Welcome to Year 5 of the NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings! The more things change, the more things stay the same at the top. Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida are all still part of the top five. However, we are starting to see the on-the-field struggles for Florida State and Stanford catch up to them. Both have fallen outside the top 20 and could potentially drop out of the rankings altogether if things don’t get turned around.
I love doing these rankings every year because it shows you which schools are the best at preparing players for the NFL draft. Obviously, it should be taken into account that usually these schools are also the ones that excel in recruiting, but there is a lot more to it than that. Receiving the right exposure, playing in a specific system or especially competing against the best talent all play a role in shaping a prospects draft stock as well. This is not a predictive measurement of how well players from these schools will do in the pros. For high school prospects with dreams of playing on Sundays, these are the best programs to get you there.
The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points
1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 315 points
Previous: 1 (281 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Quinnen Williams, 3rd Overall, 2019
This is just unbelievable. The Crimson Tide have led these rankings every single year I have made them. Their point total has reached a staggering 315, becoming the first school to eclipse the 300-mark. For the fourth straight year, Alabama had four players selected in the first round. That doesn’t include the countless players selected in the second round, third round and beyond. Ohio State closed the gap significantly, but ‘Bama is still the king.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes- 285 points
Previous: 2 (229 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Nick Bosa/Chase Young, 2nd Overall, 2019/2020
While Alabama is clearly the best football factory in the country, there is no question Ohio State belongs in the conversation. Ryan Day sent a huge batch of players to the NFL in 2020, including two players in the top three picks. And as if you haven’t heard already, Joe Burrow started his college career in Columbus as well. There is still a long ways to go to catch the Tide, but for the first time ever, it feels possible for the Buckeyes to take the top spot in the future.
3. LSU Tigers- 202 points
Previous: 6 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Joe Burrow, 1st Overall, 2020
This will go down as one of the greatest draft classes in NFL history. Five first-rounders and 14 players drafted in total, the latter of which was a record. Joe Burrow became just the second LSU player to go first overall in program history. I am a little skeptical that the Tigers will continue to dominate like this in the draft with so much turnover, but they became the only school other than Ohio State and Alabama to eclipse the 200-point threshold.
4. Clemson Tigers- 171 points
Previous: 4 (158 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Clelin Ferrell, 4th Overall, 2019
Another team regularly producing NFL talent, it feels like Clemson is just ramping up for a special run in these rankings. The Tigers had two more first rounders this year from a draft class of seven players selected in total. Given the expectations surrounding the Tigers in 2020 and the continued pipeline of elite recruits, Clemson should be a regular in the top five and make a real run at climbing higher.
5. Florida Gators- 161 points
Previous: 3 (166 points)
Highest Drafted Player- CJ Henderson, 9th overall, 2020
The on-field success is steadily building and the draft success is staying steady. Florida is consistently turning out players going in the first three rounds. With the Gators seemingly on the verge of breaking into college football elite, it would be a surprise to see them drop much further than this. If they could get a few more players going in the first round, they should solidify their spot in the top 5.
6. Michigan Wolverines- 144 points
Previous: 8 (127 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Devin Bush, 10th Overall, 2019
Jim Harbaugh might not be able to knock off Ohio State, but he is still sending boatloads of players to the NFL. For the second time in four years, Michigan saw its number of players drafted reach double digits. They have been a little streaky, with two years with just two players drafted in the past five drafts. While there are plenty of questions surrounding Harbaugh, he continues to prepare players for the next level.
7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 136 points
Previous: 14 (110 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
Tied for the biggest riser in these rankings this season, it was a nice bounce back for the Fighting Irish. Even though they didn’t reach the College Football Playoff this season, Notre Dame still put together another really impressive draft class. With six players taken in the 2020 draft, including three in the first three rounds, the Irish continue to make waves. Brian Kelly continues to do a great job putting players in position to make the jump to the pros.
