The All Too Familiar Landscape
Take a look at this list, and tell me if you don’t see something familiar. It is supplied by Yahoo Sports.
Colleges with the most NFL players
— University of Alabama
— Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge
— University of Florida
— Ohio State University—Columbus
— University of Miami
— Florida State University
— University of Southern California
— Clemson University
— Auburn University
— University of Georgia
Now, I’ll tell you where you have seen the bulk of this list before; in Money and Prestige, that’s where. There is no denying it, and there isn’t much point in driving the bias of the past generation across the finish line. The big star players that make major differences in any program are all there because they want a shot at the next level. We’ll talk about that when we get past the equal sign and start to talk about the T in the equation. Remember it? (M+P)*N=T for those who folks forgot
I purposely left the * in the mix just because many of us haven’t dabbled in Algebraic notation since sophomore year. It means that the success of any team in attracting next level attention is a multiplier, not just additive. Think about it a bit. How many players get drafted in the first three rounds form these schools? Remember that everything above the 3rd round is not a guarantee of a roster spot, just a pinch better starting contract, and maybe a bunk through camp and into preseason.
The article is interesting in other ways than just the list of current programs with the most players currently on rosters. It’s the details of the long term program exposure to the NFL that attracts serious attention.
It even links to the meat of the 2018 article over at the NCAA with numbers on current rosters by schools all the way to the end of the list. What’s sort of telling with respect to Virginia Tech is that that number was 14 which tied us with Temple, West Virginia, and Utah - at 36th, no less. At least the Hoos only had 11. Of course the list of conferences with the most roster spots is also interesting. Here the ACC doesn’t do too badly, it’s just that it’s the usual programs in the list that lead the pile, and even Louisville and NCState did better than we did.
CONFERENCEPLAYERS ON NFL ROSTERS
Big Ten 239
Big 12 123
Mountain West 63
Sun Belt 20
You almost get the feeling that there are some after thoughts there. We also know several Tech players on NFL rosters were not drafted. They were undrafted free agents that hung in on practice squads and worked for roster spots on several teams; Trey Edmunds comes to mind, though he’d be counted as a Maryland player because of his one year post graduate foray in College Park.
That’s 344 active players from 10 programs. That’s a gravity well that’s difficult to overcome.
The Other Shoe That Falls on Us Often
I am famous for sideways takes on things. It’s not that I am being purposely obtuse, but I am just one of those people who look at things from other perspectives than the most obvious. We are in the middle of the pack, on draftees currently in the league, yes. But we are also suffering from the dual problem of early outs, and then NFL tragedy for many of those players.
Look at how many Tech players decided to leave early and though they made teams they either bumped down to backups, practice squads, and then injury oblivion; Ryan Williams, Darren Evans, David Wilson left early and then joined the NFL M*A*S*H Unit. Even players who left after their eligibility was up had serious injury problems; Danny Coale and Cody Grimm showed promise right up until body damage ended their careers.
Then there were the players that just never seemed to stick... Vinson Painter keeps hammering at it, but jumps from squad to squad.
We’ve never really had a star linebacker hit it big in the NFL. We had one, Jason Worilds, who converted from Defensive End to Outside Linebacker for the Steelers. He left football for personal reasons. Our star linemen are from the mid-Beamer Era, Will Montgomery is retired, Duane Brown is still with the Seahawks but how long is that going to go on? We already mentioned Painter.
We haven’t had great success in professional defensive linemen, either. Coach Darryl Tapp was our biggest hit, and now he’s back home - coaching. Tim Settle needed to stick to it for two more years. He’s still struggling as a pro, but he’s a pro, earning his pro money, and looking for the next contract negotiation to try for more. He’d have graduated from the program this year. Who knows how much better the defensive line would have been in 2018 and 2019.
The Current Virginia Tech Draft Situation is Typical
The current 14 players from 2018 aren’t going to be the players from 2019 or 2020. It will be interesting to see if our early out Tight End/Utility Back, Dalton Keene, is only ranked 13th by Sports Illustrated. Mel Kieper has reportedly ranked him the 6th best. I’ll have to see that one. But suffice it to say Dalton Keene just doesn’t stand much of a chance to get drafted. Reggie Floyd and Deshawn McClease are probably going to miss being drafted, as well. Maybe Keene goes in the 5th-7th rounds; but those are just gratis notifications of a chance. It’s nothing more, and not much more than a UDFL Contract.
This isn’t a lament for our tiny and out of scope draft class as a qualitative bleat. It’s a quantitative reality that we just don’t get enough players drafted into the NFL. We just don’t attract the kind of attention from the star prospects who would make us better. Unless we hit some sort of jackpot like Frank did when he talked Michael Vick into coming to Blacksburg.
If you want proof outside of our loop, just look at Clemson. Where would Dabo be if it weren’t for Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins?
If you think about it, there is a secondary recruiting factor in someone like Vick. Even to this day, there are kids who think about coming to Virginia Tech because of Michael Vick. There are even more people who will show a bit of distaste for it, but it’s a reality. Michael Vick’s effect on the program brought in major talent for the Hokies between 2000 and 2010. However, it was just enough to keep us in the hunt, but never enough to sustain the burn.
It’s not just Tech
We aren’t alone, folks... there are lots of schools languishing above 20 in that list. They have the same problems that we do. When we get a star player who could make an individual difference talked into coming to Tech, they often go out the door just as fast.
That is why the NFL Draft is the most dominant reason why any particular player chooses to participate in a program, and it’s why so many teams languish in the Twilight.
Next we talk about Talent... and the implications that Talent is both an input and a program championship momentum builder. Remember, we are talking about the reality that we are analyzing a self-reinforcing feedback loop.