Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Feb 2010

ESPN: Recruiting Matters Even More

This ESPN Insider features details the relationship between good recruiting and on-field success.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 01 Feb 2010

4 comments, Last at 20 Feb 2011, 4:44pm by Kurt Drety


by Bob Loblaw (not verified) :: Tue, 02/02/2010 - 1:04am

Bill, I think the thesis and in a way the gist of this article slightly misses the mark.

My guess would be that it is accepted that getting the better players on your team is a good thing. I doubt that has ever been debated. However, what I know I personally have debated with my friends is whether or not Rivals.com or ESPN.com are able to ACCURATELY rank the best players coming out of high school. Thousands of players, limited resources, subjective opinions...all of this has made me wonder how "correct" the rankings are. In 2001, did USC really have the best incoming freshman class? Did West Virginia really over-achieve recruiting wise in '05? (These are just untrue theoretical examples, but you get the point).

Not sure if I can do a great job explaining this... Basically, what I feel your research proves is something *slightly* different than what you propose. I feel that your research proves that the recruiting rankings services are very accurate...NOT that it proves that recruiting matters. We all know that recruiting matters insomuch as it is better to have the best players enrolling in your school. The question to me is "Can these guys (Rivals and ESPN) really tell who are going to be the best players in college??" And it would appear as though the answer is, usually, Yes.

by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 02/02/2010 - 9:49am

So you were hoping more for a look at individuals rather than classes as a whole, I guess? That is certainly harder to accomplish, though Dr. Saturday recently did a pretty decent job of that. Obviously it's harder to be accurate on an individual-to-individual basis (not every 5-star recruit is going to be a star, but they have better odds), but the point of my piece was to show in a quantifiable way that higher recruiting rankings, on average, lead to higher success on the field. That really is still being debated in a lot of places, but before I could look at who might be poised to do well because of their recruiting (later in the week), I had to confirm, with numbers, that the rankings do matter. That, and the correlations really are higher than I expected.

by cfn_ms :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 6:41pm

Have you looked into backing out prior success? Having a successful program leads to both successful play in future years, as well as better recruiting. It's not a surprise USC started recruiting really well in the Carroll era, especially once they started winning. Certainly the recruiting helped, but so did superior coaching (which helped cause the better recruiting in the first place).

by Kurt Drety (not verified) :: Sun, 02/20/2011 - 4:44pm

In football, as in other sports, luck plays a big role. But do not forget that the skill, professionalism and ability to coach that should be the perfect optimizer. That is able to create the right atmosphere and support the morale of the team are very important to win!