The recent draft and BYUs lack of success got me thinking. If I compared BYUs recruiting rankings with how they perform in the NFL draft, would it make sense? In other words, would their relative recruiting success translate to similar draft success? In theory, if they are pulling in recruiting classes of a certain caliber their draft classes should spit out kids in a similar fashion. If not, I wondered if you could make assumptions about whether they are doing an above average job of coaching their kids or a below average job of coaching their kids.
First, I apologize as this is long. So read it in pieces if you have to, but I felt it needed to be long to go over everything. So I started with lots of data. Now admittedly I am not a statistician, so I make no claims as to the accuracy of what I have done or am presenting. But I do think what I found is directionally correct and gives a good idea of whats really happening. I took draft numbers for 2006-2012 and compared them to recruiting classes from 2002-2008 and then to top it off I threw in final top 25 rankings for 2006-2012. I did this for all FBS teams to see if a pattern emerged that would allow me to compare BYUs performance in turning recruiting classes into draft picks. The theory I went under is that recruits would make a difference in both draft numbers and top 25 rankings after 3-4 years. Here is what I found:
The school with the best recruiting average over the 2002-2008 time period was USC with an average of 4.6 (so they ranked #12, 1, 1, 6, 1, 2, 9 each of the 7 years I looked at) and the worst was New Mexico State with an average of 114.9. Ill paste some of the results for those curious.
Florida State 11.1
Ohio State 11.3
Boise State 70.3
Utah State 97.0
So you could probably reasonably expect that the draft results would shake out in a somewhat similar fashion. Here are the draft results. The school with the best draft average (average number of players draft per year over the 7 years looked) was USC with an average of 8.0.
Ohio State 5.7
Virginia Tech 4.6
Boise State 2.4
Utah State 0.9
Notice anything? The top 10 looks about like youd expect. Almost all the teams that get the best recruiting classes appear in the best draft classes as well. Did you notice anything else even more interesting? Yep, BYU averaged less than 1 draft per year over this period compared to Utah, BSU and TCU who were in the mid to upper 2s per year. We were essentially the same Utah State even though our recruiting classes were essentially TWICE as good as theirs.
Running this all through the computer gives a formula. Y=5.753e^-.024x. In other words, if you take a schools average recruiting rankings over the period tested and throw it in for x, you should get the average number of draft picks they should get each year. So, the 10th best average for recruiting should get about 4.5 draft picks every year.
What about BYU and its peers?
BYU 51st average class should yield 1.7 draft picks per year
Boise State 70th average class should yield 1.1 draft picks per year
Utah 73rd average class should yield 1.0 draft picks per year
TCU 74th average class should yield 1.0 draft picks per year
Utah State 97th average class should yield 0.6 draft picks per year
BSU, Utah and TCU are out performing their predictions by about 1.5 draft pick per year each. Utah State is out performing by almost a ½ draft pick per year. BYU is UNDER performing its prediction by almost 1 draft pick per year.
Lets look at it in terms of total draft picks over 7 years rather than an average.
BYU 51st average class should yield 12 draft picks over 7 years we had 6
Boise State 70th average class should yield 7.5 draft picks over 7 years they had 17
Utah 73rd average class should yield 7 draft picks over 7 years they had 17
TCU 74th average class should yield 7 draft picks over 7 years they had 20
Utah State 97th average class should yield 4 draft picks over 7 years they had 6
Whats disturbing to me is not only that we are significantly UNDER-performing in how many draft picks we should be pushing out the door, but its also that many of our peers are significantly OVER-performing. Im not sure what to take from this other than the fact that BYU is really, really bad at taking its talent and moving them on to the pros and a lot of the people we are competing against on the field and in the living room are really, really good at doing just that. Most of this is probably not extremely eye-opening as it matches what many already thought. It is sobering though that the data seems to back up those thoughts pretty convincingly.
BYU had 6 draft picks over the 7 years studied. Look at some of the company they are holding:
Sampling of teams that had more picks over this period than BYU
Connecticut with 14
Hawaii with 13
Nevada with 10
Troy with 8
New Mexico with 7
Appalachian State with 7 (an FCS school?!)
SMU with 7
Montana with 7 (another FCS school?!)
Idaho with 7 (might as well be an FCS school)
Teams that had as many picks over this period as BYU
Utah State, Temple, Arkansas State, UTEP, Iowa State, Washington State, Western Michigan, San Jose State
Teams that were close to us but never should be in a million years:
Weber State with 5
Abilene Christian with 5
I could go on but you get the point. BYU is the 11th WORST team in differential (what they should spit out in draft picks based on recruiting ranks and what actually happens). Guess who is in the top 10? TCU #2, Utah #7, Boise State #8. BYU is #102 if this helps it sink in. Looks at the teams worse than us over this period: Texas A&M, Washington, UCLA, Texas Tech, Miss State, Michigan, OK State, Ole Miss, Washington State and Tenn. Quite a few coaching changes and mediocre finishes over the 7 years in this group. Except BYU who has won a lot of games over this period and stayed with one coach.
