The debate is officially over, folks. Fanbases all across America have claimed the title of DBU for their school, with some teams actually getting in on the act. It’s all in great fun, but the issue has been a contentious one among fanbases for some time, so it’s time to officially set the record straight.
Who is the real DBU? I researched and broke down nine different college football teams and their drafting history over the past ten draft classes to find the answer.
Total Drafted – 13 (4th)
Top 100 – 7 (5th)
Top 50 – 6 (t-3rd w/ FSU, LSU)
1st Round – 4 (t-4th w/ FSU)
Big Hits – Keanu Neal, Joe Haden
Still Waiting – Marcus Maye, Quincy Wilson, Jalen Tabor, Duke Dawson
Busts – Matt Elam, Vernon Hargreaves
Notable UDFA – Quinton Dunbar, Brian Poole
The good news: If you’re a Florida fan that isn’t in denial, you’ve probably already accepted the fact that the Gators are no longer DBU (and they never were). But the future holds some hope, especially if their four most recent high draftees can live up to expectations. If the Gators are ever to meet their defensive back-producing hype, it’ll be about what current unknowns can do for the school’s rep, not what the few scattered studs they’ve produced in the past ten years can offer.
The bad news: How did Florida ever get to be known as DBU? I thought maybe the hype began in the early 2000s, when things were better for the Gators, but even that isn’t reflected in a quick research of their draft history. Gator fans have hoodwinked us for years, as Florida has only four first round defensive backs selected in the first round over the past ten years, and one of them is a massive bust (Elam) with another headed there (Hargreaves).
There is a legitimate argument that Virginia Tech is a better producer of NFL secondary talent than Florida right now. Virginia Tech! The Gators really need their past two draft classes to match and exceed expectations, or they might not even be included in this list in the future.
Final verdict: Florida’s future may be bright at defensive back, but with Wilson, Tabor and Dawson yet to prove anything of substance, and Maye playing good, not great football as a rookie, the star power is lacking. A peak ahead to the 2019 draft doesn’t give us anything to get excited about either.
Florida State Seminoles
Total Drafted – 11 (6th)
Top 100 – 8 (t-3rd w/OSU)
Top 50 – 6 (t-3rd w/LSU, Florida)
1st Round – 4
Big Hits – Jalen Ramsey, Ronald Darby, Lamarcus Joyner, Xavier Rhodes
Still Waiting – Derwin James
Busts – Terrence Brooks, Patrick Robinson (not a bad player, but obviously not lived up to Round 1 expectations)
Notable UDFA – None
The good news: If you’re looking for star power in the defensive backfield, Florida State has an embarrassing amount of riches that dwarfs what Florida has produced. Seminole fans don’t actually care about being DBU, but out-producing Florida? That’s where it’s at.
And there is no question that they have. Ramsey and Rhodes are top five corners in the NFL according to most lists, and Joyner is one of the league’s most versatile safeties. He’ll make bank when/if he hits the free agent market next offseason, and so will Darby. Heck, even FSU’s busts like Robinson have looked good in recent years.
The Seminoles calling card isn’t necessarily in the volume of top 50 defensive backs they’ve produced in the past ten drafts, it’s that hardly any have been misses, and most have been elite players. If James follows suit, you could easily argue that the Seminoles have produced five of the top 30-40 defensive backs in the league. That’s wild.
The bad news: There’s not much to get upset about with the Seminoles ability to produce high-end NFL talent in the secondary, except that they can’t boast the same volume as schools like Alabama or Ohio State, both in draftable and first round talent.
Final verdict: The Seminoles don’t have the same volume of draftable talent as many of the other teams on this list, but if you’re looking for NFL studs, there’s a better chance that a high-end pick out of Florida State will become a star than any other school on this list.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Total Drafted – 14 (t-2nd w/ LSU)
Top 100 – 8 (t-3rd w/ Florida State)
Top 50 – 7 (2nd)
1st Round – 7 (t-1st w/ Alabama)
Big Hits – Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, Malcolm Jenkins, Kurt Coleman
Still Waiting – Gareon Conley, Malik Hooker, Denzel Ward, Von Bell, Eli Apple
Busts – None
Notable UDFA – None
The good news: Perhaps no school is more reliant about what the future brings for a plethora of their NFL draft picks than the Buckeyes. Conley and Hooker missed most of their rookie seasons due to injury, but the outlook on both players was almost universally bright among the opinions of draft analysts. Ward was a top five pick and a very pro-ready player, while Bell has started to bloom after a couple of quiet early years.
