Guest column by Dan Davis
With the recent advent and advancement of recruiting websites, a new level of competition has been introduced to college football fans. While debates concerning the top schools have raged for decades, fans now have the ability to more accurately measure which college football programs perennially produce the most talent. Which Florida school is really the best: Miami, Florida State or Florida? Which is the better Big Ten school: Ohio State or Michigan?
I have composed a list of the ten most successful collegiate programs since the year 2000 (the 2000 NFL draft, after the 1999 NCAA season) when it comes to generating NFL talent. To measure this, I have developed my own point system. Schools can earn points in five categories.
1) Each school earns points for each player drafted. The number of points is based on the round the player was drafted in:
1st round: 3.5 points
2nd round: 3.0 points
3rd round: 2.5 points
4th round: 2.0 points
5th round: 1.5 points
6th round: 1.0 point
7th round: 0.5 points
2) Schools get 10 points for each NFL starter.
3) Schools get 15 points for producing a player who has made it to the Pro Bowl. They get a 5-point bonus for any player with three or more Pro Bowls.
4) Schools get 5 points for each NFL player with a career of 5 or more seasons.
5) Finally, schools get 1 point for each player on an NFL roster.
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 (also Miami, 25). That would simplify the manner too much. This study is interested in which schools turn out both the most and the best talent. While my 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 points for Vince Young. Young's rating is slightly discredited since he is only a rookie. In four years he could be worth 41.5 points, the maximum value. Furthermore, teams get no credit for projected starters from draft picks. So essentially, while Laron Landry and Brady Quinn will most likely be starters for their respective teams, they were only worth 4.5 points each. This makes a difference for teams like LSU with four 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 every player in the league who has been a starter or Pro Bowl player at any point in his career, even if they are no longer at that level. While this may somewhat skew the rankings, it's not a large enough point difference to move one school ahead of another. Also, I counted as a starter any player who started more than 8 games or so in a given year. 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 as a starter.
3) Schools are not awarded points for producing undrafted free agents. If that player turned out well, the school still earned points for his performance, by not his draft status.
After all the number crunching, these are the rankings I've arrived at:
And it's not even close. Was there really any question about this? 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 it's not just quantity (though they have produced the most players); their quality is stellar. Since just 2000, Miami has produced Pro Bowl players Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Sean Taylor, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Andre Johnson. All told, they have an outstanding 28 starters, and 16 Pro Bowl players.
Draft pick points: 148.5
Starter points: 280
Pro Bowl players: 16 for 235 points
Experience points: 110
Player points: 61
2) Florida State
This is perhaps the most shocking team on the list. I knew they'd be mentioned, but I never expected them to be this high. The Seminoles have produced some of the best at a couple positions: the NFL's best left tackle, Walter Jones, and the best weakside linebacker, Derrick Brooks. Combine that with names like 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.
Draft pick points: 122.5
Starter points: 220
Pro Bowl players: 10 for 160 points
Experience points: 95
Player points: 49
3) Ohio State
Ohio State falls just behind Miami in sheer number of pros produced with 60. While the USC-Texas 2005 encounter consistently gets the billing as the most star-studded National Championship game ever, it's my sneaking suspicion that Ohio State and Miami's 2003 showdown may have actually been better. Coincidentally, those were the two best National Championship games this decade. It's hard to argue with the top flight guys Ohio State has churned out: Nate Clements, Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs and Terry Glenn are all Pro Bowl performers. (LeCharles Bentley deserves a mention, because he was well on his way to being one of the best in the game before suffering a career-threatening 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 perennial Pro Bowls.
Draft pick points: 127.5
Starter points: 250
Pro Bowl players: 7 for 110 points
Experience points: 95
Player points: 60
I would bet my bottom dollar that everyone reading this (besides Bulldogs fans) is shocked by this one. Other fanbases recognize Georgia as a perennial college football power, but I suspect most didn't think they would fall this high. But they've earned the ranking. Since 2000, Georgia has basically fielded an NFL defensive line every year. Check out their list of 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 cornerback in Denver you might have heard of Champ Something. Georgia (like everyone else) lacks the Pro Bowl power of Miami, 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.
Draft pick points: 95.5
Starter points: 260
Pro Bowl players: 6 for 115 points
Experience points: 115
Player points: 55
Michigan has long been one of the top producers of NFL talent. It's little surprise that they crack the top five. Although long regarded as one of the top quarterback manufacturers in college football, they currently have only one starter in the NFL at that position. Luckily for them, he's widely considered either 1a or 1b (depending on what you think of Peyton Manning) by every imaginable source. Tom Brady headlines an exceptional lot produced by Michigan. Charles Woodson and Ty Law have at times been considered two of the very best cornerbacks 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 it's easy to see why they are ranked so high.
