Welcome to Year 7! This is one of my favorite exercises to conduct every year. It is always incredibly interesting to see which schools make the cut and if anyone can come close to catching Alabama (spoiler: hasn’t happened yet.)
Unsurprisingly, the SEC continues to dominate these rankings. Nine teams from the conference feature in the Top 25 this year. The Pac-12 is shockingly second with five. However, none of them are in the top 10 and that includes USC and UCLA, who are leaving to join the Big Ten in 2024.
For those wondering, this exercise was somewhat inspired by the Pro Potential rankings from the NCAA Football games in dynasty mode. This list is not meant to measure how successful any of these players were after reaching the NFL. It is a far better tool for high school recruits to see which schools are the best at getting players drafted.
Obviously, recruiting plays a huge role in all of this, but there is not a direct correlation between recruiting rankings and these rankings. Just ask Jimbo Fisher. Enough rambling. Let’s get to this year’s Top 25.
As a reminder as to how these rankings are created, I look at all the players drafted over the past five years and then score their draft spot using the scoring system below. The draft classes included in this year’s rankings span from 2018 to 2022.
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 – 316 points
Previous: 1 (343 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Quinnen Williams, 3rd Overall, 2019
This was a disappointing draft, by Alabama standards. And yet, they still lead these ranks by 76 points. Still, two first rounders was the fewest for the Tide since 2016. ‘Bama dropped points for the first time since I started these rankings. Keep in mind, for any other school, this would be a really good class. I fully expect Alabama to be back in the range of four or five first-rounders next year with Bryce Young, Eli Ricks, Will Anderson and a few others in the mix.
2. Georgia Bulldogs – 240 points
Previous: 7 (153 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Travon Walker, 1st Overall, 2022
Georgia’s dominant 2021 season led to a monster draft class. The Bulldogs set a modern NFL record with 15 players selected, including five first-rounders. They broke the record set by LSU in the 2020 draft. I don’t know that Georgia will come anywhere close to that again in the near future, but they should have more than enough NFL production to stay in the top five. Kirby Smart might be the best recruiter in the country and he and his staff have done an excellent job of developing talent along the way.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes – 232 points
Previous: 2 (248 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Nick Bosa/Chase Young, 2nd Overall, 2019/2020
It was a bit of a quieter draft for the Buckeyes with six players selected, the fewest the school has had since 2015. However, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave gave Ohio State multiple first-round selections for the sixth time in the past seven years. Ryan Day has an unquestionable eye for talent at receiver and that room is still loaded. Hopes of catching Alabama seemed to have faded for now, but a spot in the top three feels pretty secure at this stage.
4. LSU Tigers – 207 points
Previous: 3 (215 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Joe Burrow, 1st Overall, 2020
Brian Kelly built Notre Dame into one of the better NFL pipelines in the country. Now, he will get to prove that he can do it in the Bayou with a huge recruiting hotbed to work with. Ed Orgeron had LSU among the nation’s elite producers in NFL talent already, so it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain that. The Tigers quietly had 10 players taken in this class. However, Derek Stingley Jr. was the lone first-round selection. Kelly will need to put a few more in the top 32 if LSU is going to keep up with Alabama, Georgia and LSU.
5. Michigan Wolverines – 145 points
Previous: 4 (170 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Aidan Hutchinson, 2nd Overall, 2022
The drop off from the top four to everyone else is massive. Aidan Hutchinson became the Wolverines highest drafted player since 2008 when Jake Long went No. 1 overall. However, Michigan lost an 11-man class from 2017 that caused them to drop in the rankings. Still, after a run to the College Football Playoff, Jim Harbaugh seems to have things headed in the right direction. He has revolutionized Michigan football and turned them into a true NFL factory. When I started these rankings in 2016, following Harbaugh’s first year in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines were not ranked. The following year, they skyrocketed to No. 11 and they have been in the top 10 since 2019.
6. Oklahoma Sooners – 144 points
Previous: 8 (138 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2018/2019
Things are going to change a lot for Oklahoma. The Sooners had a solid seven-player draft class, but none were selected in the first round. With Lincoln Riley gone, there is no guarantee that this team continues to produce NFL draft picks at the same level. Brent Venables arrives from Clemson as a first-time head coach. He has proven himself as a developer of defensive talent. The Tigers had a bevy of first-round selections on that side of the ball during his tenure. Oklahoma actually picked up a few points this year after losing a lackluster 2017 class. This will be one of the more interesting schools to watch in the coming years with a change of leadership.
7. Florida Gators – 143 points
Previous: 5 (167 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Kyle Pitts, 4th Overall, 2021
A lack of on the field success and another coaching change have finally started to catch up with Florida. That being said, the Gators are still firmly entrenched in the top 10 and only two points out of the top five. With just three players selected this past season, it seems like the program is headed in the wrong direction from an NFL production standpoint. Kaiir Elam was a first-round pick, but if I had to guess, I would say it is more likely Florida falls a little further than climbs back into the top five. Billy Napier has his work cut out for him.
