College Football Programs Who Will Have Most Players Selected in 2020 NFL Draft
LSU won 15 games in the most recent college football season, and the Tigers might be destined for 15 draft picks this coming week. They're at least going to have 13 players selected, which should put them head and shoulders ahead of every other school.
Of course, that's a double-edged sword. It's a nice bragging right in April, but repeating as national champions will be quite the uphill climb after losing more than half of last year's starters to the NFL.
Bleacher Report's NFL draft expert Matt Miller recently posted his final "NFL Draft 400" ranking of all the potential draft picks. There are 435 players on his list, even though there are only 255 picks in the draft. But by removing everyone with a grade of 55 or below, that brings the pool down to just 259 players. While there's certainly no guarantee that all 255 picks will come from that group of 259, that's the list we're using for this exercise.
So which schools show up most often in that top 259?
They are listed in ascending order of number of projected picks. To break any ties, the higher spot was rewarded to the class with the higher cumulative draft grade.
Listed rounds for each player are rough estimates based on Miller's grades.
Schools with 6 Projected Draft Picks
D'Andre Swift (1st round), Andrew Thomas (1st round), Isaiah Wilson (2nd round), Jake Fromm (3rd round), J.R. Reed (6th round), Lawrence Cager (7th round)
Swift probably wouldn't have been a projected first-round pick if Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and Chuba Hubbard hadn't stayed in school. As is, he's arguably the most intriguing running back in this year's draft class. And after all they did to help Swift find lanes and keep Fromm clean, Thomas and Wilson are both expected to go among the top seven offensive tackles.
Note that Reed is the only player on this list from the defense that led the nation in points allowed per game last year. Georgia should be scary good in that regard in 2020.
Jonathan Garvin (5th round), DeeJay Dallas (6th round), Shaquille Quarterman (7th round), Trevon Hill (7th round), Jeff Thomas (7th round), Michael Pinckney (7th round)
While it's unlikely Miami will have anyone selected on Thursday or Friday, there may be half a dozen (or more) Hurricanes drafted on Saturday. Both Quarterman and Pinckney are undersized as far as NFL linebackers go—Pinckney only measured 5'11⅛" at the combine—but they both feel like potential steals in the seventh round after combining for more than 600 tackles over the last four years.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Cole Kmet (2nd round), Chase Claypool (2nd round), Julian Okwara (3rd round), Khalid Kareem (4th round), Troy Pride Jr. (5th round), Alohi Gilman (7th round)
There were 55 wide receivers measured at this year's combine. Among that group, Claypool was the heaviest (238 pounds), the third-tallest (6'4¼") and had one of the biggest hand measurements (9⅞"). Teams seeking a big-bodied receiver will have him high on their draft boards. He probably won't sneak into the first round, but it's feasible.
It's also possible Kmet goes in the first round due to position scarcity. Matt Miller gave him a second-round grade of 86, while no other tight end rated better than a 77.
Justin Herbert (1st round), Troy Dye (4th round), Shane Lemieux (6th round), Calvin Throckmorton (7th round), Juwan Johnson (7th round), Jake Hanson (7th round)
Whether Herbert is the second, third or fourth quarterback off the board, it's going to be the last time we hear about Oregon for a while. The Ducks don't have any other players evaluated as a top-10 option at their respective positions, though Dye is tied for 11th among linebackers.
Considering Oregon had one of the best, most experienced offensive lines in the country last year, it's no surprise that half of its projected picks are O-linemen. Next year will be the big one, though. Penei Sewell (provided he declares) might be a top-three pick in 2021.
8. Florida Gators (7 Picks)
CB C.J. Henderson (1st round)
DE Jabari Zuniga (3rd round)
WR Van Jefferson (3rd round)
DE Jonathan Greenard (4th round)
RB Lamical Perine (5th round)
WR Freddie Swain (7th round)
WR Tyrie Cleveland (7th round)
Other Hopefuls: WR Josh Hammond, LB David Reese II, P Tommy Townsend
Henderson is the clear-cut star of this group. Ohio State's Jeff Okudah is almost certainly going to be the first corner selected, but Henderson won't be far behind him. Most of the mock drafts have him going somewhere in the Nos. 9-17 range overall. He should be a starter from day one.
