GOBankingRates

Alabama, Georgia and These Other NCAA Colleges Produce the Highest-Paid NFL Players

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Tim Gangloff/CSM/Shutterstock / Tim Gangloff/CSM/Shutterstock

The NCCA championship is Monday, Jan. 9. College football’s powerhouse programs churn out ready-made NFL players year after year, but it isn’t only schools such as Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State that set up players for professional success. Especially financial success.

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GOBankingRates looked at which colleges’ players have the most lucrative NFL careers. We calculated total active players, total earnings and looked at the top active earner from each school. Read on to see which colleges produce players that make the most total NFL money.

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25. Washington

  • Active Players: 29
  • Total Earnings: $304,869,766
  • Top Earner: Marcus Peters
  • Top Earning Position: Cornerback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $50,603,949
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 16.60%

Marcus Peters, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens, was a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. A two-time All-Pro, he played out the final season of a three-year, $42 million contract extension he signed in December 2019.

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24. Nebraska

  • Active Players: 20
  • Total Earnings: $328,984,827
  • Top Earner: Ndamukong Suh
  • Top Earning Position: Defensive tackle
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $168,165,157
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 51.12%

At 36, Ndamukong Suh doesn’t have the earning power he once did, and he went unsigned in the 2022 season until the Philadelphia Eagles, beset by injuries, added him to the roster on a one-year, $2 million deal. The three-time All-Pro will be a free agent again for the 2023 season.

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23. Stanford

  • Active Players: 26
  • Total Earnings: $335,128,794
  • Top Earner: Zach Ertz
  • Top Earning Position: Tight end
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $62,171,405
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 18.55%

Zach Ertz signed a three-year, $31.65 contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals in March 2022, which included an $8 million signing bonus, $17.5 million in guaranteed money and an average annual salary of $10.55 million. Still, his annual earnings rank just 13th in the NFL among tight ends, according to Spotrac.

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22. TCU

  • Active Players: 20
  • Total Earnings: $345,379,908
  • Top Earner: Andy Dalton
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $96,627,794
  • Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 27.98%

Andy Dalton spent nine seasons as the quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals, who selected the “Red Rifle” in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Released by the Bengals in April 2020, he played with the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 and the Chicago Bears in 2021, but the New Orleans Saints signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract in 2022.

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21. Virginia Tech

  • Active Players: 22
  • Total Earnings: $362,108,220
  • Top Earner: Duane Brown
  • Top Earning Position: Left tackle
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $92,773,616
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 25.62%

Signed before the start of the 2022 season to beef up the New York Jets’ offensive line, left tackle Duane Brown received a two-year, $20 million deal. The 37-year-old is with the third team of his career, having made more than $32.3 million in total cash with the Houston Texans and nearly $50.5 million with the Seattle Seahawks.

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20. UCLA

  • Active Players: 28
  • Total Earnings: $378,793,326
  • Top Earner: Anthony Barr
  • Top Earning Position: Outside linebacker
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $59,407,579
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 15.68%

After spending eight years with the Minnesota Vikings, Anthony Barr played the 2022 season with the Cowboys. The linebacker signed a one-year, $2 million deal prior to the season, which was broken up into a $1.25 million salary, a $500,000 signing bonus and $250,000 in workout bonuses.

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19. South Carolina

  • Active Players: 26
  • Total Earnings: $387,447,246
  • Top Earner: Stephon Gilmore
  • Top Earning Position: Cornerback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $87,456,433
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 22.57%

Stephon Gilmore took a solid NFL resume into his two-year, $20 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts, signed in April 2022. A Super Bowl champion, All-Pro and former Defensive Player of the Year, his biggest career contract was a five-year, $65 million pact signed with the New England Patriots in March 2017.

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18. Penn State

  • Active Players: 39
  • Total Earnings: $430,571,191
  • Top Earner: Allen Robinson
  • Top Earning Position: Wide receiver
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $80,030,505
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 18.59%

The Los Angeles Rams signed wide receiver Allen Robinson to a three-year, $46.5 million deal before the 2022 season, hoping he could help the team repeat as Super Bowl champions. But it didn’t work out that way. Robinson had just 33 catches before being placed on season-ending injured reserve with a foot injury, and the Rams lost more games than any defending champ in NFL history.

