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2015 NFL Draft: More College Team Captains In The Draft Than You Think

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Have you ever wondered how many of the 2015 NFL draft prospects were team captains in college? Wonder no more.

Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Alvin Dupree was a team captain in college.
Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Alvin Dupree was a team captain in college.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

An article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Giants Looked for Leaders in This Year's NFL Draft" noted that five of the seven players the Giants drafted in 2014 were captains on their college teams.

Prior to the 2013 draft, the Atlanta Falcons pointed out that 17 players drafted by GM Thomas Dimitroff were team captains in college.

We know that Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have a fondness for college team captains, and we pointed out that five of last year's nine draft picks were team captains in college (Martin, Hitchens, Street, Gardner, Dixon)

As I set out to write this post, I wondered what being a team captain means. Does it mean you were a regular attendant at Sunday School, put in tons of charity work, and never got into trouble off the field? That probably wouldn't hurt, but I don't think that's a prerequisite either.

What I saw as I did the research for this post is that more often than not, a team captain is one heck of a football player, a guy who plays and practices hard. That's what team captains do. They are the guys who set the pace on the team. They are often among the best players on their team. They are the ones who lead the way in practice. In Garrett-speak, they are the Right Kind of Guys.

That's why every time the Cowboys draft a college team captain, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. And it's also why articles like the two quoted above frequently pop up extolling the virtue of drafting team captains.

Yesterday, in our BTB Mock Draft Tracker, we reviewed ten different players who had been assigned to the Cowboys in ten different mock drafts. In the ensuing discussion, BTB member Old Frog wondered, "Which of these are team captains? We know that's important to Jason and it seems to be working."

An underlying assumption of that question is that college team captains are somehow hard to come by, and drafting them is worthy of special recognition, an assessment I have shared for all but the last 18 hours of my life - that's when I started writing this post.

At the college level, there is no uniform approach to designating team captains.

  • Some coaches name their captains; others let their players determine them by a vote
  • Some teams name their captains at the start of the season; others name them after the season
  • Some organizations select game captains for each game; others have permanent captains
  • Some teams have as little as two captains; others have as many as eight captains

With all of that in mind, I set out to answer Old Frog's question, and reviewed all 350 draft prospects with a draftable grade on the CBSSports Big Board to find out how many team captains will be in this year's draft class. The stunning result:

Almost half of the top 350 highest-rated draft prospects were team captains (in some shape or form) during their final college season.

Specifically, 149 players (126 regular captains, 23 game captains) out of 327 prospects were team captains in 2014 (The difference between the 327 and the 350 total prospects is due to programs that only use game captains and for which I couldn't find any information).

That warm and fuzzy feeling about the Cowboys drafting five college captains with their nine picks last year? Gone. 5 of 9 is about par for the course in the NFL draft. In fact, you've got to be a special kind of doofus GM to end up with a draft class completely devoid of any college captains. That's like walking across your lawn and stepping into dog poop not once, not twice, but three times.

Here's an overview of all the 149 prospects that were team captains in college. Keep in mind that there may be more than that number in this draft class, as these were the players I was able to identify, which doesn't mean I got them all. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).

