Editor’s Note: This article is a rebuttal to my “Future of Recruiting” opinion piece from earlier this week. Ben bugged me about his distaste for it so much I told him to write about how incorrect I was. Here it is.
Ben Stecker is a native of Colville, Washington. An avid sports and fantasy fan he occasionally contributes his commentary here at Herring Bone Sports. He passionately follows the Denver Broncos, Washington State University athletics, and the Seattle Mariners. Ben currently works on national campaign media in Washington, DC.
Posted by Ben Stecker on June 27, 2012
While reading through Steve’s latest post on recruiting, I was shocked to discover he and I disagree entirely on one of his key points. Well, ok, not shocked. It’s possible no two sports buffs disagree on anything more than he and I do. I could tell you that’s because I’m always right and he’s always wrong, but he would probably disagree with that assessment. This time around, there was a section of his thesis that I found didn’t add up, here it is:
Why are so many kids deemed “can’t miss” when they’ve only played 2/3 or 1/2 of their Varsity high school football career? It fails to make intelligent sense.
If you don’t believe it’s a problem, start explaining what is happening in the talent-rich state of Florida where Gators, Seminoles & Hurricanes rule the Everglades. In 2008 all three (per usual) were ranked in Rivals Top 10 Team Recruiting Rankings (Florida #3, Miami #5, & FSU #9 … Notre Dame was #2). The 2009 class (also draft eligible this year) saw the Sunshine State place all three in the Top 15 again (FSU #7, Florida #11, & Miami #15 … with Notre Dame at #21). Did we see this reflected on the field (NO) or on Draft Day (HELL NO).”
Alright, so what don’t I agree with? I find extreme fault with the theory that the NFL Draft represents in any way, whether a recruiting class was good or bad. His point is basic - the Florida schools had top rated classes in 2008 & 2009, but the 2012 NFL Draft 3-4 years later had no 1st or 2nd round draft choices, and that the lack of top round draft picks from those classes means that the classes underperformed. Ok, let’s look at this from a couple of angles.
Problem # 1: Many great college players are NOT drafted, and for Steve, he need look no further than his backyard and the myriad of Boise State QB’s that have had great college careers and been snubbed in the subsequent NFL draft. There have been countless amazing college athletes that have contributed at a high level to their university who will never wear an NFL uniform. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s a simple fact. You may have to be a stand out college player to be an NFL draftee, but you don’t have to be an NFL draftee to be a standout college player. Simply claiming these classes had no high draft picks this year tells us absolutely nothing concrete about whether any of them were good or élite college players.
Problem #2: Let’s go ahead and throw out the previous argument and say that if these recruits were any good, they’d have been top-tier NFL draft picks. Does this mean that since there were none in the first two rounds that the classes were flops? To quote a great blogger and ND radio man “HELL NO”.
This premise doesn’t account for situations faced by recruits in those classes. Florida, FSU and Miami, the 3 schools in question, are also three schools that have gone through some of the most tumultuous landscape changes in college football since 2009. Florida’s Urban Meyer got sick and left the team. FSU had Bobby Bowden run the program into the ground before basically being forced out. Then there’s Miami. Miami’s been a mess for years and are still answering questions. My point - these are not exactly the best incubators for talent to develop in. Even if you throw that factors out, you still have to take into account injuries. How many of these guys were injured? Two of the top recruits from those years were Tommy Hunter and Marcus Forston, both DT’s for Florida, but lost years to injury. What does that do to their draft stock? What about red-shirted years lost? That would make a lot of them not real prospects for the draft until next year, so what does looking at the 2012 draft even show? These university situations takes the high rated, “can’t miss recruits” and can ruin their NFL draft stock.
Looking even deeper at these classes we find Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin - both 4 star WR recruits in the classes in question. These players produced okay, but not great college careers. BOTH were drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft. Clearly the NFL thinks these guys have all the talent they had when they were 4 star recruits, despite their college track record not being particularly flashy. Is it possible that this shows the NFL realizes that good talents can be stifled by the situations they’re put in at their universities? I think it does. It also tells me that NFL teams grading criteria actually has very little to do with one’s college production and everything to do with whether scouts and GMs think the player can contribute in a role at the next level.
My point - you cannot look at the NFL draft and say it related AT ALL to whether or not a recruiting class was successful. The two are unrelated. Anything can happen to these athletes in four years: injury, coaching changes, arrests, etc. You name it and they can all cost you your shot at being drafted.
Looking at one or even two consecutive drafts that fell 3-4 years after the recruiting classes signed doesn’t take into account redshirts, transfers, coaching changes, injury years, etc. Even if everything goes perfect for 4 years and a player has an amazing college career at a BCS school, you aren’t guaranteed a 1st or 2nd round draft spot. I referenced the Boise State QB’s but I’d like to also use a personal favorite of mine, Jerome Harrison, who was 4 star running back recruit for Washington State University. Harrison led the NCAA in rushing his senior year with 1,900 yards and 24 TD while finishing 9th in the Heisman Trophy voting. Did living up to his recruiting status get him in the top three rounds of the NFL draft? No - he was drafted in the 5th round after a stellar career that lived up to his high school billing.
The NFL draft has no relation to whether an NCAA recruit was good in college or worthy of their recruit rating because there are too many variables involved. I contend that the ”recruiting experts” generally get the talent evaluations right when grading out the prospects. I also believe whether or not those recruits reach their full potential is dependent on the programs, the situation and most importantly, the coaching. No NFL draft will tell you those stories.
- Ben Stecker (Herring Bone Sports correspondent)
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