NFL Talent: Mid-Majors vs. the Big Six

gravey's picture
September 16, 2010 at 1:28a
6 Comments

This is part two of a short series of crackpot analyses of the NFL rosters as they appeared during the NFL pre season.  Obviously there have been some changes since the rosters were cut down.  I purposely chose the preseason rosters because they are much larger than the regular season rosters, giving what I consider a fairer gauge of the general talent of the various NCAA teams, conferences, etc.  Additional analysis of mid-season rosters, just the starters or even Pro Bowl rosters, each suggested by other 11W posters, would provide a better gauge of elite talent and is worthy of analysis as well, but I’ll only post it if makes Ohio State look good.

 

In this post, I thought I’d offer a snapshot of how the NCAA divisions stack up against each other in terms of NFL talent.  I was interested in this because as a fan of a BCS conference school, I’m more than a little tired of ESPN-driven fantasies about a Cinderella who might go to the BCS ball wearing smurf colored glass slippers.  It might be good TV drama, but it reminds me of NBC’s desperate search for the next Keri Strugg every Olympics.  It gets old fast.  I wanted to know what the NFL thought of the players from non BCS conferences, because to them if Cinderella is really an ugly stepsister, you'll be fired, unless of course your daddy owns the team…or if you are Al Davis.

Here’s quick comparison of the talent pools from the BCS automatic qualifier conference schools (Big10, PAC 10,etc), the Mid-majors, a.k.a. the non automatic qualifier conferences (MAC, WAC, etc….besides I like the somewhat demeaning basketball terminology) and the “others”, which includes Div II, Div III, NAIA and those fellows who played in that league featuring Mr. Overly Competitive Touch Football Game Player.

The 65 schools from the six major conferences accounted for nearly 2/3rds of all NFL talent during training camp and on average each BCS school can claim nearly 30 players who have made it to NFL training camp.  Not surprisingly, the Mid-major conferences, and the even smaller schools (FBS,) contribute a lot less talent and each team, if they are lucky, probably has only a couple of training camp worthy players on their roster each season.  This would come as hardly a revelation to anyone not voting in the AP poll, but it does put some perspective on the talent gap between the BCS big boys and the rest.

 

Division Players Schools Average No. of Players Percent of Total

Major BCS Conferences

1821

65

28.01538

66.19

Mid Majors

482

52

9.269231

17.52

All other schools

448

185

2.421622

16.28

Grand Total

2751

 

 

 

I do admire what Boise State has done in its yearly opportunity to beat a BCS school, but this table suggests that what they face the other 10 or so games of the season is quite a bit different that what BCS schools have to face each week.  This table is a crude proxy for strength of schedule, without the labyrinthine of statistics.  The obvious implication is that Mid-majors just don’t have to face a stable of NFL-caliber players each and every Saturday (or Thursday as the case may be) and as a result, are much less likely to lose should they, like teams invariably do, have a bad game.  Teams in BCS conferences face conference foes with the talent to beat you every week.  Inexplicable psychological lapses (see Purdue Harbor) will get you beat in a BCS conference, but its much less likely to happen in the WAC…either that or Boise State is always on their A game.  Call me a skeptic.  I can’t recall what old coach said it (Bowden, Holtz?), but he claimed that he thought it was only possible to get a team mentally prepared for two big games during a season.  Ohio State regularly has four or five big games a season…and using the logic of pollsters’: one late season loss …you suck and don’t deserve to be a champion.

Still, the nearly 900 NFL training camp worthy players not from a BCS conference school should cause anyone who has ponied up hard earned beer money to bask in the omniscience of recruiting gurus a reason to ask for a refund.  That’s a lot of talent left on the table on signing day.  How many late bloomers could there be?  How many oversigning victims from the SEC filtered down to schools like Louisiana Tech?  How many academic casualties from Notre Dame had to transfer to MIT before going on to NFL glory?  It’s hard to tell, but it’s a lot easier to imagine that talent scouting is hardly the precise science all the bestowers-of-stars would have you believe.  I’ll take a look at the local boys that got away from OSU later and post it just after signing day to salve the wounds of the easily wounded by February rejections.

