In honor of the Big Game this week, we decided to compare the best players in the NFL from Stanford and Cal by position – a spinoff of our weekly ‘Stanford in the NFL’ article.
Here’s how it stacked up:
Cal: Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Davis Webb
Stanford: Andrew Luck, Kevin Hogan
No matter how you slice it, Cal’s got two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Though Stanford does have Andrew Luck, there’s no duo that can beat Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff, both Pro Bowl former first-rounders in consideration for league MVP this season. One point to Cal.
Running back: Stanford
Cal: Marshawn Lynch, CJ Anderson, Daniel Lasco
Stanford: Christian McCaffrey, Ty Montgomery
This was a tough one. If we had done this article a few years ago, the point may have gone to Cal, but Marshawn Lynch is not the player he used to be, ranking 31st in the league in total rushing yards, and currently sitting on injured reserve. Christian McCaffrey, on the other hand, has been tearing up defenses across the NFC on the ground and through the air this season, so much so that the Panthers cut his backup, former Cal halfback CJ Anderson. One point to Stanford.
Wide receiver: Cal
Cal: Keenan Allen, Marvin Jones Jr., Trevor Davis, DeSean Jackson, Maurice Harris
Stanford: Doug Baldwin
Doug Baldwin’s play is as fantastic as his un-drafted free agent story, but the Golden Bears have got insane quality and quantity here. 2-1 Cal.
Tight end: Stanford
Cal: Richard Rodgers
Stanford: Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, Ryan Hewitt, Levine Toilolo, Dalton Schultz
Two of the top four reception leaders in the NFL at tight end are former Cardinal players. Not to mention, Zach Ertz is on pace to break just about every single-season receiving record for a tight end this year. You can’t take down “Tight End U” in this category. Tied up 2-2.
Offensive line: Cal
Cal: Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Brian Schwenke, Steven Moore
Stanford: David DeCastro, Andrus Peat, Joshua Garnett, Cameron Fleming, Kyle Murphy
According to Pro Football Focus, Falcons center Alex Mack and Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz rank fourth and fifth in the NFL at their respective positions. On the other hand, former Cardinal and current Steelers guard David Decastro is arguably the best player in the NFL at his position, having made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons. Nonetheless, Mack and Schwartz’s combined five Pro Bowls beats out Decastro’s three – Cal takes it by a hair, 3-2.
Defensive line: Cal
Cal: Cameron Jordan, Tyson Alualu, Brandon Mebane
Stanford: Henry Anderson, Solomon Thomas, Trent Murphy, Josh Mauro, Harrison Phillips
Productivity at the collegiate level doesn’t always translate to the NFL. Stanford’s former defensive line stars now playing in the NFL are a testament to this notion. Though Anderson, Thomas, Murphy, Mauro and Phillips were all highly celebrated in college, they have yet to produce consistently in the NFL. On the other hand, former Cal players Cameron Jordan and Brandon Mebane have been mainstays on their team’s defensive fronts for years. Jordan has become one of the league’s premier pass-rushers and has made the Pro Bowl three times. 4-2 Cal.
Cal: Lorenzo Alexander, Mychal Kendricks, Devante Downs
Stanford: Blake Martinez, Peter Kalambayi, Brennan Scarlett
With the linebacker group, we have a similar situation – Stanford has depth while Cal has quality and depth. Though Martinez has been fantastic as a pro, Kalambayi and Scarlett have not yet played in significant starting roles for their respective teams. Former Cal pass-rusher Lorenzo Alexander has made two Pro Bowls and has been a starter in the NFL for various teams since 2010. Mychal Kendricks has been a force at inside linebacker for the Eagles for years, before getting busted for insider trading. Cal stretches the lead: 5-2.
Defensive backfield: Stanford
Cal: Chris Conte
Stanford: Richard Sherman, Justin Reid, Johnson Bademosi, Quenton Meeks
There wasn’t much of a contest with this one; Cal simply hasn’t produced NFL-caliber defensive backs in the past few years. Four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances for former Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman is more than enough to swing this one for the Cardinal. 5-3 Cal.
Special teams: Cal
Cal: Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, punter Bryan Anger, long snappers LP Ladouceur and Nick Sundberg
Stanford didn’t have much of a chance this one; there is not a single special teams player in the NFL who formerly played for Stanford. Cal’s Tavecchio and Anger have been solid starters and Ladouceur even made a Pro Bowl back in 2014. Fun fact about Brian Anger, he was taken in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. A third round punter!
Final score: 6-3 Cal.
Eh, you’ve got to give the Golden Bears a victory at some point. Better that it’s in this article than on the field.
Contact Shan Reddy at rsreddy ‘at’ stanford.edu