10 colleges that have produced the best current NFL players
The NFL Draft is coming up, meaning teams will be selecting players from colleges around the country in order to beef up their rosters. They’ll be picking players who played at big schools and small schools, hoping to strike gold. A look back into the history books spins a tale of which college programs have churned out the largest number of players and their subsequent level of success. But what about the existing crop of NFL players? Which schools have tended to produce the best players in the league of late?
The following list is subjective: here’s a look at which college programs have produced the best current NFL talent.
10. Cal Golden Bears
California is probably not a program many expected to see on this list. And while we could have gone with Ohio State, Florida, Penn State, Michigan, Texas or Notre Dame in this spot, there’s no denying the top-end talent Cal has produced.
27 former Golden Bears found themselves on an NFL roster last season, and two of them were named to The Top 100 Players of 2016, including the only quarterback in the league arguably as talented as Tom Brady.
Aaron Rodgers, a first-round pick in 2005, is not only a Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP, but was also twice named the NFL MVP. He’s also gone to six Pro Bowls and been name an All-Pro four times in his career. He led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2016 and owns numerous all-time NFL records — so many, in fact, that it would eat up a quarter of this article listing them all out.
Overshadowed by Rodgers, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan also made an appearance on the Top 100 players list, checking in at No. 99 overall. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler who will likely eclipse 50 career sacks this coming season.
Other big names produced by California include Keenan Allen, C.J. Anderson, Jared Goff, DeSean Jackson, Marvin Jones, Mychal Kendricks, Alex Mack, Shane Vereen and Mitchell Schwartz. They also have produced the man they call Beast Mode — Marshawn Lynch.
9. Miami Hurricanes
Ah, Miami. The U — an NFL talent factory that has produced some of the league’s very best players throughout history. And while the program has gone through a recent slump, they’re still churning out talent with the best of them.
Last season, 37 former Hurricanes had a spot on an NFL roster. Three of them were also named to The Top 100 Players of 2016, and it could be argued that even more deserved a spot on that list.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, led the way, but was joined by now-Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell, who is a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, as well as Jags wide receiver Allen Hurns, who had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2015.
Other big names produced by Miami include Frank Gore, Ereck Flowers, Orlando Franklin, Jimmy Graham, Devin Hester, Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon.
8. Stanford Cardinal
It may come as a minor surprise, but Stanford actually had 29 graduates appear on an NFL roster last season, and three of them were named to the The Top 100 Players of 2016.
Leading that group is one of the most talented all-around cornerbacks in the game, Richard Sherman. The Seattle Seahawks star is not only a Super Bowl champion, but has also been named to four Pro Bowls and won the 2014 NFC Defensive Player of the Year award. Additionally, he’s received four All-Pro nods and led the league in interceptions in 2013.
Also featured on the Top 100 Players list were Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who has gone to one Pro Bowl and co-led the NFL in receptions in 2013, and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who has been named to three Pro Bowls and led the NFL in passing touchdowns in 2014.
But even beyond the top tier of ex-Cardinal talent, there’s a lot of meat left on the bone. In addition to the highlighted trio, Stanford has produced current players like including Coby Fleener, Andrus Peat, Ty Montgomery, Trent Murphy and Zach Ertz. The surge in former Standford players in the league is a real tribute to what Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw have done to transform the program.
7. Oklahoma Sooners
35 former Sooners appeared on an NFL roster last season, and three of them made an appearance on The Top 100 Players of 2016. In fact, one of them was among the top five and is a guaranteed, undeniable future Hall of Famer.
Adrian Peterson, who was drafted in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft, is a seven-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro, two-time Bert Bell award winner, the 2007 NFL Rookie of the Year, three-time league rushing leader, two-time league touchdown leader and the 2012 Most Valuable Player.
Precious few schools have a single player with a more decorated history than Peterson, and those that do are not featured on this list (see: Michigan and Tom Brady).
In addition to Peterson, Oklahoma has also produced five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Trent Williams, as well as five-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro Gerald McCoy.
Even outside of the truly big names, the Sooners have produced quality talent in DeMarco Murray, Jermaine Gresham, Sam Bradford, Kenny Stills, Sterling Shepard and Lane Johnson.
6. Pittsburgh Panthers
Pittsburgh was represented by 15 players on NFL rosters last season, but what really makes their personnel contribution impressive is that four of those 15 were named to The Top 100 Players of 2016, which was good for third-most in the entire league. Not a bad percentage when you really break the numbers down.
All four are also game-changing talents led by Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is considered by many to be the most disruptive force not named J.J. Watt. He won the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year award, has been to three straight Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro twice.
Other former Panthers named to the Top 100 Players include cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who are both future Hall of Famers, and running back LeSean McCoy, who is a five-time Pro Bowler and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Pitt has also produced other quality NFL talent by way of T.J. Clemmings, Dion Lewis, Andy Lee and Jabaal Sheard.