Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 May 2013

Which NFL Teams Draft from Which Colleges?

Nobody does a colossal data dump blog post like Chase Stuart, and that is not meant to be criticism. This look at which teams have drafted most often from the same universities is really interesting, although it doesn't necessarily represent the current administrations because the list goes back to even before the merger. What will really jump out at you is how many teams have their "most popular" school as a geographic neighbor. The top school for the Rams is UCLA, while it is USC for the Raiders, Chargers, and 49ers. You get a lot of Steelers from Pitt, Bears from Notre Dame, Browns from Ohio State, Patriots from Boston College and even Vikings from the University of Minnesota. I wonder how much of that comes from the days when the draft was 12 rounds or more, and teams would toss picks at local players in the late rounds. That's definitely the case with the Steelers and the Pitt Panthers, but not really with the Bears and Notre Dame or even the Patriots and B.C., though a lot of those B.C. Patriots picks came high in the AFL draft not NFL draft.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 May 2013

22 comments, Last at 10 Jun 2013, 2:26am by Nelet


by young curmudgeon :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 7:27pm

Fun to go through, but mostly of historical interest (as, I'm sure, was intended.) For instance, much of the preponderance of Pitt/Notre Dame/Penn State players on Steelers' draft lists comes from back in the 50's and 60's when the Steelers were terrible. As I imagine it, they put little effort into scouting and just figured "this guy's playing OK at Pitt/Notre Dame/Penn State, so he must be good."

My understanding is that Jack Butler, who fortunately was able to appreciate his selection to the HOF before he died, was instrumental in setting up a much more sophisticated approach to scouting, BLESTO, and it wasn't too long afterwards that the Steelers began to improve (Being terrible and getting the first or almost the first selection for a number of years also helped.) Butler was a terrific defensive back, but some of the comment in western PA after he died was that his greatest contribution to the game was actually after he retired and went into the scouting/player evaluation end of things.

by Jerry :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 5:09am

Consider the NFL before TV money became serious in the '60s. Teams relied on gate receipts for their income, and solid sellouts were a pipe dream. So there wasn't much money available for scouting (the Street and Smith's era, if you will), and players with some local appeal would help sell tickets. A team could could send its couple of assistant coaches to nearby games on Saturdays and feel like they knew who the good players were.

As the sport became more prosperous in the Sixties, there was an opportunity to start scouting nationally in a more serious fashion. While franchises were reasonably stable financially, they were still at a point where splitting those costs in a combine made sense. So BLESTO and a couple of other organizations came into existence, and the teams could send their scouts to follow up on guys whose combine reports they liked. And as more seats were filling up, there was less pressure to draft local kids.

Now, the combines (BLESTO and National) can do the first pass (somebody has to spend a day at Oberlin and see if there are any pro prospects), and then teams have the resources to do their own followups. There are several teams who don't belong to either combine.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 8:18am

A quick perusal of the new teams in the league illustrates the phenomenon of a transition from regional scouting to national scouting. Of the Jaguars, Ravens, Panthers and Texans, only the Jaguars show a local lean. But Florida has been a good program in recent history, so taking a lot of Florida players isn't necessary a sign of a local bias; 9 other teams also have Florida as one of their top 5.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 9:35am

I'm not sure you'd see much local effect for the Ravens -- there aren't any powerhouse teams anywhere near them. Maryland and Delaware (Div IAA) are the closest teams of note.

Most surprising is that Atlanta doesn't have more Georgia players (considering they stole their uniform), and that New Orleans doesn't have more LSU.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 1:26pm

Washington has Maryland as one of their schools. That's gotta be a location effect, as no other team has Maryland as one their five. That's a further illustration of the effect -- the older team shows a location effect where the younger team does not.

And I'm pretty sure the Ravens have a fairly high-profile "elite" player from Delaware. :)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 4:12pm

I realize -- that's why I named Delaware. =)

It's worth acknowleding that the 'Skins picks from Maryland are primarily from their 1940s-1960s powerhouse era, and less from their later dolderings. Similar to the Vikings and U-Minn, who primarily drafted from the good period of Gopher teams -- including two HOFers.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 7:51pm

As mentioned already the historical effects are pretty evident from some teams.

