The College Football season is underway, but we are always thinking about the NFL draft here at With The First Pick. While the AP poll is out and offers some fun talking points, these are my favorite rankings to look at every year. I call them my Pro Potential Power Rankings, scoring each school based on the number of players they send to the NFL and where they are drafted.
The idea is to give a numerical value to and rank the top 25 programs in the country at getting players drafted. Obviously, players want to be drafted as early as possible, so I have weighted the scoring system to account for that. This is my 8th year putting together these rankings
For those wondering, this exercise is somewhat inspired by the Pro Potential rankings from the NCAA Football games in dynasty mode (can’t wait for those games to come back by the way). This list is not meant to measure how successful any of these players were after reaching the NFL. It is a far better tool for high school recruits to see which schools are the best at getting players drafted.
To create these rankings, I look at all the players drafted over the past five years and then score their draft spot using the scoring system below. The draft classes included in this year’s rankings span from 2019 to 2023.
The scoring system is as follows:
1st round – 10 points
2nd round – 7 points
3rd round – 5 points
4th round – 4 points
5th round – 3 points
6th round – 2 points
7th round – 1 points
1. Alabama Crimson Tide – 315 points
Previous: 1 (316 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Bryce Young, 1st Overall, 2023
Long live the king! Alabama is atop these rankings for the 8th straight year, which should come as no surprise to anyone. Nick Saban had another fantastic draft class, headlined by Bryce Young, Will Anderson and Jahmyr Gibbs all coming off the board in the top 12 selections. The Tide were tied with Georgia for the most players selected in the 2023 draft. Kirby Smart is continuing to close the gap on his former boss, but he has a long way to go to catch the GOAT.
2. Georgia Bulldogs – 250 points
Previous: 2 (240 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Travon Walker, 1st Overall, 2022
Nothing was going to match the outrageous 2022 draft class Georgia put together, but this was a pretty impressive follow up. As I mentioned, the Bulldogs were tied for the most players drafted (10). Like ‘Bama, they had three first-round picks this year. The Dawgs are not going anywhere either. Kirby Smart’s roster is once again loaded with NFL talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes – 229 points
Previous: 3 (232 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Nick Bosa/Chase Young, 2nd Overall, 2019/2020
After years of being the only school to challenge Alabama in these rankings, Ohio State finally has some consistent challengers. Still, the Buckeyes had a good, but maybe not great draft class. Six players selected is a really strong year for most schools, but Urban Meyer and Ryan Day have raised the bar at Ohio State. It will be hard to replace a loaded 2019 class when that is removed from consideration next year, but the current roster is chock full of draft-eligible talent headlined by Marvin Harrison Jr. The Buckeyes are here to stay.
4. LSU Tigers – 206 points
Previous: 4 (207 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Joe Burrow, 1st Overall, 2020
The final member of the 200+ club, the Tigers continue to churn out NFL talent regardless of who is coaching. Much like the past three coaches winning national championships at the school, Brian Kelly has a strong legacy of talent development to follow as well in the Bayou. There could be a little cause for concern about LSU’s spot in these rankings going forward as a result. This was the first time since 2018 that the Tigers did not have a first-round draft pick. Kelly has two more years to really continue LSU’s prospect-producing ways, or that record-setting 2020 draft class won’t be included anymore, and the Tigers will tumble.
5. Michigan Wolverines – 176 points
Previous: 5 (145 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Aidan Hutchinson, 2nd Overall, 2022
Say what you will about Jim Harbaugh, but he has built Michigan back into a powerhouse. Coming off the school’s first appearance in the College Football Playoff, the Wolverines had the second most players selected in the 2023 draft with nine. Harbaugh has already said that he believes Michigan will challenge Georgia’s record for players drafted in one year. The Bulldogs had 15 prospects taken in 2021. Only time will tell, but it speaks to how deep this Michigan team is with draft-eligible talent. Don’t be surprised if Michigan starts closing the gap on the teams above them.
