Major college football powers and the NFL draft

Tony Villiotti
National Football Post

In “Which Colleges Produce the Most NFL Talent”, I identified 37 colleges whose players combined to start at least 100 games during the 2013 season, accounting for 57% of all starts. The 37 colleges are Alabama, Auburn, Boston College, California, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana State, Maryland, Miami (FL), Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, Southern Cal, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, Utah, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington and Wisconsin. The composition may change somewhat from year-to-year but it it is a pretty representative list.

In this article, I will compare data for the major college football powers (“the Major Powers”) to that of other colleges. The other colleges are divided into two groups. The first is the 32 teams from the six BCS Automatic Qualifying Conferences (“the AQS”) that are not included in the Major Powers. The BCS Automatic Qualifying Conferences are the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, PAC 12 and Southeastern Conferences. The second group includes any colleges not included in the first two groups (“the Others”).

I compared the groups from three perspectives:
-Number of Players Drafted
-Success of Players Drafted
-Comparison by Playing Position

For simplicity’s sake, the only metric used to measure success was the number of five-year starters from players selected in the 1994 through 2008 drafts. The comparisons were made individually for each of the seven Draft Choice Ranges previously established as being most meaningful. To refresh your memory these ranges were selections 1-13, 14-24, 25-46, 47-73, 74-114, 115-187 and 188 and after.

Number of Players Drafted
During the 15-year study period, the Major Powers were the dominant suppliers of players selected early in the draft, with the percentages decreasing as the draft progressed. 78% of the players selected with the first 13 picks in the draft during the 15-year study period were from the Major Powers, with that percentage dropping to 42% for selections after the 187th pick. The AQS selections ran second to the Major Powers for the first 114 picks but then fell behind the Others in the final two Draft Choice Ranges.

Overall, about 53% of draftees are from the Major Powers. The following table shows the percentage of draftees by Draft Choice Range for each of the three groups.

Success of Players Drafted
The success of drafted players was measured by the percentage of players who turned out to be five-year starters. Because of the limited number of early round data points for players from the AQS and the Others, I combined selections 1-46 into one group for the purpose of this analysis. The analysis showed the following:

-The players from the Major Powers have been somewhat more successful than players from the Others and significantly more successful than players from the AQS

-The Major Powers and the Others have about the same yield of five-year starters for the first 46 draft selections
   -This is somewhat misleading because of the large disparity in data points, with the Major Powers having 472 data points and the Others having 76 in the 15-year period
   -The AQS is about 10% lower than the other two groups

-The Major Powers have a slightly higher success rate thereafter except for the 74-114 range of selections, where the Others have been more successful

-The success rate for the AQS is the lowest in each Draft Choice Range

The following table shows the percentage of draftees that become five-year starters for each group:

Comparison by Playing Position

As was stated above, players from Major Powers account for about 53% of all draftees. This varies to a limited degree by individual playing position. The percentages of players drafted from the Major Powers range from 47% (Quarterbacks) to 57% (Running Backs). Other positions at the low end of the range are Wide Receivers and Corners. Linebackers and Tight Ends join Running Backs at the top end of the range.

The primary focus of this article is whether there is any advantage to selecting a player from a Major Power at any of the playing positions. The analysis is made more difficult, though, by the widely varying number of data points across the three groups.

The highlights for each playing position, and accompanying data, follow below.

-5 of 6 QBs drafted from the Others in the first 13 picks became five-year starters, highest of the groups
-QBs from the Major Powers are more successful after the first 13 selections

Running Backs
-Running backs from the Major Powers tend to be more successful in the earlier rounds
-From the 115th pick on, the groups are equally successful (or, more accurately, unsuccessful)

Wide Receivers
-All three groups tend to be about equally successful through the 114th pick
-After that point there has been a much greater chance of drafting five-year starters from Others

   -7 out of 97 for Others; 1 out of 98 for Major Powers; 1 out of 62 for AQS

Tight Ends
-65% of the tight ends selected with picks 1-114 were from the Major Powers

   -The limited number of data points and the “spikiness” of the results make it difficult to compare the three groups
-Players from the Major Powers and the AQS tend to be more successful in later rounds

Offensive Linemen
-Players from the Major Powers tend to be more successful than those from the other groups
-The only exception to this are offensive linemen from the Others that are selected with selections 115-187
-Relatively few linemen from the Others are selected before that

Defensive Linemen
-While the sample sizes make it somewhat difficult to detect trends, players from the Major Powers are at least as successful as the other groups through the 114th pick
-Defensive linemen from the Others are the most successful with picks 115-187

   -Interestingly, there is a very significant dropoff in success after the 187th selection for players from the Others
-Players from the Major Powers are only moderately successful after the 114th pick, placing second in both of the last two Draft Choice Ranges

-In a reversal of form from the other playing positions, linebackers from the Others tend to be more successful with picks 1-114
-Linebackers from the Major Powers are the most successful after the 114th selection

   -Linebackers from the AQS, while comparable to the other groups in the early rounds, had a poor success rate after the 114th pick

-Corners from the Others had a much higher success rate than those from the Major Powers after the 73rd selection of the draft
   -There were five-year starters out of 115 Major Power draftees versus eight five-year starters out of 77 draftees from the Others
-Corners from the Major Powers are the most successful group through the 73rd selection then drop off drastically thereafter

-Safeties from the Major Powers are no more successful than the other groups
-Draftees from the Major Powers are the least successful group with selections after the 187th


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