Conferences Overview

As much as it pains me to write this, the SEC had more players on NFL preseason rosters and a higher number of players per team (conference wide average) than the Big 10…but we still own them in bowl games…one particular team’s unsightly record not withstanding.  None of the Mid-major conferences are really that close to even the Big East, and in general, Mid-major conferences have about 1/3rd the NFL players per team that BCS conferences have.  Interestingly, the SEC’s most common early season cupcakes come from the Sun Belt Conference, which is the least represented of all the Mid-Majors.  Lest we in Big 10 country brag too much, it’s worth noting our favorite MACcakes are more icing than cake.  And because I know you like sprinkles…Michigan (45 NFL players) vs. Appy State (only 5...which ranks it 21st among “all others”).  The PAC 10, has been frequently upset by teams from the WAC and the MWC in recent years and the table below suggests that perhaps the overall talent gap is not large as it is among other inter-conference rivalries. 

Conference

Players

Schools

Average Players per School

SEC

395

12

32.92

BIG10

330

11

30.00

ACC

344

12

28.67

PAC10

273

10

27.30

BIG12

279

12

23.25

BIGEAST

167

8

20.88

WAC

123

9

13.67

ND, Army, Navy

38

3

12.67

MWC

97

9

10.78

CONFUSA

110

12

9.17

MAC

97

13

7.46

Sun Belt

50

9

5.56

Among the Mid-majors, several schools stand out in terms of NFL production…well, enough be above the average in the Big East.  Utah and Fresno State are the only two that could be considered “average” in the Big East.  Boise State had, by the way, 13 players on training camp rosters this year. 

Some of the Mid-Major schools are especially bereft of any sign of talent.  How many of the schools at the bottom of this list figure prominently in the yearly schedules of power house BCS schools?  Sure, Ohio State’s played a couple of cupcakes in recent years, but Rice isn’t on the menu each year….

Here’s the table:

Top 10 Mid-Major Schools

Players

 

Bottom 10 Mid-Major Schools

Players

Utah

24

 

UAB, ULM, UNH, Navy

4

FresnoState

24

 

Rice

3

Brigham Young

20

 

North Texas

2

TexasChristian

19

 

New MexicoState

2

Hawaii

19

 

FloridaInternational

2

Troy

17

 

FloridaAtlantic

2

San DiegoState

17

 

Air Force

2

Central Florida

17

 

Western Kentucky

1

ColoradoState

16

 

Army

1

East Carolina

15

 

Alabama-Birmingham

1

For the morbidly curious, the FCS schools best representin’ on NFL preseason rosters this year are shown in the table below.  Way to go Montana!  By the way, only Duke and Iowa State among BCS schools had fewer than 10 players on an NFL roster this preseason…giving the B12 and ACC built in DivII quality cupcakes...and giving Minnesota the right to brag about the relative strength of North Dakota State…

School

Players

Montana

10

Massachusetts

8

Northern Iowa

8

Hampton

7

Maine

7

Nevada-Las Vegas

7

North DakotaState

7

Villanova

7

WeberState

7

Western Illinois

7

* Youngstown State – 2!

 

To be continued….

Comments

Seth4Bucks's picture

Very informative, thanks! Two things though, how come this doesn't show on the homepage? And I'm pretty sure that Duke is in the ACC.

Wow, Utah has quite a few NFL quality guys for a 'mid-major'

Nik's picture

doesn't show up because he's not a 11w staff member, instead it shows up under the "recent blog posts" on the right side.

 

Yeah, Utah has a lot of talent, for the same reason that their rugby team is so good, they get a lot of Samoans

 

also, you have UAB listed twice, once with 3 players, once with 1 player (worst mid-majors)

gravey's picture

UAB had 4...there was an extraneous space in the fourth UAB, which of course made it a different school in the database.  I'll fix it.

gravey's picture

Duke is in the ACC.  Their suckitude was so great I couldn't help but assign them to the Big East in football though...at least in my mind, but not in the database.  Nice catch.  I took that swipe out.

thePhilipJFry's picture

nice post.  What was ND's individual contribution?

gravey's picture

They had 33 in camp this year.  I think I may have noted that in my previous post.  That's quite a few given their recent record.