Now the most likely next argument from people at this point is that Bronco and BYU win games and thats all that matters. While winning games is important, I wondered if its everything. And can you win games and STILL have a good record of placing draft picks? After all, dont BYU fans want someone like Jimmer or Steve Young that they can follow on Sundays and that carries the banner for our school?
This wasnt as cut and dried as the correlation between recruiting and drafting. There is a slight correlation, but its not real strong. See the chart:
Even so, I think its fairly safe to say that BYU, Utah, Boise State and TCU all outperform based on their recruiting. Now I am sure some of this is due to a weaker schedule, but I think its deeper than that. These are all programs that do a pretty good job of winning even though theyre not that high on the recruiting food chain.
Here are the top 10 teams in terms of outperforming their (admittedly weakly correlated) recruiting/ranking ratio:
The recruit column is their avg recruit rank, rank is their average poll rank, s/b is what the formula/prediction says they should be, and diff is the different between actual and expected.
Interesting to see who the top 3 are, hmm? BYU shows up as #7. I think the point here is that there is no denying that BYU does a good job of taking their recruits and putting up lots of wins and good rankings year in and year out. But I think the more important point is that TCU, Utah and Boise all do a fantastic job of doing exactly the same thing BUT they also do a fantastic job of prepping players for the NFL.
Why does it have to be either/or? Many fans say that the NFL doesnt matter and Bronco wins games so we should all just be happy. Yet Utah, TCU and BSU fans get same treatment on the field (lets face it, its actually better considering the BCS appearances and wins for these programs recently) yet they also get draft success and the chance to follow their players at the next level.
How many of you bought the NBA season pass to watch Jimmer play this year? How many BYU fans bought Jimmer Sacramento jerseys? How many of you became 49er fans in the 90s and skipped church or recorded the games to watch Steve play? How many of you made sure to watch John Beck start for the Redskins? Colts fans for Austin Collie? How many Eagles fans are there currently because Andy Reid is the head coach? SGC is now ubiquitous precisely because so many Cougar fans were following Staley and hoping for NFL success. Are Cougars making, playing in and starring in the NFL really not as big a deal as many of you like to claim?
The other argument tends to be that Bronco has cleaned up the program and so a spotless program coupled with lots of wins (although to be fair not necessarily as many high profile wins as many would like) is all he needs to do. I love the quality of young men Bronco is insistent on spitting out. I really do. I love Thursdays heroes and I even think the firesides are a great idea. But why should Cougar fans settle for either/or?
Is there anyone that really thinks Bronco putting more effort into coaching, promoting and preparing his players for the NFL is going to undo all the other good things hes already doing? If Bronco isnt capable of doing something like this is there any reason to think another coach couldnt come in and do this? Utah, TCU and BSU all take mediocre recruiting classes and turn them not only into wins (which many Cougar fans think is the end all be all) and BCS appearances/wins but they also turn them into NFL draft picks.
So whats the answer? If coaches from BSU, TCU and Utah can all do this, there seems to be a few possible reasons:
1 Broncos not as good a coach as Whitt, Peterson or Patterson. He can get the wins at the college level but he cant run a program or coach players on an individual level to the point that they are good enough for the NFL.
Or, if you dont buy that argument:
2 Bronco is a good enough coach, but he doesnt care about putting players in the NFL and doesnt focus on that because he wins enough games and runs a clean program which is all he is supposed to do. That and he and his staff dont put in enough hours or effort because theyre doing good enough.
3 Nobody is capable of running a program that produces high enough quality character kids and clean results, along with wins AND NFL draft picks. Essentially you have to pick 2 of the 3. BSU, TCU and Utah have apparently chosen wins and NFL (not that their programs are necessarily dirty) and BYU has chosen wins and squeaky clean image.
Which one do you subscribe to? I personally think #3 isnt true as I think you CAN do all three if you really want to. #2 may or may not be true but the big point is that it shouldnt even be an option. I firmly believe you can do all three and I expect him and his staff to put in enough time and effort to accomplish all three. I know plenty of people who bust their butts and dont get to put their career as the #5 option in their life all the time. Tough.
So is #1 true? It seems like it really all comes down to one thing. Is Bronco a good enough coach to recruit, get wins and prepare players for the draft? Answer for yourself, but I really dont think its a good enough excuse to say that its not his job. Whether or not he thinks so seems irrelevant to the fact that many Cougar fans think so (whether they say it or not) based on how much we like following former Cougars in the NFL. And BYU football without BYU fans would quickly die.
Bottom line: Expecting wins and rankings every year AND some success in the draft and development of players IS NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK. Utah, TCU and Boise State have proven pretty well in my mind that it is very possible to not only turn any level of recruiting class into success on the field, but also prepare them and place them in the NFL. Asking Bronco or any other BYU coach to do the same does not seem unreasonable IMO. Running a clean program is irrelevant. Whether he keeps doing firesides should have no impact on the other two variables: wins and draft picks.