6. Clemson Tigers – 162 points
Previous: 9 (137 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Trevor Lawrence, 1st Overall, 2021
This was a bit of a surprise. Clemson has had two underwhelming seasons since Trevor Lawrence left town, and yet, the Tigers are climbing the rankings. They had a quiet 2022 draft and slid down, only to bounce back with a strong 2023 class. It speaks to Dabo Swinney’s ability to recruit and develop NFL talent. Clearly, Clemson’s days of ruling the ACC are at an end, but there are still plenty of future players on the field, particularly on defense. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
7. Oklahoma Sooners – 146 points
Previous: 6 (144 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2019
It is hard to tell which direction the Sooners are headed right now. This was a solid draft class again for Oklahoma with five players taken. However, these are mostly players recruited by Lincoln Riley. Brent Venables has some big shoes to fill and the on-field results in year one were lackluster to say the least. He built one of the best defenses in the sport at Clemson though and has already put together back-to-back recruiting classes since taking the job. I imagine the onfield product will get back up to Oklahoma’s standards before too long. If that is the case, I foresee the pipeline to the NFL staying strong as well.
8. Florida Gators – 144 points
Previous: 7 (143 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Kyle Pitts/Anthony Richardson, 4th Overall, 2021/2023
We know the SEC is the best conference in the sport when it comes to producing NFL talent. What’s surprising to me is that Florida is still this high in the rankings despite struggling to contend on the field for the past three seasons. Dan Mullen produced tons of NFL talent and Billy Napier has picked up where he left off. A drop-off could be coming very soon if the Gators continue to struggle on the field. We should have a few more years of Florida being a staple in the top 10 though given the gap in production in these rankings starting at No. 12.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions – 141 points
Previous: 8 (138 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Micah Parsons, 12th Overall, 2021
James Franklin continues to churn out NFL players and it seems like the best might be yet to come. First-round prospects have been few and far between for Penn State. Just four Nittany Lions have gone in round one since 2010. However, the boys from Happy Valley seem to dominate on Day 2 of the draft. Four more Penn State players were selected in rounds two and three in 2023. I mentioned that better days could be ahead as well. There is a good chance three different Penn State players will be selected in the first round in 2024. That could have them knocking on the door of the top 5.
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 125 points
Previous: 10 (135 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Kyle Hamilton, 14th Overall, 2022
Brian Kelly had Notre Dame competing with the elite schools in terms of NFL talent production during his tenure in South Bend. The lowest the Irish have ranked since I started these rankings in 2016 was 14th. That being said, in the same way that we are waiting to see how Brent Venables will fare at Oklahoma, the jury is still out on Marcus Freeman. It helps that he is an internal hire and already understands the constraints of recruiting at Notre Dame. It was a big of meager debut draft class for him, with just three players selected, including none in the first round. 2024 will be an interesting litmus test for the Irish.
11. Iowa Hawkeyes – 111 points
Previous: 13 (97 points)
Highest Drafted Player: T.J. Hockenson, 8th Overall, 2019
Despite a staggering inability to score on offense, Iowa continues to produce tons of NFL prospects. It wasn’t the most robust draft class in 2023, but Lukas Van Ness and Jack Campbell going in the first round gave the Hawkeyes a major boost. Iowa continues to be a factory for NFL-caliber offensive linemen, tight ends, and defensive front seven players. There should be plenty more to come as well, with versatile standouts Cooper DeJean and Connor Colby leading the way.
12. Washington Huskies – 98 points
Previous: 11 (123 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Trent McDuffie, 21st Overall, 2022
It was all crickets for the Huskies during the 2023 NFL draft. Not a single Washington player heard his name called across the three-day draft. That is a big departure from the standard set by Chris Petersen. Most of that can be blamed on Jimmy Lake, who tumbled his way out of Seattle for struggles on and off the field. Kalen DeBoer should get things back on track. At least three Washington players should be in the mix to be first-round selections in 2024. This is a super-talented team with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. Don’t be surprised if Washington surges back up the rankings with stability restored to the program.
