Sunday, May 8, 2011

You Want To Be An NFL Star? Go To Wake Forest

UpUpDownDown at Black Heart, Gold Pants did a pretty impressive study of college programs' abilities to develop NFL draft picks. Other than USC and Ohio State at the top of the list, there were some interesting results, and results that I think are explainable.
After USC and OSU, the next 8 schools weren't typically national powers; Iowa, Cincinnati, and Va Tech the best of them. The model appears valid, I won't regurgitate it here, cuz that really isn't my point anyway. Their overall conclusions were that the Big Ten was the best player development conference, that if you want to proceed to the NFL then picking a Big Ten school, particularly OSU, Iowa or Wisconsin is your best bet.

UUDD points out that talent selection (scouting) plays a role here. While each player was rated based on the amateur scouting services star ratings, every program will evaluate high school players a bit differently. Just like with the NFL draft, not all five star recruits are equal. More importantly, not all two star and three star recruits are equal either, and this is where I think you'd see a disproportionate impact in the overall development score. A single two star recruit ultimately getting drafted is equivalent to 8 five star recruits. It is easy to see how this could generate noise.

Furthermore, it would be useful to have further scoring based on draft round. Simply getting a high school recruit drafted is an accomplishment, regardless of star rating. Reality though, is that a 7th round draft pick doesn't have great career prospects anyway when compared with 3rd, 2nd and 1st rounders.

Nice work by UUDD.

There is an additional caveat that prevents any of this from being actionable by a clever two star recruit. In the Comments section, HoyaGoon points out

Its a result of the nature of the recruiting services and their evaluation models. Since Rivals/Scout are funded through subscription services, they tend to focus a disproportionate amount of their staff and efforts in the regions/areas where more of their subscriptions come from. And, in general, that tends to be SEC country and areas like Texas/Oklahoma and Ohio (as well as others). Players in those areas are more likely to be evluated correctly, as more attention is paid to them. Players from other regions don’t get that same scrutiny and tend to have the greater chance of being under-evaluated.

In other words, disparities in the star systems may be so great that these conclusions are entirely invalid. UUDD points out that Iowa State and Iowa have similar recruit grades while Iowa has vastly superior development scores. This could simply be a matter of no one spending much time grading recruits in Iowa and the Dakotas and so the distinction in recruiting quality differences isn't detected by the star system.


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