Converting High School Talent into NBA Draft Picks: Ranking the ACC

The NBA Draft can be a time for college basketball fans to cheer about the “success” of their basketball program.  Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas fans can boast about the number of alums currently in the NBA.  This year, ESPN is taking that discussion one step farther by describing the quality of NBA players produced, and ranking the “NBA Pedigree” of colleges.

Our take is a bit different as we will examine the process of taking high school talent and converting it into NBA draft picks. In other words, we want to understand how efficient are colleges at transforming their available high school talent into NBA draft picks? Today, we launch our NBA draft series by ranking the schools in the ACC based on their ability to convert talent into draft picks.

The initial approach is fairly simple.  Each year, (almost) every basketball program has an incoming freshman 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 NBA.  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?  Should they look for places where they have a higher probability of getting on the court quickly? Next week we will present a statistical analysis (logistic regression) that includes multiple factors (quality of other recruits, team winning rates, tournament success, investment in the basketball program, etc…). But for now we will just present simple statistics related to school’s ability to produce output (NBA draft picks) as a function of input (quality of recruits).

Our first set of rankings is for the ACC.  At the top of the list we have Boston College and Georgia Tech.  Boston College has done a good job of converting low-ranked talent into NBA picks (in this time period they had two three-star players and a non-rated player drafted).  Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has converted all of its five-star recruits, and several of its four-star recruits.  A result that may at first glance seem surprising is the placement of UNC and Duke.  However, upon reflection these results make a good deal of sense.  When players choose these “blue blood” programs they face stiff competition for playing time from both current and future teammates.

Here are some questions you probably have about our methodology:

What time period does this represent?

We examined recruiting classes from 2002 to 2011 (this represents the year of graduation from high school).  While the chart above ranks the ACC, we compiled data for over 300 Division 1 colleges (over 12,000 players).

How did you compute the conversion rate?

The conversion rate for each school is defined as (Sum of draft picks for the 2002-2011 recruiting classes)/(Weighted Recruiting Talent).  Weighted Recruiting Talent is determined by summing the recruiting “points” for each class.  These “points” are computed by weighting each recruit by the overall population average probability of being drafted for recruits at that corresponding talent level.  We are using ratings data from Rivals.com.  The weights for each “type” of recruit were 0.51 for each five star recruit, 0.13 for each four star, 0.03 for each three star, 0.008 for each two star, and 0.004 for each not ranked.  

Second-round picks often don’t even make the team.  What if you only considered first round picks?

We have also computed the rates using first round picks only, please see the table below.

NEXT: RANKING THE BIG 10

*We can already hear our friends at Duke explaining how players are rated more highly by services just because they are being recruited by Duke.  We acknowledge that it is very difficult to get a true measure of a high school player’s ability.  However, we also believe that over the last ten years, given all of the media exposure for high school athletes, this problem has attenuated.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

College Basketball Recruiting and the Best Fan Bases

For Big Ten rankings and a note on our methodology please click here.

For PAC-12 rankings please click here.

For ACC rankings please click here.

For Big 12 rankings please click here.

For SEC rankings please click here.

For Big East rankings please click here.

For the Best of the Rest click here.

While the college basketball season is far away, there are a number of interesting college basketball stories this summer.  Our plan for June is to focus on college basketball issues.  Our main focus will be on topics related to recruiting.

Our starting point, and the subject of today’s post, is a study of college basketball’s best fan bases.  We posted this originally as we launched the site (so very few folks have seen the results).  Fan bases relate to recruiting because they indicate enduring support from the fan base.  We will follow this analysis of fan base quality with more commentary related to the Ed O’Bannon case, and then data on which schools produce the most NBA players after adjusting for recruiting success.

For our College Basketball Fan Equity analysis we use a “Revenue Premium” method.  The intuition of this approach is that fan base quality is reflected in a school’s men’s basketball revenue relative to the team’s performance. To accomplish our analysis, we use a statistical model that predicts team revenues as a function of the team’s performance, as measured by winning rates and post season success.  The key insight is that when a team achieves revenues that greatly exceed what would be expected based on team performance, it is an indication of significant brand equity. The analysis therefore avoids bandwagon effects and gets at the core loyal fan bases.