The edge-rushing duo, Greenard and Zuniga, may also have a bright future. The former transferred in from Louisville and had 10 sacks in his only season with the Gators. The latter was banged up for most of this past season, but he had 18.5 sacks over the last four years.
We shall see about the offensive options. None of the wide receivers had so much as a 700-yard season in Gainesville, and Perine averaged a good-not-great 5.0 yards per carry in his college career.
A lot of folks were buzzing about Jefferson during Senior Bowl week, though. He didn't do much of anything in the game (two receptions for 11 yards), but scouts and spectators were impressed by his route running and his hands throughout the practices. He might be the next iteration of Michael Gallup, who was taken in the third round in 2018 before leading the Cowboys in receiving yards per game (79.1) in 2019.
7. Clemson Tigers (7 Picks)
LB Isaiah Simmons (1st round)
WR Tee Higgins (1st/2nd round)
CB A.J. Terrell (1st/2nd round)
OG John Simpson (2nd/3rd round)
S Tanner Muse (5th round)
OT Tremayne Anchrum (6th round)
S K'Von Wallace (6th round)
Other Hopefuls: OG Sean Pollard, WR Diondre Overton, OG Gage Cervenka
Much like C.J. Henderson for Florida, there's little question that Simmons is the phenom at the head of Clemson's class. The versatile defender (104 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 8 passes defended, 3 interceptions in 2019) is a mortal lock to be taken in the top 10 and just might go at No. 3 behind Joe Burrow and Chase Young. It will be intriguing to see how the Swiss Army knife's future employer chooses to utilize him on defense. Simmons has obvious Pro Bowl talent if used correctly.
But while the Gators just have a couple of third-round candidates behind their top pick, Clemson has two other stars who could go in Thursday's first round.
Thanks to Terrell and Higgins, it wasn't difficult to break this tie between schools projected for seven picks. Both guys are arguably in the second tier at their respective positions, but man, how much fun would it be if the Chiefs took Higgins with the last pick of the first round, pairing him with another former Tiger (Sammy Watkins) for one year while grooming him to become that No. 1 receiver?
Beyond that top trio, Clemson has a pair of offensive linemen and a pair of safeties who have a future in the NFL.
6. Utah Utes (8 Picks)
CB Jaylon Johnson (1st/2nd round)
RB Zack Moss (3rd round)
S Terrell Burgess (3rd round)
DE Bradlee Anae (3rd round)
DT Leki Fotu (4th round)
S Julian Blackmon (4th round)
CB Javelin Guidry (7th round)
DT John Penisini (7th round)
Other Hopefuls: LB Francis Bernard, OT Darrin Paulo, QB Tyler Huntley
Not much of a surprise that the NFL wants to load up on guys from Utah's secondary, as the Utes had one of the best passing defenses in the nation over the past few years.
Guidry had three interceptions and 19 passes defended since the start of 2017, and he was only the third-best Ute in those categories. Johnson had seven picks and 21 other passes broken up; Blackmon ended up with nine and 20, respectively. And after the Utes lost their four leading tacklers from 2018, Burgess emerged in a huge way in his only season as a starter and impressed scouts with his dual-threat ability to both tackle and cover.
Utah's defensive line is also an understandably coveted crew, as the Utes limited their first 12 opponents to 677 rushing yards, 2.3 yards per carry and four touchdowns. That didn't hold up so well in the Pac-12 title game, nor in the Alamo Bowl, but Anae and Fotu both look like top-10 options at their respective positions.
The lone piece of the offense likely to be drafted is Moss, and he's going to make some team very happy in the third round. His surgically repaired right knee might scare teams off, but he had at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of the last three years.