2014 College Team Captains in 2015 NFL Draft
Rank Player School POS Proj. Round 2014 Status
1 Leonard Williams Southern Cal DT 1 Captain
4 Amari Cooper Alabama WR 1 Captain
5 Marcus Mariota Oregon QB 1 Captain
6 Brandon Scherff Iowa OT 1 Captain
11 Landon Collins Alabama SS 1 Captain
12 T.J. Clemmings Pittsburgh OT 1 Captain
14 La'el Collins LSU OT 1 Captain
17 Alvin Dupree Kentucky DE 1 Captain
20 Eddie Goldman Florida State DT 1 5 x Game captain
26 Cameron Erving Florida State OT 1-2 1 x Game Captain
28 Nate Orchard Utah OLB 1-2 Captain
34 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon CB 1-2 Captain
36 Owamagbe Odighizuwa UCLA DE 1-2 Captain
38 Ty Sambrailo Colorado State OT 1-2 Captain
41 Brett Hundley UCLA QB 2 Captain
43 Michael Bennett Ohio State DT 2 Captain
47 A.J. Cann South Carolina OG 2 Captain
48 Tevin Coleman Indiana RB 2 Captain
49 Laken Tomlinson Duke OG 2 Captain
50 Josh Harper Fresno State WR 2 Captain
52 Ameer Abdullah Nebraska RB 2 Captain
54 Mario Edwards Florida State DE 2 5 x Game captain
56 Reese Dismukes Auburn C 2 Captain
57 Clive Walford Miami TE 2 Captain
59 Cody Prewitt Mississippi FS 2 Captain
60 Xavier Cooper Washington State DT 2 Game Captain
61 Nelson Agholor Southern Cal WR 2 Captain
62 D'Joun Smith Florida Atlantic CB 2 Captain
63 Tre Jackson Florida State OG 2 6 x Game Captain
64 Eric Kendricks UCLA ILB 2 Captain
66 Anthony Harris Virginia SS 2-3 Captain
67 Trey Flowers Arkansas DE 2-3 Captain
68 Jamison Crowder Duke WR 2-3 Captain
69 Hroniss Grasu Oregon C 2-3 Captain
71 Derron Smith Fresno State FS 2-3 Captain
74 Tyler Lockett Kansas State WR 2-3 Captain
75 Gabe Wright Auburn DT 2-3 Captain
78 Denzel Perryman Miami ILB 2-3 Captain
80 Rashad Greene Florida State WR 2-3 5 x Game captain
86 Josue Matias Florida State OG 3 2 x Game Captain
87 Kurtis Drummond Michigan State FS 3 Captain
88 Markus Golden Missouri OLB 3 Captain
90 ZaDarius Smith Kentucky DE 3 Captain
91 Bryce Petty Baylor QB 3 2 x Game Captain
94 Doran Grant Ohio State CB 3 Captain
95 Andy Gallik Boston College C 3 Captain
99 Josh Shaw Southern Cal CB 3 Captain
105 Lynden Trail Norfolk State DE 3-4 Captain
108 Daryl Williams Oklahoma OT 3-4 Captain
109 Grady Jarrett Clemson DT 3-4 Captain
111 Justin Hardy East Carolina WR 3-4 5 x Game captain
116 Lorenzo Mauldin Louisville OLB 3-4 Captain
117 Garrett Grayson Colorado State QB 3-4 Captain
120 Jamil Douglas Arizona State OG 3-4 Captain
124 Ibraheim Campbell Northwestern SS 3-4 Captain
125 Anthony Chickillo Miami DE 4 Captain
126 Cedric Reed Texas DE 4 Game Captain
129 Jeff Heuerman Ohio State TE 4 Captain
133 Louis Trinca-Pasat Iowa DT 4 Captain
134 Vince Mayle Washington State WR 4 Game Captain
135 Kwon Alexander LSU OLB 4 Captain
139 Mike Hull Penn State ILB 4 Captain
140 Dres Anderson Utah WR 4 Captain
141 Jordan Richards Stanford SS 4-5 Captain
142 Ali Marpet Hobart OG 4-5 Captain
144 B.J. Finney Kansas State C 4-5 Captain
145 Nick Boyle Delaware TE 4-5 Captain
147 Charles Gaines Louisville CB 4-5 Captain
153 Jalston Fowler Alabama FB 4-5 Captain
154 Shane Carden East Carolina QB 4-5 Captain
155 Jordan Hicks Texas OLB 4-5 Game Captain
157 Stefon Diggs Maryland WR 4-5 2 x Game Captain
158 Clayton Geathers Central Florida SS 4-5 Captain
159 Austin Hill Arizona WR 4-5 Captain
167 Ben Heeney Kansas ILB 5 Captain
171 Sean Mannion Oregon State QB 5 Captain
172 E.J. Bibbs Iowa State TE 5 Captain
173 Shaquille Mason Georgia Tech C 5 Captain
175 Terrance Magee LSU RB 5 Captain
176 Quandre Diggs Texas CB 5 Game Captain
177 Miles Dieffenbach Penn State OG 5 Captain
180 Zach Wagenmann Montana DE 5-6 Captain
182 Deshazor Everett Texas A&M CB 5-6 Captain
183 Damarious Randall Arizona State FS 5-6 Captain
186 Justin Manton Louisiana-Monroe K 5-6 ST Captain
188 Antwan Goodley Baylor WR 5-6 1 x Game Captain
