Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Which colleges produce the most NFL talent?

Anyone who follows football in depth understands that the process of being a successful NFL pro is a gradual one. With the changes in technology, the national interest in collegiate recruiting has skyrocketed in recent years (see Yahoo buying for 100 million dollars). Many athletes are sullied with bombastic comparisons to NFL and collegiate legends the second they step foot onto a high school gridiron as 15 year old kids. In reality, most of these kids never live up to their supposed potential. Yet, for the few hundred who continue to develop and grow physically as superb athletes, they then must endure a new set of challenges on the collegiate landscape. Again, more comparisons are thrust upon them, and yet again, even more are weeded out - and only a couple hundred finish college with the opportunity to play in the NFL. From that point, only a margin of those who make it into the NFL (whether drafted or not and regardless of which round) actually go onto have successful NFL careers.

So I have decided to compose a list of the ten most successful collegiate programs since the year 2000 (collegiate year 1999 - NFL draft year 2000) in terms of generating NFL talent. I have developed my own point system which operates as follows:

1) Draft pick points are allotted as follows:
1st - 3.5 points
2nd - 3 points
3rd - 2.5 points
4th - 2 points
5th - 1.5 points
6th - 1 point
7th - .5 points

2) Each NFL starter per school is worth 10 points.
3) Each NFL pro bowler per school is worth 15 points. Perennial Pro Bowlers (3+) are awarded another 5.
4) Each NFL player with a career of 5+ years per school is worth 5 points.
5) Each NFL player per roster is worth 1 point.

Obviously, this is not to simply gauge which school has the most players in the NFL (Miami, 61), or which school has the most first round draft picks (Miami also). That would simplify the manner too much. This study is more so interested in which schools turn out both the most and the best talent. While my point system slightly favors performance over mere presence, it does not seem fair to simply credit a university for having the most players when many of those players may be solely backups or minimal contributors.

A few notes about the point system:

1) This is by no means scientific. The system certainly has its fair share of holes. For example, Texas only gets 29.5 for Vince Young. Young's rating is slightly discredited since he is only a rookie. In four years he could be worth 41.5, the maximum value. Furthermore, teams get no credit for projected starters from draft picks. So essentially, while Laron Landry and Brady Quinn will by all means be starters for the respective teams, they were only worth 4.5 points. This makes a difference for teams like LSU with 4 first round draft picks who could potentially start, because that would be an extra 40 points, enough to move them ahead of Florida (even with Jarvis Moss and Reggie Nelson starting).

2) I've given schools credit for ALL of their current starters and Pro Bowlers. While this may somewhat skew the rankings, it's not a large enough point difference to move one school ahead of another. I felt by not including the players it would skew the rankings worse, because part of the reason some of the younger players may not be pro bowlers at this point, is due to the fact that some of the older guys are still holding down that spot. Also, I counted as a starter anyone who started consistently (more than 8 games or so in a given year), credit for being a starter. However, players who are penciled in as starters, do not receive starter points. For example Broderick Bunkley from Florida State will be a starter this year, but played minimally last year. He does not count for a starter.

3) Schools are not awarded for having a player who was an UDFA. Since a 7th round pick was worth .5, it wouldn't make much of a difference anyways. If that player turned out well, he was still rewarded points for his performance, just not his draft status.

4) All roster numbers were taken from, which has a player listing by their respective schools. All draft pick numbers were taken from

5) This list was compiled of teams that have at least 35 players in the NFL. All other schools I eliminated, figuring they wouldn't have enough players to compete with these.

Anyways, after all the number crunching these are the rankings I've arrived at:

1) The University of Miami - 834.5

And its not even close. Was there really any question about this though? I think most ardent followers of college and NFL football are well aware that Miami has been a veritable NFL talent factory since 2000. And its not just quantity (though they have produced the most players), their quality is stellar. Since just 2000, Miami has produced Pro Bowlers Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Sean Taylor, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, and Andre Johnson.

All told, they have an outstanding 28 starters, and 16 Pro Bowlers.