13. USC Trojans – 97 points
Previous: 12 (103 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Alijah Vera-Tucker, 13th Overall, 2021
That’s right, the Trojans are not even the top team from the Pac-12 in these rankings. Not that the Pac-12 will exist past this season, but I digress. Lincoln Riley will likely rewrite the narrative and push USC back to the heights of the early 2000s. It would be a surprise for Caleb Williams to not be the top selection in 2024 and there should be more prospects to follow. Even with the massive changes coming with USC set to join the Big Ten next year, I think Riley will have this program back among the elites before too long.
T-14. TCU Horned Frogs – 96 points
Previous: 23 (69 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Jalen Reagor/Quenton Johnston, 21st Overall, 2021/2023
This year’s biggest climber should probably come as no surprise given how the 2022 season the Horned Frogs just put together. Honestly, I don’t know that many people would even think of TCU when they think of the best schools for producing NFL prospects. It speaks to the program Gary Patterson built and the one that Sonny Dykes improved upon last year. Only Alabama, Georgia and Michigan had more players drafted in the 2023 draft. They should have several more to solidly put themselves in the top 15 moving forward.
T-14. Mississippi State Bulldogs – 96 points
Previous: 14 (92 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Charles Cross, 9th Overall, 2022
I feel a bit bad talking negatively about Mississippi State following the passing of Mike Leach. He was such a fun coach to listen to and did an excellent job of preparing players for the NFL. That being said, much of the Bulldogs’ spot in these rankings hinges on their stellar 2019 draft class. That group will no longer be included starting next year, so this might be the highest we see Mississippi State for a while. Emmanuel Forbes going in the first round should make the transition a little bit easier, but rocky roads are ahead.
16. Auburn Tigers – 88 points
Previous: 15 (91 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Derrick Brown, 7th Overall, 2020
Not to be forgotten, Auburn continues to do well at preparing players for the NFL. What’s more, after years of uncertainty as head coach, Hugh Freeze returns to the SEC, now leading the Tigers. The resources, history, and prominence of Auburn should give Freeze a really good base to build off of. Derrick Brown and Noah Igbinoghene remain the Tigers’ only first-round selections since 2014, but with five players taken overall, it is hard to imagine a big shake-up coming for Auburn in these rankings.
17. Oregon Ducks – 83 points
Previous: 23 (69 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Kayvon Thibodeaux, 5th Overall, 2022
After some lean years, the Ducks are back in the top 20 and could be on their way to the highest ranking they have ever achieved in my pro potential power rankings. Oregon debuted at 13 back in 2016, only to fall out of the rankings in 2018. They returned last year and made an even bigger push up the charts despite Mario Cristobal’s departure. Dan Lanning learned from one of the best under Kirby Smart and seems to be applying those lessons so far in his time in Eugene. The Ducks had the same number of players drafted in 2023 as Ohio State, Florida, Clemson, LSU, and Penn State. That is a good company to keep, especially in these rankings.
18. Texas A&M Aggies – 80 points
Previous: 16 (88 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Kenyon Green, 15th Overall, 2022
Jimbo Fisher has never quite lived up to the hype that followed him from Florida State to Texas A&M. When I started these rankings, the Seminoles were 2nd, trailing only Alabama. Florida State has fallen off a cliff since he left, unranked in the pro potential power rankings for the second straight year. Fisher has brought talent into College Station but has struggled to retain and develop those top players. Still, he has built a solid platform, even if Kenyon Green is the school’s only first-round selection since Myles Garrett went 1st overall back in 2017. With pressure mounting on Fisher to win now, we will have to see if perhaps it leads to a resurgence in these rankings.
19. Utah Utes – 78 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes (62 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Dalton Kincaid, 25th Overall, 2023
Few coaches fly under the radar like Kyle Whittingham. He has stepped more into the spotlight in recent years after winning back-to-back Pac-12 titles, but still feels largely unknown. 2022 was simply a bump in the road for the Utes when it comes to their spot in these rankings, dropping just outside the top 25 for the first time since 2017. Dalton Kincaid going in the first round along with two fourth-round selections pushes Utah back into the mix. There should be plenty more talent to follow.
