The NFL Draft is a good way to try and validate recruiting rankings. Recruiting rankings are purely about a compilation of individual talent, and the NFL Draft is about drafting individuals. The best recruits don't always make the best team, but the best players are typically going to be drafted, regardless of team success.
That said, there's a definite correlation between having the best players and having the best teams, especially in the rugged SEC where any team can beat virtually any other team on any given Saturday.
The last five NFL Draft Classes took place from 2007 thru 2011. The recruiting classes in the Scout database that correspond to those draft classes are the Classes 2003 thru 2008.
The chart below represents a compilation of the total number of players drafted (in parenthesis), sorted by rank, followed by the conference recruiting rankings across the given time period (average national rank in parenthesis), and finally a look at the compiled rankings for '07 thru '12 which will correspond to the 2011 thru 2015 drafts.
|Drafted '07-'11||Rankings '03-'08||Rankings
|LSU||1 (28)||2 (7.0)||2 (6.5)||?|
|Florida||2 (27)||1 (6.3)||4 (11.0)||?|
|Georgia||3 (26)||3 (7.8)||4 (11.0)||?|
|Alabama||4 (19)||7 (20.2)||1 (6.3)||?|
|Auburn||4 (19)||5 (17.0)||3 (9.2)||?|
|Tennessee||6 (18)||4 (13.3)||6 (16.3)||?|
|Arkansas||7 (15)||9 (28.3)||9 (23.8)||?|
|South Carolina||8 (14)||8 (22.8)||7 (18.8)||?|
|Missouri||9 (13)||12 (42.2)||12 (35.7)||?|
|Ole Miss||10 (11)||10 (30.7)||10 (29.8)||?|
|Texas A&M||11 (9)||5 (17.0)||8 (21.5)||?|
|Kentucky||11 (9)||11 (36.3)||13 (41.2)||?|
|Mississippi State||13 (7)||13 (52.2)||11 (30.0)||?|
|Vanderbilt||14 (6)||14 (70.2)||14 (63.7)||?|
What the data told me:
*The 12 teams from the SEC in this period (not including Texas A&M and Missouri) performed remarkably close to their recruiting rankings when measured by players placed in the NFL. No team finished more than one spot away from its spot in the recruiting rankings if Alabama and Auburn are considered tied for 4th/5th in placing players in the NFL, with Alabama finishing 6th in recruiting rankings.
*LSU, Florida, and Georgia have a substantial advantage in players sent to the NFL, separated by only two players from LSU to Georgia, with a sizable gap to Alabama and Auburn at No. 4. The recruiting rankings also show a sizable gap between No. 3 and No. 4 with those three teams finishing with an average finish above 8th in the country from year to year, while Tennessee was the only other team to average better than 15th.
*Texas A&M is the only team well out of line with its rankings vs. NFL production finishing tied for 11th with Kentucky with 11 players sent to the NFL, while having the 5th best recruiting rankings across this period. While their projection goes down from No. 5 to No. 8, expect the Aggies to do better than nine draftees in classes '11 thru '15.
*Missouri wins the prize for outproducing its recruiting ranking. Despite an average finish outside the Top 40 and ranked 12th in the SEC, Missouri finished 9th in producing NFL draft picks and had only one less than South Carolina who averaged a Top 25 finish in recruiting.
*Watch out for the SEC West. Alabama, LSU, and Auburn, have won four of the last five BCS Championships, and their recruiting rankings from '07 thru '12 are 1, 2, and 3 in the SEC. Of Alabama's 19 NFL draftees in the last five years, 12 of the 19 have come in '10 and '11. Recruiting and winning went to a different level under Nick Saban.
*Speaking of Alabama, the early results on the drafts from '11 thru '15 are already in, and Alabama had five players taken last year and should beat that number in 2012. It won't be surprising to see Alabama lead the SEC in players drafted after 2015 as well as top the 30 player overall mark.