Big East succeeding in player development

Well, maybe the Big East didn't have a whole bunch of players go in the first two rounds of the recent NFL Draft. (Just two, actually.)

Then again, that's not too surprising if you're the type to study recruiting rankings. The Big East doesn't bring in a lot of five-star prospects, and naturally those are the types of players who end up as first-round draft picks. Right?

Well, there's a very interesting study on the Iowa blog, Black Heart Gold Pants, called "The best (and worst) college programs and conferences at developing recruits into NFL players." It takes recruiting ratings from 2002-08 and matches it with NFL draft numbers from 2004-present to determine which programs and conferences got the most out of its talent. The numbers are cross-checked with the BCS average number of draft picks that correspond to two-, three-, four- and five-star recruits. That looks like so:

  • 4.9 percent of two-star recruits are drafted; average pick is No. 143 (fifth round)

  • 8.1 percent of three-star recruits are drafted; average pick is No. 124 (late fourth round)

  • 16.7 percent of four-star recruits are drafted; average pick is No. 107 (early fourth round)

  • 38 percent of five-star recruits are drafted; average pick is No. 81 (third round)

All of that is used to come up with a development ratio based on how recruits were turned into draft picks. And according to the post, three Big East tams were among the top 10 schools in the country in maximizing their talent. They are: Cincinnati (No. 7), UConn (No. 9) and Pittsburgh (No. 10).

No huge surprises there. Cincinnati excelled during the time period of the study, thanks in large part to Brian Kelly's success in player development. UConn thrived at finding under-the-radar guys and developing them under Randy Edsall. And while Pitt recruits a higher-caliber prospect in general than the other two schools, the Panthers have historically had a high batting average in churning out NFL players.

The post also ranks the Big East as the third-best league in player development, behind the Big Ten and the Pac-12. The SEC and ACC turn out more draft picks, but they also have more highly-rated recruits coming into their schools.

This all goes to show what we who follow the Big East already know. Not only are some of the recruits who choose to play for league teams consistently underrated, but there is good coaching in the conference that can help those players get to the next level.