What School Is Defensive Line U.?

Last week, we began an analysis of each position group to determine which school has done the best in recent years of producing top NFL draft picks.

Florida State (repped here by Bjoern Werner), LSU (including Barkevious Mingo) and North Carolina (including Sylvester Williams) lead the defensive line rankings

We began that series with this look at the schools who have excelled in producing quarterbacks.

For our analysis, we used the last 15 years of the NFL draft. In each draft, we looked for defensive linemen who were drafted in the first three rounds. For the purpose of this analysis, we included all players listed as defensive ends, defensive tackles and nose tackles in the NFL.com draft history web site.

To be clear, there are some players listed in draft rolls as linebackers who went on to play defensive end at the NFL and vice versa. We looked solely at players considered as linemen at the time of the draft.

Below the school rankings we also have more data on schools and conferences that have produced defensive linemen at football’s highest level. Plus, we have more interesting information on the defensive line position group.

Defensive Line U. Ratings

Using the last 15 years of the NFL draft (top three rounds) as a barometer, here is a look at which schools have excelled at producing defensive linemen for the NFL (Note: We used first-round picks to break any ties):

1. Florida State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 11; First-Round Picks: 5; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Florida State has been a consistent producer of defensive line talent with top-three round picks in eight of the last 15 years. FSU has had some big name first-round talents like DE Andre Wadsworth (1998), DT Corey Simon (2000), DE Jamal Reynolds (2001), DT Travis Johnson (2005) and DT Brodrick Bunkley (2006).

The Seminoles have a pair of top D-line prospects going out this year in defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carrradine. DT Demonte McAllister could be a top draft prospect from FSU in 2014.

2. North Carolina

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 10; First-Round Picks: 8; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: While Florida State has the most top-three round defensive line picks in the last 15 years, fellow ACC member North Carolina leads the way in first-round picks. The run began in 1998 with a pair of first-round defensive ends with Greg Ellis and Vonnie Holliday.

More UNC first-rounders include DE Ebenezer Ekuban (1999), DT Ryan Sims (2002), DE Julius Peppers (2002), DE Kentwan Balmer (2008), DE Robert Quinn (2011) and DE Quinton Coples (2012).

DT Sylvester Williams could be the next in this lineage as a possible first-round pick this year. DE Kareem Martin figures to be a top draft prospect from UNC next year.

3. LSU

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 10; First-Round Picks: 5; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: LSU joins North Carolina with 10 top-three round picks on the D-line in the last 15 years, but the Tigers have had fewer first-round picks than the Tar Heels. That group includes DT Anthony McFarland (1999), DE Marcus Spears (2005), DT Glenn Dorsey (2008), DE Tyson Jackson (2009) and DT Michael Brockers (2012).

Two more LSU defensive linemen could go high this year with defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery.

4. Penn State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 9; First-Round Picks: 6; First Overall Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: There is a reason why Bill O’Brien retained defensive line coach Larry Johnson when he took over the Penn State program in 2012: Johnson has been a consistent producer of All-Americans and NFL top draft picks over the last 14 years.

The top name was DE Courtney Brown, the No. 1 overall pick in 2000 by Cleveland. Other first-rounders on his watch include DE Michael Haynes (2003), DT Jimmy Kennedy (2003), DE Tamba Hali (2006), DE Aaron Maybin (2009) and DE Jared Odrick (2010).

DT Jordan Hill and DE Sean Stanley could add to the PSU legacy in this year’s draft.

5. Tennessee

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 9; First-Round Picks: 5; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Tennessee won the first BCS national championship in 1998 before undergoing a steady decline. Accordingly, the Vols had a number of first-rounders early in this 15-year cycle, including DE Shaun Ellis (2000), DT Albert Haynesworth (2002) and DT John Henderson (2002).

The most recent UT first-rounders were DT Justin Harrell (2007) and DT Dan Williams (2010). The Vols’ next big name on the defensive line could be DT Daniel McCullers, who would be eligible for the 2014 draft.

6. Miami (Fla.)

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 9; First-Round Picks: 4; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: The Canes have been known for producing top defensive talent, including stellar defensive linemen. Their first-round haul includes DT Damione Lewis (2001), DT William Joseph (2003), DE Jerome McDougle (2003) and NT Vince Wilfork (2004).

7. (tie) Southern California

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 8; First-Round Picks: 4; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: USC was the top team in our Quarterback U. analysis and the Trojans have also cracked the top 10 in our defensive line rankings. First-rounders from USC include DE Kenechi Udeze (2004), DT Mike Patterson (2005), DE Lawrence Jackson (2008) and DT Sedrick Ellis (2008).

DE Morgan Breslin could be a top draft prospect from USC next year.

7. (tie) Nebraska

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 8; First-Round Picks: 4; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Nebraska has long been known for producing top line talent on both sides of the ball. The Huskers have sent several D-linemen to the NFL in the first round, including DE Grant Wistrom (1998), DE Jason Peter (1998), NT Adam Carriker (2007) and DT Ndamukong Suh (2010).

