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Position University: Quarterback

The concept of “Position University” is often thrown around during the NFL draft when a particular college has several players of the same position break into the league over a short span. However, I think a deeper look at the draft may reveal some other interesting things about what colleges may be able to truly make the claim they are “WR U” or “QB U” or whatever. 

In the first installment of Position University, I’ll take a look at Quarterback, the most important position on the field. To narrow the look a little, I’ve only gone back to 1990. 30 years is a pretty solid sample, now let’s take a look at the data to determine Quarterback University.

Since 1990, 361 QBs have been drafted from 129 different universities. More than 32 QBs have been drafted in each of the first seven rounds over that span and back when the draft was longer another 13 QBs have come from the later rounds. The 1st round has featured the most QBs with 80 getting that special nod since ‘90.

16 QB’s have had the additional honor of being the #1 pick overall:

1990Jeff GeorgeINDIllinois
1993Drew BledsoeNEPWashington St
1998Peyton ManningINDTennessee
1999Tim CouchCLEKentucky
2001Michael VickATLVirginia Tech
2002David CarrHOUFresno St
2003Carson PalmerCINUSC
2004Eli ManningNYGMississippi
2005Alex SmithSF49Utah
2007JaMarcus RussellOAKLSU
2009Matthew StaffordDETGeorgia
2010Sam BradfordSTLOklahoma
2011Cam NewtonCARAuburn
2012Andrew LuckINDStanford
2015Jameis WinstonTBBFlorida St
2016Jared GoffLARCalifornia
2018Baker MayfieldCLEOklahoma
2019Kyler MurrayARZOklahoma
2020Joe BurrowCINLSU

If we simply use the metric “#1 picks” to bestow “QB U” than Oklahoma is the easy winner. Bradford, Mayfield, and Murray have all found success at the NFL to varying degrees. I think there’s more to the story than simply #1 overall.

So, what schools have the most drafted QBs in the past 30 years? Only 10 have had 7 or more. They are Ohio St, Louisville, and Georgia (7), Washington, California, and Michigan (8), LSU, Oregon, and Florida St (9), and USC (12). Is it the Trojans?

YearRdNameTeamCollege
19911Todd MarinovichLARUSC
199110Pat O’HaraTBBUSC
19954Rob JohnsonJAXUSC
19967Kyle WachholtzGBPUSC
20031Carson PalmerCINUSC
20057Matt CasselNEPUSC
20061Matt LeinartARZUSC
20085John David BootyMINUSC
20091Mark SanchezNYJUSC
20134Matt BarkleyPHIUSC
20163Cody KesslerCLEUSC
20181Sam DarnoldNYJUSC
*Italics denotes 1st overall bold denotes active

That’s not a bad group overall. A few no-shows, JD Booty, O’Hara, and Wachholtz in particular. A couple of busts in Marinovich, Barkley, and maybe Kessler? But solid output from Johnson, Leinart, Cassel, Darnold, and Sanchez and a very strong resume for Carson Palmer. So is USC “QB U?” 

Let’s take a slightly different angle. How about the total years of NFL Quarterbacking each school has produced? To calculate this, I simply added up the total number of years each QB accrued at least one passing yard. Eight schools generated 35+ years of QB play since 1990. Michigan, USC, Florida St, Oregon, Washington, Michigan St, Boston College, and California. A whopping 37 schools produced at least 20 years.

Is simply getting a single yard enough though? To break it down further, I added passing yards. Of the schools with 7+ QBs drafted and 35+ years accrued only four have at least 70,000 passing yards total among their alumni. They are Michigan, USC, California, and Florida St.

Those four schools account for 37 QBs (10%), 229 years (12%), and nearly 370,000 passing yards (15%). They also provided the winner of 8 of the last 17 Super Bowls (since 2002). We’ve already seen the USC group and none of them have won a Super Bowl (as the starter).

Quarterback University

The Michigan crew is led, of course, by Tom Brady. Easily the greatest 6th Round pick and Michigan alum in NFL history, he has piled up more total passing yards than the QBs from all but five schools since 1990. While not even starters for most of the careers, Todd Collins, Brain Griese, and Chad Henne all managed 10 or more years in the league. Elvis Grbac fell one short and Drew Henson, John Navarre, and Jake Rudock barely stuck. 

The Cal Golden Bears have Aaron Rodgers as their star alum. His 46,000 yards are twice the other California QBs. Fellow Golden Bear Jared Goff is on pace to end up with more yards but it’s still early in his career. Kyle Boller also had a moderately impactful career particularly compared to the train of busts that proceeded him including Troy Taylor, Mike Pawlawski, Dave Barr, and Pat Barnes. The jury is still out on Davis Webb but his lack of an opportunity so far doesn’t portend good things.

The greatest Seminole is a much more complicated question. The Super Bowl Champ is 17-year veteran Brad Johnson. Drafted by the Vikings, Johnson bounced from Minnesota to Washington to Tampa before he hit paydirt. He returned to the Vikings and then wrapped up his career in Dallas. The most recent Nole to make the big time is the controversial Jameis Winston. The prolific but often errant passer has averaged just short of 4000 yards a season but it’s unclear what his opportunities will be going forward. The other members of the Florida St draftee list are Peter Tom Willis, Casey Weldon, Danny Kanell, Chris Weinke, Adrian McPherson, Christian Ponder, and EJ Manuel. None of them had sustained success but only McPherson was unable to survive at least 4 years in the league. Of the bunch, all were drafted in the 5th round or better except Johnson who was a 9th round pick. 

So who has the best claim at being “QB U?” Is it USC with the longest list? Oklahoma with the #1s? Michigan with the brightest star? Florida State or California with a combination of the two, or somebody else? What do you think?

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