Who’s Got The Talent and Who’s Doing What With It — Part Four (Final)

Now it’s time for the fourth and final installation in our series that looks at who’s got the talent–and what they do with it.  You can read Pt. 1 here, Pt. 2 here and Pt. 3 here.  Hope you enjoyed our exhaustive study put together by site contributor MB.  He’ll be around to answer any questions you have about methodology…Download the full report in PDF Format here.

Converting Talent

So which teams are the best (and worst) at “converting” recruiting talent into NFL talent?  As noted above, we have used a weighting system to appropriately balance recruiting classes and draft timing and address some of the issues highlighted above.

At a high level, this data looks at the 2002-2007 recruiting classes (the 2008 recruiting class is not yet draft eligible) and the 2005-2010 drafts (2002 class began draft eligibility in 2005 draft). This weighting process is subjective and we will discuss it in detail at the end of the post.  Please note that the rankings in tables 15-20 reflect the weighted data and thus may not correspond to other un-weighted rankings elsewhere in this analysis.

Best Conversion of Recruiting to NFL Talent-Table 15

Convert

Rank

Rank

Team

Score

Rivals

NFL

Convert

1

Connecticut

87.6

77

40

1

2

Utah

58.7

64

34

2

3

Boise State

57.4

70

44

3

4

Georgia Tech

55.3

56

23

4

5

USC

52.0

1

1

5

6

Wake Forest

50.3

67

45

6

7

Fresno State

49.9

69

47

7

8

Cincinnati

48.4

76

61

8

9

Ohio State

48.4

11

2

9

10

Vanderbilt

45.8

68

48

10

Obviously many of these teams rank high in conversion because they start with very little in terms of recruiting so just a little NFL success goes a long way.  USC and Ohio St are the only 2 programs in the top 55 in terms of recruiting to make this list.  It is important to note that Utah and Boise State, programs that both have had significant success on the field, are near the top of this list.

Conversely, here are the teams that have struggled to convert recruiting success into NFL draft success.  Of the teams in the Top 25 for Rivals recruiting for the composite period (weighted), these are the worst teams at converting talent (ranking out of 80 teams total in survey)

Worst Conversion of NFL Talent (Top 25 Rivals Only)-Table 16

Convert

Rank

Rank

Team

Score

Rivals

NFL

Convert

1

Texas A&M

8.7

13

58

72

2

UCLA

14.8

20

46

67

3

South Carolina

15.2

15

42

66

4

Arizona

19.5

24

38

55

5

Maryland

23.1

22

33

48

6

Georgia

23.8

5

11

45

7

Nebraska

24.5

18

24

43

8

Arkansas

25.2

23

29

42

9

Auburn

26.1

12

14

40

10

Michigan

26.1

10

13

39

The data would tell us that either these teams are either (1) evaluating recruits poorly and those recruits are not living up to their ranking, (2) not properly developing good high school talent into good college talent or (3) not placing the high school talent in a system that produces strong NFL results.

Performance Relative to Talent

Converting recruiting talent to NFL talent is interesting, but what really counts is getting the most on field production from the talent you have.  The analysis below attempts to identify which teams get the most out their talent.  Here are the top 25 single season teams in terms of converting talent to performance.  Data is for 2000-2007 as talent data for 2008 and 2009 is not finalized

Best Single Season Performance Relative to Talent 2000-2007-Table 17

Convert

Ranking

Rank

Year

Team

Points

Talent

Perform

1

2005

West Virginia (11-1)

90.6

68

6

2

2000

Georgia Tech (9-3)

53.3

75

14

3

2000

Oklahoma (13-0)

46.7

26

1

4

2002

Boise (12-1)

44.5

77

18

5

2007

West Virginia (11-2)

39.6

51

3

6

2007

Kansas (12-1)

31.2

47

2

7

2003

Boise (13-1)

27.3

71

14

8

2004

Utah (12-0)

26.0

35

4

9

2000

Toledo (10-1)

26.0

76

18

10

2003

Kansas St (11-4)

23.2

69

12

11

2000

Oregon St (11-1)

23.0

35

5

12

2003

Miami-Oh (13-1)

22.6

44

7

13

2005

Texas Tech (9-3)

22.4

66

11

14

2006

Boise (13-0)

21.5

36

6

15

2001

Nebraska (11-2)

20.8

33

3

16

2002

Kansas St (11-2)

