Every year there seems to be some argument as to what universities are “WR U,” “RB U,” or “Insert Position X Here U,” but is there really something worth paying attention to here? Do the same schools tend to produce top talent at certain positions year after year? And what would that mean for devy and dynasty fantasy football strategy?
That’s the topic I’ll be diving into with this series: NFL University. But first, to kick everything off, let’s just establish who the most dominant school in recent history is overall. I’ll break things down position-by-position in future installments, but first let’s talk about the real NFL University.
Three hundred forty-four schools have sent a skill position player to the pros who logged a stat since the year 2000.
You read that right. There may only be 130 FBS (Division I) schools in the nation, but 344 have sent a player to the pros to log a stat in between the year 2000 and 2018. In fact, some of the best players in NFL History have been from smaller schools. Even the great Jerry Rice played for Mississippi Valley State. However, most of the fantasy points in recent NFL history have been scored by Power Five Conference schools. And even within that subsection of production, most NFL points have been scored by a small number of elite universities.
But when you look at the school that has given us the most PPR fantasy points since 2000 there’s no competition. Below you’ll find all the schools who have given the NFL at least 10,000 fantasy points in that time frame.
It looks like “The U” truly has been “The U” for quite some time. Yes, you read that right. Miami (FL) University has been responsible for over 30,000 PPR fantasy points in the NFL since the year 2000. That is good for nearly 10,000 more than any other school. That’s good for double the total PPR output of all but nine other schools. And yes, that’s triple the output of the 23rd ranked school, N.C. State. 1
The key here is balance across nearly all positions. Several schools tend to produce top talent at one position. A few of the top schools really just have a solid quarterback or two. But Miami has given us amazing players at just about every skill position:
Running Backs: Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson
Wide Receivers: Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Devin Hester, Allen Hurns, Travis Benjamin
Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Bubba Franks
Quarterbacks: Vinny Testaverde2
The balance across all positions is certainly notable. However, perhaps the most impressive part of the Miami’s dominance is the lack of high-end quarterback play in the last twenty years. All of the other top five schools in NFL production have greatly benefited from one or two phenomenal quarterbacks, yet still fell embarrassingly short. Tennessee had Peyton Manning. Michigan has Tom Brady (still somehow playing). California has both Aaron Rodgers and now Jared Goff. USC had Carson Palmer, and a slew of other part-time starters. Miami had a near zero at the position and still nearly doubled anyone in the field.
But, Miami’s reign as NFL University may be coming to an end unless something changes. Miami accounted for at least 1,500 PPR fantasy points in every season from 2003 to 2015. However, Miami’s year totals have been “just” 1,469, 1,165, and 1,104. And now that Gore and Lamar Miller are starting to slow down, Miami needs some new faces to emerge or “The U” may start laying some serious eggs in future seasons.
What changed? The recruiting. According to the 247Sports Composite Ranking, this is where Miami’s recruiting classes have ranked over the years.
Miami logged six classes inside the top 10 in the nation from 1999 to 2008 (including ranking No. 1 overall twice). But since then they’ve only managed to squeak out a couple classes inside the top 10. They’ve managed four classes outside the top 20. So, what happened in 2008? Miami went 7-6, going an embarrassing 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Meanwhile, schools like Nick Saban’s Alabama team, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ohio State all finished 10-3 or better. Fast forward to the last three years of NFL production and things look quite a bit different at the top.
Miami led all schools in NFL production in virtually every other three-year window from 2000 to 2018 except for the most recent three seasons. Now they’re fading fast in favor of schools like Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Clemson — or in other words, the five schools that have accounted for 15 of the 20 slots in the College Football Playoff since it’s inception in the 2014-2015 season. Since that season those same five schools have dominated recruiting as well; Miami, not so much.
Hopefully more teams start making their way into the College Football Playoff so other schools can share in the recruiting dominance. Otherwise, it looks like there’s a chance the new “NFL University” may be one of these five schools in the very near future.
As for Miami right now, their current roster doesn’t look like they’re going to offer much NFL production in the immediate future either.
Their sophomore tight end, Brevin Jordan, was a highly touted recruit that produced well in his first season (32 receptions for 287 yards and 4 TDs). He may be the lone NFL bright spot on the squad.
DeeJay Dallas is an intriguing player at running back, and should see more opportunity in 2019, but at this point he seems likely to go undrafted.
The quarterbacks are definitely not going pro.
Ahmmon Richards medically retired from football after looking like the real deal at wide receiver, breaking some freshman records for Miami. “The U” still has Jeff Thomas (also a WR), but he “transferred” to Illinois, and then somehow came back to Miami. If he can keep his act together, Thomas could be a John Brown type player at the next level.
As college football season approaches, I’ll be diving further into “NFL U” type teams and the players on their current rosters that could be scoring fantasy points in the NFL shortly.
Devy and dynasty owners also must read Jordan Hoover’s excellent series, When the Devy Breaks, as he looks at vacated opportunities in each conference. Check back often for more on all the top devy players, their schools’ history of NFL production, and their outlooks for the upcoming season.
As always, reach me on Twitter @FF_TravisM if you have questions or suggestions. And keep living that Dynasty Life!
Image Credit: David Dennis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Josh Jacobs.
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