Top 5 schools with the most first round NFL draft picks of all-time
Saturday marked the conclusion of the 2023 NFL draft, which saw 259 players’ dreams of being drafted to the NFL come true. The draft is one of the most fun and optimistic times of the year, but the reality is, a lot of these guys won’t be on a roster come Week 1 next year.
The guys who succeed in the NFL are typically very self-accountable people, who are motivated beyond fame and money. No coach or program can get you to the NFL, the burden is on the player to go out and earn it.
But, some programs are better at giving the resources players need to help fulfill those dreams than others. Under Nick Saban, Alabama has dominated the first round with 44 players taken, but is that enough for them to have earned the top spot of all time? Below are the five programs with the most first-round draft picks of all time:
Miami Hurricanes - 67
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The Hurricanes are probably the most interesting team on the list, but not surprising that they are here. From the early 80’s to the beginning 2000’s, The “U” was one of the best programs CFB has ever seen winning five national titles. During their run, the school produced future NFL Hall of Fame talents like Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, Edgerrin James and Ed Reed just to name a few. Miami produces a first round talent every few years, but they are trending in the worst direction of any team on this list.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 70
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The Fighting Irish also make for a really interesting spot on the list, in part because they are the biggest brand in CFB, but also because they do it a bit differently than anyone else. Notre Dame has such high standards academically speaking that they aren’t always able to accept some of the same students that the SEC and Big Ten do for example. Despite all of that, the Irish have continued to produce some really solid NFL talent that consists of guys like Kyle Hamilton, Quenton Nelson, and Zack Martin.
Alabama Crimson Tide - 70
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Alabama can say a big thank you to Nick Saban for earning the No. 3 spot on the list. There is no denying that the Crimson Tide have always been a premier program in CFB, but it wasn’t until Saban got to town that they reached these levels of success. As I mentioned earlier, 44 of Alabama’s 70 picks have come in the past 15 years under Saban, so prior to him they had 26, which would not have been anywhere near close enough to make this list. However, it’s not the quantity of players that Saban produces that impresses me, it’s the quality, In recent years, guys like Patrick Surtain and Quinnen Williams have broken out as All-Pro caliber players, while adding in three more first-round players in 2023.
USC Trojans - 85
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The USC Trojans embody college football as much as any other program in my mind. They were great when the sport was just getting started, they were great in the early 2000’s, and I think they are entering another golden era under Lincoln Riley. The Trojans have had some of the most iconic players in college football history like Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer and Keyshawn Johnson, but maybe their best player ever, Caleb Williams, is still enrolled in Los Angeles. The last decade was one of the tougher stretches in program history, but I think a sleeping giant has been woken up.
Ohio State Buckeyes - 90
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Since 1989, the Buckeyes have had one losing season, and they still made a bowl game that year going 6-7. They have earned their spot amongst the elite and have produced some of the best NFL talent regardless of who’s been the calling shots in Columbus. They have produced some unreal talent on the defensive side of the ball like the Bosa brothers, Denzel Ward and others, but they’ve also been insanely productive on offense with guys like Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Michael Thomas. The Buckeyes had three players taken in the first round in 2023, but will have arguably one of the programs best players, Marvin Harrison Jr., in town for one more year.