19.6

40

6

17

2007

LSU (12-2)

18.8

6

1

18

2006

West Virginia (11-2)

18.8

60

11

19

2006

Florida (13-1)

18.7

8

1

20

2004

Boise (11-1)

17.8

46

10

21

2000

Virginia Tech (11-1)

16.9

23

6

22

2005

Texas (13-0)

16.5

4

1

23

2000

Washington (11-1)

16.2

24

7

24

2003

LSU (13-1)

16.2

7

1

25

2006

Louisville (12-1)

15.4

15

5

West Virginia (under Rich Rodriguez) and Boise have done an amazing job of taking limited talent (both from a recruiting and NFL perspective) and developing a system that utilizes that talent in a way that produces outstanding results on the field.   Not every school can recruit like USC, Florida, Texas, Ohio St, Miami, Florida St and Michigan…some schools need to be creative…West Virginia and Boise exemplify that with 7 of the top 20 single season performances…may have been more if Rich Rod would have stayed at WVU.  The 2000 Oklahoma team went 13-0 and won a national title without anything close to elite talent.

On to the most dubious statistic in this post…the biggest underperforming teams relative to their talent.  This list only includes teams that had top 25 talent that year. Only teams with top 25 talent can really be considered major underperformers relative to talent in our opinion.  Here they are…

Worst Single Season Performance Relative to Talent 2000-2007 (Top 25 NFL Talent Only)-Table 18


Convert

Ranking

Rank

Year

Team

Points

Talent

Perform

1

2001

Cal (1-10)

(23.7)

24

76

2

2000

Penn St (5-7)

(18.3)

11

59

3

2004

Nebraska (5-6)

(18.1)

11

59

4

2007

Notre Dame (3-9)

(16.5)

25

69

5

2007

Iowa (6-6)

(16.4)

21

66

6

2005

Tennessee (5-6)

(16.2)

7

45

7

2006

Miami (7-6)

(16.2)

7

48

8

2007

North Carolina (4-8)

(15.6)

18

62

9

2007

Ole Miss (3-9)

(14.6)

23

65

10

2006

Virginia (5-7)

(14.6)

22

59

11

2000

North Carolina (6-5)

(14.3)

14

55

12

2005

Arkansas (4-7)

(14.1)

17

60

13

2006

Purdue (8-6)

(12.9)

20

54

14

2001

Arizona St (4-7)

(12.6)

20

56

15

2001

Penn St (5-6)

(11.9)

6

45

16

2004

Penn St (4-7)

(11.5)

21

52

17

2000

Cal (3-8)

(11.4)

21

54

18

2003

Virginia Tech (8-5)

(10.4)

10

35

19

2002

Texas A&M (6-6)

(10.3)

13

47

20

2004

Alabama (6-6)

(10.2)

24

51

21

2003

South Carolina (5-7)

(9.9)

22

46

22

2003

Alabama (4-9)

(9.8)

21

45

23

2000

Arizona St (6-6)

(9.6)

10

40

24

2004

NC St (5-6)

(9.4)

12

36

25

2004

Maryland (5-6)

(9.4)

18

40

If there is any question about how much these teams underperformed, consider this fact.  Only five coaches from the above list continue to coach their teams today. They are Joe Paterno, Kirk Ferentz, Butch Davis (was his first year at UNC), Frank Beamer and Ralph Friedgen.  The rest of the coaches of the above teams were relieved of their duties.

Looking at over-or-under-performance over multiple years is less precise because there can be outlier results in a single year that skew the results for the entire time period. Nonetheless, it is still worthwhile in our opinion to look at the performance relative to talent over longer time frames.

Best Performance Relative to Talent 2000-2007-Table 19


Convert

Rank

Rank

Team

Score

Talent

Perform

Convert

1

West Virginia

138.7

62

13

1

2

Boise

99.9

63

19

2

3

Oklahoma

91.3

7

2

3

4

LSU

47.5

8

3

4

5

Texas

46.1

5

6

5

6

USC

39.0

2

1

6

7

Florida

33.8

9

7

7

8

Virginia Tech

33.5

14

10

8

9

Kansas St

33.3

40

20

9

10

Texas Tech

29.8

66

25

10

Given the single season data, it is no surprise to see West Virginia and Boise right at the top.  Oklahoma is helped dramatically be their breakout performance in 2000.  LSU, Texas, USC and Florida all won national titles and experienced tremendous success…when you succeed at that degree, you are doing something with your talent.  Virginia Tech has consistently (with a few exceptions) done a great job of finding a way to win lots of games with less talent.  Kansas St and Texas Tech developed systems that worked for them, generated success (albeit inconsistent success) despite having very little talent.