20. South Carolina Gamecocks – 73 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes (66 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Jaycee Horn, 8th Overall, 2021
The ninth SEC team in these rankings, including Oklahoma, and South Carolina has come a long way in terms of its ability to send players to the next level. The Gamecocks had just one player selected in the 2017 and 2018 drafts combined. 2023 marked the fifth straight year in which South Carolina has had at least three players taken. Shane Beamer has reenergized this program in recent years and seems to have things headed in the right direction. I don’t foresee a huge leap coming any time soon, but I think South Carolina will hang around for a while.
T-21. Wisconsin Badgers – 72 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes (67 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Jonathan Taylor, 41st Overall, 2020
Never flashy, but always competitive and productive. That perfectly describes Wisconsin both on the field and in the pro potential power rankings. It has been six years since the Badgers had a player selected in the first round, a streak that is unlikely to end in 2024. However, Wisconsin continues to fill up the middle rounds of the draft, producing two second-round picks and a fourth-rounder in 2023. Now, Luke Fickell arrives in Madison fresh off a very impressive run at Cincinnati. He pushed the Bearcats to the edge of these rankings. Imagine what he will be able to do with the resources at his disposal now. Good things are on the horizon for the Badgers.
T-21. Ole Miss Rebels – 72 points
Previous: 19 (73 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Greg Little, 37th Overall, 2019
The Lane Train is still picking up steam right now. Kiffin’s return to the SEC head coaching ranks has been solid if unspectacular. His opening win over Mercer pushes his record to 24-13 so far with the Rebels. However, it speaks volumes that Ole Miss is the 10th SEC team in these pro potential power rankings. This is the deepest conference in the country and being good will not cut it. It was another solid draft class with five players selected, but much like Wisconsin, Ole Miss has not had a first-round pick since 2017. The difference between being on the fringes and in the top 20 is small, but so is the difference between being ranked and falling out of the top 25 entirely.
23. Stanford Cardinal – 66 points
Previous: 23 (69 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Walker Little, 45th Overall, 2021
Don’t ask me how they are still here. I genuinely don’t know. Stanford has not had a winning record in a full season since 2018, going 14-28 in that stretch. Somehow, they still produce NFL draft picks every year. The Cardinal has had at least one player selected every year since 2009. David Shaw was one of the best developers of talent we have ever seen in the collegiate ranks. Even if the results were not coming on the field, Stanford still had NFL-level talent. There is no guarantee that Troy Taylor, who arrives after five years as the head coach at Sacramento State, will be able to fill Shaw’s shoes. I have a feeling the day when Stanford is no longer in these rankings is coming very soon.
24. Tennessee Volunteers – 64 points
Previous: Not Ranked (43 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Darnell Wright, 10th Overall, 2023
There are 10 teams in the SEC better at producing NFL talent than Tennessee, at least by my metrics. Goes to show how rough of a stretch it had been for the Vols before Josh Heupel arrived. His system is very friendly for offensive players and should lead to a number of quarterbacks going to the NFL in the coming years. On top of that, he seems to be adding talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. It would be a shock to me if Tennessee was not in the top 15 within the next few years, assuming Heupel is not lured elsewhere.
25. Miami Hurricanes – 63 points
Previous: 20 (71 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Jaelan Phillips, 18th Overall, 2021
The Hurricanes are still rocking in these rankings. Well not really, but I wanted to get that reference in there. Miami is at the lowest point it has ever been in my eight years of doing this. There was a time when The U would be the top team in the nation, and that’s what Mario Cristobal was brought in to revive. It will take time to get Miami back to where it belongs. It was a decent draft, but only having three players taken will not do much to elevate the ‘Canes unless they are all in the first round. Leonard Taylor and Kamren Kitchens have first-round potential for next year, so maybe we will be having a very different conversation in 2024.