It is the question that football fans have been asking for years: Which college team deserves to have the title – DB-U?
It is a term that describes the college football program with the best recent history of developing and producing talent in the secondary, year in and year out, to the NFL. The fight for the ‘DB-U’ moniker is rekindled each NFL draft cycle, as fans make arguments for their school to deserve the title.
While multiple programs will be introduced as if they should be in the conversation, recent NFL draft history and the success of the respective defensive backs at the next level indicates there are only two real contenders for the DB-U crown: LSU and Ohio State.
The Case for Ohio State
In 2018, Ohio State had the highest-drafted cornerback in the class – Denzel Ward to the Cleveland Browns with the fourth overall pick. Ward has since become a cornerstone piece of the Browns’ roster as a premier player on the boundary.
In 2017, the Buckeyes had three defensive backs selected in the first round – Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Gareon Conley. Lattimore asserted himself as one of the league’s elite cornerbacks upon his arrival into the NFL. Hooker has quickly become one of the most feared playmaking free safeties in football. Conley had a slower start and is on his second team, but he’s playing at a high level in 2019.
In 2016, cornerback Eli Apple was drafted 10th overall by the New York Giants. While he struggled early on in his career, he’s found a home in New Orleans as their starting cornerback, opposite of Marshon Lattimore.
Now, when you look at the Buckeyes’ 2020 NFL draft outlook in the defensive backfield, junior cornerback Jeffery Okudah looks like a lock to be another top 10 pick for the program next April. Additionally, redshirt-sophomore cornerback Shaun Wade has a real shot of also becoming a first-round pick in this class. There is a legitimate possibility that the first two cornerbacks selected in the 2020 NFL draft are Ohio State Buckeyes.
If this comes to fruition, Ohio State’s five-year count of first round picks in the secondary would reach seven (six of which are cornerbacks), which is just an astounding number. Thus, your argument for the Buckeyes as ‘DB-U’ is that their five-year history of first round picks far exceeds any other program in the country.
The Case for LSU
If you’re making the case for LSU as college football’s ‘DB-U’ you’re expanding the timeline of what recent NFL draft history means, as well as what happens beyond the first round. If it’s five years and just the first round, Ohio State clearly has the numbers advantage over any other program. But if it’s ten years and in the top 70 picks, here come the LSU Tigers.
Since 2011, here are the defensive backs that have come out of LSU that were drafted in the top 70:
2011: Patrick Peterson, CB (5th overall)
2012: Morris Claiborne, CB (6th overall)
2013: Eric Reid, S (18th overall)
2013: Tyrann Mathieu, S (69th overall)
2015: Jalen Collins, CB (42nd overall)
2017: Jamal Adams, S (6th overall)
2017: Tre’Davious White, CB (27th overall)
2018: Donte Jackson, CB (55th overall)
2019: Greedy Williams, CB (46th overall)
Then if you add in potential 2020 prospects – Kristian Fulton and Grant Delpit – that’s likely to be two more first rounders to the LSU resume, not to mention true freshman cornerback Derek Stingley looking like the best pure cornerback in the country. Thus, the strongest argument for LSU as DB-U is their well-rounded resume of NFL defensive backs beyond the first round for a longer period of time.
If you talk about a program that has simply churned out first round picks in the secondary over the last five years, Ohio State has the edge over LSU. But if you expand the timeline to the last decade, as well as the draft range to the top 70, LSU’s resume for ‘DB-U’ is unparalleled.
If the moniker was called ‘CB-U’ then Ohio State would be the deserved titleholder, as if Jeffery Okudah and Shaun Wade are drafted in the first round next April, they will have six first-round cornerbacks on their resume over the last five years, far exceeding any other team in college football, including LSU, who would only have two (Tre’Davious White and potentially Kristian Fulton).
But we are talking about the DB-U crown, which involves safeties as well, not just cornerbacks. Ohio State just doesn’t have the well-rounded resume LSU has in terms of safety talent, as names like Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Jamal Adams, and Grant Delpit come to mind. In addition, LSU, unlike Ohio State, has kept this NFL factory of defensive backs running at full speed for ten years and counting. It is that sustained consistency that puts LSU over the top as DB-U, despite Ohio State’s current five-year stretch of first round domination at the cornerback position.