Draft pick points: 80.5
Starter points: 220
Pro Bowl players: 7 for 125 points
Experience points: 130
Player points: 58
There's a reason Phil Fulmer is considered one of the best coaches in the business. Just take a quick glance over the talent lineup in the NFL, and it's easy to recognize why. Tennessee has produced a smattering of talent covering all areas of the football field. They've produced a handful of solid wide receivers (Donte Stallworth, Peerless Price and Cedrick Wilson, and this group will soon include Robert Meachem); more than a couple of great defensive linemen (Albert Haynesworth, Leonard Little, Shaun Ellis and John Henderson); two very good running backs (Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry); a Pro Bowl tight end (Jason Witten); and, of course, the crown jewel for the Volunteers, Peyton Manning.
Draft pick points: 105.5
Starter points: 210
Pro Bowl players: 6 for 95 points
Experience points: 100
Player points: 52
Florida might be best known for the fact that despite all the high-flying offenses Steve Spurrier produced, their NFL talent at the quarterback and wideout positions never panned out at the next level. But it's impossible to ignore the girth of talent they've produced on the other side of the ball. Jevon Kearse (who, when healthy, is one of the best in the game) headlines the list, 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 more than capable at offensive tackle and Darrell Jackson is a highly regarded wide receiver. You also can't neglect Fred Taylor, who quietly racks up thousand-yard seasons as he goes.
Draft pick points: 91.5
Starter points: 180
Pro Bowl players: 3 for 50 points
Experience points: 110
Player points: 55
8) Louisiana State
Though a major talent void struck Baton Rouge throughout the â€˜90s and the major instate talent fled to other schools (Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor to name a couple), LSU has rebounded nicely and once again rebuilt an extremely strong talent base, thanks in part to former coaches 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 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 four 1st round draft picks this year (including two in the top 10 and No. 1 overall) and a good chance at two more next year, LSU could easily shoot up these rankings in a few seasons.
Draft pick points: 68.5
Starter points: 190
Pro Bowl players: 4 for 70 points
Experience points: 90
Player points: 53
Perhaps the most impressive achievement for Texas is that they made the top despite producing 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 defensive linemen (Shaun Rogers, Cory Redding, Marcus Tubbs and Casey Hampton) to running backs (Ricky Williams, Priest Holmes, Cedric Benson) to defensive backs (Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff), not to mention wide receiver Roy Williams and linebacker Derrick Johnson. Then, of course, we have the poster boy for Longhorn football: Vince Young. As far as these ratings go, Texas achieves more with less than anyone on the list.
Draft pick points: 79
Starter points: 160
Pro Bowl players: 6 for 100 points
Experience points: 60
Player points: 36
Nebraska has been a collegiate powerhouse throughout history, making a bowl game every year since 1969. Eons of talent have traveled through Lincoln on their way to successful NFL careers. Though Nebraska now is not as dominant as they were in the â€˜90s, they still produce a very good crop of NFL talent on a yearly basis. Headlining the solid list is running back Ahman Green, who's on the downside of his career, but had four or five brilliant years in the early 2000s. Other contributing Nebraska alums are Richie Incognito, Cory Schlesinger, Scott Shanle, Correll Buckhalter, Josh Bullocks, Demorrio Williams, Kyle Larson, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Mike, Josh and Kris Brown. Though none of the players stand out as perennial bests at their respective positions, each is a more than capable pro. They've been highly effective throughout their careers.
Draft pick points: 68
Starter points: 170
Pro Bowl players: 3 for 50 points
Experience points: 80
Player points: 42
Best of the Rest:
11) Auburn: 401
12) Cal: 387.5
13) USC: 377
14) Notre Dame: 358
15) Penn State: 339
I was a bit surprised to see USC this low, and even more surprised to see Cal ahead of them. However, USC should skyrocket up the list, 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 not make the top 15. To me, that ultimately makes what Bob Stoops does all the more impressive, particularly beating Florida State in the National Championship game with only one real superstar: safety Roy Williams. Oklahoma's recruiting classes have been substantially improved lately; it should be scary to see what Stoops can do with that.
The Southeastern Conference absolutely dominates the list. All told, the SEC teams in the top 10 produced 215 NFL players. Those four teams alone have produced enough talent to field four entire 53-man NFL rosters. They also produced 84 starters, nearly enough to field four teams with starting caliber talent at every position. They produced double the amount of players of any other conference on the list. And Auburn was barely on the outside looking in, just nine 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 players' state of origin, I think it's impossible to ignore the prominence of the three 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 no 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 answer for this question. While I don't think my formula is by any means perfect, I do think it's a good indicator of which schools currently have contributed to the NFL talent base.
Dan Davis is currently an English major at Oklahoma Baptist University, where he works for the student publication The Bison. Dan's other sports writings can be found on his blog. Submit ideas or rough drafts of guest columns to Contact Us.