Earlier today, we showed you how the SEC continues to dominate the NFL draft. Then we showed you why you can expect that trend to continue — and even grow — in the future. Now we look specifically at the 14 SEC member institutions to see which programs have been producing the most draft-worthy talent for the National Football League’s 32 teams.
First, here’s a look at the number of NFL draft picks produced by each school over different periods of time: this past week’s draft, the most-recent five years (2008-2012), the most-recent 10 years (2003-2012), and the past 20 years (1993-2012).
Programs are listed according to this year’s draft numbers:
|School||2012 Picks||2008-12 Picks||2003-12 Picks||1993-12 Picks|
Before anyone screams that we’ve ranked their favy-wavy school lowest in a tie because we hate them… we actually just fell back on plain ‘ol alphabetical order to separate those schools tied with four picks, two picks, or one pick each.
As you can see, when you add in Missouri and Texas A&M, this year’s SEC draft class would have jumped from 42 players selected to 47 overall.
But which programs are on the rise and which are on the decline from a talent perspective? Admittedly, that’s a tough question to answer. A school that had one player drafted this past season might wind up with six or eight or ten next year depending on success, decisions to leave school early, etc.
In order to answer that question then, we’ve decided to just compare the past five draft classes for each school to the total number of players drafted from each institution over the past 20 years. Column B divided by Column D, in other words.
Below we’ve listed each SEC program according to the percentage of total NFL picks (1993-2012) that have come from the last five drafts (2008-2012). This should give us a very loose, very ballpark idea of which programs are headed up and which programs are headed down in terms of overall talent.
|School||2008-12 Picks||1993-12 Picks||% of Picks from Last 5 Years|
Let’s just go ahead and state the obvious “yeah, buts” right off of the bat. For some schools, there was nowhere to go but up (or down). Other schools have gone through recent coaching changes and coaching changes always lead to attrition. Folks at Auburn, Florida and Tennessee can certainly point to that as being a factor in their low percentages. Also, teams like Auburn or Tennessee — which leaned heavily on youth last year — might begin to see their numbers change next April or the next.
That said, here just a couple of observations:
1. Credit Gary Pinkel for the outstanding job he’s done at Missouri in terms of raising the school’s overall talent level the last five years. SEC fans will scoff and point to the Big 12 as being an inferior conference, but the Tigers did outgun both South Carolina and Arkansas in bowl games on Pinkel’s watch. For comparison’s sake, Mizzou is entering a tougher top-to-bottom SEC than the one Arkansas and South Carolina joined 20 years ago, but the Tigers are better positioned in terms of their current roster than either of those schools were when they climbed aboard Roy Kramer’s ship.
2. Speaking of South Carolina, nearly 40% of the Gamecocks drafted over the last 20 years have been tabbed in the last five Aprils. That’s a testimony to the type of foundation Steve Spurrier has put down in Columbia. Will the Gamecocks be able to unseat long-term one of the traditional “big six” programs in the SEC — Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU or Tennessee? That’s a big task as most traditionally powerful programs eventually find their way back to the Promised Land after spending time in the desert. That’s happened at Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee over time, just to name a few. But there’s no question Spurrier has turned Carolina into a football program that the SEC and the nation must take seriously moving forward. That’s a great achievement considering where the Cocks were for most of their first 17 seasons in the SEC.
3. James Franklin has done a tremendous job at Vanderbilt. He’s recruiting well and he’s building excitement around a program that’s lacked that since, basically, the 1920s. But a look at the numbers reveals that Bobby Johnson deserves credit for improving Vandy’s talent level during his tenure. For the most part, Johnson made the Commodores a more competitive program and he did lead them not only to their first bowl game since 1982, but also to their first bowl victory since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House. Credit Franklin for the works he’s doing now. Credit the VU administration for supporting him as promised. But don’t forget the work done by Johnson. His decision to redshirt players left and right has allowed Franklin to walk in and inherit to veteran clubs in his first two seasons in Nashville.
4. Rich Brooks and Houston Nutt — yes, Hog fans, Houston Nutt — and Bobby Petrino deserve some credit for boosting the talent levels at Kentucky and Arkansas respectively during their reigns at each school.
5. LSU was an absolute sleeping giant when Nick Saban arrived. From 2000 through the 2011 season, the Tigers have played in five BCS bowl games, including three BCS title tilts. But between 1986 and 2000, LSU did not reach a single major bowl game. Saban closed the state’s borders to outside recruiters and built a powerful program. Les Miles has successfully kept the pipelines pumping from across the Pelican State right into Baton Rouge.
6. In terms of drop-offs, Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Mississippi State have seen them. Auburn, Florida and A&M are traditionally strong football programs based in fertile recruiting ground. Therefore it’s a bit surprising that their numbers haven’t been better over the past five years — compared to where they have been over the last 20 drafts. Coaching changes and the attrition attached to coaching changes can be blamed. As for MSU, however, it will be interesting to see if Dan Mullen can finally get the Bulldogs’ program back to where it was talent-wise under Jackie Sherrill (and do so legally, for that matter). State has had first-round draft picks in each of the last two years, something that hadn’t happened at MSU since the early-80s. That’s a start. As Mullen enters Year Four, we’ll now see just how many NFL scouts start beating a path to Starkville.
7. Oh, sad, sad Tennessee. The Volunteers produced 101 NFL picks between 1993 and 2012, but less than 13% of those selections have come in the last five drafts. Unlike the other schools who’ve experienced a recent coaching change, UT has endured that upheaval twice. The Vols have hemorrhaged players as a result of the Phillip Fulmer-to-Lane Kiffin-to-Derek Dooley roundabout. But Tennessee’s problem traces to something greater. In a four-year span from 2000 through 2003, UT saw 32 of its players drafted into the NFL. That’s eight players per year for those of you who aren’t boned up on your ciphering. But the number of players picked dropped to 27 from ’01 to ’04, then to 23 from ’02 to ’05, then to 20 from ’03 to ’06, and all the way down to 15 at the end of the Fulmer Era in the ’06 to ’09 draft cycle. That’s a mighty precipitous drop. What caused such a fall? First, Tennessee isn’t a talent-rich state. Second, Georgia and South Carolina — two states Fulmer had successfully mined during his heyday — saw their state schools make upgrades in their own coaches. Borders were shut down, UT never recovered. UT’s tradition suggests they will indeed rise again someday, just like those other powers we mentioned earlier in this piece. But the key will be recruiting. And having to fire Dooley if the 2012 season doesn’t go as planned could set that front back to square one.