Are draft choices from big-time programs less risky?

In the recent DRAFTMETRICS article “Draft Tendencies for NFL Teams”, there was discussion regarding the fact that college teams from Automatic BCS Qualifier conferences (“AQ Schools”) dominate the draft. This seems quite reasonable given the fact that the AQ Schools dominate the college game and always land the lion’s share of the nation’s best recruits.

The next logical issue to consider is whether players drafted from the AQ Schools have had better results in the NFL. In my early days in the business world, I was involved in a purchasing decision regarding business equipment. Someone told me then that “no one will ever criticize you for picking IBM.” Is that kind of thinking at play here? Is picking a player from a major college considered a safe play that won’t be criticized like a personnel executive might be if he selected a player from Podunk U?

DRAFTMETRICS acknowledges that it will never have a real answer to those questions without actually sitting in the draft room. The numbers are examined, though, to see what can be learned. As a first step, DRAFTMETRICS further expanded the data regarding the level of dominance by the AQ Schools. The following table shows the number of draft choices in each “Value Group” for each of the three college categories used in “Draft Tendencies for NFL Teams”. “O-BCS” indicates other BCS schools (e.g., Conference USA, etc) and A-ELSE indicates all colleges that are not included in the first two categories.

DRAFTMETRICS then compiled the successrates by Value Group for each of the three college categories. The 1993-2008 drafts were used for 3-Year and Rookie Starters and the 1993-2006 drafts were used for 5-Year Starters.

These results are clouded a bit by the limited sample size, especially in the “All Else” group. That group has a 100% success rate for players selected with the first 13 picks, for example, but there were only two such players. The bottom line is, though, that the table does not reflect any evidence that suggests draftees from the AQ Schools are less risky.

DRAFTMETRICS next reviewed the list of draftees to see whether the analysis was affected by any of the categories having a disproportionate distribution by playing position. The following table suggests that
this is not the case.

As a final step, DRAFTMETRICS compared the number of five-year starters for each category to the number of expected five-year starters (based on 1993-2006 drafts) considering the number and location of the draft choices. This analysis shows that AQ Schools do slightly worse than expected and the colleges in the other two categories do somewhat better. Here is the summary:

While not overwhelming,the evidence suggests that drafting players from AQ Schools is no less risky than drafting players from other colleges. It does appear that NFL teams are more inclined to take a player from an AQ School and, by reaching for such a player,they lower their success rate DRAFTMETRICS touched on one last issue in its analysis. The AQ Schools have been discussed as one group of schools, but the group consists of six conferences plus Notre Dame. The following table shows the number of draft selections for 1993-2006 for each conference and their success rate with five-year starters, with Notre Dame grouped with the Big East for the purposes of this article.

DRAFTMETRICS also performed the expected versus actual five year starter calculationsfor each group and it resulted in the following conference rankings:

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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