The 2016 NFL Draft will begin in Chicago tomorrow night. There will be dozens of players sitting in the green room, waiting to hear their names called and see their dreams realized. While the fanfare will die down as the weekend rolls along, the quest for teams to pluck the best talent available will only intensify, and more players will receive the thrill of a lifetime.
It isn't just the players and the teams selecting them who are heavily invested in the draft. Draft success is something every Division I program touts and tries to sell to recruits. Some programs have a higher success rate than others, but every team has produced its share of NFL products.
We decided to go through the lists and figure out who was the best draft pick from each Power 5 school since 2001. Note: it's not always about where you get picked. We factored in draft position along with NFL resumes and attempted to find which players provided the best value for where they were chosen.
Let's kick things off with the ACC.
BC – LB Luke Kuechly
The No. 9 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, all Kuechly has done is make plays since he's entered the league. He's a tackling machine (100-plus per year over his first four seasons) and is simply the best linebacker in the game.
Clemson – WR DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is one of a long line of outstanding Clemson wideouts, and the No. 27 pick of the Houston Texans in 2013 has gotten better each of his first three seasons in the NFL. In 2015, Hopkins' 111-1,521-11 stat line firmly entrenched his status as one of the best wide receivers in pro football.
Florida State – WR Anquan Boldin
Boldin was second-round selection (54th overall) of the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, and his long-time consistency earns him a spot on this list and a possible berth in the Hall of Fame once his playing days are over. Boldin has recorded seven 1,000-yard seasons in 13 campaigns and is also a proven post-season performer.
Louisville – WR Deion Branch
We almost went with Elvis Dumervil here, but Branch gets the nod for a couple of reasons. First off, he provided great bang for his buck as a second-round selection. Secondly, he was a productive post-season player over several seasons. To top it off, he won a Super Bowl MVP award. Not bad for a 5-foot-9 wide receiver.
NC State – QB Philip Rivers
Part of the famous draft day trade with Eli Manning, Rivers doesn't have Eli's hardware but his career numbers are in Manning's class. Entering the 2016 season, Rivers has thrown for over 41,000 yards and 281 touchdowns, and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Syracuse – DE Dwight Freeney
A first-round choice of the Indianapolis Colts in 2001, Freeney has recorded 119.5 sacks (19th all-time), including eight in 11 games last season at age 35. He's a seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and a surefire Hall of Famer.
Wake Forest – OLB Calvin Pace
Wake's football tradition isn't a great one, but Pace has certainly done his alma mater proud since being picked 18th by the Arizona Cardinals in 2003. In 13 seasons, he's recorded 462 tackles, compiled 60 sacks, and forced 21 fumbles from his outside linebacker position.
Duke – TE Ben Watson
Picked 32nd overall by the New England Patriots in 2004, Watson has been a dependable player since entering the league. Last season, at age 35, he equaled his career-high with six touchdown catches and set personal bests in receptions (74) and yards (825).