191 Sean Hickey Syracuse OT 5-6 Captain
194 Stephone Anthony Clemson ILB 5-6 Captain
196 Jake Ryan Michigan OLB 5-6 Captain
197 Hayes Pullard Southern Cal ILB 5-6 Captain
201 Kenny Bell Nebraska WR 6 Captain
210 Damian Swann Georgia CB 6 Captain
213 Titus Davis Central Michigan WR 6 Captain
214 Imoan Claiborne Northwestern State (LA) CB 6 Captain
215 Bryce Hager Baylor ILB 6 2 x Game Captain
216 Blake Sims Alabama QB 6-7 Captain
217 Derrick Malone Oregon OLB 6-7 Captain
219 Malcolm Brown Texas RB 6-7 Game Captain
220 Jermauria Rasco LSU DE 6-7 Captain
228 Cam Thomas Western Kentucky CB 6-7 Captain
230 Davis Tull Chattanooga OLB 6-7 Captain
233 Tevin McDonald Eastern Washington FS 6-7 Captain
236 Levi Norwood Baylor WR 6-7 2 x Game Captain
237 Taylor Heinicke Old Dominion QB 7 Captain
243 Devante Davis UNLV WR 7 Captain
245 Connor Halliday Washington State QB 7 Game Captain
246 Leterrius Walton Central Michigan DT 7 Captain
247 Zach Zenner South Dakota State FB 7 Captain
250 Casey Pierce Kent State TE 7 Captain
251 Jordan Taylor Rice WR 7 Captain
253 Byron Jones Connecticut CB 7 Captain
254 Travis Raciti San Jose State DT 7 Captain
256 Aaron Davis Colorado State OLB 7 Captain
259 Cody Fajardo Nevada QB 7-FA Captain
260 A.J. Tarpley Stanford ILB 7-FA Captain
263 Ryan Russell Purdue DE 7-FA Captain
268 Houston Bates Louisiana Tech OLB 7-FA Captain
270 Bryce Callahan Rice CB 7-FA Captain
272 Brett Boyko UNLV OT 7-FA Captain
273 Shane McDermott Miami C 7-FA Captain
275 Spencer Roth Baylor P 7-FA 3 x Game Captain
281 Jaxon Shipley Texas WR 7-FA Game Captain
285 Terry Poole San Diego State OT 7-FA Captain
287 Sam Carter TCU SS 7-FA Captain
288 Devin Gardner Michigan WR 7-FA Captain
290 Jake Waters Kansas State QB 7-FA Captain
291 C.J. Olaniyan Penn State OLB 7-FA Captain
298 James Rouse Marshall DE 7-FA Captain
303 Brian Blechen Utah SS 7-FA Captain
304 Mark Weisman Iowa FB 7-FA Captain
307 Jahwan Edwards Ball State RB 7-FA Captain
308 Hutson Mason Georgia QB 7-FA Captain
311 Mitch Morse Missouri OT 7-FA Captain
314 Amarlo Herrera Georgia ILB 7-FA Captain
315 Andrew East Vanderbilt LS 7-FA ST Captain
320 Dean Marlowe James Madison FS 7-FA Captain
321 Brandon Vitabile Northwestern C 7-FA Captain
325 Zach Vigil Utah State ILB 7-FA Captain
328 Cory Morrissey Iowa State DE 7-FA Captain
330 Mickey Baucus Arizona OT 7-FA Captain
332 Julian Wilson Oklahoma CB 7-FA Captain
334 Michael Orakpo Texas State OLB 7-FA Captain
335 Kevin Parks Virginia RB 7-FA Captain
336 David Andrews Georgia C 7-FA Captain
339 DeMarieya Nelson Arizona State FB 7-FA Captain
342 Sam Ficken Penn State K 7-FA ST Captain
346 A.J. Johnson Tennessee ILB 7-FA Captain
347 Wil Baumann North Carolina State P 7-FA Captain
349 Ray Vinopal Pittsburgh FS 7-FA Captain

Because the data here was compiled manually, it is bound to contain some errors. Also, I have no data for the players from Cincinnati, Florida, Minnesota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, so more players may need to be added to this list.

In any case, I'd say that there are more than enough team captains scattered across every round for a team to build a captain-only draft board, if they so wish. However, drafting former college captains is not a cure-all for bad drafting. In 2009, the Cowboys drafted 12 players. Four of them (QB Stephen McGee, OLB Victor Butler, DB Michael Hamlin, TE John Phillips) were team captains in college, but that didn't help that draft class.

Wide receivers lead all positions with 19 team captains, but they are followed by defensive ends and cornerbacks with 13 captains each. That should bode well for the Cowboys, as DE and CB are positions they are likely to upgrade in the draft. And if they want a former team captain to be that upgrade, they have a lot of options.