One could say Apple has the look of a bust, as he was miserable last season and hasn’t looked much better in the preseason action that I’ve seen. But even if he is, Ohio State still has three first round picks with a ton of promise and three that are already confirmed excellent. Lattimore might be the best corner in the league, and Jenkins has been one of the best safeties in the NFL for most of his career. Roby could be coming up on a career year amidst a tenure that has already been very strong in Denver.
Ohio State has already produced some high-end NFL talent through the draft (five first rounders in the past three drafts), but revisiting this list in two years could put them in contention with Florida State for the best quality of prospect in the draft as well.
The bad news: If Hooker, Conley and Ward don’t become high-end players at their positions, Ohio State probably isn’t going to be able to match what Florida State is doing at the top of the draft. With the Seminoles boasting a future top 50 pick in Levonta Taylor and the Buckeyes’ 2019 crop looking pretty scarce, they really need their recent run of draft dominance to parlay into NFL success.
Final verdict: Ohio State offers an excellent blend of quantity and quality, but the former can’t quite match Alabama, and the latter might not be on par with Florida State just yet.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Total Drafted – 17 (1st)
Top 100 – 12 (1st)
Top 50 – 9 (1st)
1st Round – 7 (T-1st w/OSU)
Big Hits – Eddie Jackson, Landon Collins, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Dre Kirkpatrick, Kareem Jackson
Still Waiting – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Marlon Humphrey
Busts – Cyrus Jones, Dee Milliner, Mark Barron, Javier Arenas
Notable UDFA – None
The good news: The good news is that they’re freaking Alabama, and they don’t have to worry about the well drying up any time soon. The Crimson Tide will just keep cranking out NFL talent, with three cornerbacks and a safety all starting for the first time this season, but each offering high end athletic/physical potential.
In other words, even if ‘Bama doesn’t have the best hit rate in their defensive back prospects, the sheer volume of prospects they’re able to produce each year is unmatched. The NFL will always keep biting on the size/speed/physicality profile of Alabama players, and even if the Milliners and Barrons make things look bleak for awhile, you’ve still got the Collinses and the Fitzpatricks to clean things up.
The bad news: Has Alabama really produced that much high-end defensive back talent in the past ten years? Collins is a top seven safety, but Jackson still needs to build on a great rookie season, and Clinton-Dix, Kirkpatrick and Jackson have been solid players that have never lived up to first round potential.
Fitzpatrick and Humphrey have the look of potential top-end players down the road, but right now Alabama can’t hold a candle to the quality of defensive back prospect that Ohio State and Florida State are producing. One could argue they haven’t even offered the same star power as LSU or Washington either.
Final verdict: If you’re looking for the school producing the most NFL-caliber defensive backs, from draftable prospects to first rounders, Alabama is definitely the cream of the crop. If you’re looking for the school that produces the best defensive backs, the Crimson Tide are a solid option, but clearly not the best.
Total Drafted – 14 (t-2nd)
Top 100 – 9 (2nd)
Top 50 – 6 (t-3rd w/Florida, FSU)
1st Round – 5 (3rd)
Big Hits – Tre White, Jamal Adams, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Jalen Mills (for a 7th rounder)
Still Waiting – Donte Jackson
Busts – Jalen Collins, Eric Reid, Brandon Taylor, Morris Claiborne
Notable UDFA – None
The good news: Not only has LSU produced two absolute studs in Peterson and Mathieu, the best at their positions during their primes (Peterson still a top five corner), but the near future might look brighter for the Tigers than any other school on this list.
