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Who was the best NFL draft pick from the Oregon State Beavers?

Chad Ochocinco, Steven Jackson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are all worthy of mention here.
Credit: Al Behrman, Associated Press
Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson operates a television camera after scoring a touchdown on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007, in Cincinnati.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon State Beavers have made massive impacts in the NFL for many years. Some of the best players to ever lace them up in the league started in Corvallis, repping the orange and black.

A total of 167 players from Oregon State have gone on to be drafted to the National Football League and there have certainly been some great players to go undrafted as well. The first player ever drafted from Oregon State was Joe Gray, who went in the first round of the 1938 draft to the Chicago Bears. The most recent draft pick was Jermar Jefferson, taken last year in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions. 

Since 2000, there have been just three players drafted in the first round for the Beavers. Those guys are Brandin Cooks, Steven Jackson and Nick Barnett. In this article, we’ll break down three of the most influential picks from Oregon State. They will be categorized as the overall best, the most hyped and the ultimate steal.

The best draft pick

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals – 2001 Round 2, Pick 36

Before he was Ochocinco, he was Johnson. The wide receiver known for his fun celebrations and big mouth turned into an all-time great in the NFL. He enjoyed an 11-year career after being drafted by the Bengals while also suiting up for the New England Patriots and suiting up for the Miami Dolphins practice squad. 

Ochocinco was named to the First-Team All-Pro three times, the Second-Team All-Pro once, enjoyed six different Pro Bowls and led the league in receiving yards in 2006. Johnson has been named to the Hall of Fame ballot but has yet to be inducted. There's a good chance that he will eventually make it after putting together a career stat line that included 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns. 

Ochocinco is remembered for changing his name, dancing with cheerleaders, and being penalized after most touchdowns for his celebrations, but he is truly one of the great NFL wide receivers from the 2000s and was a part of a massive revitalization in Cincinnati with Carson Palmer. When he wasn’t paying his many fines from the NFL, he was cashing in, making more than $40 million during his NFL career, a ton of money for a wide receiver who played during the early 2000s. 

The most hyped

Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams – 2001 Round 1, Pick 24

Jackson could arguably take the spot of best draft pick ever from Oregon State as he enjoyed a wildly successful career in the league. But Jackson is also the player taken the highest who also panned out from Corvallis. Jackson was selected in the first round in 2004 by the St. Louis Rams, being the first back selected in that draft. The Rams had to trade up to get Jackson, who served as a backup for the great Marshall Faulk. The Rams essentially traded up to get a future Hall of Fame back to replace a Hall of Famer. 

Jackson spent nine of his 12 seasons in St. Louis before leaving for Atlanta and eventually New England. During his prime, Jackson was one of the best running backs in the NFL. He was named to three Pro Bowls and two Second-Team All-Pro selections. He broke out during the mid-2000s as an explosive back who could also double as a receiving threat. In 2006, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,334. From 2005 to 2012, he never rushed for less than 1,000 yards. Jackson set five NFL records and two Rams records in his career. Any first-round pick comes with a lot of hype and Jackson certainly lived up to it. 

Jackson was not only the most hyped draft pick but also one of the most well-paid guys in the league. His rookie deal was worth $18 million and when he was done with that, he signed an extension with the Rams that added up to over $49 million. Jackson enjoyed a successful career on the field and off of it with those figures. 

The ultimate steal

T. J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Cincinnati Bengals – 2001, Round 7, Pick 204

It is only fitting that Houshmandzadeh and Johnson were drafted in the same class and to the same team as the two tore up the field at Oregon State together. Houshmandzadeh fell to the seventh round, a spot where NFL teams aren’t expecting much from their draft picks but any production at all is seen as positive production. 

Houshmandzadeh more than delivered on that, spending eight seasons with the Bengals before ending his career with the Seahawks, Ravens and Raiders. Houshmandzadeh and Johnson were a lethal duo. In  2007, he went to his lone Pro Bowl and was the NFL co-receptions leader. Despite a slower start from Johnson thanks to their draft spots, Houshmandzadeh turned it on in his second season with more than 400 receiving yards. His breakout season came in 2004, when he had 978 yards and became one of Carson Palmer’s favorite wide receivers. He had 1,143 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in his best season in the league. 

Although he played there for just one season, Houshmandzadeh cashed in with Seattle in 2009, signing a four-year deal worth $40 million. From the seventh round to generational wealth, Houshmandzadeh did OK for himself and was an absolute steal. It's not often you see anyone picked that late in the draft last more than a decade in the NFL, but he broke the odds. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced Oregon State's primary colors and its location.

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