8. Oklahoma Sooners- 133 points
Previous: 9 (125 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2018/2019
With two more first-round picks, Oklahoma continues to rise up the rankings under Lincoln Riley. The Sooners seem to be on verge of becoming a football factory once again. However, after a three-year run of transfer quarterbacks either winning the Heisman or finishing as the runner up from OU, there is some uncertainty at the position. Now that won’t diminish any of the talent still existing elsewhere on this roster, but it could rob a number of players of the same big stage to showcase that talent.
9. Georgia Bulldogs- 131 points
Previous: 10 (122 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Roquon Smith, 8th Overall, 2018
Another strong year for Georgia turned into another great draft class. What is impressive is that this class could have been even deeper if a few defensive stars had entered the draft and not returned to school. That sets up the Bulldogs well for continued success next year. I don’t expect them to leave the top 10 any time soon. Count on Kirby Smart to continue cultivating NFL talent.
10. Washington Huskies- 110 points
Previous: 5 (140 points)
Highest Drafted Player- John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
After years of dominating the draft, the Huskies took a massive hit. Dropping 30 points of value is pretty steep. Washington only had two players selected in 2020 this was definitely a down year. It doesn’t help either that Jacob Eason was the first Husky taken this year in the fourth round. With a very small 2016 draft class, Washington should not fall much next year, but could be in danger in the future.
11. USC Trojans- 104 points
Previous: 13 (114 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
This is not your grandfather’s or even your father’s USC. The Trojans have fallen from college football’s elite, but still seem capable of sending some top-tier talent to the NFL. Having two players drafted in the first 33 selection is a really nice start, but Austin Jackson and Michael Pittman ended up being the only Trojans taken. More depth would be nice going forward considering USC dropped points, but still moved up.
12. Auburn Tigers- 101 points
Previous: 19 (82 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Derrick Brown, 7th Overall, 2020
Derrick Brown and Noah Igbinoghene were Auburn’s first first-round selections since 2014. This class had depth beyond those two as well, which led to a nice jump up this list. The Tigers have not been at the same level as they were at the beginning of last decade, but these are the type of years that make you believe Auburn still has it when it comes to producing NFL prospects.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions- 100 points
Previous: 17 (93 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
Saquon Barkley still stands alone as the only Penn State player selected in the first round since 2010. However, a pair of second rounders and a few late-round selections still created a solid class. James Franklin is still a step behind Ohio State and Michigan, both on the field and in these rankings. Given that the Nittany Lions have clawed their way into the top 15, I think its fair to say they are trending in the right direction when it comes to preparing players for the next level.
14. UCLA Bruins- 98 points
Previous: 15 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Josh Rosen, 10th Overall, 2018
The on-field product has been rocky so far in the Chip Kelly era, but Oregon became a pipeline to the NFL under his tutelage. The Bruins have been a constant in these rankings, even in some of their leaner years. If Kelly can put his stamp on the program, I have a feeling that will continue and we could possibly see UCLA climb back up the ranks.
15. Ole Miss Rebels- 93 points
Previous: 15 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Laremy Tunsil, 13th Overall, 2016
Trouble is on the horizon. While Ole Miss didn’t slide, this team is trending in the wrong direction. Not a single player from the program heard his name called in the 2020 draft. The Rebels produced a monster class in 2016, featuring three first-round picks. With this being the last year that class will be included in these rankings, I think it is fair to expect a huge drop off in the 2021 rankings. However, Lane Kiffin is in charge now and could very well turn this around. While a dip is coming, Kiffin is the type of recruiter that could have Ole Miss surging back soon after.
16. Mississippi State Bulldogs- 91 points
Previous: 18 (86 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jeffery Simmons, 19th Overall, 2019
It might not be a star-studded group, but the 2020 draft class looks pretty solid for Mississippi State. On one side of things, the Bulldogs continue to send players to the NFL with consistency. However, there are a number of players who have slipped into the middle rounds of the draft that have had a lot of success. It begs questions about Mississippi State ability to elevate their player’s stock the same way other top programs have. It will be really interesting to see how this develops with Mike Leach taking over in Starkville.
