Ranking Big Ten Football Programs As NFL Draft Factories

    Which Big Ten football programs are the biggest NFL draft factories? Which ones crank out the most pro prospects, the best draft picks, and the bulk bodies for the big league?

    Which Big Ten football programs are the biggest NFL draft factories? Which ones crank out the most pro prospects, the best draft picks, and the bulk bodies for the big league?

    What do coaching staffs like to sell to top recruits and prospects? Come to (insert school here), and you’ll have a good shot at going pro. That’s what every top high school prospect is thinking about, and they all notice who’s good at developing guys to make the next move. So which Big Ten programs send the most and best players to the NFL?

    14. Northwestern

    Last Four Years: 4

    Last Ten Years: 10

    Even when Northwestern was going to Rose Bowls it wasn’t sending players to the NFL. It’s not a place that brings in a slew of five-star talents, and it hasn’t had much luck on draft day with no one taken higher in the fourth round since 2005. Even worse, since 2010 the Wildcats have had three seventh-rounders and a fourth-rounder.

    13. Indiana

    Last Four Years: 3

    Last Ten Years: 12

    It’s been a rough run for Indiana draft picks lately with just three since 2011 and 30 since 1990. The offensive talent has been a little better with RB Tevin Coleman going in the third round last year and RB Jordan Howard likely to be drafted in 2016, but it’s been rare to get a slew of top players from Bloomington.

    12. Minnesota

    Last Four Years: 6

    Last Ten Years: 14

    The Gophers have had a few nice prospects here and there with TE Maxx Williams going early to Baltimore last season and DT Ra’Shede Hageman taken by Atlanta in 2014. But it hasn’t exactly been a steady stream of prospects going off the big leagues with just 26 players drafted since 2000.

    11. Maryland

    Last Four Years: 4

    Last Ten Years: 20

    Considering the school is in a relatively strong recruiting area, you’d think there’d be more than eight Terps drafted since 2009. Maryland has never been a big program for NFL talent – at least since the draft went to seven rounds – but five went in the 2009 draft. Receivers have been the stars lately with Stefon Diggs, Torrey Smith, Darrius Heyward-Bay and TE Vernon Davis all going in the last ten years.

    10. Purdue

    Last Four Years: 6

    Last Ten Years: 20

    It’s been hard to recruit to West Lafayette and even harder to come up with too many big draft picks lately. However, the high-drafted prospects have been great, with Kawann Short going in the second round in 2013 and Ryan Kerrigan a terror from the 2011 draft. Nine Boilermakers went in the 2004 draft, but that’s a long, long time ago.

    9. Illinois

    Last Four Years: 8

    Last Ten Years: 21

    Considering Illinois hasn’t been a real player in the Big Ten, it’s had more than its share of good high draft picks with two first-rounders in 2012 and 11 top 100 picks since 2010. Can Lovie Smith bring in more difference-makers? Just getting more good college prospects is a start, but the new coaching staff needs to start developing players for the next level.

    8. Rutgers

    Last Four Years: 10

    Last Ten Years: 22

    The Scarlet Knights have only had two players drafted over the last two drafts, but they had seven late round picks in 2013. They haven’t been too bad here and there with Ray Rice, Anthony Davis, and Devin McCourty among some of the better players going over the last few years. This is hardly a pipeline to the NFL, but it’s been far better.

    7. Michigan

    Last Four Years: 11

    Last Ten Years: 34

    Sending five or more Wolverines to the NFL was the norm in the 1980s and 1990s, and there were almost always first round picks on a yearly basis. That’s slowed to a crawl. Taylor Lewan went in the first round in 2014, but that was it since 2010 for a program that’s supposed to crank out Leaders and Best. The last few drafts have been okay with three going in each of the last two, but Jim Harbaugh starting to improve the talent level.

    6. Nebraska

    Last Four Years: 12

    Last Ten Years: 36

    When everything was rocking in the 1990s, Nebraska had no problems cranking out pro prospects with 21 players drafted from 1995 to 1997. That hasn’t been the case lately with just three Huskers being taken last year and eight over the last three drafts. However, seven players were selected in the 2011 draft and there have been a few first-rounders. There just haven’t been enough of them for a program trying to get back to superpower status.

    5. Iowa

    Last Four Years: 13

    Last Ten Years: 37

    Iowa has a bit of a Little Engine That Could reputation when it comes to talent level, but it’s been one of the strongest and most consistent NFL draft factories over the last ten years. Six Hawkeyes went in 2012, seven in 2011, and six in 2010. These aren’t just late round fliers, either – only six of the last 37 Iowa draft picks went after the fifth round. Linemen have been the main men with Brandon Scherff and Riley Reiff the two recent first-rounders from the O line.

    4. Penn State

    Last Four Years: 13

    Last Ten Years: 39

    There was a time when Penn State ruled the draft world – or at least was a massive part of it – sending ten players to the NFL in the 1996 draft and having four taken in the first round in 2003. The well hasn’t dried up, but only six Nittany Lions were drafted in the last two seasons and without a first rounder since 2010.

    3. Michigan State

    Last Four Years: 14

    Last Ten Years: 27

    As expected with all the recent success, Michigan State has had a nice run of draft picks – but not a phenomenal one. Six Spartans were taken in 2012, but just eight in the last three drafts. However, the caliber of selections has been stronger with Le’Veon Bell, Trae Waynes and Darqueze Dennard a few of the recent high selections.

    2. Wisconsin

    Last Four Years: 16

    Last Ten Years: 37

    The Badgers have turned into a high-level program when it comes to sending special prospects to the pros. From J.J. Watt, to Chris Borland, to Joe Thomas, to Travis Frederick, to Russell Wilson, to Owen Daniels, the star power is easy to push. They’ve had at least one first round draft pick in each of the last four years.

    1. Ohio State

    Last Four Years: 18

    Last Ten Years: 55

    The Buckeyes have been relatively underwhelming pros over the last few years, but there have been a whole bunch of them getting drafted. Even with the massive run of talent about to go in the 2016 draft, there were still plenty of talented players being taken over the last few drafts with six going in 2014 and five last year. 14 were taken in 2004, and nine in 2006 – getting Ohio State players to the NFL hasn’t been much of a problem. That’s especially true this year.

    MORE: Big Ten Football: Best Player Drafted For Every Program

    Stadium Logo


    Have the full Stadium experience

    Watch with friends

    Get rewards

    Join the discussion