5. Auburn Tigers (8 Picks)
DT Derrick Brown (1st round)
DE Marlon Davidson (2nd round)
CB Noah Igbinoghene (2nd round)
OT Prince Tega Wanogho (4th round)
S Daniel Thomas (5th round)
CB Javaris Davis (6th round)
DT Nick Coe (6th round)
OT Jack Driscoll (6th round)
Other Hopefuls: S Jeremiah Dinson
Nary a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end or linebacker in this group, but Auburn is sending a bunch of big dudes and defensive backs into the NFL fray.
The biggest and the baddest of those dudes was Brown, the heart and soul of the Tigers defense. There aren't many game-changers who play defensive tackle, but Brown is an exception to that rule. His combination of size, strength, speed and motor make him the total package. If Brown doesn't go in the top five, you can already take it to the bank that "A" grades will be given to the team that ends up landing this star.
Igbinoghene's journey from a freshman wide receiver who barely saw action outside of kick returns in 2017 to one of the 10 best cornerbacks in this draft class was quite the unlikely story. But his athleticism is undeniable. Even if teams are just viewing him as a return specialist who might be a viable starter on defense in due time, he's not going to last long into Day 2 of the draft.
Neither is Davidson. He's a far cry from Chase Young, K'Lavon Chaisson and Yetur Gross-Matos in the edge-rusher conversation, but he has certainly shown an ability to get into the backfield, racking up 28 tackles for loss in his college career. Like Brown, Davidson also has good awareness and hands when he isn't able to get to the quarterback. He knocked down nine passes at the line of scrimmage over the past four seasons.
4. Michigan Wolverines (9 Picks)
OG/C Cesar Ruiz (1st/2nd round)
DE Josh Uche (2nd/3rd round)
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (3rd round)
OG Ben Bredeson (4th round)
CB Lavert Hill (5th round)
S Josh Metellus (6th round)
OT Jon Runyan (6th round)
OG Michael Onwenu (7th round)
TE Sean McKeon (7th round)
Other Hopefuls: LB Khaleke Hudson, DE Michael Danna, S Jordan Glasgow, QB Shea Patterson
While every other team in the top five has at least one guy who is going to be an easy preseason pick for the All-Rookie team, Michigan might not have a single player selected in the first round.
Ruiz is right on the cut line between the first and second rounds, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Chicago Bears or the Los Angeles Rams—neither of which has a first-round pick—tries to trade up into the Nos. 28-32 range to snag him near the end of Thursday night. He's the best interior offensive lineman in this year's class, and both of those teams need help in that area.
Whether he goes late in the first round or in the first half of the second round, though, Ruiz won't be the last Wolverines offensive lineman selected. They're almost starting over from scratch in 2020 with Ruiz, Bredeson, Runyan and Onwenu all off to the NFL. And McKeon was an honorary offensive lineman, as he did much more blocking than route running over the last two years.
Perhaps the most intriguing Wolverine of the bunch is Peoples-Jones. Michigan never quite figured out how to best utilize the No. 12 overall recruit in the 2017 class, per 247Sports' composite, but that potential is still in there somewhere. He'll likely never be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but he could do big things as a slot receiver in the right system.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide (9 Picks)
WR Jerry Jeudy (1st round)
QB Tua Tagovailoa (1st round)
OT Jedrick Wills (1st round)
WR Henry Ruggs III (1st round)
S Xavier McKinney (1st/2nd round)
CB Trevon Diggs (2nd round)
DT Raekwon Davis (2nd round)
DE Terrell Lewis (3rd round)
LB Anfernee Jennings (3rd round)
Other Hopefuls: S Shyheim Carter, S Jared Mayden, OT Matt Womack
Lather, rinse, repeat, right? Alabama has had at least 10 players drafted in each of the past three years, and the Crimson Tide are probably going to have nine players selected before the end of the second night (first three rounds).
Initially, it'll be a run on offensive studs. Whether Jeudy or Ruggs ultimately gets chosen first, the assumption is that both wide receivers will be gone within the first 20 picks. Wills will get snatched up in a hurry, too, possibly as the first offensive lineman of the draft.
