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Which college football program is the NFL Draft's real Bust U?

Let's look at every first-rounder from 1990 onward to see whose top players pan out least and most frequently.

College football programs and their fans LOVE to argue about who's superior at producing defensive backs or tight ends or linebackers. Someone's probably arguing on Twitter right now about who really deserves the title of Long Snapper U.

But if you're going to get these titles when players have successful careers in the NFL, we need to have a title for the school that churns out the most picks that disappoint. We need to determine which program is Bust U.

To do that, I compiled the numbers on every Power 5 school's first-round picks from the 1990 NFL Draft forward, then judged them on three escalating measures of success.

  1. How many of those picks played at least four seasons in the NFL?
  2. How many were regular starters for at least three seasons?
  3. How many of the first rounders made the Pro Bowl at least once?

I then used each school's ranking across those measurements to come up with a composite rank that tells us who's really Bust U.

(Because we're judging this on a percentage basis, the numbers only include schools that had at least 12 first-round picks since 1990. And to adjust for more recent picks who haven't had the chance to start three seasons or play four, if a pick from the last few years is still in the league or has a string of recent starting gigs, I counted them toward his school's total in those two categories. Data was pulled from Pro Football Reference.)

1. Picks who lasted at least four seasons

From the 1990 draft until today, there have been 720 players from current Power 5 schools taken in the first round. Of those, 681 lasted at least four years in the NFL, a rate of 94.58 percent. So it's pretty rare for a first-rounder to wash out super quickly, though five teams, led by Penn State, aren't cracking 90 percent.

Of the schools with a 100 percent four-year hit rate for first-rounders, Notre Dame has the most picks, while 39 of Miami's 40 reached four years.

This is the most basic measure of success, however. A team's obviously hoping for something more than "someone who can make the roster" when they pick this early.

2. Picks who started at least three seasons

Wisconsin's given us Joe Thomas, J.J. Watt and Troy Vincent. But the Badgers are atop this list because they also gave us Ron Dayne, Jamar Fletcher and Wendell Bryant.

On the flip side, the bottom confirms what you already knew: the only thing more reliable than a draft pick from Alabama is one from Cal.

Finding starters in the first round is nice. Finding stars is better, though.

3. Picks who made Pro Bowls

Admittedly, the Pro Bowl is not a perfect measure of the cream of the crop. It's subjective, and it's increasingly meaningless as the rosters expand due to players dropping out, but it's one way to signify that a first-rounder lived up to imagined potential.

The good news is that every qualifying college had at least one first-round pick make the Pro Bowl. The bad news is that Colorado and Nebraska each only had one (Alfred Williams and Ndamukong Suh, respectively).

Meanwhile, Oklahoma and Miami cranked out eventual Pro Bowl players at an impressive rate, though apparently Cal is still the greatest NFL preparatory school ever.

4. So combine them all, and ... which school is the real Bust U?

Nebraska isn't the worst on any of these metrics individually, but the Cornhuskers don't do well in any, either. Therefore, despite valiant efforts by Colorado, Penn State and, yeah, fine, Florida, I have no choice but to award the Huskers the title of Bust University.

Among the six worst schools, only Penn State and Texas A&M appear to have potential first-round picks this year, though neither is guaranteed to have one.

The full data for every Power 5 team, not just those that met the 12-pick minimum, is below.

(Notice one team that's missing? That's because Iowa State hasn't had a player drafted in the first round since 1973.)


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