Worst Performance Relative to Talent 2000-2007 (Top 25 NFL Talent Only)-Table 20


Convert

Rank

Rank

Team

Score

Talent

Perform

Convert

1

Cal

(31.2)

18

28

80

2

Penn St

(30.7)

12

21

79

3

Purdue

(17.4)

25

40

75

4

Notre Dame

(16.8)

16

22

74

5

Alabama

(15.3)

24

39

73

6

Arkansas

(15.0)

20

30

72

7

NC St

(13.8)

22

43

71

8

Tennessee

(10.6)

10

14

68

9

Iowa

(6.8)

15

23

62

10

Wisconsin

(6.0)

17

24

61

From the list above, only Penn St and Iowa have not had a coaching change during this period.  Cal has consistently struggled to perform up to its potential. Tedford has done a much better job than his predecessor, but results since 2004 have been disappointing. Penn St really struggled to perform in the early part of the decade…the Nittany Lions have turned it around as of late.  We actually thought Tennessee would be much higher on the list.  A bit surprised to see Purdue so high on the list. If we were to expand this list to teams with top 30 talent, programs such as Virginia and Arizona St would be prominent on the list.

That wraps up our look at performance, talent and performance vs talent in college football over the last decade or so.  We know this is was a ton of data, but thought a comprehensive look at the topic would be informative and helpful while hopefully generating some interesting dialogue.

Appendix-Formulas

Before we detail the formulas, let us explain the data.  We have data for 80 teams during the BCS era (1998-present).  The teams covered include all teams currently in a BCS conference or that were in a BCS conference any time from 1998-2007, plus any team finishing in the Sagarin Top 30 from 1998-2007.  We have all the Sagarin data (composite), Rivals recruiting data (only available 2002-present) and NFL draft data for this period.  We have all the calculations done for all 80 teams (and all the conferences) over the time frame. Below are the calculations/formulas for each table presented.

Table 1- Our performance metric is weighted towards outstanding performance.  We believe that elite performances should greatly outweigh middle of the road performance. The base for our calculation is Sagarin, who we believe does a very good job (not perfect) with his computer rankings. By starting with Sagarin, we can capture strength of schedule, margin of victory and overall wins and losses.  We then add emphasis to Sagarin for outstanding performance.

The performance points are calculated as follows:  Average Sagarin Composite ranking points over the time frame (2000-2009 in this case) PLUS bonus points for top 10 finishes (final Sagarin) PLUS bonus points for BCS performance PLUS bonus points for wins over top 10 and 30 teams (final Sagarin) MINUS points for losses to non-Top 30 teams (final Sagarin).

Bonus points for Top 10 finishes are awarded in this manner: 5 points for 1st, 4.5 points for 2nd, 4 points for 3rd…down to 0.5 points for 10th.

BCS performance points are awarded in this manner: 10 points for BCS/AP championship, 3 points for loss in BCS championship game, 2.5 points for regular BCS game win and 1 point for BCS game loss.

Bonus points for ranked wins are awarded as follows: 0.5 points for each win over top 10 team and 0.25 points for win over top 30 team (not double counting the top 10 wins).  0.25 points are deducted for each loss to a non-top 30 team.

Table 2-Same formula as above, but for a single season so no average involved.

Table 3-Same formula as table 1.

Table 4-Same formula table 2.

Table 5-Same formula as table 2.  We then took the average of all teams in each conference from 2000-2009…so this is an average of the single season scores.

Table 6-Sum of Rivals recruiting points for 2002-2009 recruiting classes.

Table 7-Rankings of teams as calculated in table 1 and table 6.  Not completely apples to apples because table 1 covers performance from 2000-2009 and table 6 covers recruiting classes from 2002-2009.  Note that we do not make any calculations from this not perfectly comparable data, but rather use it to help show the correlation of recruiting and performance (or lack of correlation).

