly became a star for the Colts -- and his production only accelerated once Peyton Manning arrived in Indianapolis. Harrison played 13 seasons for the pass-happy Colts, catching 1,102 balls for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. He’s top-10 all-time in each of those three categories and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his efforts back in 2016. He still holds the single-season record for receptions, with 143 during the 2002 campaign. Harrison also won Super Bowl XLI with the Colts.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3. Dwight Freeney, defensive end/outside linebacker (2002)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/11th/Indianapolis Colts

After being selected by the Colts in 2002, Freeney quickly became one of the NFL’s premier pass-rushers. Through his first four seasons, he compiled 51 sacks, and currently sits at 125.5 on his career (he has yet to officially retire despite only playing sparingly for the Lions and Seahawks last year). Freeney is a three-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler, plus a Super Bowl Champion in 2007. His sack total puts him in the top-20 all-time, and he’s a sure-fire Hall of Fame selection after his playing career concludes.

4. Art Monk, wide receiver (1980)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/18th/Washington

Playing in a run-oriented offense in college, Monk didn’t really get to display his play-making abilities. But in Washington, he ended up being a star. Monk was the first NFL player to hit the 900-receptions mark, and his 12,721 receiving yards are still top-20 all-time. He won three Super Bowls with Washington, and made three Pro Bowls. Despite retiring from the NFL in 1995, Monk had to wait until 2008 to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. Donovan McNabb, quarterback (1999)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/2nd/Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb arrived in Philly and set the league ablaze with an exciting, mobile style that captivated fans. While his career featured its fair share of injuries, it was more highlighted by his ability to make big plays. McNabb had 37,276 career passing yards and 234 scores, to go with another 3,341 yards on the ground, plus 28 more touchdowns. He’s one of just 10 quarterbacks to rush for over 3,000 yards in their career, and while he never won a Super Bowl, he did play in Super Bowl XXXIX. His post-playing career hasn’t been as positive, however. Along with DUI incidents, he was also fired from ESPN after sexual harassment allegations arose last year.

6. Jim Ringo, center (1953)

Round/Pick/Team: 7th/6th/Green Bay Packers

Ringo came into the league undersized, but quickly became a star for the Packers at center, blocking for powerful rushing attacks year-in and year-out. He made the Pro Bowl 10 times in his career, and was a seven-time All-Pro. Ringo never played in a Super Bowl, but did collect two NFL Championships with Green Bay in 1961 and ‘62. After being traded to the Eagles for 1964, he still made three more Pro Bowls. Ringo was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981, recognizing his unlikely rise to excellence and consistent success as a pro. After playing, he also coached from 1969-88, including 23 games with the Bills (they went 3-20).

7. Floyd Little, running back (1967)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/6th/Denver Broncos

One of the best “44s” Syracuse has had, Little excelled as a versatile back both in college and in the pros. Playing for the Broncos, he managed 6,323 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns, plus another 2,418 receiving yards and nine scores (with 215 receptions). He was a star in both the AFL and NFL, earning All-AFL honors in 1969 and an All-Pro nod in 1971. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. And as you all know, he’s been a fixture around the Orange program until very recently.

8. John Mackey, tight end (1963)

Round/Pick/Team: 2nd/5th/Baltimore Colts

Mackey’s numbers may not scream off the page -- he had 331 catches for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns -- but his approach set the standard for what the modern tight end has turned into. His size and speed were unique, and put to great use by the Colts as they were one of the league’s best teams during his career. With Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall throwing to him, he was a three-time All-Pro and won Super Bowl V.

9. Larry Csonka, fullback (1968)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/8th/Miami Dolphins

Csonka’s known for being one of the most notable members of the excellent 1970s Dolphins teams, which made it to three straight Super Bowls from 1971-73, winning two -- including the undefeated 1972 campaign. Beyond the team excellence, Csonka was both a stellar blocker and runner. He managed 8,081 rushing yards in his career, with 64 touchdowns on the ground (plus another four through the air). That effort earned him a Hall of Fame invite in 1987.

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC vs AFC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

10. Chandler Jones, defensive end/outside linebacker (2012)

Round/Pick/Team: 1st/21st/New England Patriots

We knew Jones was a great pass-rusher at Syracuse. However, we didn’t know what he’d end up morphing into as a pro: one of the game’s premier sack artists. In six seasons in the NFL, he’s already collected 64 sacks, and led the league this past season with 17 (and also earned All-Pro honors). Whether for New England or Arizona, he’s been a defensive leader and is among the highest paid defenders in the game. While it’s still early, he’s well on his way to a stellar career.