Tagovailoa might go in the top five or he might not go until Friday. Joe Burrow to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 1 is all but set in stone, and the Miami Dolphins are widely expected to take a quarterback at No. 5. But if they decide Justin Herbert is their guy, it might be a while until the next team decides QB is its most pressing need. Worst-case scenario, though, Tagovailoa is the fourth quarterback selected and probably still goes in the second round.
After those four are gone, Alabama's defense will take center stage, led by defensive backs McKinney and Diggs, either of whom might go in the latter stages of the first round. Each one had three interceptions this past season, though McKinney lays more lumber as a tackler and figures to be the first safety off the board.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (10 Picks)
DE Chase Young (1st round)
CB Jeff Okudah (1st round)
RB J.K. Dobbins (2nd round)
LB Malik Harrison (3rd round)
CB Damon Arnette (3rd round)
WR K.J. Hill (5th round)
DT DaVon Hamilton (6th round)
OG Jonah Jackson (6th round)
WR Austin Mack (7th round)
S Jordan Fuller (7th round)
Other Hopefuls: WR Binjimen Victor, OT Branden Bowen, DT Robert Landers
Ohio State has had at least seven players selected in each of the last four drafts, but it has only hit double digits once in the past decade. That happened in 2016 when a dozen Buckeyes were taken in the first four rounds.
This year's crop isn't nearly that deep, but it sure does pack a one-two punch up top in Young and Okudah. The dominant edge-rusher and the elite cover corner might go No. 2 and No. 3 overall. That's not quite as remarkable as Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams going No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in 2010, but it would be quite the bragging right for Ohio State all the same.
After rushing for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, Dobbins should be one of the top five running backs drafted. Following that, it's back to defense for the Buckeyes, with Harrison and Arnette likely to be taken in the third round. The former did quite a bit of backfield penetration this past season, tallying 16.5 tackles for loss. The latter had four interceptions and 22 more pass breakups in the past three years.
And while Alabama will have more players selected in the first three rounds, Ohio State should make up for lost time on Saturday. The Buckeyes are loaded with potential sixth- and seventh-round picks, and even guys like Victor and Bowen might get drafted because of the pedigree of this program.
1. LSU Tigers (14 Picks)
QB Joe Burrow (1st round)
DE K'Lavon Chaisson (1st round)
LB Patrick Queen (1st round)
WR Justin Jefferson (1st round)
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1st round)
CB Kristian Fulton (2nd round)
OG Lloyd Cushenberry III (2nd round)
S Grant Delpit (2nd round)
OG Damien Lewis (3rd round)
LB Jacob Phillips (3rd round)
OT Saahdiq Charles (4th round)
TE Thaddeus Moss (4th round)
DT Rashard Lawrence (4th round)
TE Stephen Sullivan (7th round)
Other Hopefuls: DE Michael Divinity Jr., WR Derrick Dillon
LSU has never had more than nine players selected in a single NFL draft, but that school record is going to be demolished this year.
Such is life when you drive a freight train through a 15-0 season and then lose eight players who declared early for the draft.
Starting with Burrow at No. 1, the Tigers could have as many as eight players taken in the first round. It'll probably be more like five or six, though.
Chaisson, Queen and Jefferson are the safe bets to join Burrow in that club. Defensive backs Fulton and Delpit are solid candidates, too, though there are a ton of quality DBs in this year's class. Edwards-Helaire is graded like a first-round pick, but will any team use its first-round pick on a running back? And as far as the possibility for eight goes, NFL.com's Chad Reuter has Cushenberry projected to the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 32.
For the record, the record is six first-round picks from one school in one season, set by Miami in 2004. Eight would be ridiculous, but it's feasible.
And that's just the beginning. LSU should have five other players taken before the end of the fourth round, including Randy Moss' son, Thaddeus.
Hard to believe the Tigers are still expected to open next season ranked in the AP Top Five in spite of losing all this talent.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.