17. Texas A&M Aggies- 90 points
Previous: 16 (95 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
Jimbo Fisher has yet to reach the same heights he hit at Florida State. He hasn’t quite hit the same level at producing NFL talent yet since taking over at Texas A&M either. However, we could see that change pretty soon. Fisher’s first full recruiting class will be draft eligible this year, which could see them start to climb in these rankings. They are a team to watch with interest over the next few seasons.
17. Utah Utes- 90 points
Previous: 20 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Garrett Bolles, 20th Overall, 2017
For the third time in four years, Utah has filled the middle rounds of the NFL draft. 2018 was a bit of a dud, with only one player taken. Outside of that, the Utes have sent eight, five and now seven players respectively to league. Utah has been knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff. If they can break through, we could start to see a few of these players start to go in the big money rounds.
19. Iowa Hawkeyes – 86 points
Previous: 20 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player- T.J. Hockenson, 8th Overall, 2019
When you think of old-school NFL factories, Iowa definitely comes to mind. While the Hawkeyes might not be the best, they certainly have a knack for sending at least a few players to the next level. Iowa has had at least three players taken in each of the past four drafts. Given that the team’s 2016 group consisted of just one seventh-round pick, there is plenty of potential for a rise in next year’s rankings with another good class.
19. Miami Hurricanes- 86 points
Previous: 11 (117 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Artie Burns, 25th Overall, 2016
The U isn’t quite back yet. They are definitely getting close though. Miami had a respectable four players selected, but none went before the fourth round. With a few potential first-round prospects for 2021, the Hurricanes could be in line for a quick bounce back, but this has been a disappointing stretch for Miami’s NFL production.
21. Stanford Cardinal- 85 points
Previous: 12 (116 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
When I started these rankings back in 2016, Stanford ranked seventh and was still riding the Andrew Luck years. While there have been a handful of top prospects to emerge since then, this has to be a disappointment to fall outside the top 20. The Cardinal had only two players selected in 2020, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. David Shaw has his work cut out for him to get Stanford back to national relevance and seeing more players take the next step in their football careers.
22. North Carolina State Wolfpack- 83 points
Previous: 22 (79 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Bradley Chubb, 5th Overall, 2018
It was a quiet year for the Wolfpack, but they are mostly surviving off a great 2018 draft class. They did have Garrett Bradbury go in the 2019 first round as well. Just two draft picks in 2020, one in the fifth and one in the seventh, isn’t too impressive though. It will be interesting to see which direction NC State is heading by next year.
23. Florida State Seminoles- 80 points
Previous: 6 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jalen Ramsey, 5th Overall, 2016
Talk about the bottom falling out. Florida State started out at No. 2 in these rankings back in 2016. The program has been a mess in recent years and it was only a matter of time before these rankings began to reflect that. With just a single player selected in 2020, the fall might not be over for the Seminoles.
24. TCU Horned Frogs- 79 points
Previous: Not ranked (55 points)
Highest Draft Player- Jalen Reagor, 21st Overall, 2020
For the first time in school history, TCU had two players selected in the first round as both Jalen Reagor and Jeff Gladney heard their names called. This is also the first time the Horned Frogs have entered these rankings. With five draft picks in 2020 and at least three players selected in four of the past five drafts, TCU has potential to stick around. Hopefully, Gary Patterson is up to the task.
25. Wisconsin Badgers- 73 points
Previous: 25 (74 points)
Highest Drafted Player- T.J. Watt, 30th Overall, 2017
The Badgers had a solid if unspectacular 2020 draft class. They failed to land a player in the first round, but they did have four players come off the board and all before the sixth round. Wisconsin debuted in these rankings at 15 back in 2016 so dropping to the edge is definitely disappointing. That being said, you can count on a few Badgers being selected in the middle rounds of the draft just about every year like clockwork.
Others Receiving Votes: West Virginia (63 points), Boston College (56 points), Temple (56 points)
Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons