The Washington Huskies have had an amazing run of great players at cornerback over the last decade. The success at that position hasn’t been contained to college, as UW corners have made an instant impact at the NFL level. But has UW been the best school at producing corners for the NFL? And who are the best programs for other positions?
I decided to test that idea and come up with the best possible all-program at one position NFL team that I could. Here are the rules. I will fill my team so that every player at a given position group attended the same college. However, I can only use each school once. Alabama had a reasonable argument for 5 different positions on the team but I had to choose just one.
I also care about NFL production rather than college production. I want to know what schools have truly prepared their players for the league.
Finally, I’m primarily worried about filling my starting positions but if a school has enough depth for a few backups then it can count in their favor. Let’s start on offense.
School: North Carolina State
Starter: Russell Wilson
Backups: Philip Rivers, Mike Glennon
9 Pro Bowls, 1 Super Bowl
We start off with perhaps the most unusual team on the list. NC State is not exactly known for being a football power but for some reason, they’ve put out a number of very good quarterbacks. Wilson ended up grad transferring to Wisconsin but he got a degree from NC State so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to include him here. Regardless of whether you have Wilson or Rivers starting, you’ve got multiple above average quarterbacks on the roster plus a 3rd stringer who began the year as a starter (although has since been benched).
If you don’t care about depth, then just go with the best player which is Aaron Rodgers. If Jared Goff plays like he has so far this season the entire year then Cal could potentially move up.
Honorable Mention: Cal- Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff (6 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pros, 2 MVPs, 1 Super Bowl)
School: Ohio State
Starter: Ezekiel Elliott
Backup: Carlos Hyde
1 All-Pro, 1 Pro Bowl
Running back has the shortest shelf life of any position in the NFL so going strictly off of Pro Bowl appearances isn’t the way to go here. Zeke had one of the best seasons by a rookie running back ever and Carlos Hyde has been a very good player when healthy on a very bad team. Some other programs have greater depth but any team with both these players on the roster would be considered to have an embarrassment of riches.
If Dalvin Cook hadn’t torn his ACL there was an argument for Florida State. But even if he had stayed healthy I needed to see a full year from him before lifting them up a spot.
Honorable Mention: Florida State- Devonta Freeman, Dalvin Cook (2 Pro Bowls)
Starters: DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant
1 Pro Bowl
This was probably the toughest position to pick. Clemson has three players with immense talent but who each have their own problems in the league. Bryant has dealt with suspensions, Watkins has dealt with injuries, and Hopkins has dealt with terrible QB play. Ultimately, I went with talent over those concerns and picked Clemson.
Cal’s Keenan Allen has also dealt with injuries and DeSean Jackson is probably in the last few years of his career which knocked them down a spot. And Alabama certainly had the best 1, 2 punch but their 3rd is a rookie without a super high pedigree so I didn’t feel great about the depth. Also, Alabama and Cal could be used at other spots.
Honorable Mention #1: California- DeSean Jackson, Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen (3 Pro Bowls)
Honorable Mention #2: Alabama- Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, ArDarius Stewart (2 All-Pro, 6 Pro Bowls)
School: Miami (FL)
Starters: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham
Backup: David Njoku
1 All-Pro, 7 Pro Bowls
While WR may have been the hardest decision, tight end was probably the easiest. They may be approaching the tail end of their careers but Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham have been two of the elites at the position over the past decade. Olsen is currently out with an injury but there’s enough depth still that this team could deal with his 2 month absence. David Njoku was a 1st round pick in this most recent draft and provides some youth and athleticism to the group. They may not block very well but man will they provide some mismatches.
If you’re projecting a couple years into the future then the Notre Dame tight ends might be the way to go. Tyler Eifert has battled injuries but Kyle Rudolph had a breakout year last season and both have the physical tools to succeed.
Honorable Mention: Notre Dame- Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Troy Niklas (2 Pro Bowls)
Starters: Joe Thomas, Ricky Wagner
Backups: Ryan Ramzyck
6 All-Pros, 10 Pro Bowls
When I need 2 starters I’m totally comfortable picking the best player of the last decade and pairing him with an average starter in Ricky Wagner. Plus I get a 1st round pick from this most recent draft to have as my backup which beats what anyone else can provide.
Notre Dame does come close though as Zack Martin is likely the 2nd best tackle behind Thomas and Stanley is a young high 1st round pick who may still turn out to be good.
Honorable Mention: Notre Dame- Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley (2 All-Pros, 3 Pro Bowls)
Starters: David DeCastro, Joshua Garnett
1 All-Pro, 2 Pro Bowls
There are a few reasons why I picked Stanford. The 1st is that there is basically no school that has put out multiple quality guards. The best guards in football came from schools without a reasonable 2nd starter to pair with them. The 2nd is that both of these players come from the state of Washington and yet skipped over UW. Sometimes it’s good to revisit old wounds in order to achieve closure. We’re doing all right for ourselves Husky fans. Breathe.
