2015 NFL Draft Efficiency: A Good Sign of Things to Come for Gator fans?

The first three rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft concluded last night. While there was no Twitter-breaking Manziel event like last year, the event was once again a marketing success for the NFL.

For the past two years, we have examined the NFL draft from a unique perspective.  We analyze the process of taking high school talent and converting it into NFL draft picks.  In other words, we want to understand how efficient are colleges at transforming their available high school human capital into NFL draft picks?

Our approach is fairly simple. Each year, every FBS football program has an incoming class. The players in the class have been evaluated by several national recruiting/ranking companies (e.g. Rivals, Scout, etc.). In theory, these evaluations provide a measure of the player’s talent or quality. Each year, we also observe which players get drafted by the NFL. Thus, we can measure conversion rates over time for each college. Conversion rates may be indicative of the school’s ability to coach-up talent, to identify talent, or to invest in players. These rates may also depend on the talent composition of all of the players on the team. This last factor is particularly important from a recruiting standpoint. Should players flock to places that other highly ranked players have selected?

 How did you compute the conversion rate?

The conversion rate for each school is defined as (Sum of draft picks for the first three rounds of 2015 Draft)/(Weighted Recruiting Talent). Weighted Recruiting Talent is determined by summing the recruiting “points” for the relevant eligible class for the 2015 NFL Draft for each program (this can include eligible juniors as well as fifth year seniors). These “points” are computed by weighting each recruit by the overall population average probability of being drafted in the first three rounds for recruits at that corresponding talent level over the last three years. For example, a five-star recruit is much more likely to get drafted than a four or three-star recruit. We are using ratings data from Rivals.com.

2015 nfl draftThe table above shows the results of our analysis of the first three rounds of the draft.  Colorado State had two draft picks in the first three rounds that were both 3-stars or below coming out of high school.  It will intersting to see how Jim McElwain will be able to shape the higher level of talent he will most likely attract at the University of Florida.  Please note that we did not include schools that only had one player drafted in the first three rounds, as that could be considered an aberration. Of course, a similar argument could be made that one draft is too small of a sample to rate the efficiency of a college. Thus, the table below represents results from the last 4 years of drafts (2012-2015).

2012-2015 NFL DraftThe school that really stands out over the last four years with respect to the development of talent is Stanford University.  While Connecticut and Boise State may be rated higher, Stanford has produced more than double the number of draft picks of the other two schools.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University, 2015.