Not only do White and Adams appear poised for stardom, but Jackson should start in Carolina this season, and Greedy Williams should be the first cornerback off the board next spring. Grant Delpit might be the best safety in college football right now, and has the look of a potential first round pick in 2020. Not only is it currently an exciting time for LSU defensive backs in the NFL, but the future could be even better.
The bad news: Are we ready to call White and Adams official hits? Of course not, but for now it is hard to list them in a “still waiting” category. The reality is that if both second-year players build off of impressive rookie seasons, LSU will look a lot better in this category than they currently do. If both become stars, Ohio State and Florida State might have some competition.
For now, LSU looks a little more like Alabama’s profile, except for the fact that they’ve produced two bonafide stars in Peterson and Mathieu. It’s a good overall crop, but I’m not sure LSU is ready to rumble with the big boys for quality of prospect, at least in 2018.
Final verdict: We could revisit this list in 2-3 years and see LSU as the unquestioned DBU. Right now, despite some big hits over the years, they just aren’t quite able to hang with the big dogs.
Total Drafted – 5 (9th)
Top 100 – 5 (6th)
Top 50 – 5 (6th)
1st Round – 2 (t-8th w/ Virginia Tech, Texas)
Big Hits – Marcus Peters, Desmond Trufant
Still Waiting – Kevin King, Sidney Jones, Budda Baker
Busts – None
Notable UDFA – None
The good news: The Huskies have had just five defensive backs drafted in the past ten years, last among all the teams I ran through the study. So why are they on this list?
Because good luck finding the misses. Peters might be the best playmaker in the league today, and both he and Trufant are top ten players at their position. Baker looked like one of the best players on the field for Arizona over the second half of last season, while Jones should be poised for a big year as a starter in Philadelphia now that he’s healthy.
The jury is still out on King after an up-and-down rookie season, but if all three of these second-year players hit, Washington could be ready to move on up.
And here’s the biggest catch: the Huskies currently have five draftable players starting in their secondary, including Taylor Rapp, JoJo McIntosh, Myles Bryant, Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy. A couple of those guys should be at least top 100 picks, leaving Washington in position to match LSU’s wave of draftable talent over the next two classes.
The bad news: You can’t be DBU with five drafted defensive backs in ten years. Washington has an awesome hit rate, but three of their five picks are still unknowns, and two studs isn’t enough to match what some of the other schools on this list are putting out there.
Final verdict: So far the quality is there, but the lack of quantity and the unknowns make it hard to take Washington seriously as a competitor for the title of DBU right now. But in a couple years…
Best of the Rest
Virginia Tech claims to be DBU, and in terms of volume they actually have a case. The Hokies have had 12 defensive backs drafted in the past ten classes, behind only Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Florida. But only four of them have been top 100 picks, and only two first rounders.
The Hokies’ hits include Kyle Fuller, Kendall Fuller and Kam Chancellor, with Terrell Edmunds still an unknown after being a first round pick this year. They’ve put out a lot of prospects over the years, but they just don’t have enough stars or high-profile picks to be a serious contender.
Miami has also claimed to be DBU, but they might be the most laughable contestant in this study. They’ve had only one first round pick in the past ten drafts, and that player was Artie Burns, who has struggled in Pittsburgh. Despite those struggles, Burns is easily the best defensive back in the league from Miami, although Adrian Colbert could push him if he wins the starting job in San Francisco.
Texas used to be DBU, according to Longhorn fans, but like everything else about the football program, that aspect of the organization has fallen upon hard times. Texas has produced two first round defensive backs in the past ten years, namely Earl Thomas and Kenny Vaccaro. Thomas is a good name to boast, but Quandre Diggs and Vaccaro are the only other Longhorn defensive backs in the NFL worth mentioning, and the latter was just signed off the street.
So, who is DBU?
If only the answer could be simple, right? Well, it is. If you’re willing to break DBU up into different definitions, there are several different answers. Alabama produces the most talent, Ohio State has the best balance of quantity and quality and LSU and Washington could top this list in most categories in a few years.
But if you’re looking for the team that has produced the best NFL talent with the least amount of busts, which should be the most important criteria here, the Florida State Seminoles are DBU.
Better luck next year, runner-ups!