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17. Florida

  • Active Players: 32
  • Total Earnings: $431,149,812
  • Top Earner: Carlos Dunlap
  • Top Earning Position: Defensive end
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $79,140,148
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 18.36%

A two-time Pro Bowl selection with a history of productivity over 12 seasons, primarily with the Cincinnati Bengals, Carlos Dunlap played the 2022 season on a one-year, $3 million contract with the Chiefs. At 33, he will be a free agent for the 2023 campaign.

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16. Iowa

  • Active Players: 35
  • Total Earnings: $437,071,550
  • Top Earner: Brandon Scherff
  • Top Earning Position: Guard
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $85,843,708
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 19.64%

After spending all seven of his NFL seasons in Washington, offensive lineman Brandon Scherff signed a three-year, $49.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 2022 season. He has the third-highest annual average salary — $16.5 million — of any guard in the NFL.

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15. Boston College

  • Active Players: 16
  • Total Earnings: $452,531,844
  • Top Earner: Matt Ryan
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $291,713,631
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 64.46%

Boston College isn’t a football power like many of the colleges on this list, but the success of Matt Ryan gives it a spot here. Ryan, the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Falcons, spent 14 seasons in Atlanta before being traded to the Colts in the offseason. He won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2016.

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14. Southern California

  • Active Players: 24
  • Total Earnings: $463,215,357
  • Top Earner: Tyron Smith
  • Top Earning Position: Left tackle
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $111,797,504
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 24.14%

Named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Team of the 2010s, longtime Cowboys offensive lineman Tyron Smith is in the seventh year of an eight-year, $97.6 million deal signed in July 2014. He makes an average annual salary of $12.2 million, and while that’s a lot of money, it’s only the 18th-highest paycheck at his position.

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13. Notre Dame

  • Active Players: 43
  • Total Earnings: $550,423,838
  • Top Earner: Harrison Smith
  • Top Earning Position: Free safety
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $79,509,665
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 14.45%

An 11-year veteran, all with the Minnesota Vikings, Harrison Smith is playing on a four-year, $64 million contract that includes $26.4 million in guaranteed money. The six-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time All-Pro is known for his durability, playing in at least 13 games in all but one season.

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12. Oklahoma

  • Active Players: 37
  • Total Earnings: $551,654,249
  • Top Earner: Trent Williams
  • Top Earning Position: Left tackle
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $148,629,214
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 26.94%

Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers has the highest annual salary of any left tackle in the NFL. He averages just over $23 million per year as part of a six-year, $138 million deal he signed with the 49ers before the 2021 season.

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11. Mississippi State

  • Active Players: 19
  • Total Earnings: $579,084,960
  • Top Earner: Dak Prescott
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $131,317,825
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 22.68%

An injury to incumbent quarterback Tony Romo forced rookie Dak Prescott into the starting job with the Cowboys in 2016. Five years later, he signed a four-year, $160 million contract with Dallas that included a $66 million signing bonus.

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10. Florida State

  • Active Players: 24
  • Total Earnings: $582,174,459
  • Top Earner: Rodney Hudson
  • Top Earning Position: Center
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $82,403,707
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 14.15%

Rodney Hudson is in the second year of a three-year, $30 million contract with the Cardinals, earning an annual average salary of $10 million. The former second-round draft pick played in just four games the 2022 season because of a knee injury.

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9. Wisconsin

  • Active Players: 28
  • Total Earnings: $619,287,283
  • Top Earner: Russell Wilson
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $238,362,520
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 38.49%

The Denver Broncos sent the Seahawks a boatload of draft picks and players to acquire Russell Wilson before the 2022 season, and despite his subpar showing, Wilson earned a ton of money. He signed a five-year, $242.6 million contract extension with Denver that included a $50 million signing bonus.