Honorable Mention: Nebraska- Richie Incognito, Matt Slauson, Spencer Long (3 Pro Bowls)
Starter: Alex Mack
Backup: Brian Schwenke
4 Pro Bowls
For positions with only one starter the default is to find whoever the best player is at that position. In this case, that would be Travis Frederick of Wisconsin. However, I already used up Wisconsin so I’ll go with the 2nd team All-Pro in Alex Mack. I even get a reasonable backup in Schwenke to boot.
Honorable Mention: Oregon- Max Unger, Hroniss Grasu (1 All Pro, 2 Pro Bowls, 1 Super Bowl)
Now we get to move on to the defensive side of the ball.
School: South Carolina
Starters: Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram
1 Pro Bowl
The Pro Bowl numbers don’t do this pick justice but that’s because while Julius Peppers is one of the all-time greats, he’s almost at the end of his career. Clowney was at risk of being a bust as the #1 overall pick but came on strong last year and will be a force if he can put his injuries behind him. Ingram has been a double digit sack threat for the last several years and is extremely underrated.
Honorable Mention: North Carolina- Robert Quinn, Julius Peppers (4 All-Pros, 11 Pro Bowls)
Starters: Jurell Casey, Leonard Williams
3 Pro Bowls
This is another painful one for UW fans given the state of DT recuiting and the Marlon Tuipulotu saga of last year. Casey is one of the more underrated players in the NFL and Leonard Williams is stuck on a terrible Jets team but looks as if he may be a perennial pro bowler.
Alabama seemingly puts out 1-2 first round picks a year at defensive tackle but surprisingly few of them have become superstars though most are still young.
Honorable Mention: Alabama- Marcell Dareus, Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen (1 All-Pro, 2 Pro Bowls)
Starters: Justin Houston, Leonard Floyd
Backups: Alec Ogletree, Thomas Davis
2 All-Pro, 6 Pro Bowls
Houston appears to have recovered fully from his injury and is back to being a wrecking ball on the edge. Leonard Floyd had a good rookie year last season with 7 sacks in 12 games for the Bears. Ogletree is at least an average starter and Thomas Davis has been one of the best in the game for a decade plus but it’s hard to see how he can keep going much longer.
Honorable Mention: USC- Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing (1 All-Pro, 7 Pro Bowls, 1 Super Bowl)
Starters: C.J Mosley, Dont’a Hightower
Backups: Reuben Foster
3 Pro Bowls, 2 Super Bowls
This is where I felt that Alabama had a larger gap between them and #2 than at any other position so I finally slotted them in here. They may not have the number of All-Pros as Penn State but Bowman isn’t the player he once was and the Alabama crew should outperform them moving forward. Reuben Foster has health issues and is a rookie but was an amazing college player and will likely take over for Bowman in the future.
Honorable Mention: Penn State- Sean Lee, NaVorro Bowman (5 All-Pro, 5 Pro Bowls)
Starters: Desmond Trufant, Marcus Peters
Backups: Kevin King, Sidney Jones
1 All-Pro, 3 Pro Bowls
There were a couple of schools that could place a legitimate claim upon this title as well but ultimately I think Washington deserves it, homer goggles be damned. I expect King and Jones to be good players this year and in the future but the key is Trufant and Peters. There may be schools that have one player at a higher level than either but no other program has a pair that good. Trufant would have been a pro bowler if not for his injury last season and Peters has secured his place as one of the 5 best corners in the game as well. It will probably be several years before UW gets dethroned here.
LSU was the closest on this list to making me think twice but they’ll show up next so I think using Washington here makes a better team. The Honey Badger plays a CB/S hybrid role so he would’ve been included at either position. Ohio State and Florida also had a lot of premium talent enter the league in these positions this year but neither have the proven players that UW has at the position already.
Honorable Mention: LSU- Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, TreDavious White (4 All-Pros, 7 Pro Bowls)
Starters: Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu
Backups: Jamal Adams
1 All-Pro, 2 Pro Bowls
I happen to think that Eric Reid is a very good player for the 49ers and the Honey Badger has been elite when he’s healthy. Throw in the fact that Jamal Adams was a top-10 draft pick this year and you have one of the best trios at safety possible.
Once again, Alabama comes close to making the list as they could have at basically every position along the way.
Honorable Mention: Alabama- Landon Collins, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, Eddie Jackson (1 All-Pro, 2 Pro Bowls)