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NFL Draft Rewind: The SEC’s Power Shifts Over Two Decades

gfx - by the numbersWith the NFL draft behind us — and 63 more ex-SEC’ers selected to stock professional rosters — we can now take a look back over the past 20 years to see how the league’s current members have risen or fallen in terms of talent.  We’ll keep things nice and simple and show you the draft numbers from the past 10 years as compared to the 10 years prior.  Some of the changes are eye-popping.

Below you’ll find the picks from this past week’s draft on the left side of the table, just for comparison’s sake.  To the right of that, you’ll see the pick totals for each SEC school between 1994 and 2003.  Beside that column, the totals from 2004 through 2013 are listed.

Then, on the far right we’ve listed the change in draft numbers from one decade to the next for each school.  We warn you, some fans will have a hard time wiping away their smiles… others might just spend the day weeping in the office storage closet.

The numbers:

 

  2013 Picks   1994-2003 Picks   2004-2013 Picks   Change from 94-03 to 04-13
  ALA (9)   UT (68)   LSU (61)   LSU +31
  LSU (9)   UF (56)   UGA (57)   USC +18
  UF (8)   UGA (48)   ALA (49)   ARK +13
  UGA (8)   A&M (44)   UF (48)   MU +12
  USC (7)   ALA (39)   USC (35)   ALA +10
  A&M (5)   LSU (30)   UT (35)   UGA +9
  ARK (4)   MSU (30)   AUB (34)   AUB +8
  UT (4)   AUB (26)   ARK (32)   UM +3
  MSU (3)   ARK (19)   A&M (24)   VU +3
  MU (2)   UK (18)   MU (21)   UK -4
  VU (2)   UM (17)   UM (20)   UF -8
  AUB (1)   USC (17)   MSU (16)   MSU -14
  UK (1)   VU (10)   UK (14)   A&M -20
  UM (0)   MU (9)   VU (13)   UT -33

 

Observations:

*  Let’s start with the fastest riser — LSU.  The Tigers were middle of the pack in terms of NFL production between ’94 and ’03, but once Nick Saban opened all the valves on the Tigers’ Louisiana talent pipeline… forget about it.  LSU has produced 31 more NFL picks in the past decade than it did in the decade prior.  That’s three more pros per year on the Tiger roster.  Given that players are usually on a roster for four years that number is even more impressive.  In terms of a ballpark number, LSU has about 12 more NFL-capable players on its roster in a given year than it did a decade ago.  Even when those players are freshman or reserves, they’re still providing greater overall depth.  And that even raises the level of LSU’s practices.  Kudos to the Tigers.  Plus-31 is darn impressive.

*  If you’re wondering how Steve Spurrier (and Lou Holtz before him) began to raise South Carolina from the bottom of the SEC to the top just check USC’s roster.  The Gamecocks no longer cede the best players in their home state to Clemson and raiding SEC rivals.  They now go into Georgia and nab prospects just as Auburn and Tennessee have, traditionally.  Carolina has had 18 more players picked by NFL teams in the past decade than in the previous decade.  It’s not hard to make the correlation between a more talented roster and more victories.

*  Other schools seeing boosts of 10 or more pro picks?  Arkansas (plus-13), Missouri (plus-12), and Alabama (plus-10).  Hog fans need to credit Bobby Petrino and — though it might make a few of them sick — Houston Nutt for raising the talent level in Fayetteville.  Nutt was driven out of town with torches and pitchforks, but he began the Razorbacks’ talent swell.  A coach on the hot seat this year is Gary Pinkel, but he’s taken Mizzou from the bottom of the ’94-’03 column and increased the school’s draftees by 12 over the past decade.  Whether fans feel he’s worn out his welcome or not, Pinkel deserves many thanks for lifting Tiger football to the point that it no longer lags behind Kentucky and Vanderbilt in terms of talent.  Finally, there’s Alabama.  As he did at LSU, Saban has turned the Tide into one of the nation’s strongest football factories, cranking out pro prospects in bulk.  Anyone think that plus-10 number for Bama won’t grow larger when we run through this exercise again next year?

*  As for large drops, Florida stands at minus-8 in our decade-to-decade comparison.  Granted the Gators produced a strong class of 56 draftees in the previous decade, but for a school that’s won two BCS championships between ’04 and ’13, it’s very odd to see a drop in draft-worthy talent.  It’s a reminder that UF’s titles were mixed in among one six-loss season, three five-loss seasons, and a four-loss year over the past decade.

*  Dan Mullen gets — and deserves — credit for creating energy and excitement at Mississippi State.  But there’s no denying that the Bulldog program still lags behind talent-wise where it stood under Jackie Sherrill.  Under that regime, State produced 14 more NFL draftees from ’94-’03 than it has in the decade that’s followed.  Of course, Sherrill’s reign ended with four years of probation for MSU, too.

*  Speaking of Sherrill, another of his ex-schools is on the “big decline” list.  After running RC Slocum off in 2002, Texas A&M has struggled mightily to return to its previous glories.  The Aggies produced 20 fewer pro draft picks in the last decade than they did in the previous 10 years.  Obviously, Kevin Sumlin — with a great deal of help from Johnny Manziel — lifted A&M back into the top 10 last season.  And his roster includes a number of pro prospects recruited by his predecessor, Mike Sherman.  Toss in Sumlin’s excellent work on the recruiting trail, Texas’ deep talent pool, and the draw of being the only SEC school in the Lone Star State and it’s hard to imagine A&M’s pro numbers not booming in the opposite direction over the next 10 years.

*  And finally, we arrive at the anti-LSU.  While Saban and Les Miles were stockpiling more and more talent on the Bayou, Tennessee — first with Phillip Fulmer, then with Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley — saw its talent pool run dry.  Over the past decade, UT has been in the middle of the pack in terms of NFL draft picks, but when you compare middle of the pack from ’04-’13 to the absolute top of the heap during the ’94-’03 span, you’re talking about a precipitous drop.  In the latter decade, Tennessee cranked out 68 NFL picks.  That was 12 more than Florida or anyone else in the SEC.  That was seven more NFL-worthy players than even LSU has produced in the most recent decade.  In the 10 years that followed, however, the Vols produced an astounding 33 fewer pro draftees.  Thirty-three.  As was the case — in reverse — with LSU, that’s about three fewer drafted players per season.  Factor in that most players are on campus for four years and you’re looking at a Tennessee roster that for the last decade has featured — ballpark — about 12 fewer future pros per year.  No wonder the Volunteers have fallen from the top of the league toward the bottom-third.

 


2 comments
I4Bama
I4Bama

Can't help but notice a common name in the lull of two traditional big powers - Dennis Franchione.  Despite a ten-win season, he was not good for Alabama, though you could argue external factors there.  He may have set A&M back ten years.

alamoaggie08
alamoaggie08

@I4Bama your number is exactly right.  fran came in 2002 and a&m didn't look promising again until 2012.  the reality was when sherman came in 2008 he basically had one player with NFL-level talent on the roster.  sad but true.

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