Tucker: Ranking the Pokes Top-10 NFL Draft picks
LARAMIE -- These types of lists are subjective, of course.
So, let's layout some ground rules for this one -- ranking the most impactful NFL Draft picks to come out of the University of Wyoming in league history:
* Value (ie where they were selected)
* What did they do in the league?
* Did they win big games? (ie the Super Bowl, conference title games)
* How important were they to their pro team?
* Did they make the Pro Bowl or earn accolades?
Sound simple enough?
Eighty-four former Cowboys have heard their names called during the NFL Draft, the latest being Cassh Maluia, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2020 version. It's not likely any will hear their names over the next three nights, though fullback and Torrington native, Skyler Miller, did take part in a virtual Pro Day in Laramie. If he doesn't, this will be the first time since 2016 the school won't produce a pick.
COVID-19, of course, had something to say about that.
Without further ado ...
No. 10: Patrick Chukwurah
This guy was snagged by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Chukwurah started his first game as a rookie at defensive end, and quickly turned that into a stellar NFL career that lasted eight straight years, including a still-hard-to-believe call-up to the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, where he aided in a playoff run after two years of retirement. Chukwurah compiled 81 tackles, nine sacks and four forced fumbles playing for the Vikings, Texans, Broncos, Buccaneers and Seahawks. He appeared in one AFC title game in 2006.
No. 9: Guy Frazier
This guy never won a Super Bowl, but he made history in one. Frazier, a fourth-round pick (93) by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1981, caused a fumble on the opening kickoff of the big game in 1982 against the San Francisco 49ers. He was the first player to ever cause a turnover on the opening kickoff. Frazier, a linebacker, played in 74 NFL games, recording five sacks and picking off a pass.
No. 8: Derrick Martin
Martin was the first Wyoming player to ever forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round (208) of the 2006 draft. Martin won a pair of Super Bowl titles during his eight-year pro career. He claimed his first in 2011 as a member of the Green Bay Packers. He snagged his second Lombardi Trophy the following season as a defensive back for the New York Giants. Martin finished his career with 100 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
No. 7: Dave Hampton
This guy could've had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Once, as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, he finished three yards shy. The year prior, an even sadder story unfolded. Hampton, a ninth-round pick (220th) of the Green Bay Packers in 1969, finally eclipsed that elusive mark. The Falcons stopped the game and presented him with a trophy and the game ball. He was the first Atlanta running back in team history to reach that mark. On the next play -- he was tackled for a six-yard loss. He finished with 995 yards on the season. Ouch. Hampton got his redemption in 1975 when he rushed for 1,002 yards and earned the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award. In his eight-year career, which he spent with the Packers, Falcons and Eagles, Hampton amassed 4,536 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to replace Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung in the Packers' backfield.
No. 6: Aaron Kyle
Kyle, UW's second first-round draft pick in history, went to the Dallas Cowboys 27th overall in 1976. Over his seven-year career, Kyle played in 95 games, snagging 11 interceptions from the defensive backfield. In just his second season in the NFL, Kyle's Cowboys knocked off the Broncos in the Super Bowl, 27-10. Kyle finished that game with a pick and a fumble recovery. The Cowboys once again went to the Super Bowl in 1978. This time they wound up on the losing end, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers. By the way, the first UW player to be selected in the first round was Lawrence Gaines. He went to Detroit 11 picks before Kyle in the same draft.
No. 5: Josh Allen
Yes, Allen has only been in the league since 2018. That spring he was the Buffalo Bills first-round pick at the No. 7 spot. However, the former UW quarterback has improved every season, including leading the Bills to the AFC Championship game and finishing runner-up for the league MVP award in 2020. Allen, who was named to the Pro Bowl last winter, was the first player in NFL history with 4,500 passing yards, 35-plus touchdown passes and five-plus rushing scores in a season.
