Alabama Football: Based on NFL Draft wide talent gap among top teams

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football, season after season, has proven talent matters. The two sides of the college football talent package are recruiting and player development. Being good at just one is not enough for anything more than an extraordinary and unusual special season.

The sustained success of the Alabama Crimson Tide is easy to measure. Simple measurements are wins versus losses, conference and national championships, team recruiting rankings and players drafted by the NFL.

As we have discussed before, there is an achievement gap in college football. It is driven by talent gaps that widen, the further down a program is below, elite performance. A few teams are at the top each season because they are the best at recruiting and player development.

As always, former SEC football players led the 2021 NFL Draft. The SEC had 65 players drafted. The Big Ten was second with 44, followed by the ACC with 42 players selected. A distant fourth and fifth were the two other Power Five conferences. The Pac 12 had 28 players drafted and the Big 12 had just 22.

Among top teams, the biggest disparities, in terms of NFL Draft success, were caused by where each player was drafted. A simple calculation of assigning points for each Draft selection shows the gaps. To calculate, Clemson is credited with 259 points for Trevor Lawrence being chosen at No. 1. On the opposite end of the calculation, the No. 259 pick credits Houston with one point from Grant Stuard being the last pick in the Draft.

The 13 teams chosen to compare with the Draft performance of the Alabama Crimson Tide represent top teams from each Power Five, plus Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

Alabama Football Draft Performance vs. Other Teams

  • Alabama Crimson Tide – 10 players drafted totals 2,029 points
  • Ohio State Buckeyes – 10 players drafted totals 1,512 points
  • Georgia Bulldogs – 9 players drafted totals 1,345 points
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 9 players drafted totals 1,285 points
  • Florida Gators – 8 players drafted totals 1,163 points
  • Clemson Tigers – 5 players drafted totals 962 points
  • North Carolina Tar Heels – 5 players drafted totals 777 points
  • Southern Cal Trojans – 5 players drafted totals 699 points
  • Oregon Ducks – 5 players drafted totals 642 points
  • Oklahoma Sooners – 5 players drafted totals 639 points
  • Northwestern Wildcats – 3 players drafted totals 567 points
  • Cincinnati Bearcats – 4 players drafted totals 280 points
  • Iowa State Cyclones – 1 player drafted totals 141 points

The second teams chosen for calculation in the Power Fives (and three total from the SEC) were generally based on the final CFB Playoff Rankings.

Alabama Football fans and others will draw numerous conclusions. We suggest the ranking indicate a pattern if tested, would apply to most years of the CFB Playoff. That pattern being, in any one season, only three to six teams have the player talent to win a National Championship.

In the 2020 season, it was more like two teams and they played for the title. Notre Dame, which had talent comparable to Florida and nearly as elite as Georgia, could not compete with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Are there flaws in the use of this data? Yes, NFL teams draft players predominantly for need, rather than always taking the best available player. That is a flaw in this point system. Another weakness is the players drafted give small samples compared to each team’s total roster.

Even so, the calculations reflect a real talent gap. And it is a talent gap that does not change much from season to season. The eventual CFB Playoff expansion should take that under consideration. Do we really need more Playoff mismatches as Cincinnati would have been last season against Ohio State or Alabama Football?

Next. Playoff group moves toward inevitable expansion. dark

The big ‘one-hit wonder’ from last season, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, had one player drafted at No. 191 in the sixth round. That’s not the profile of a future CFB Playoff team.