NFL QBs: SEC vs. Pac-10

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Let's cut off at the knees what's sure to be an Internet phenomenon . . .

In his blog, Bruce Feldman mentions a story about which conference produces the most NFL starters.

Sounded interesting. So I started reading. Here's the story's first bit of analysis, reasonably covering quarterbacks.

It is a little bit of a surprise, but the SEC leads the NFL in projected starters with seven. Eli and Peyton Manning are the headline performers, but a contingent of young arms like Jay Cutler (Denver Broncos), JaMarcus Russell (Oakland Raiders) and Jason Campbell (Washington Redskins) are on the verge of becoming impact quarterbacks in the NFL.

After the SEC, the Pac-10 has the second-most projected starters with six, and the ACC has five projected starters.

That is a bit of a surprise, but only if it were true.

Projected NFL starters Pac-10 (7): Carson Palmer (Bengals), Matt Leinart (Cardinals), Derek Anderson (Browns), Kellen Clemens (Jets), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Kyle Boller (Ravens), Trent Edwards (Bills).

Projected NFL starters SEC (6): Eli Manning (Giants), Peyton Manning (Colts), JaMarcus Russell (Raiders), Brodie Croyle (Chiefs), Jason Campbell (Washington), Jake Cutler (Broncos).

Not sure where our friend in Louisiana got seven. Perhaps he included Rex Grossman, a dubious notion that might have Chicagoans leaping from the Sears Tower. Of course, the same might be said of Kyle Boller in Baltimore, though the building, likely, would be different.

It's also fair to say things could shake out in unprojected ways -- such as Clemens not beating out Chad Pennington, or Croyle yielding to Damon Huard, a Washington product. Or, perhaps, Jake Delhomme won't bounce back from injury and Matt Moore (UCLA and Oregon State) will again lead the Panthers.

Still, there is no surprise here: The Pac-10 is the conference of quarterbacks. Period.

Consider how the Pac-10 dominates NFL quarterback depth charts: I wrote this story on the subject last year, and this relevant graph:

As of this week, 15 Pac-10 quarterbacks are listed on NFL depth charts. The Big Ten, with 10, has the second most. And bear in mind that all the other BCS conferences, save the eight-team Big East, have 11 (Big Ten) or 12 members.

What's the point here? Are we picking on this story and asserting that the Pac-10 produces just as many NFL starters as the SEC?

Heck no. That wouldn't be true. You could start with the fact that a 12-team league will typically produce more starters than a 10-team one.

And everyone knows that, athletically, the SEC stands alone. Pac-10 folks would only, modestly, counter that most teams would gladly trade a starter at any position for a playmaking quarterback. So there are other variables to consider when noting that the SEC produces more NFL players than the Pac-10.

Moreover, it seems to us West Coast folks that analysis coming from the Southeast often has an agenda. How can we count on the math in this article when the initial portion is fudged?

In 2007, the SEC made a big deal about how many of its players were drafted. True enough. But in 2008, the Pac-10 produced more picks per team than the SEC did.

Extrapolating great value from that, however, is fairly shortsighted.

The ultimate point -- one that will be repeated over and over again here when the subject is rating the conferences -- is this: While the SEC is clearly the nation's best conference, the margin of superiority is slim and is hardly an annual fact.

It certainly shouldn't enable the SEC to hide from tough non-conference scheduling -- hello, LSU in 2008 (but kudos to Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee for manning up).

And I'm not sure the Big 12 won't prove to be the nation's best conference in 2008 when the smoke clears.