No. 4: Conrad Dobler
The "Dirtiest player in the NFL" was taken 110th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth round of the 1972 draft. During his 10-year career, Dobler earned three Pro Bowl invites in a row from 1975-77. Dobler, a bruising offensive guard, also played for the Bills and Saints during his controversial career. He was undersized for his position, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at just 254 pounds. Dobler used any means necessary to beat his man, even much bigger Hall of Famers like nemesis Mean Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen, among many others. Dobler's never made it to the Super Bowl, though his Cardinals teams did make a few playoff runs in the late 70's.
No. 3: Jerry Hill
This Lingle native was taken in the third round of the 1961 NFL Draft. Hill spent 10 years with the Baltimore Colts and won Super Bowl V 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys. Hill also played in Super Bowl III. You might recall that one. It included a guarantee by NY Jets quarterback Joe Namath. Hill rushed for 2,668 yards in his career and scored 22 rushing touchdowns in 102 career games. Fun fact: The beer, Colt 45, was named after Hill in 1963.
No. 2: Jim Kiick
This running back from New Jersey was selected 118th overall in the fifth round of the 1968 NFL Draft by Don Shula's Miami Dolphins. Kiick, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 73, was one of the stars of South Beach during a dominant time. The former Wyoming tailback won back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1972-73. He also played in another one, a 24-3 setback, to the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. Against Washington in '72, Kiick scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 14-7 victory, capping off the NFL's lone perfect season. Kiick also scored in the Dolphins' 24-7 win over the Vikings. Kiick played a total of nine seasons in the NFL and was an AFL All-Star in 1968 and '69. He rushed for 3,759 yards in his career and caught 2,302 yards worth of passes. He also scored 33 touchdowns.
No. 1: Jay Novacek
This all-around athlete got the call in the sixth round (158) of the 1985 NFL Draft by the then- named St. Louis Cardinals. Novacek played five seasons in the Cardinals organization before signing with the Dallas Cowboys in 1990 as a free agent. He started just six games -- played in 63 -- for the Cardinals, catching 83 passes for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns. When he got to Big D, Novacek became a household name. In six seasons with the Cowboys, the lightning-fast tight end from Nebraska caught 339 balls for 3,576 yards. He was a favorite outlet for Troy Aikman, snagging 22 touchdowns in his Dallas career. Novacek won three Super Bowls with the Team of the 90's and was named to the Pro Bowl five times. He was also a first and second team All-Pro selection.
STORIES ABOUT THE GUYS ABOVE:
* Conrad Dobler: The Broken Warrior
* TUCKER: Dobler gave his life to football. Was it worth it?
* Super Bowl Sunday has featured plenty of Pokes over the years
* Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 1
* Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 2
* Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 84
* Wyoming Hall of Fame running back Jim Kiick dies at 73
This former Wyoming linebacker was selected in the second round (37) by the Detroit Lions in the 1979 NFL Draft. Fantetti played seven seasons, all with the Lions, registering 95 games as a pro. He picked off six passes and hauled in two fumble recoveries.
Washington was selected in the fourth round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the San Franciso 49ers after playing three seasons in the Canadian Football League. In Canada, Washington won two Grey Cups, was named the MVP of the 1969 title game and was named to two All-Star games. In 1971, Washington made the NFL Pro Bowl after rushing for 811 yards with the Niners. He also helped lead San Francisco to an NFC title game that season. The following year in a playoff loss to Dallas, Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score.
Williams was a 12th-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys in 1970. The former UW running back helped led the Cowboys to a 24-3 Super Bowl victory over Miami in 1972. He played just four NFL seasons, capping his career with short stints with the Saints and Rams. Williams was a member of the "Black 14" in Laramie.
This former UW offensive tackle helped lead the Cleveland Browns to an NFL Championship in 1964. That was a 27-0 win over the Baltimore Colts. Memmelaar was the 242nd selection (Round 21) of the 1959 draft by the Chicago Cardinals. He played nine professional seasons. He also played for the Vikings, Browns, Falcons and Colts.