Table 8-Sum of NFL draft points for the 2001-2010 drafts. Draft points awarded as follows: 1st Round- 30 pts, 2nd Round-  20 pts, 3rd Round- 13 pts, 4th Round- 9 pts, 5th Round- 5 pts, 6th Round- 2 pts,  7th Round- 1 pt..  We did a simple sum of the NFL draft points, but could have summed up the talent on each team during the period as well (see table 9 discussion)….slightly different methodology, but substantially same answer.

Table 9-Same point calculation as above.  To calculate a score for a given team in a given year, we look at the 3 drafts following a season, giving only 50% credit to the third draft.  So for a 2006 team, they get 100% points for the 2007 draft, 100% points for the 2008 draft and 50% points for the 2009 draft.  This is why data is not complete for the 2008 and 2009 seasons…there are contributing players on those teams that are yet in the NFL draft.  The thought process behind this is to most effectively capture the contribution of key players.  It is not perfect…it does not capture true frosh contributors who stay 4 years (captures their soph, jr and sr years, but not their frosh year)…but missing that rare occurrence seems better than including all true frosh, few of whom actually contribute.

Table 10-Same points calculation as table 9, just subtract the number 2 score from number 1 team score for each year.

Table 11-Same points calculation as table 9.  Represents the average of each team in each conference from 2000-2007.

Table 12- Same points calculation as table 9.  Represents average of each team in each conference for each year.

Table 13-Same as table 12.

Table 14-Ranking of teams in tables 1, 6 and 8. Not completely apples to apples because table 1 covers performance from 2000-2009, table 6 covers recruiting classes from 2002-2009 and table 8 covers aggregate NFL draft points for the 2001-2010 drafts. Note that we do not make any calculations from this not perfectly comparable data, but rather use it to help show the correlation of recruiting, NFL talent and performance (or lack of correlation).

Table 15-This gets a bit complicated, but appropriate weighting is necessary because a recruiting class is part of multiple NFL drafts and each NFL draft is comprised of multiple recruiting classes.  We have assumed that each recruiting class goes to the NFL 20% after 3rd year, 70% after 4th year and 10% after 5th year. Certainly subject to debate, but moving the percentages around on the margin won’t move the needle materially.  Based on these percentages we weighted the 2002-2007 recruiting classes (2008-2010 classes not yet draft eligible) and the 2005-2010 NFL drafts (no one from 2002 class was draft eligible until 2005 draft). The rankings reflect the rankings based on these weightings and will not necessarily tie to the un-weighted data elsewhere in the post.  The conversion formula takes the number of weighted NLF draft points divided by the weighted number of Rivals points and multiplies by 1000 (to get to an easy number without a bunch of decimals).  Basically…”how many NFL draft points produced for each Rival point”

Table 16- Same as table 15.

Table 17- This is also a bit complicated. First we take the performance data as calculated for each individual year (same as table 2) from 2000-2007 (no final talent data for 2008 and 2009).  Then we subtract out the Sagarin composite ranking score for the 20th ranked team for each respective year. The idea is to measure the amount of performance above a certain benchmark…we are not really interested in teams with the 50th best talent producing 40th best performance…to truly over perform, the bar needs to be set and we set it at 20th.  To the extent that the number (performance-Sagarin #20) is positive, we then divide that number by the NFL talent points to measure to the over performance relative to talent level (we multiply by 100 to make the numbers more manageable). To the extent the number is negative, we multiply that number by the talent points and divide by 100.  If you don’t do that, the more talent an underperforming team has (negative number) the smaller the output.  Rankings numbers are for 2000-2007 so may not tie to data for other time periods in the post.

Table 18- Same calculation as above, but only includes teams that had top 25 talent (as defined by NFL draft points).  Basically, we are not looking for teams that “underperform” with less than top 25 talent.

Table 19-  Same as table 17, but aggregate from 2000-2007 so we add up the single season numbers for all years.

Table 20-  Same as table 19, but top 25 NFL talent (as ranked for the entire time frame) only.  It is important to note that if a team had less than top 25 talent for a given year within the time frame, that year was essentially excluded from the calculation (team given zero convert points for that year).

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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2 Responses to Who’s Got The Talent and Who’s Doing What With It — Part Four (Final)

  1. Anonymous June 25, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    USC certainly has converted more amateurs into professionals… while they were still playing for USC.

  2. Anonymous June 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    Hey HP. Speaking of talent. You said a couple of years ago that whomever successfully recruited Terelle Pryor would win a National Chamionship within the following four years. Do you still hold that opinion? Thanks.