by Joe Azar
College Football brings us a lot of talented players that are not able to replicate the same success when they attempt a professional career. Whether it be the system they play in, the talent around them or just a shift in attitude, some of the greats of a college campus flop harder than an NBA player when they reach the pros (looking at you Reggie Bush). Yet some pro teams continue to pick these player that come from a system that has proven time and again to produce lousy NFL talent. Is it 100% possible to predict if a player will be a failure or the next greatest of all time? Of course not, but patterns in NCAA history shows us that there is a way to make an educated guess as to which schools will give NFL teams the best shot of finding a valuable player in the draft. That’s where I come in. Welcome to my School of (F)BS.
Rather than analyzing which school will have the most players drafted out of a certain position, what I’m looking for is which schools produce the most reliable players that teams can keep around for more than two or three years. This week, we attempt to tackle the most difficult position: the quarterback. QBs are normally the ones that have the most variety. Tom Brady comes from a college football powerhouse in Michigan, while Ben Roethlisberger played his college ball in Miami, Ohio. Despite the arduous task of finding a franchise quarterback, schools have historically given us gunslingers that have failed, and some that have found their way to Canton at the end of their career.
Oregon: Oregon is the perfect example of a college system that would never excel in the NFL. Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense had its flashes of brilliance, but eventually the offense crashed and burned. Their quarterbacks are no exceptions. Akili Smith threw for 32 touchdowns in only 11 starts for the Ducks before getting drafted 3rd overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. He only lasted three years at the team before being shipped around the NFL until finally ending up in Europe at the end of his career. Joey Harrington was drafted third overall as well by the Detroit Lions. Like Smith, Harrington lasted only three years in Detroit before they gave up on him as the franchise quarterback. Marcus Mariota did win the Heisman back in 2014 and it’s too early to call him a bust entirely, but entering his second year there is nothing he’s shown us that makes me believe he’ll be an amazing NFL talent. The Ducks have often destroyed teams with their offensive power, but their quarterbacks haven’t been able to bring that power to Sundays yet.
USC: For everyone who argues with me about Carson Palmer, for every Palmer the university in California produced I can name you at least five that have turned out badly. Mark “Butt-fumble” Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Rodney Pete, Todd Marinovich and of course Matt Leinart were all given a chance to succeed in the NFL after solid collegiate careers, but none of them have been able to take advantage. Yet NFL teams still take their chances in the draft and rely on these QBs to be the future of their franchise. It’s not a smart investment as these players almost always seem to have their best moments in football while they’re in school.
NC State: The Wolfpack isn’t normally the school many think about when it comes to a factory of NFL talent, but they are a lot better than people give them credit for. Before finishing at Wisconsin, Russell Wilson graduated from NC State and won a bowl game with the Wolfpack. Philip Rivers is a alum and has become the franchise QB in San Diego. Mike Glennon had a solid year as the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well. They don’t get drafted as often as players from USC do, but NC State does trump many schools in terms of reliable NFL QBs.
Stanford: John Elway and Andrew Luck are obvious examples of the talent produced at the school. Elway is loved by most here in Denver after winning two Super Bowls with the Broncos. Andrew Luck is the only beacon of hope the Indianapolis Colts have at the moment. But those two aren’t the only ones who have made a solid NFL career for themselves. Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy in 1970 and is also a two-time Super Bowl Champion. Trent Green was never spectacular but he did become a very reliable option for the Kansas City Chiefs. Obviously not every player at the position who spent their college days at Stanford turned out to be excellent, but more than any other school Stanford has given NFL teams quarterbacks they can be successful with.