In the wake of Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft, Team Speed Kills posted an interesting piece on SEC first-round draft picks in the decade from 2002 to 2011. I decided to take a look at how those picks correlated to on-field performance. Here is the breakdown, with each team’s first-round NFL Draft picks from 2002 through 2011 and each team’s SEC Championship Game appearances and wins from 2001 through 2010:
|Team||1st Rd. Picks||SECCG App.||SECCG W|
Clearly, the Bayou Bengals have gotten the most bang for their buck (so to speak; this is Baton Rouge, not the so-called Loveliest Village), turning a league-high ten first-rounders in the last decade into a ten-year run featuring four trips to Atlanta and a trio of conference crowns. The Gators and Volunteers, by contrast, had as many top draft choices, but fewer appearances in the league title tilt and fewer championships. The Big Orange had exactly zero first-place finishes in the SEC to show for ten first-round draft picks.
The Bulldogs had nine opening-round selections, yet the Classic City Canines matched the Sunshine State Saurians in division titles (3) and conference championships (2). Georgia’s performance over the course of the last decade appears to be right in line with its talent level, as the Red and Black were one in back of Florida, Louisiana State, and Tennessee in first-round selections, while the ‘Dawgs were one in back of the Tigers in division titles while matching the Gators and the Volunteers in Eastern Division crowns.
When proceeding down through the lineup, we see those trends continue: Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas had nine, eight, seven, and six players, respectively, to go in the first round, and those four teams, in that order, made three, two, two, and two SEC Championship Game appearances and won two, two, one, and no SEC titles.
It is easy to separate the wheat from the chaff, as the five programs to have produced five or fewer first-rounders in the least ten drafts between them combined for one appearance in the Georgia Dome and no SEC titles. The lone division championship claimed by a team lacking in upper-tier NFL talent came last year, when the Gamecocks were mauled by the Plainsmen in Atlanta.
While we in Bulldog Nation are right to be frustrated with the decline of the last three seasons, the context provided by the NFL Draft suggests that, over the course of the first ten years of the Mark Richt era, ours has been an elite program comparable with the best in the league in terms of the talent assembled in the locker room and the results those players have produced on the field.