Player Total: 61
Draft Pick Total - 148.5
Starters: 28 - 280
Pro Bowlers: 16 - 235
Exp.: 22 - 110
Grand Total: 834.5

2) Florida State University - 646.5

When I first composed the list, I completely figured the Seminoles wrong. As I expected, they were no. 2. The Seminoles have some of the best at a couple positions, the best LT - Walter Jones and the best WLB - Derrick Brooks. Couple that with stars Javon Walker, Warrick Dunn, Samari Rolle, Anquan Boldin and rising stars Ernie Sims, Kamerion Wimbley, Alex Barron and Michael Boulware and the Noles can't be ashamed of their production.

Player Total: 49
Draft Pick Total: 122.5
Starters: 22 - 220
Pro Bowlers: 10 - 160
Exp: 19 - 95

Grand total: 646.5

3) THE Ohio State University 642.5

Ohio State falls just behind Miami in sheer number of pros produced, with 60. While the USC/Texas 2005 National Championship game consistently gets the billing as the "Biggest Star Studded National Championship Game Ever", its my sneaking suspicion Ohio State and Miami's 2003 showdown may have actually been better. Coincidentally, those were the 2 best National Championship games this decade. Its hard to argue with the top flights guys Ohio State has churned out: Nate Clements, Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, Terry Glenn - these are all Pro Bowl performers (Le'Charles Bentley deserves a mention, because he was well on his way to being one of the best in the game before suffering a career set back injury). But Ohio State's real testament is their emerging talent. Guys like Will Smith, A.J. Hawk, Nick Mangold, Chris Gamble and Mike Nugent are well on their way to superstardom and perennially Pro Bowling.

Player Total: 60
Draft Pick Total Total: 127.5
Starters: 25 - 250
Pro Bowlers: 7 - 110
Exp.: 19 - 95
Grand total: 642.5

4) The University of Georgia - 640.5

I would bet my bottom dollar that anyone who is not a Bulldog fan is shocked by this one. Not that other fanbases don't recognize Georgia as a perennial college football power, but I suspect most didn't think they would fall this high. But that is simply not the case. Since 2000, Georgia has basically fielded an NFL defensive line every year. Check out their list of just defensive linemen - Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Robert Geathers, Phillip Daniels and Charles Grant. David Pollack gets an honorable mention, because he seemed well on his way to stardom, before his tragic injury. Oh yeah, and there's that one other guy you might have heard of, Champ Bailey.

Georgia Lacks the Pro Bowl power of Miami (like everyone else), but they have produced an outstanding 26 NFL starters. The only measurement which places them behind Ohio State is the sheer number of players produced.

Player total: 55
Draft Pick Total: 95.5
Starters: 26 - 260
Pro Bowlers: 6 - 115
Exp.: 23 - 115
Grand Total: 640.5

5) The University of Michigan - 613.5

Michigan has long been one of the top producers of NFL talent. It's little surprise that they crack the top 5. Michigan has long been seen as one of the top QB manufacturers in college football. However, currently they have only 1 starter in the NFL at the QB position. Luckily for them, he's widely considered either 1 or 1a by every imaginable source (depending how much you like Peyton Manning). Tom Brady headlines an exceptional lot produced by Michigan. Charles Woodson and Ty Law have at times been considered two of the very best CBs in the league. But their offensive linemen are remarkable, Jon Jansen, Jon Runyan, Jeff Backus, Maurice Williams, and of course, Steve Hutchinson. Toss in a handful of more than solid contributors: Cato June, Amani Toomer, Shantee Orr, Braylon Edwards, James Hall and Ian Gold and its easy to see why they are ranked so high.

