Ranking the Draft Performance of Colleges

In the recent article “The Power Five Conferences and the NFL Draft” we promised to provide information, at a later date, for individual colleges. This article follows up on that promise and evaluates the draft performance of colleges for players selected between 2005 and 2014. The methodology used to rank the colleges is the same as that used in “Rating General Managers in the NFL Draft”. This methodology compares actual results, expressed as the number of games started, with expected results based on historical outcomes. As always, we must acknowledge that this is just one way (out of many) of viewing a college’s draft performance. We continue to search for the “perfect” methodology but suspect that it does not exist. Repeating the example used in “Rating General Managers in the NFL Draft”, Frank Gore illustrates the concept. Gore was drafted by San Francisco as the #65 selection in the 2005 draft. This means that he could have started a maximum of 160 (10 years times 16 games/year) games. Historically, players drafted at that point of the draft started about 36% of the maximum or about 58 games for a player drafted in 2005. The actual number of games started by Gore is 134, so he exceeded expectations by 76 games. This is referred to in this article as his surplus. If a player has fewer games started than expected it is referred to as a deficit. A college’s surplus or deficit is then determined by summarizing each player’s results. The number of draft selections for each college is also counted. The surplus or deficit is divided by the number of draft selections for each college to arrive at its surplus or deficit per draft selection. As compared with the analysis for General Managers, the data points for each college are widely dispersed. General Managers generally have a full set of draft selections, or close to it, for each year they are employed. This does happen for many of the colleges. Thus the necessity to convert all data to a per draft choice basis as this facilitates analysis and provides comparability. The results or our analysis are quite different than they would be if only the absolute number of draft choices and number of career starts are considered. Southern Cal, for example, would be the leader with 67 players drafted and 1994 games started by those draftees. Instead, our analysis is more of a judgment on the efficiency of each college.  A college that produces all seventh round choices could rank higher than a team with more or higher selections depending on the degree by which performance was better or worse than expected. Only colleges with at least 10 players drafted in the study period were included in the analysis. There are 76 colleges that meet the criteria and they are listed in the following table. The table includes the following information for each college:
  • The number of players drafted in the 10-year period
  • The actual number of starts made by those players
  • The surplus or deficit per player
    • A number in parentheses indicates a deficit
A zero value indicates performance is exactly average.  A surplus means that performance is above average, the higher the better. A deficit represents below average performance. chart Some of the highlights associated with this list are as follows:
  • Central Florida, Purdue and Mississippi were the only three colleges with an average surplus per play of ten games or more
    • The combined draft selections of the three teams combined (51) was less than six colleges
  • Brandon Marshall and Josh Sitton, both fourth round selections, account for a significant portion of Central Florida’s positive rating
    • Bruce Miller, a 7th round selection, is also a major contributor
  • Purdue’s positive results were largely driven by Ryan Kerrigan (1st round pick), Bernard Pollard *2nd round pick) and Cliff Avril (3rd round pick)
  • Mississippi was led by 1st round picks Patrick Willis and Michael Oher and 3rd round pick Mike Wallace
  • Four colleges that had among the highest number of draftees (Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Southern Cal) were ranked in the bottom 20 of this table
    • Could player’s from the “big schools” be overvalued and possibly overdrafted?
  • Florida State’s position is largely due to the underperformance of its draftees in the second through fourth rounds
    • Chief underperformers included Everette Brown, Lorenzo Booker, Buster Davis, Willie Reed and Craphonso Thorpe
  • Ohio State had some underperformers in the first round (Bobby Carpenter and Vernon Gholston) and every one of their six third-round choices underperformed
    • The six third-round picks combined for a grand total of 19 NFL starts
  • Oklahoma had marginal success in the first two rounds but draftees in the remaining five rounds underperformed
    • Only four players of their 31 selections after round three had a surplus
  • While there are plenty of success stories, Southern Cal draftees as a group pretty much underperformed throughout the draft
    • Biggest deficits were from Matt Leinert (1st round), Dwayne Jarrett (2nd round) and LenDale White (3rd round)
  • While Rodger Saffold was a net positive performer, three wide receivers (James Hardy in round 2, Courtney Roby in round 3 and Isaac Sowell in round four) dragged Indiana into the basement
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