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Florida Gators in the NFL Draft: The best picks ever by NFC teams

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With the NFL draft continuing tonight, we go team-by-team in search of the greatest Gators selected by each NFC squad.

14 Oct 1989: Running back Emmitt Smith of the Florida Gators stands on the sidelines during a game against the Vanderbilt Commadores at Florida Field in Gainesville, Florida.
14 Oct 1989: Running back Emmitt Smith of the Florida Gators stands on the sidelines during a game against the Vanderbilt Commadores at Florida Field in Gainesville, Florida.
Allen Steele/Getty Images

Through 2014, 327 Florida Gators according to the UF media guide have been drafted by 34 different NFL franchises — 31 current and three now defunct. So at Alligator Army, we had a question: who is the best UF draft pick is for each NFL team? Here are the answers.

Note: The Carolina Panthers are the only franchise that has not drafted a Gator, unless you cheat and count Cam Newton.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Mal Hammack, 1955, round three, pick No. 26, fullback/linebacker.

Hammack rushed for 1,278 yards with both the Chicago and St. Louis Cardinals. He also returned kicks and punts, truly a three-way player. He led the NFL in 1959 in non-offensive touchdowns with two. He went on to become a shoe salesman after his career was over and served as color announcer for Cardinals play-by-play. Hammack passed away in 2004 at the age of 71.

ATLANTA FALCONS: Vince Kendrick, 1974, round four, pick No. 96, running back.

Kendrick played only one season with the dirty birds, tallying 18 rushes for 71 yards and 12 receptions for 86 yards. He suffered a knee injury sidelining him for the entirety of the 1975 season, and in 1976 he was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the expansion draft. He has the distinction of scoring the first touchdown in Bucs franchise history against the team that originally drafted him during a preseason game that year but was released shortly after that and was out of the league. Kendrick passed away on March 21 after a battle with cancer at the age of 63.

CHICAGO BEARS: Wilber Marshall, 1984, round one, pick No. 11, linebacker.

Marshall played for the Bears for four years and started 15 games on Chicago’s fearsome 1985 team, returning a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown in the 24-0 NFC championship victory over the Los Angeles Rams. He was a consensus first team All-NFL selection in 1986 and made two pro bowls. He was picked by the Gainesville Sun in 1999 as the defensive player of the century and is in UF’s Ring of Honor — and if you know the requirements, you realize that that is an impressive feat in itself.

DALLAS COWBOYS: Emmitt Smith, 1990, round one, pick No. 17, running back.

Just the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, no big deal. He’s in the Hall of Fame, led the league in single-season rushing four times, was first team All-NFL four times as well. Smith played for Dallas for 13 seasons only rushing for fewer than 1,000 yards twice — his first and his last campaigns with the team. The Cowboys had to trade the 21st pick garnered from the Herschel Walker trade along with the 81st pick in the draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to move up to pick Smith, I'd say it was a good move.

DETROIT LIONS: James Jones, 1983, round one, pick No. 13, fullback.

Jones played in Detroit for six years rushing for nearly 1,000 yards in 1986. He was traded to Seattle in 1989, but the Lions made up for his void in backfield production with their first round pick that season, a scat back from Oklahoma State named Barry Sanders. Jones was recently a scouting director for the X-league, an indoor football league.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: DeShawn Wynn, 2007, round seven, pick No. 228, running back.

The former Zook/Meyer-era ballcarrier is the lone productive player from a franchise that has not drafted many productive players from UF — much to the chagrin of Alligator Army bossman and famed Packer/Gator Andy Hutchins. Wynn spent three seasons as a seldom used backup averaging four carries per game during his Green Bay career.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Percy Harvin, 2009, round one, pick No. 22, wide receiver.

His four-year tenure in purple may have had it’s fair share of tumult, but it’s hard to argue Harvin isn’t the most successful Gator ever picked by the team. Harvin who has now become a bit of a nomad will play on his third team in less than one calendar year this season after signing with the Buffalo Bills, but before that he was averaging 12 yards per reception for the Vikings. He was named AP Offensive rookie of the year and the Sporting News had him first team All-NFL that season as well.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Wes Chandler, 1978, round one, pick No. 3, wide receiver.