Green Bay has taken 37 players from Wisconsin (their #2 school). 30 of those were from 1965 or earlier. Then they didn't take another Badger until 1984. Minnesota, their #1 school is similar, no players since 96, and 32 of the 41 were pre 65 as well. Michigan their 5th school, they haven't taken a player since 78.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 8:42pm

Probably also important in that regard is that before the 60's, the Packers were the local team for Minnesotans.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 12:36am

Probably also important, the Badgers and Gophers were terrible from 1965-1995. Minnesota was actually a regional power before 1965, and Wisconsin's best pre-1996 stretch was in the late 40s and early 60s. If ever you were to draft heavily from there...

I also wonder if you don't still see flyers taken from local schools. The Lions spend a lot of last picks/UDAs on Directional Michigan or local Div-II schools; the Eagles famously pick over Villanova and Temple late in rounds, etc.

As far as the Steelers just picking from Pitt/PSU/ND -- you could certainly do worse, although PSU wasn't much to speak of until the merger.

by Dean :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 8:43am

I've always liked the idea of a "regional pick." Instead of all the supplemental draft choices, just add an 8th round and require that the player selected meets some definition of "local." Instant fan favorite. Better yet, make that the 4th round of the draft, so the player chose is going to be counted on to produce sooner or later. Nobody cares if you miss on an 8th rounder, but you'd better hit on at least some of your 4ths.

by Theo :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 6:34pm

Just after the draft I noticed that a lot of undrafted free agents were local guys.
Don't know if that hold up in numbers or just me noticing the local guys more, but it appeared to me that way.

by Dean :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 8:45am

For a second, unrelated though, I think this data dump would be much more useful if you arranged it by conference. Trends would emerge showing which NFL teams and/or management groups are more likely to be attracted to small school prospects, and which are more likely to stick with known commodities. The Giants, for example, have a reputation for the latter, and I would find it interesting to see how they actually stack up when compared to everyone else.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 9:37am

Consider that the Giants and the Jets don't have any local larger teams of note. Traditionally, Notre Dame was NYC's team.

At least, unless you go back far enough that Columbia was still a power.

by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 10:28am

And probably Army & Navy as well.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 8:32pm

According to Joey Clinkscales, who used to run the Jets draft and is now with the Raiders, the Jets brass would stay away from SEC players because they would worry about whether those players could deal with the cold. So, naturally, their top three college programs would be from the Big Ten. If only they had thought about this before drafting Sanchez.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 10:38am

What you're looking at with local bias is information scarcity. I would be interested to see if the local bias disappears with the advent of the Internet.

by Jerry :: Thu, 05/30/2013 - 2:32am

I think if you were to look carefully, you'd find that the shift occurs well before the Arpanet became the Internet.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 05/30/2013 - 4:25pm

But about the same time as Mel Kiper appeared on ESPN. :)

by Jerry :: Thu, 05/30/2013 - 6:15pm

No, it was before ESPN. In fact, one thing that made Kiper and Buschbaum so useful when they started selling books and appearing on (radio) talk shows was that while teams had started to focus nationally, most media were still at the Street and Smith's level. If a caller asked about cornerback prospects, they could identify the kid from Toothpaste State as well as the one who played in a New Years Day bowl. We take all that for granted now, but they were the first to successfully fill that niche in media. (And that's why ESPN hired Kiper when they wanted an in-house draftnik.)

by CoachDave :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 2:20pm

Pro Football Reference has a nice Draft Finder tool as well if you'd like to do further slicing and dicing.


by batesbruce :: Fri, 05/31/2013 - 12:27pm

Would be interesting to chart the boom/bust percentage of each school. Which schools are overrated? Which schools have a higher than normal percentage of NFL success based on draft round, taken by which club, etc. Would most likely mean nothing going forward except that sports is about fun arguments about which college is better/worse. So in that sense, it could mean "everything."

by Nelet (not verified) :: Mon, 06/10/2013 - 2:26am

Corruption in college sport is very common this time. Mostly the college students being involved in this type of corruptions. To stop all these inabilities you to be more sensitive and active also. In college sports money being provided from government and those money amount is more than the college needs. The 10 famous games that played in most of the colleges are Cricket, Football, and Hockey etc. In those games investment is very less but people demand more from the government in order to grasp the money. So sports is the one gateway of corruption that taking the students in a wrong way.