Which NCAA Programs Fared the Best in the NFL Draft?


The NFL Draft is different than any other sporting event in the world. Following three months of build-up and three days of selections, the answer to the question, “Who won?” is still very much up for debate. Fans scour the internet looking for grades and analysis, hoping their favorite team exceeded expectations.

NFL teams are not the only ones aiming to “win” on draft day. The colleges, who basically serve as a minor-league system at this point, are looking to score a victory as well. These schools want to get as many players drafted as possible — and as highly as possible, to boot — to pad their resumés and help entice future prospects.

So, let’s break down which colleges were most successful in this year’s draft.

The SEC had the most prospects drafted, with a total of 54 players getting that coveted call. That’s an average of 3.9 players per SEC program, the highest draft rate of any conference. The second-best rate comes from the ACC, which saw an average of 3.4 players drafted per program.

The ACC’s lofty average was boosted by the large number of Cardinals selected, as Louisville had 10 players picked over draft weekend. That’s an impressive number, to be sure, although only one of those players was picked within the first two rounds. That would be WR DeVante Parker, who fell to the Dolphins with the No. 14 overall pick.

“I know they really liked me when I came in on my visit,” Parker said of the Dolphins. “I’m just proud to be a Miami Dolphin and I’m looking forward to this season. I’m glad the Miami organization picked me to be a part of their family.”

Amazingly, Louisville’s high number of draftees was exceeded by another program. And even more amazingly, that program does not hail from the SEC.

Florida State, which fell two wins shy of a second straight undefeated season and back-to-back National Championships, had 11 players picked in the draft. And unlike the Cardinals, most of the Seminoles draftees heard their names called pretty early. Starting with No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston, Florida State had five players drafted in the first two rounds and nine players picked within the first five rounds.

With the school’s smashing success over draft weekend, Florida State broke the record for most players drafted over a three-year span (29), a record that had been shared by USC and Miami.

In all, nine schools had at least a half-dozen players drafted: Florida State (11), Louisville (10), Florida (eight), Alabama (seven), Miami (seven), Missouri (six), Oklahoma (six), Stanford (six) and USC (six). But just because these schools were the most successful in getting players drafted, does not mean they are the most successful in producing NFL players.

A fascinating piece by the National Football Post broke down which colleges produce the most successful draft prospects. Their study covered 10 years of data (2005-2014) and measured the number of games a player actually started against the number of games someone at his draft slot would be expected to start, based on historical information. It’s an admittedly imperfect science, but it is informative if nothing else.

According to this study, UCF produced the most successful players, with former Knights earning an average of 16.4 starts above expectation. That’s good news for the Ravens and Colts, who invested in Central Florida prospects Breshad Perriman (first round) and Clayton Geathers (fourth round), respectively.

“He has great size and speed,” said Ravens receivers coach Bobby Engram of Perriman. “He bends really well for a big guy. He’s a hard worker. He came from a program that was tough, and we’ve had guys come to the Ravens from that program, and I think those guys are ready, because like he said, hard work is what’s going to separate you at this level.”

Of the nine schools to have six or more players drafted this year, only Alabama ranks in the top-20 in production over expectation, and the Tide rolls in at exactly No. 20.

When you narrow the list to the five schools with seven of more players drafted, only Florida State produces players that underperform on average. Former Seminoles go on to start an average of 4.8 fewer games than expected, based on their draft slot. That’s not great news for Bills fans, as Buffalo drafted three Florida State products: Ronald Darby (second round), Karlos Williams (fifth round) and Nick O’Leary (sixth round).

So, which college “won” the draft? There is, of course, no way of knowing for sure until these players take the field and get a chance to truly prove themselves. And that’s what makes these debates so much fun.

And for the sake of argument, you have to throw Hobart into the conversation. After seeing OL Ali Mopart selected in the second round, fans of Div. III Hobart can now say they had more players selected in the 2015 draft than Tennessee. Go Vols!

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.