Player Total: 58
Draft Pick Total: 80.5
Starters: 22 - 220
Pro Bolwers: 7 - 125
Exp.: 26 - 130
Grand total: 613.5

6) The University of Tennessee - 562.5

There's a reason Phil Fulmer is considered one of the best in the business, just take a quick glance over the talent line up in the NFL, and its easy to recognize why. Tennessee has produced a smattering of talent which covers all areas of the football field. They've produced a handful of solid wide receivers: Donte Stallworth, Peerless Price, Cedrick Wilson (soon to come Robert Meachem). More than a couple great defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth, Leonard Little, Shaun Ellis and John Henderson. Two very good running backs in Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry. A Pro Bowl TE in Jason Witten. And of course, the crowning jewel for the Volunteers, Peyton Manning.

Player Total: 52
Draft Pick Total: 105.5
Starters: 21 - 210
Pro Bowlers: 6 - 95
Exp.: 20 - 100
Grand total: 562.5

7) University of Florida - 486.5

Florida might be best known for the fact that for all the high flying offenses Steve Spurrier produced, their NFL talent at the QB and WR positions never panned out at the next level. But it's impossible to ignore the girth of talent they have produced on the other side of the ball. Jevon Kearse (who, when healthy, is one of the best in the game) headlines the staff which also fields Lito Sheppard, Ian Scott, Mike Peterson, Channing Crowder, Kevin Carter, Alex Brown and Gerard Warren. This is not to say they haven't produced any offensive talent. Max Starks is a more than capable OT and Darrell Jackson is a highly regarded WR. You also can't neglect to mention Fred Taylor, who quietly racks up thousand yards season as he goes.

Player Total: 55
Draft Pick Total: 91.5
Starters: 18 - 180
Pro Bowlers: 3 - 50
Exp: 22 - 110
Grand total: 486.5

8) Louisiana State University - 471.5

Though a major talent void struck Baton Rouge throughout the 90's and the major instate talent fled to other schools (Warrick Dunn, Travis Minor to name a couple), LSU has rebounded nicely and once again rebuilt an extremely strong talent base, thanks in part to both Gerry Dinardo and Nick Saban. LSU alums lack the high profile superstardom of most other schools on the list, with the most recognizable names being Anthony "Booger" McFarland, Kevin Mawae, Alan Faneca, and now Joseph Addai. But they have produced a great number of quality NFL players. Marcus Spears, Andrew Whitworth, Michael Clayton, Corey Webster, Bradie James, Devery Henderson, Eddie Kennison, Kevin Faulk, and Robert Royal are all more than capable NFL players. But the real strength of LSU lies in the future. With 4 NFL 1st round draft picks this year (including 2 in the top 10 and #1 overall) and a good chance at 2 more next year, LSU could easily shoot up these rankings in a matter of years.

Player Total: 53
Draft Pick Total: 68.5
Starters: 19 - 190
Pro Bowlers: 4 (2) - 70
Exp.: 18 - 90
Grand Total: 471.5

9) The University of Texas - 435

What is perhaps the most impressive about texas cracking the top 10 is the fact that of the current top 10, they 13 fewer players than the next lowest school (Florida State). Texas has produced top flight NFL talent for ages, Mack Brown certainly didn't introduce the concept to Austin, though he may have perfected it. Texas has produced a montage of NFL players ranging from DL (Shaun Rogers, Cory Redding, Marcus Tubbs and Casey Hampton) to RBs (Ricky Williams, Priest Holmes, Cedric Benson) to DBs (Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff). Not to mention WR Roy Williams and LB Derrick Johnson. Then of course, the poster boy for Longhorn football, Vince Young. As far as these ratings go, Texas achieves more with less than anyone on the list.

Player Total: 36
Draft Pick Total: 79
Starters: 16 - 160
Probowlers: 6 - 100
Exp.: 12 - 60

10) University of Nebraska - 410

Nebraska has been a collegiate powerhouse throughout history, making a Bowl game every year since 1969. Eons of talent have travelled through Lincoln, on their way to successful NFL careers. Though Nebraska now is not as dominant as Nebraska of the 90's, they still produce a very good crop of NFL talent on a yearly basis. Headlining the solid list is RB Ahman Green, though while on the downside of his career, had 4-5 brilliant years in the early 2000's. Nebraska alums which also contribute are Richie Incognito, Cory Schlesinger, Scott Shanle, Correll Buckhalter, Josh Bullocks, Mike, Josh and Kris Brown, Demorrio Williams, Kyle Larson and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Though none of the players stand out as perennial bests at their respective positions, each is a more than capable pro, who have been highly effective throughout their careers.

