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NFL Draft 1st Round by the Numbers: Ranking High School Ratings, Conferences

Yeah, the SEC rules.
Yeah, the SEC rules.

The first round of the NFL Draft is in the books, and now we spend today overanalyzing the selections the teams made last night (complete with the inane letter-grade report cards for a bunch of players that have not yet even had their first press conferences with their new teams) and preparing for the next two rounds tonight.

If you need a chronological recap of last night's festivities, you can relive the magic (of Matt Kalil's mom) on my live blog entry. If you want some detailed analysis on what the Texans' selection of Illinois pass rusher Whitney Mercilus means to the rest of the weekend, Ben DuBose has that for you as well.

For now, let's take a look at some of the details from last night's first round:

First Round As Seen By Rivals.com In February, I wrote a post here that tried to inject some level of sanity in the year-round hysteria that college football fans have over recruiting rankings. It seems like some fans are so rabid that they are far more emotionally invested in the "stars" grade (made famous by rivals.com) of their favorite school's recruiting class than they are in the actual classroom grades of their own children.

While grading recruiting classes by using the "1-through-5 star" system is not a completely baseless nor irrelevant exercise on a big-picture basis (This just in, the schools with the most stars next to their recruits' names are usually the teams that compete for BCS bowls), it is frighteningly scattershot when you're trying to forecast an individual recruit's success. For every five-star that lives up to the hype, there are five that flame out. For every four-star stalwart, there's a two-star rags to riches story.

Let's see how this year's first round class stacks up compared to their high school press clippings (number of players with at each ratings level in parentheses):

FIVE stars (4): Trent Richardson (3rd overall pick), Matt Kalil (4th), Michael Floyd (13th), Dre Kirkpatrick (17th)

FOUR stars (13): Andrew Luck (1st), Robert Griffin III (2nd), Mark Barron (7th), Stephon Gilmore (10th), Fletcher Cox (12th), Michael Brockers (14th), Bruce Irvin (15th), Quinton Coples (16th), Melvin Ingram (18th), Dont'a Hightower (25th), Nick Perry (28th), Harrison Smith (29th), Doug Wilson (32nd)

THREE stars (9): Justin Blackmon (5th), Morris Claiborne (6th), Ryan Tannehill (8th), Luke Kuechly (9th), Kendall Wright (20th), Riley Reiff (23rd), David DeCastro (24th), Whitney Mercilus (26th), Kevin Zeitler (27th)

TWO stars (4): Dontari Poe (11th), Shea McClellin (19th), Chandler Jones (21st), Doug Martin (31st)

NO RATING (2): Brandon Weeden (22nd), A.J. Jenkins (30th)

SUMMARY: If you follow the accuracy of the recruiting game at all, the bell-shaped curve of the NFL Draft's first round is not a surprising outcome. Within the four five-star players, the only outlier is the fact that Notre Dame actually had a five-star talent (Floyd) that wound up being drafted to his pre-college expectations, although it wasn't without some self-inflicted, alcohol-related twists and turns. Also, it's funny that the consensus "most polished QB prospect since Peyton Manning" was only a four-star recruit and was ranked behind Blaine Gabbert, Dayne Crist, and Mike Glennon coming out of high school. Finally, and not surprisingly, the two-star recruits came from "non traditional power" football schools in Boise State, Memphis, and a downtrodden Syracuse.

Which is a great segue into the really interesting part of the collegiate background on the draftees....

First Round By Conference The SEC likes to pound its chest as the top college football conference in the country, and they are probably correct. (Six national champions in a row make it hard to deny.) But how does this on-field dominance translate to the churning out of NFL prospects? Well, about how you'd think. Here are the first round draft picks broken down by conference:

 

SEC (9): ALABAMA 4 (Richardson, Barron, Kirkpatrick, Hightower), LSU 2 (Claiborne, Brockers), SOUTH CAROLINA 2 (Gilmore, Ingram), MISSISSIPPI STATE 1 (Cox)

Big 12 (5): BAYLOR 2 (Griffin, Wright), OKLAHOMA STATE 2 (Blackmon, Weeden), TEXAS A&M 1 (Tannehill)

Big Ten (4): ILLINOIS 2 (Mercilus, Jenkins), IOWA 1 (Reiff), WISCONSIN 1 (Zeitler)

Pac 12 (4): STANFORD 2 (Luck, DeCastro), USC 2 (Kalil, Perry)

ACC (3): BOSTON COLLEGE 1 (Kuechly), NORTH CAROLINA 1 (Coples), VA TECH 1 (Wilson)

Big East (2): WEST VA 1 (Irvin), SYRACUSE (C. Jones)

Mountain West (2): BOISE STATE 2 (McClellin, D. Martin)

Independents (2): NOTRE DAME 2 (Floyd, H. Smith)

Conference USA (1): MEMPHIS 1 (Poe)

SUMMARY: My observations on the conference breakdown are as follows:

1. It's amazing that, even on this very small sample size of players (granted, they are the most impactful players), the conference breakdown directly mirrors the conference-by-conference perceptions of the college football landscape. The SEC is far and away number one by nearly a 2-to-1 margin over the next most prolific conference. The Big 12 is in sole possession of second place (like their conference strength perception), the Big Ten and Pac-12 are attached at the hip in perception (and in their overemphasis on the importance of their conferences' tie-in the Rose Bowl), the ACC is hanging around after those four conferences, and the debate over whether the Big East even belongs in the BCS automatic qualifier mix is accentuated by their tie with the Mountain West with two players apiece.

2. And actually, as if this breakdown doesn't mirror on-field real life enough already, the two Big East players on the list are both with schools defecting out of the Big East (West Virginia to the Big 12, Syracuse to the ACC), but the two Mountain West players and the one C-USA player are with Boise State and Memphis, respectively, both of whom are being swallowed up by the Big East. Realignment!

3. Given the finite number of spots (32 total) and the cyclical nature of college football, there are a few college football powers every season whose draft-eligible players are snubbed in the draft. The most glaring example for those of us in Big 12 country is the fact that the Big 12 had five players taken in the first round and none of them were from Oklahoma or Texas. If you're wondering about the motives behind Urban Meyer's leaving Florida, sitting out a year and then choosing to go to Ohio State, consider that neither of those schools had a player taken in the first round, which conspiracy theorists will take as an indicator that Meyer knew of the talent dip coming at Florida and is pouncing on a down blue chip stock at Ohio State (which means Meyer is very smart, if not very slimy).

4. In 2003, the ACC raided the Big East, mostly to secure Miami football as a foil for Florida State so the two could play for the ACC title every year until the end of time (an occurrence that has yet to happen even once). Appropriately, neither school had a first rounder this season. In fact, two of the three ACC first rounders came from the other two Big East defectors -- Virginia Tech and Boston College.

Enjoy the rest of the draft weekend!

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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