Although Chandler’s best years were in San Diego, the next best Gator picked by New Orleans was Danny Wuerffel so you see what we’re working with here. That’s not to say Chandler wasn’t a productive receiver in the three full seasons he spent with the Saints, he had one 1,000 yard season and another with 975 and 15 total touchdowns before being traded four games into his fourth year. Also, let us never forget the time the freakin' War Eagle landed on him after he scored a touchdown in college (50 seconds in).

NEW YORK GIANTS: Ike Hilliard, 1997, round one, pick No. 7, wide receiver.

You thought I was going to pick this guy didn't you?

That was really just an excuse to post about Jesse Palmer’s mom jeans, but I digress. Hilliard only played in two games his rookie season in New York but after that became a reliable target for the G-men for seven more seasons before moving on to Tampa Bay. He had his best season in 1999 when he was second on the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Lito Sheppard, 2002, round one, pick No. 26, cornerback.

Sheppard was one of the best corners in the league in 2004, his first as a full-time starter. He was first team All-NFL, third in total interception return yards and had two pick sixes out of his five interceptions total. He was shipped out of Philly in 2009 and was traded to the New York Jets for a fifth round pick. Sheppard is the nephew of former Jets receiver Derrick Gaffney, you may remember his more famous son Jabar (both of whom made an appearance in our AFC best UF draft picks story). The pick the Eagles received for Sheppard was used on a tight end — former Gator Cornelius Ingram.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: Jack Youngblood, 1971, round one, pick No. 20, defensive end.

A Hall of Famer inducted in 2001 after being a finalist seven other times, Youngblood entered the league and served as backup to one of the most feared sack artists of all-time Deacon Jones. He was first team All-NFL in five of the six seasons from 1974 through 1979 and played in the Pro Bowl in every one of those seasons as well as in 1973. Youngblood played in a Rams record 201 straight games, starting 184 of them at left defensive end, the sixth most of any defensive lineman in league history. That streak includes the 1979 NFC championship game and Super Bowl 14 which he played in with a fractured tibia.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: John Williams, 1986, round one, pick No. 15, fullback.

Williams is the definition of a balanced all-purpose fullback averaging 37.2 yards rushing and 33.7 yards receiving per game during his eight year stint in the pacific northwest. He had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in four straight seasons and was top-10 in the league in that category in 1988, 1990 and 1991. Williams was recently named as an assistant coach at Palatka high school, his alma mater.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Ray McDonald, 2007, round three, pick No. 97, defensive lineman.

McDonald started his career at defensive end contributing but not starting. A full time move to defensive tackle in 2011 gave McDonald’s career a jolt. He had 5.5 sacks that first season and was consistently disruptive inside on one of the NFL’s best defenses. Lately, McDonald has been in the news not for what he’s done on the field, but what he was accused of doing off of it. His August domestic violence arrest produced no charge from prosecutors but a second investigation into an alleged December sexual assault prompted his release by the 49ers. He’s been since picked up by the Chicago Bears and the league announced Friday they will not discipline him for the domestic violence incident, the assault case is still pending and no charges have been filed.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Errict Rhett, 1994, round two, pick No. 34, running back.

Rhett rushed for 1,101 yards as a rookie and 1,207 in his sophomore season in the creamsicle orange, at the time the 13th player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first two seasons. He earned the offensive rookie of the year award and is still eighth on the Bucs all-time rushing list. Rhett was seen as a bit of a malcontent holding out as a rookie — and missing part of his first training camp — and again in his third season that time missing the first seven games of the 1996 season. He was shipped out of Tampa and traded to the Baltimore Ravens after not being too happy about sitting behind rookie Warrick Dunn in 1997, and three years later as a member of the Cleveland Browns he suffered a Lisfranc injury that would be the end of his career.

WASHINGTON: Jordan Reed, 2013, round three, pick No. 95, tight end.

Almost by default, Reed gets the nod for Washington despite only being in the league for two seasons. He’s had two injury-plagued years but when he’s on he’s the same security blanket in DC as he was for Jeff Driskel in 2012. Reed had 45 receptions as a rookie for 499 yards and 50 in his second season for 465. If he can find a way to stay healthy he’ll have a very successful pro career.

Agree with my picks? Disagree? Head to the comments section and let me know.