Highest NFL draft picks from Arkansas

Written by:
February 8, 2022
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Highest NFL draft picks from Arkansas

Since the first draft was held in 1936, the National Football League (NFL) has used its annual culling of the top college talent in the country to grow its ranks, renew the popularity of the sport, and to increase competitive parity among all football teams. Though the draft process has undergone several iterations since that first draft took place, it remains true to its original design as an equalizer. In its current arrangement, the draft consists of seven rounds, whereby each of the 32 NFL teams receives one pick per round. The order of selection takes place in reverse order of how each team finished the previous season—in other words, barring any trades between teams, each round starts with the team that had the worst overall record and ends with the Super Bowl champions.

There is a long and storied history of teams coming out of the dustbin of failure to resurrect themselves through strategic drafting of top college players. In 1989, for example, the Dallas Cowboys finished 1-15, the worst record in their franchise history. But after drafting Emmitt Smith, who would go on to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, first-round No. 1 pick Russell Maryland, and No. 1 pick and future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, “America’s team” transformed itself into a powerhouse that won three Super Bowls throughout the 1990s.

And while for every top draft pick that went on to gridiron glory—such as 7-time All-Pro quarterback Peyton Manning—there are equally storied accounts of star players who almost didn't make it out of the draft at all, let alone make a team’s top pick, the NFL’s annual strategic raffle has retained, for teams and colleges alike, its power to change the face of the game with a single draft pick. To this, one need look no further than the 2017 draft, when nine teams passed over Patrick Mahomes, who has gone on to take the once-flailing Kansas City Chiefs to three Super Bowl appearances.

With the 2022 draft slated to be held April 28-30 in Las Vegas, Stacker compiled a list of the highest NFL draft picks born in Arkansas since 1970 using data from Pro Football Reference. Ties were broken by the most recent year drafted.

#10. Eric Hill (LB)
- Born: Blytheville, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #10 overall in 1989
- Drafted by: Phoenix Cardinals
- University: LSU
- Years as a starter in NFL: 11 (0 Pro Bowls)

#9. Kevin Williams (DT)
- Born: Arkadelphia, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #9 overall in 2003
- Drafted by: Minnesota Vikings
- University: Oklahoma St.
- Years as a starter in NFL: 12 (6 Pro Bowls)

#8. Leslie O'Neal (DE)
- Born: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #8 overall in 1986
- Drafted by: San Diego Chargers
- University: Oklahoma St.
- Years as a starter in NFL: 12 (6 Pro Bowls)

#7. Willie Roaf (T)
- Born: Pine Bluff, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #8 overall in 1993
- Drafted by: New Orleans Saints
- University: Louisiana Tech
- Years as a starter in NFL: 12 (11 Pro Bowls)

#6. Jamaal Anderson (DE)
- Born: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #8 overall in 2007
- Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons
- University: Arkansas
- Years as a starter in NFL: 3 (0 Pro Bowls)

#5. Lawrence Phillips (RB)
- Born: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #6 overall in 1996
- Drafted by: St. Louis Rams
- University: Nebraska
- Years as a starter in NFL: 2 (0 Pro Bowls)

#4. Billy Ray Smith (LB)
- Born: Fayetteville, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #5 overall in 1983
- Drafted by: San Diego Chargers
- University: Arkansas
- Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (0 Pro Bowls)

#3. Mike Junkin (LB)
- Born: North Little Rock, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #5 overall in 1987
- Drafted by: Cleveland Browns
- University: Duke
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#2. Darren McFadden (RB)
- Born: North Little Rock, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #4 overall in 2008
- Drafted by: Oakland Raiders
- University: Arkansas
- Years as a starter in NFL: 4 (0 Pro Bowls)

#1. Cortez Kennedy (DT)
- Born: Osceola, Arkansas
- Draft pick: Round 1, #3 overall in 1990
- Drafted by: Seattle Seahawks
- University: Miami (FL)
- Years as a starter in NFL: 9 (8 Pro Bowls)

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