U-Who? Miami, Notre Dame top contenders for title of 'TE U'

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The next group in our "U-Who?" series is tight end. The nature of the position has changed over the years, as pass-catching, rather than blocking, has become the primary duty of many players thriving at the position.

Which college program is best at producing NFL players at tight end? Here's a look at the top 10 candidates for the title of "Tight end U," based on a 15-year history of their draft picks at the position, factoring in the overall quality of the group, too.

10. USC

First-round picks last 15 years: 0
Top three rounds:2
Total drafted:5
The skinny:The Trojans have been a bit more productive in producing players at other positions, but the team's pro-style offense has turned out some solid options at tight end, too. Jordan Cameron has been much better in the pros than he was in college. Fred Davis had some solid seasons with the Washington Redskins and signed with the New England Patriots last month after being reinstated by the NFL.

9. Virginia

First-round picks last 15 years: 1
Top three rounds:1
Total drafted:6
The skinny:There's been a good number of Cavaliers tight ends that have made it to the league, but most were late-rounders who didn't stick around too long. First-rounder Heath Miller certainly surpassed expectations and John Phillips has had a solid career, too.

8. Wisconsin

First-round picks last 15 years: 0
Top three rounds:2
Total drafted:6
The skinny:The Badgers have a strong offensive line tradition and the program has produced some impressive tight ends, too. Owen Daniels is a two-time Pro Bowler, and half the Wisconsin tight ends selected in the past 15 years became multi-year starters. Four of the six selections are still in the league.

7. North Carolina

First-round picks last 15 years: 1
Top three rounds:3
Total drafted:5
The skinny:2001 second-round pick Alge Crumpler carries plenty of weight as a former star who was selected to four Pro Bowls, and the Detroit Lions have high hopes for 2014 first-round pick Eric Ebron.

Take a look at the top 10 players from Tennessee to play in the NFL.

6. Tennessee

First-round picks last 15 years: 0
Top three rounds:2
Total drafted:5
The skinny:The Vols haven't been players in terms of churning out tight ends early in the draft, but they have done an extremely good job when it comes to producing tight ends that go on to have productive careers. Jason Witten is the bone fide star of the group after earning 10 Pro Bowl nods. 2001 sixth-round pick David Martin converted to tight end after playing wide receiver in college.

5. Georgia

First-round picks last 15 years: 1
Top three rounds:2
Total drafted:6
The skinny:The lone first-rounder from the group, Benjamin Watson, is still going strong as he enters his 12th NFL season, and Randy McMichael had a long, distinguished 11-year career.

4. Stanford

First-round picks last 15 years: 0
Top three rounds:4
Total drafted:6
The skinny:One of the more recent additions to the 'TE U' mix, Stanford has churned out four draft picks in the past six years at the position. That production is hard to ignore, and all four of those picks (Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, Coby Fleener and Jim Dray) started at least five games last season. 2005 third-round pick Alex Smith is entering his 11th NFL season.

3. Iowa

First-round picks last 15 years: 1
Top three rounds:3
Total drafted:7
The skinny:Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has churned out a pretty solid group, and there's nice balance within the group, which features talented pass-catchers and top-tier blockers. Dallas Clark is the headliner as the only first-rounder. He was a top target for Peyton Manning for years and earned All-Pro honors in 2009. Scott Chandler, Brandon Myers and Tony Moeaki each became starters and young C.J. Fiedorowicz looks promising.

Check out the top 10 players from Notre Dame to play in the NFL.

2. Notre Dame

First-round picks last 15 years: 1
Top three rounds:5
Total drafted:10
The skinny:It's not surprising to see a traditional power like the Irish lead the way in producing picks at tight end over the last 15 years. It's especially interesting to note they have done so despite running a number of different offensive systems, from Brian Kelly's version of the spread to Charlie Weis' pro-style and beyond. There's only one first-rounder in the group (Tyler Eifert) and the jury is still out on him as he enters his third season.

1. Miami

First-round picks last 15 years: 3
Top three rounds:6
Total drafted:8
The skinny:It seems fitting that 'The U' winds up taking the cake in this contest considering the Hurricanes have produced both quantity and quality at the position over the past 15 years. The group has combined for nine Pro Bowl selections and almost all eight tight ends have had somewhat lengthy careers. 2010 third-round pick Jimmy Graham is one of the top tight ends in the league. Miami football's only regret with him might be that it didn't have him for very long -- he played only one season of football after four years on the basketball team.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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