9. Texas

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 8; First-Round Picks: 3; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Texas had great success during this 15-year period, including the national title run in 2005. First-round picks from UT include NT Casey Hampton (2001), DT Marcus Tubbs (2004) and DE Brian Orakpo (2009).

There were other notables, including DE Cory Redding (2003, third round pick) and DE Tim Crowder (2007, second round pick).

Some believe that DE Jackson Jeffcoat could be the top draft prospect at his position for 2014.

10. Florida

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 5; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Florida has been consistently good and there is a chance that outgoing defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd could add to the Gators’ first-round pedigree here in April. Previous first rounders included DT Reggie McGrew (1999), DE Jevon Kearse (1999), DT Gerard Warren (2001), DE Jarvis Moss (2007) and DE Derrick Harvey (2008).

Kearse, of course, was known as “The Freak” for the way he terrorized opposing quarterbacks. Moss and Harvey were a two-man wrecking crew in Florida’s BCS national title game win over Ohio State after the 2006 season.

DE Dominique Easley could be the next one in the pipeline. He would be eligible for the draft in 2014.

11. Georgia

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 4; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Georgia has also been a consistent producer of top defensive line talent. First-rounders include DT Richard Seymour (2001), DT Marcus Stroud (2001), DE Charles Grant (2002) and DT Jonathan Sullivan (2003).

Defensive tackle John Jenkins is a potential first-round pick this year.

12. Ohio State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 3; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Much of Ohio State’s pedigree here goes back to the 2002 national championship team with all four starters getting drafted, including DE Kenny Peterson (2003, second round), DE Will Smith (2004, first round), DT Tim Anderson (2004, third round) and DE Darrion Scott (2004, third round).

Other first-rounders in the last 15 years include defensive tackles Ryan Pickett (2001) and Cam Heyward (2011). DT Johnathan Hankins could be a first-rounder in this year’s draft.

13. Clemson

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 1; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Clemson has had six defensive linemen drafted in the top three rounds in the last six years. This group included DE Gaines Adams (2007, first round), DE DaQuan Bowers (2011, second round) and DE Andre Branch (2012, second round).

14. Wisconsin

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 3; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: The Badgers have had some big-name defensive line talent over the last 15 years. That includes three first-rounders in DT Wendell Bryant (2002), DE Erasmus James (2005) and DE J.J. Watt (2011).

In two years, Watt has become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He had a league-high 20-1/2 sacks in 2012.

15. Alabama

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 1; First Overall Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: It’s amazing with all of the success Alabama has had with three national titles in the last four years that the Crimson Tide have not had more than one defensive lineman taken in the first round in the last 15 years. That player was DT Marcell Dareus in 2011.

DE Terrence Cody was a second-round pick in 2010. DE Ed Stinson could be a top prospect from Alabama in the 2014 draft.

More Comparisons

As we compiled the data, here were some more interesting comparisons:

* Honorable Mentions – Schools with as many as four defensive linemen drafted in the first three rounds in the last 15 years include: Auburn, Boston College, California, Iowa, Kentucky and Notre Dame.

Schools with three top-three round drafted defensive linemen in the last 15 years include: Oregon State, Syracuse, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Mississippi State, Cincinnati, Purdue, N.C. State, Hawaii, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Oregon and Oklahoma.

* First Overall Picks -- Over the last 15 years, defensive linemen have been taken as the No. 1 overall pick twice. Penn State’s Courtney Brown was the top pick by Cleveland in 2000, while N.C. State’s Mario Williams was the top pick by Houston in 2006.

* First-Round Picks -- In terms of first-round picks of defensive linemen over the last 15 years, North Carolina leads the way with eight. Penn State has had six, while LSU, Tennessee and Florida each had five.

Schools with four D-linemen taken in the top three rounds in the last 15 years include Minnesota, USC, Nebraska and Georgia. Schools with three such picks include Texas, Ohio State, Wisconsin, California and Boston College.

* NFL Leaders – Looking at sack totals from the past several years, you see a lot of the familiar names. J.J. Watt (Wisconsin, 2011, first round) led the league with 20-1/2 sacks in 2012 for Houston. Cameron Wake (Penn State, 2005, undrafted) was fourth overall and second among ends in 2012 with 15 sacks for Miami.

Jared Allen (Idaho State, 2004, fourth round) led the league with 22 in 2011, was second with 14-1/2 in 2009 and also led with 15-1/2 in 2007 for Minnesota.

* This Year’s Class – This year looks like another strong defensive line draft class. Some are projecting Utah DT Star Lotulelei as the possible No. 1 overall pick to Kansas City.

Other potential first- or second-rounders this year include Florida DT Sharrif Floyd, Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore, BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah, LSU DE Barkevious Mingo, Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson, North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams, Florida State DE Bjoern Werner, Georgia DT John Jenkins, SMU DE Margus Hunt, Purdue DT Kawann Short and Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come for analysis of the schools who have produced top draftees at each position group.

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