Player Total: 42
Draft Pick Total: 68
Starters: 17 - 170
Probowlers: 3 - 50
Exp.: 16 - 80
Grand total: 410

Best of the Rest:

11) Auburn - 401
12) Cal - 387.5
13) Southern Cal - 377
14) Notre Dame - 358
15) Penn State - 339
16) Virginia Tech - 322.5
17) OU - 309

I was a bit surprised to see USC this low, even more surprised to see Cal head of them. However, USC should sky rocket up the listen, because the aggregated talent in Los Angeles seemingly grows by the second, with new superstars on the rise seemingly daily. Pete Carroll's recruiting will no doubt launch USC not only into the top 10, but near the top of the list.

I was also shocked to see Oklahoma at the bottom. To me, it ultimately makes what Bob Stoops does all the more impressive. Particularly beating Florida State in the National Championship while having really only one superstar player - Roy Williams. OU's recruiting classes have been substantially improved lately - should be scary to see what Bob can do with that.

The SEC absolutely dominates the list. All told, the SEC teams in the top 10 produced 215 NFL players. Those 4 teams alone have produced enough talent to field 4 entire 53 man NFL rosters. They also produced 84 starters. Which is nearly enough to field 4 teams with starting caliber talent at every position. They unquestionably produce the most talent with double the amount of teams on the list of any other conference. And Auburn was barely on the outside looking in - being just 9 points from the ten spot.

Looking at recruiting classes and draft classes of the past couple years, LSU and USC have the most potential to shoot up the list. Ohio State's recruiting has been down a bit, while Miami and Florida State have been struggling. Florida and Notre Dame could also make a substantial move if they continue their level of recruiting success.

While I didn't do player breakdowns according to their original state of origin, I think its impossible to ignore the prominance of the 3 major Florida schools on the list, considering a good collection of their recruits come from their home state. Long ranked as one of the top recruiting states along with Texas and California, I think Florida not doubt produces the most talent in the land.

You may personally disagree with my list or its ordering and that's fine, but I tried my best to find some sort of statistical argument for this question and while I don't think my formula is by any means superb, I do think its a good indicator of which schools currently have contributed to the NFL talent base.


Drew said...

wow...nice post. there were actually quite a few surprises. i like your point system a lot...

Wade said...

Good job Dan. Very good job. I enjoyed this alot. Creative and useful. Big time stuff.

Justin said...

"You may personally disagree with my list or its ordering and that's fine..."

No it isn't. This isn't the end-all-be-all list, there are obvious holes, all of the ones I could think of you preemptively listed, however, this list is very objective. The only way you could disagree with this list is to be heavily subjective.

For instance, if you are truly offended that players like Vince Young don't get what they're potentially worth then you have to subjectively assign them point totals based on what they may accomplish in the future.

Also, I don't know how you could have any serious beef with the system you devised to assign points, as you quite correctly award performance in the nfl over hype while still rewarding a school for presenting a player with loads of potential which that player then squandered.

I'm very impressed, this post, actually, took loads of research and spreadsheeting :). Keep up the good work. I didn't think you'd surprise me, of all people, but you've outdone yourself here.

joelsgirl_Kellie said...

Good Job Dan. Hey does that include non-drafted players? I doubt there are many but i am sure those schools produce quite a few walk on players too. That system would be good to check up on every five years or so and see how it changes, i would hang on to that point system and use it when your big time in 5 years writing for ESPN. Then you can talk about the stats you studied 5 years ago and how they have changed. Ha.

joelsgirl_Kellie said...

o crap, i had no idea i was logged in as that gay name anyways, good job.


John G. said...

could you post the point breakdown for Auburn? Thanks.