8. Penn State Nittany Lions – 138 points
Previous: 11 (109 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
Say what you will about James Franklin, but he has turned Happy Valley into a pro prospect goldmine once again. When I first started these rankings, Penn State was on the fringes and had not had a first-round pick since 2010. Now, they’ve had six straight draft classes with at least five players selected, including four first-rounders. There is still room for improvement when it comes to producing top-end talent, but make no mistake, the Nittany Lions are well entrenched in these rankings and have a very good base to build on.
9. Clemson Tigers – 137 points
Previous: 6 (165 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Trevor Lawrence, 1st Overall, 2021
A few years ago, I believed it was legitimately possible for Clemson to start challenging Ohio State and Alabama atop these rankings. Oh how times have changed. Now, Dabo Swinney’s program is on the verge of falling out of the top 10. Just two former Tigers heard their names called in the 2022 draft. Swinney’s defense is loaded with draft prospects this year though so, CLemson should stick in the top 10.
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 135 points
Previous: 10 (130 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Quenton Nelson, 6th Overall, 2018
Notre Dame continues its run in the upper echelon of NFL draft prospect production. However, Brian Kelly is now headed to Baton Rouge. Marcus Freeman will now have to prove he is just as capable of recruiting and developing top-tier talent. There is no question the Irish still offer the big stage needed to get noticed by scouts. It will be interesting to see which direction Freeman will lead this team in the coming seasons.
11. Washington Huskies – 123 points
Previous: 9 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Vita Vea, 12th Overall, 2018
There is a bit of a gap between Notre Dame and Washington, but the Huskies are closer to the top programs on this list than they are the bottom of it. However, much like the Irish, they are undergoing a coaching change. Jimmy Lake is out and Kalen DeBoer is in. It is a rapid rise for DeBoer, who spent just two years leading Fresno State before taking the job with Washington. A total of four former Huskies were drafted in 2022, headlined by Trent McDuffie in the first round. Don’t expect Washington to go anywhere any time soon given their past draft success, but DeBoer has big shoes to fill.
12. USC Trojans – 103 points
Previous: 12 (108 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
Well hello there Big Ten-bound USC. The Trojans continue to hover outside the Top 10, but had a more transformational offseason than any program in college football. Southern Cal hired Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma, added his former quarterback Caleb Williams via the transfer portal and announced that it, along with UCLA, will be headed to the Big Ten. This is huge news for many of the Big Ten schools, but it is significant for USC’s to recruit the midwest. I think we could see the Trojans rise rapidly over the next few seasons as Riley takes over and the impact of the conference realignment takes hold.
13. Iowa Hawkeyes – 97 points
Previous: 13 (98 points)
Highest Drafted Player – T.J. Hockenson, 8th Overall, 2019
Need an offensive lineman or a tight end? Iowa still remains the place to look. Tyler Linderbaum became the latest Hawkeyes lineman to go in Round 1. However, Only one other player from Iowa was selected this year. Producing first-round picks is always a good thing, but it would be good to see Kirk Ferentz’s program have more than two total prospects selected. I’m not too worried about their long-term prospects, but don’t expect the Hawkeyes to climb much higher than where they stand right now.
14. Mississippi State Bulldogs – 92 points
Previous: 20 (77 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Charles Cross, 9th Overall, 2022
I was a bit surprised to see Mississippi State climbing in these rankings after having just two players selected in the 2022 draft. Charles Cross going in the first round obviously made a big difference, but still. The reason for the jump is that the Bulldogs were getting very little value from the 2017 class no longer being included in the scoring. That class featured just one sixth-round selection. As long as Mississippi State’s 2019 class is still relevant, which included three first-round picks, they will be in the rankings. Things look rather murky beyond that point though.
15. Auburn Tigers – 91 points
Previous: 15 (96 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Derrick Brown, 7th Overall, 2020
Auburn is widely being described as a dumpster fire with no direction forward. That might start to catch up with them soon. The Tigers had just one player selected over the course of draft weekend this year. It was the first time since 2013 Auburn failed to produce multiple draft selections. That being said, Auburn has solid classes in the previous four years included in the scoring, so they won’t drop off any time soon, but Bryan Harsin will need to turn things around if Auburn wants to maintain its spot in the top 15.
16. Texas A&M Aggies – 88 points
Previous: 16 (90 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Kenyon Green, 15th Overall, 2022
Jimbo Fisher has yet to really deliver on the enormous expectations heaped on him when he arrived in College Station. That applies both on the field and on draft day. Fisher built Florida State into a draft juggernaut. The Seminoles were second when I debuted these rankings back in 2016. A&M has yet to crack the top 10. It was another solid draft class for the Aggies, featuring four players, including a first-round pick. For most other schools, this would be a really good place to be. I am just surprised they haven’t climbed higher.
17. Kentucky Wildcats – 83 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes: (60 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Josh Allen, 7th overall, 2019
Well hello there Kentucky. The Wildcats were clawing at the door last year, but finally broke though. Four more draft picks, including three Day 2 selections, pushed them into the rankings. Don’t expect them to go anywhere either. Will Levis is drawing top-10 buzz in the 2023 class. What is even more important is that Kentucky did not have a single player selected in 2017 or 2018. The only way the Wildcats will be going is up.
