First Round Draft picks from the University of Illinois over the last 20 years
If you take a look at most mock drafts, Illinois will more than likely have four players at least drafted in 2013. While that total is something to be proud of, only Akeem Spence is projected to possibly go before the fourth round. Illinois hasn’t had a lot of top end talent in recent years, but here is a quick look back at the five first round picks Illinois has had in the last 20 years.
The last Fighting Illini player to be taken in the first round was defensive end Corey Liuget. The 6’2”, 298 pound athlete had a great three years in Champaign, before leaving early for the draft. So far, he has 70 tackles and 8 sacks through his first two seasons in the league with the San Diego Chargers.
Davis made an immediate impact in Champaign, being named a Freshman All-American at cornerback. He would have two more outstanding years for Illinois before leaving early for the draft. He was drafted by the Dophins in 2009, and lasted until 2011 with the franchise. Since 2012, he has been an integral part of the Colts on the defensive side of the ball.
In the last 20 years, no running back has been as good as Rashard Mendenhall for Illinois. After dominating the high school ranks in the state, he decided to stay close at home for college. He exploded his senior year, racking up 1681 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. After being picked by the Steelers in 2008, he has played every professional down with the franchise as one of their go-to running backs and a solid fantasy football pick. He will begin a new journey next season as he heads to Arizona.
In 1996, Illinois had two of the top prospects in the country. Both Kevin Hardy and Siemon Rice (see below) would go in the first three picks of the draft. Other than Jeff George in 1990, Hardy going #2 overall is the highest position in the history of the school. Although he didn’t have an outstanding career in the NFL, he did make All-Pro and the Pro Bowl in 1999. In all, he would play nine seasons for three different teams.
After one of the best college careers in the history of the school, Rice became the #3 overall pick in the 1996 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. However, his best years arguably came when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2006. In total, he made three Pro Bowls, four All-Pro teams and won the 2002 Super Bowl with Tampa Bay.