The NFL Draft is fast approaching (just look at SB Nation's own Mocking The Draft, which is all over it like Lane Kiffin on a promising 6th grade QB). Our policy here at Dawg Sports on all matters NFL-related is pretty clear: except to the extent that it involves the University of Georgia and its former student-athletes, we really have other stuff to do.
The draft is interesting however for many of the same reasons that college football recruiting is, among them the question of whether the most highly rated prospects are in fact the most successful in the long term. Really, why not just draft the guy from Alabama when you have the chance? Not to go all Malcolm Gladwell, but the answer is slightly more complicated, and some limited data indicates that NFL execs would be better served to draft the guy in red and black rather than the one in the finely tailored but reasonably priced crimson suit from Tuscaloosa Menswear.
Tony Villiotti of National Football Post took a pretty cool look over the weekend at which schools are most "efficient" at producing NFL talent. Sure, it's one thing to say that certain schools (Ohio State, USC, the entire SEC . . .) produce a lot of NFL draft picks. But it's an entirely different question whether those players produce once the ink is dry on the contract. Tom's chosen metric, which I think is a good one, is the number of games started by players from each school. While this is less useful in college football with its 85 man rosters and career backups, in the NFL (with its lean rosters, high turnover, and constant competition) there aren't a lot of guys just hanging around. If you're starting in the NFL, you're playing football at a world class level.
It seems that the Georgia Bulldogs in the league are doing pretty well relative to their peers. Former Bulldogs started 283 NFL games in 2013, second only to the 288 started by former Miami Hurricanes. LSU (255 starts) and Alabama (241) were also among the leaders. Interestingly former Tennessee Volunteers started 219 games last season, but a clear majority of those were by players who entered the league before 2009, which isn't surprising when you compare the talent level in Knoxville "A.D." (After Dooley).On the flip side, South Carolina has produced a lot more NFL starts by players who entered the league in 2009 or after than before. That seems to coincide with Steve Spurrier getting the Gamecocks into serious competition in the SEC East.
Villiotti also looked at the starts per team broken down by the draft rounds in which players were taken. The verdict? Georgia Bulldogs selected in the 1st, 4th, and 5th rounds have been more likely than other players to start once they get to the professional gridiron. Georgia draftees only underperformed their coevals when drafted in the 7th round.
What does this all mean in terms of talent evaluation in Athens? Probably very little. The success of Matt Stafford, Champ Bailey, and Chris Clemons among others doesn't tell you much about how the 2014 Bulldogs will perform. It does seem to indicate that the players in Athens are leaving prepared to play in the NFL, even if none have left the Classic City with an SEC Championship ring since 2005. It is maybe a point of pride which the folks on the recruiting staff can use to their advantage. Because while getting players to the NFL is clearly a program selling point, keeping them there is something altogether different and arguably more desirable. Until later . . .