18. North Carolina State Wolfpack – 76 points
Previous: 23 (72 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Bradley Chubb, 5th Overall, 2018
NC State continues to be one of the most underrated producers of NFL talent. The Wolfpack produced another first-round selection with Ikem Ekwonu this year. However, things have slowed down a bit in Raleigh in recent years. NC State’s seven-player class from 2018 won’t be included in next year’s rankings. They have only had nine players taken over the past four drafts combined. Producing first-rounders will keep them in the mix, but they need a bit more volume to solidify their spot.
19. Ole Miss Rebels – 73 points
Previous: 25 (69 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Greg Little, 37th Overall, 2019
Lane Kiffin seems to have the Rebels headed in the right direction, but it has yet to result in a ton of draft success. Ole Miss has had a bunch of mid-round selections in recent years, including a healthy 6-player class in 2022. However, it has been six years since their last first-round pick. Given a bit more time, I think Kiffin will get them back into the top 15. At the very least, I don’t think there is any reason to expect them to drop out of the rankings at this point.
20. Miami Hurricanes – 71 points
Previous: 14 (97 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Jaelan Phillips, 18th Overall, 2021
Given how irrelevant the Canes have been on the national stage, it is a wonder they are still in the top 25. That being said, no one has risen up to knock them out yet. This was easily the worst year we have seen from Miami from a draft perspective possibly ever. It was the first time since 2009 that the Hurricanes accounted for just one NFL draft selection. Jonathan Ford was taken in the seventh round as well. However, the window to push them out might have already passed. Mario Cristobal returns to his alma mater with hopes of restoring the program’s former glory. If he can successfully recruit South Florida and replicate the player development he displayed at Oregon, Miami will be back in a big way.
20. Florida State Seminoles – 71 points
Previous: 19 (78 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Brian Burns, 16th Overall, 2019
Much like Miami, Florida State is still trying to pick up the pieces. As I mentioned when talking about Texas A&M, Jimbo Fisher had the Seminoles among the country’s elite when it came to draft prospects. They were in the top five from 2016 to 2018. Now, Florida State is clinging to its spot in the top 25. Unlike Miami, there is not quite as much hope on the horizon. Mike Norvell has yet to get the Seminoles back to .500 and Jermaine Johnson II was the lone player from his program who heard his name called during the draft. Don’t be shocked if FSU falls out next year.
22. UCLA Bruins – 70 points
Previous: 21 (76 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Josh Rosen, 10th Overall, 2018
While there was a lot more made about USC joining the Big Ten than UCLA, the Bruins are a solid addition in the college football landscape. Chip Kelly has kept them in the mix. Unfortunately, UCLA finds itself in a precarious spot when it comes to these rankings. Its impressive 2018 draft class is in its final year of inclusion. While this was a solid class with six players taken, their earliest pick came at the end of the third round. Kelly will need another really good draft class in order to stick in the rankings.
23. TCU Horned Frogs – 69 points
Previous: 24 (70 points)
Highest Draft Player – Jalen Reagor, 21st Overall, 2020
Yup. The Horned Frogs are still here. Don’t ask me how. TCU did not have a single player drafted in 2022. However, its 2017 draft class featured just one seventh-round pick, so the needle barely moved. What I think this underlines is how steep the drop off is from the top programs and the lack of depth in these rankings. Looking at the scoring past about 17, we are splitting hairs. However, TCU will be an interesting team to watch with Sonny Dykes now taking over as head coach. The Horned Frogs won’t be shut out again either with Quentin Johnston looking like a potential first-round pick in 2023.
23. Stanford Cardinal – 69 points
Previous: 17 (88 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Walker Little, 45th overall, 2021
Somehow, some way, Stanford is still hanging on. It was a very quiet draft weekend for the Cardinal with just one fifth-round selection this year. The future outlook for David Shaw’s program is not great. That being said, Tanner McKee is drawing some NFL buzz and if Davis Mills has shown us anything so far in his very brief NFL career, it might be good to stop doubting Shaw’s ability to find and develop pro talent.
23. Oregon Ducks – 69 points
Previous: NR (59 points)
Highest Draft Player – Kayvon Thibodeaux, 5th Overall, 2022
The quack is back. Well in the rankings at least. Kayvon Thibodeaux became the Ducks’ highest drafted player since Marcus Mariota in 2015. However, Thibodeaux was also the only Oregon player selected. On top of that, Mario Cristobal just left for Miami. However, there is no reason to panic. The 2018 draft class from Oregon was nothing spectacular and Dan Lanning arrived from Georgia. There is no question that Kirby Smart deserves credit for building that team, but hopefully, Lanning learned a lot from his former boss.
Others Receiving Votes: Wisconsin (67 points), South Carolina (66 points), Utah (62 points)
Dropped out: Utah (previous: 18), Wisconsin (previous: 22) UNC (previous: 25)
Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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