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8. Clemson

  • Active Players: 32
  • Total Earnings: $630,173,870
  • Top Earner: DeAndre Hopkins
  • Top Earning Position: Wide receiver
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $111,577,890
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 17.71%

A 2013 first-round draft pick by the Texans, DeAndre Hopkins earned All-Pro honors in the final three of his seven seasons in Houston. Traded to the Cardinals before the 2020 season, he signed a two-year, $54.5 million contract that extended his existing contract through the 2024 season.

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7. Texas A&M

  • Active Players: 27
  • Total Earnings: $676,133,727
  • Top Earner: Von Miller
  • Top Earning Position: Defensive end
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $164,445,534
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 24.32%

Von Miller of the Buffalo Bills earns a big salary – he signed a six-year, $120 million contract, with more than $40 million of it guaranteed, in 2022 – and delivers on the field. The second overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, Miller has won Super Bowls with the Broncos and Los Angeles Rams, was the MVP of Super Bowl 50 and is a three-time All-Pro and a member of the Hall of Fame All-2010s team.

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6. Michigan

  • Active Players: 42
  • Total Earnings: $812,064,720
  • Top Earner: Tom Brady
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $332,962,392
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 41.00%

Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career got off to a humble start – he was a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 – but he’s now considered the Greatest of All Time. He’s won every award imaginable along with seven Super Bowl titles. And when he finally retires – he has played 23 seasons with the Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – he has a job waiting for him at Fox Sports that Sportico reported will pay him $375 million over 10 years.

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5. Georgia

  • Active Players: 48
  • Total Earnings: $815,879,576
  • Top Earner: Matthew Stafford
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $300,806,037
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 36.87%

Matthew Stafford led the Rams to the Super Bowl championship following the 2021 season – his first in Los Angeles – and was handsomely rewarded. The Rams signed him to a four-year, $160 million contract extension in March 2022 that included $130 million in guaranteed money and a $60 million signing bonus.

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4. California

  • Active Players: 19
  • Total Earnings: $872,530,667
  • Top Earner: Aaron Rodgers
  • Top Earning Position: Quarterback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $305,608,010
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 35.03%

Aaron Rodgers joins Brady as one of the great quarterbacks of their generation, and his career earnings show it. The Green Packers quarterback, a first-round draft pick in 2005, has won just one Super Bowl but four league MVP awards – one more than Brady.

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3. LSU

  • Active Players: 56
  • Total Earnings: $968,692,737
  • Top Earner: Patrick Peterson
  • Top Earning Position: Cornerback
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $102,757,324
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 10.61%

Patrick Peterson has been one of the NFL’s most productive cornerbacks since the Cardinals selected him with the No. 5 overall pick of the 2011 draft out of LSU. Now with the Vikings, he is a three-time All-Pro and a member of the Hall of Fame’s All-2010s team, plus he has missed only 10 games in his career.

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2. Ohio State

  • Active Players: 56
  • Total Earnings: $990,478,250
  • Top Earner: Joey Bosa
  • Top Earning Position: Defensive end
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $103,894,417
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 10.49%

Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers has been in the NFL just seven seasons and is only 27, but he already has surpassed the $100 million mark in earnings. That’s due in large part to the five-year, $135 million contract extension he signed in July 2020.

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1. Alabama

  • Active Players: 66
  • Total Earnings: $1,138,705,302
  • Top Earner: Julio Jones
  • Top Earning Position: Wide receiver
  • Top Earner’s Career Earnings: $140,640,527
  • % Top Earner Makes of Total Earnings: 12.35%

Julio Jones exceeded 1,000 receiving yards in seven of the 10 seasons he spent with the Falcons, twice leading the league and making two All-Pro teams and the Hall of Fame All-2010s team. He played for the Tennessee Titans in 2021 before signing with the Buccaneers in 2022.

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George Malone contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: GOBankingRates used Spotrac’s NFL College Tracker data to find the 25 colleges that turned out players who have made the most total NFL money. For each of these colleges, GOBankingRates found the following data points: (1) university name; (2) total active players in the NFL; (3) total career earnings from these players, (4) top career earner from each school; (5) top earner’s career earnings; and (6) percentage that the top earner’s career earnings represent of the (3) total career earnings of the players from his school. All data was collected on and up to date as of Dec. 14, 2022.