Every sport has basically three major events that all fans celebrate. The first is the first game of the season for obvious reasons. The second is the championship game, even if your team isn’t playing in it. The third is the draft with the exception of college sports. The players get a little choicer in where they get to go, so instead of Draft Day, we have National Signing Day.
And I hate it.
I hate everything about it.
High school kids are followed and filmed for ESPN and other sports outlets, all just waiting to see what school they’re going to declare for. These are kids that have been told they’re special their whole lives and now they get a TV special so they can put on a hat. No wonder athletes think they can get away with anything but that’s another discussion.
Now I’m not some old curmudgeon that sits on his porch, yelling at kids to get off his lawn (usually). There’s some reason to why I hate Signing Day. I hate it because we’re celebrating and exalting kids as gods and future gods despite the fact that they have yet to achieve anything yet. Playing in high school is different than playing in college. For example, I’m not sure if my high school team actually cut players so you’re not necessarily playing with the cream of the crop. John Doe could be churning out thousand yard seasons but doing it against kids that will never see the football field again after high school. For all we know, these kids are going to turn out to be giant busts.
So let’s find out.
What I’ve done is taken the top five recruits from 2010 to 2013 and taken a good look at what they turned into. Sometimes success can be debated so the only fair way I could think to qualify how good each player was is their NFL draft position. If you’re a really good player, you should make it to the pros, right? I’ve also gathered some stats from their best years to give us an idea of how good each player was.
Just to save us all some time, all player statistics were found at Sports Reference and recruiting class rankings were found at ESPN. Let’s get started.
|Ronald Powell||Florida||5th round||2011: 9 TFL, 6 sacks|
|Jackson Jeffcoat||Texas||Undrafted||2013: 19.5 TFL, 13 sacks|
|Dominique Easley||Florida||1st round||2012: 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks|
|Jordan Hicks||Texas||3rd round||2014: 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks|
|Michael Dyer||Auburn||Undrafted||2011: 1242 yards, 10 TD|
I won’t lie to you, I thought I’d pretty much already proven my case when I pulled up this year. Dominique Easley, the only first round pick despite missing most of his senior season, is the only name on there that I actually knew at first glance. Jackson Jeffcoat actually was a pretty good player in my opinion, though. He did finish with 26 career sacks and was the Big in 2013. Ultimately, only three of five were drafted and only one in the first round. Not a good start so far. If you’re getting your own TV segment on National Signing Day, you’d better be better than this.
|Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina||1st round||2012: 23.5 TFL, 13 sacks|
|Anthony Johnson||LSU||Undrafted||2013: 9 TFL, 3 sacks|
|Cyrus Kouandjio||Alabama||2nd round||No data|
|Isaiah Crowell||Georgia||Undrafted||2013: 1121 yards, 15 TD at Alabama State|
|Karlos Williams||Florida State||5th round||2013: 730 yards, 11 TD|
Ok, fair enough.
Jadeveon Clowney was the number one recruit in the country and was drafted first overall by the Texans in 2014. I’ll always remember him for nearly killing a Michigan running back and it’s even better when spliced with a professional wrestling call.
Sports Reference didn’t provide any data for the other high round pick, Kouandjio, due to him being an offensive lineman. Not a lot of stats kept for them but he played at Alabama and was drafted in the second round so he was probably pretty good.
Interestingly enough, we’ve got two more undrafted players. Crowell did eventually find his way to the NFL but still, not drafted most likely because his production was at Alabama State instead of Georgia. Either way, that’s still two first round picks versus four undrafted players.
|Mario Edwards||Florida State||2nd round||2014: 11 TFL, 3 sacks|
|Johnathan Gray||Texas||Undrafted||2014: 636 yards, 7 TD|
|Dorial Green-Beckham||Missouri||2nd round||2013: 833 yards, 12 TD|
|Noah Spence||Ohio State||2nd round||2013: 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks|
|Keith Marshall||Georgia||7th round||2012: 759 yards, 8 TD|
Collectively, 2013 might actually be the best year so far. Three second round picks and a seventh isn’t too shabby. Johnathan Gray is the one unfortunate standout and I do actually mean unfortunate. Gray tore his right Achilles tendon while preparing for the 2016 NFL draft after tearing his left in 2013. I know I’m trying to prove a point but I’m willing to give him a pass.
Green-Beckham was the sixth receiver taken in a wide receiver heavy draft but when you’re the best receiver in your class, you shouldn’t be drafted on the second day. This class is better but still not what you’d normally expect from top recruits.
|Robert Nkemdiche||Ole Miss||1st round||2015: 7 TFL, 3 sacks|
|Carl Lawson||Auburn||Still in school||2016: 14 TFL, 9.5 sacks|
|Vernon Hargreaves III||Florida||1st round||2015: 4 interceptions|
|Mackensie Alexander||Clemson||2nd round||2015: 23 tackles, 2 TFL|
|Laremy Tunsil||Ole Miss||1st round||Offensive lineman|
Well if any class is going to put my hate to the test, it’s this class from 2013. Carl Lawson can be considered a wash since he’s still in school but isn’t projected to be in the first round of the 2017 draft. Even if Lawson goes in the second, or even slips to the third round, this is what we’d expect. Here is a group of players that lived up to the hype that they got before they even arrived on campus.
So what did we learn?
That’s five players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in four seasons. It’s also five players undrafted and three taken in the fifth round or later. Weigh that against five players in the second round and half of the top five recruits in these four years turned out pretty good. You can say that’s not bad but it should be better.
Keep this in mind next February when you’re getting all hyped up for your school’s big recruit on National Signing Day. Maybe they’ll be the next superstar but there’s almost a 50% chance they’ll just be kind of average. Guys like Ndamukong Suh, Lamar Jackson, and Dede Westbrook were “merely” four-star recruits and Marcus Mariota was a three-star.
So maybe just reign it in a little until they’re on the field and remember to appreciate those guys without the fanfare too.
E-mail Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Tbach84.
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