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The Best/Worst of Recruiting & Developing NFL Draft Picks

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2011 Archived Article

By Dave Bartoo, Founder CFBMatrix
email| dave@cfbmatrix.com
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As a site and model rooted in team recruiting rankings and our Field Adjusted Recruiting Ranking (FARR)* I started to look at comparing recruiting rankings to NFL draft picks per team rankings in 2010.   I wanted to see if there was any correlation between long term recruiting rankings and NFL draft picks.  The idea being that if you have the #1 recruiting ranking over a time period, then your NFL draft pick ranking should be similar in rank.  For teams that fell outside the expectations, one might be able to identify weak recruiters that have a good staff and support system for players.  On the opposite end, one might find good recruiters that have long term systemic issues that go beyond just coaches, for player development.

Good recruiting data started in 2002 and with kids having to wait 3 years to be NFL eligible, I ran the recruiting numbers from 2002 through 2008 (the ’08 class having their first year of eligibility this year)  to determine the overall composite recruiting ranking.  To compare, I used the draft picks from 2005-2011 (’08 recruits were eligible last year).  In that time period the USC Trojans had the #1 ranked class and produced 61 draft picks, also ranked #1 (tied).  The #3 recruiting rank, Miami, was #3 producing NFL draft picks, Alabama was the #15 recruiting rank and #14 for number of draft picks. 

Reader note:  If you have the opinion recruiting ranks hold no value consider:

* Of the top 25 of producing NFL draft picks from 2005-2011, all but 4 were in the top 25 for recruiting. 
* Out of the top 10 recruiters, 9 were in the top 10 of draft picks (Michigan #8 out and Virginia Tech #26 in).

* And in 2011,
77% of all the AQ games were predicted correctly 4 months in advance using only the CFBMatrix 4 year adjusted recruiting rankings + field adjustment.

While there are many ideas and theories on  labeling programs ‘football factories’, it was clear in the numbers that a majority of college football programs fell in line with their recruiting/NFL draft pick expectations.  It should come as no surprise that most programs with the top classes produced the most NFL draft picks, while the worst ranked recruiting classes usually produced the fewest.  But what I was interested in showing, was a) there was a correlation and b) who is on the outside edges.

I feel that “a” has been shown in the numbers below, but what about “b”.  What about those teams that are getting more players  picked in the NFL draft than their recruiting rank would indicate.  Does this show the ability to ‘coach’em up” or an ability to “coach them down” within a system.  Coaches come and go, but those doing the hiring remain relatively unchanged as does their process.   While you can choose to draw any conclusion of your liking to the CFBMatrix numbers modeled out and ranked below, I feel that it is a good indicator that the recruiting rankings as a whole are very good and that some teams get more or less from their players versus the norm.

Click Here for an example on how I use recruiting for team SOS & EOS

Click Here for a  team page to see how recruiting is used for trends, wins and coaching effect

Total National Recruiting vs NFL Draft Picks Rankings

Top 20

By the time you get outside the top 15, you begin to see that most teams are starting to fall very close (<12%) to the recruiting ranking from 2002-2008 versus their total draft pick ranks.  The top 15, many of whom may be a surprise, have certainly produced a solid number of draft picks.  There are a number of those teams that have nowhere to go but up.  However, there are some impressive numbers by top 30 recruiting ranked teams as well.  This is especially evident, when you compare these top ranked teams versus those around them on the total national rankings at the bottom of this page.

Bottom 20

This is a list that no one wants to be on and one that is certain not to be shown to recruits.  A quick comparison between the top 20 and bottom is Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech.  Both have 7 year national recruiting ranks of #25 but Virginia Tech produced 32 NFL draft picks versus Oklahoma State’s 12.  Many of the bottom 20 are teams that had very high (top 25) overall recruiting rankings for the time period, but just did not get guys drafted.   How Duke has no one drafted since 2005 is beyond the model.  It is also no surprise that many of these teams were considered “under performers” on the field by their fans.  After talking with many fans and reading the feedback a new conclusion is a much deeper “systemic” issue of success and achievement within an athletic department as these numbers have played out over nearly a decade, much longer than most coaches have been at one school.

Conference Breakdowns


The SEC shows a really solid profile for recruiting rank versus draft picks produced rank.  You can see in the right column that there are just a handful that are more than +/- 8  spots (<10%)  in ranking difference.  With the national midpoint at a recruiting ranking of #39, most of the top SEC teams are recruiting and producing NFL picks at a similar rate.  This is a very good snapshot of top recruiters having a low ceiling.  Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia all getting top players, keeping them on campus and getting them drafted.  They may not be at the top of this particular list, but that is good non-game coaching.  It is the bottom 3 teams that are really outside the curve on this comparison, led easily by Mississippi State for the time period reviewed.


The only real under performers in the group are Boston College and Duke.  No surprise with Duke as they have, inexplicably, had no players picked since 2005 and for good reason should be excluded from the rankings.   The Tarheels, once at the bottom of this list last year, had 9 picks in the 2011 draft which puts them back to expectations.  The two Techs, along with Wake Forest were easily had the biggest positive gaps in recruiting versus draft picks but not too far off the midpoint.  Half of the conference was within just a couple ranking spots in the comparison with NC State, North Carolina, Florida State, Maryland and Miami all with +/- of %5 of both ranking categories.

PAC 12

This is certainly the conference with the largest range from the top to the bottom with Utah #1 and Washington dead last.  Huge over performers in the Utes, Stanford , Oregon State and Cal with Washington, UCLA and Arizona being under performers in the comparison.  This should be an interesting chart to revisit over the next few years as Utah enters the PAC12, USC has their sanctions and Washington is trying to dig out from the Willingham dark ages.

Big 12

I was not expecting these numbers from one conference when I broke out the national numbers.   4 teams were very close to a 1:1 ratio led by Missouri.  Oklahoma and Texas are developing draft picks (#3 &#6) as well as their recruiting #6 (ties) overall.  However, the rest of the conference all had negative performers in the charts.  There is no question as to the lack of development in comparison to the recruiting ranks for Oklahoma State and Texas A&M as both were nearly out produced by Missouri.  Even the 2011 draft pick totals fell right in line with the 7 yer review with the top 4 having 14 picks and the bottom 6 with just 5.

Big Ten

No serious under performers in the Big Ten but a couple of years of down draft numbers and Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota will be in the bottom 10.  However, Iowa and Wisconsin have been serious over achievers when it comes to the recruiting rank versus draft pick rank.  Iowa and Illinois have nearly identical recruiting composite rankings, yet the Hawkeyes have had twice the number drafted into the NFL over the last 7 years.

Big East

Amazingly, all the Big East teams have a positive ranking comparison in this review.  The bottom 5 have both rankings within 5%.  Outside of Pittsburgh and West Virginia, the other 6 teams are all clustered in the 50s and 60s in  overall recruiting rank. Due to the very weak overall recruiting in the Big East, this is not too much of a surprise.  Cincinnati, Connecticut and Louisville at easily the top 3 and national leaders in this review as well.  Teams are developing players at or above expected levels so the Big East simply needs to get better players as their recruiting average is by far the worst in the country.

National Draft Pick/Recruiting Rank Ratio

Top 25 Draft Pick Totals (’05-’11)

Top 25 Recruiting Classes (’02-’08) Ranked

1.0 Published April 27, 2011

2.0 Revised January 4th, 2012 with 2011 NFL Draft numbers