Are certain NFL teams more inclined to draft small college players than others? Do any NFL teams favor players from certain conferences? There is no way to answer these questions without being inside the draft room of every NFL team, but in this article DRAFTMETRICS reviews the data to see if there are any
apparent tendencies. Even apparent tendencies may be a matter of circumstance, though, so no definite conclusions can be reached. It is still interesting, in DRAFTMETRICS’ opinion, to look at the numbers and reach at least a couple of supportable conclusions.
The analysis in support of this article is based on the last ten NFL drafts (2003-2012). Colleges are divided into three categories:
• Automatic Bowl Championship SeriesQualifying conferences (“AQschools” )
• All other BCS schools (Mid American Conference, Conference USA, etc)
• Any colleges that do not fit in the first two categories
Dividing colleges up by conference is pretty much like trying to hit a moving target these days, but DRAFTMETRICS opted to keep it simple by placing colleges in the conferences they played in during the 2012 football season.
This article will not address the comparative draft results for the players from the colleges in the above categories. That issue, though, will be the subject of a future article before the draft. As you might expect, players from the AQ schools dominate the draft. Here is the breakdown in terms of number of players drafted:
This breakdown, not unexpectedly, varies by round with the AQ schools more dominant in the earlier rounds than in the later rounds. The next chart shows the rate of decline in dominance of the AQ schools and the increased number of players drafted from schools in the other two categories.
With the context established, DRAFTMETRICS reviewed the data to see if there were major differences among the NFL teams in the percentage of players drafted from AQ schools. The data shows that there is a quite a spread among teams with the Seahawks drafting 90% of their players from AQ schools and
the Jaguars drafting only 57%. Despite the two extremes, though, nineteen of the thirty two teams were within 5%of the overall average of 77.4%. The distribution of the teams and their percentages are shown in the following table.
The domination of the draft by AQ schools seems quite logical to DRAFTMETRICS. The major schools get the best recruits and they are the most likely to become professionals. There does not seem to be any widespread bias either in favor or against players from the AQ schools. Where the Seahawks and the Saints have drafted such a high concentration of players from AQ schools does lead one to consider whether it is a drafting philosophy they employ. At the other end of the spectrum, DRAFTMETRICS is quite sure the Jaguars don’t avoid players from AQ schools, but it is possible they tend to roll the dice a bit and take chances on players from non-major programs. That is, of course, just conjecture.
DRAFTMETRICS next reviewed the data to determine if any NFL teams seemed to have a preference for teams from certain conferences or groups of conferences. There were some fairly significant preferences noted. Whether this is a result of a real bias in favor of those conferences or not is impossible to determine. One the one hand a case could possibly be made that the Falcons favor SEC teams (they draft SEC players at nearly double the rate of the league average) because they are in the middle of SEC country and they probably see more of those players. On the other hand, though, scouting has become such a national exercise with the advent of video and events such as the Combine that one could just as easily make the opposite case. Plus, the schools with the second through fifth highest percentage of drafted SEC players are not in the middle of SEC country, so that logic would clearly not apply to them.
The following tables show the teams with the highest and lowest percentage of draftees from each conference of group of conferences. The Falcons 32%in the SEC portion of the chartindicates that 32% of all their draft selections were from the SEC.