 

The table provides the top ten overall schools.  Number one on the list also happens to be the most recent NCAA champion Louisville (note these ranking were computed prior to this past tournament).  Louisville scores so well because they have a great tradition, and play in a decent sized metropolitan area that does not have any pro teams.  The list does include many of the usual suspects such as Arizona, Duke and North Carolina.  How does this relate to recruiting?  Simple, strong fan bases equate to strong and high profile programs.  If an athlete wants exposure and opportunities to play on a big stage, then it makes sense to seek out a high brand equity program.  Of course, if the goal is to make it to the NBA, then this may or may not be the best strategy (we will get to this point as the NBA draft approaches).

One possible point of controversy is that Arkansas rates higher than Kentucky.  The key is that while both Arkansas and Kentucky receive outstanding support, Arkansas’ support occurs despite less on-court success.  The other possible interpretation is that Kentucky tends to underprice and may collect less revenues than possible.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

2011-2013 NFL Draft Performance by the Non-BCS Conferences FBS: Nevada, Boise State, and Idaho Excel, Notre Dame Disappoints

We have spent the last few days examining the performance of BCS Conferences schools in the 2013 NFL Draft with respect to converting high school talent into NFL draft picks (SEC, Big 10, ACC, PAC 12, Big 12, & Big East).   In this study, we consider the talent conversion ability of Non-BCS Conferences schools over the last three NFL drafts.  We find that the University of Nevada did the best job of converting high school talent into draft picks.  It should be noted that Notre Dame finished near the bottom of the list of Non-BCS schools.  While the Fighting Irish produced only one more pick than Boise State and two more than Nevada, their recruiting classes were better by leaps and bounds.

The FCS schools are excluded from this study because there is very limited recruiting data available.  However, Appalachian State produced six draft picks in the 2011-2013 NFL drafts!  It is not surprising that Appalachian State is moving to the FBS.

(*ARP refers to the average recruiting points as given by Rivals.com for recruiting classes represented in the 2011-2013 NFL Drafts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 7: Rutgers & UConn Beasts of the Big East!

The 2013 NFL Draft has concluded, and we would like to offer our thoughts on the ability of conferences and schools to turn high school talent into NFL Draft Picks.  We conclude our team-level discussion with an analysis of the Big East.

To reiterate from our previous post, this is only an analysis of the 2013 NFL Draft.  We are examining how many picks were produced by each school, relative to their recruiting classes over the relevant corresponding period for the 2013 Draft.  As with any analysis based on essentially a single data point it’s important to remember that these results are more anecdotal than conclusive.  That said, the 2013 draft does produce results that are largely consistent with our multiyear statistical study of recruit conversion.

(Please note that “Winners” are determined by the top quartile of scores, and “Losers” are the bottom quartile)

Winners: Connecticut and Rutgers are not only the big winners of the NFL Draft in the Big East, they were across the country two of the best schools for converting talent into 2013 NFL picks.  UConn produced five draft picks using talent that on average ranked outside of the top 75 during the relevant recruiting period. Rutgers had seven picks using talent that averaged just inside the top 50!  This could mean that the coaching staffs at Rutgers and UConn did a great job developing players and/or Edsall and Schiano had an eye for finding diamonds in the rough.

Middle of the Pack: In other conferences, Syracuse and USF could have been in the top quartile and thus “Winners”, because both schools produced three draft picks using talent on average outside the top 45.

Losers: Pittsburgh, Louisville and Temple all had no draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft.  Pittsburgh is the most disappointing of these schools, since they averaged talent inside the top 40 during the relevant recruiting period.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

Methodology for Recruiting/NFL Draft Studies

The idea behind the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics initiative is to use statistical methods and marketing concepts to understand the decisions of players, teams and leagues with an eye on how these decisions effect fans.  Our feeling is that we can often generate some additional insights into the world of sports by digging into the data.  By and large we avoid too much discussion of statistics and focus mainly on the meaning of our analyses.  But readers can rest assured that the analyses behind the headlines are carefully executed.*

While we have just started the project, we have had a few requests for more details on the methods used to generate our posts.  In particular, our posts that examine the efficiency by which schools convert recruiting success to NFL draft have generated multiple questions.  The post that started the discussion was based on an analysis of six NFL drafts (2007-2012).  The analysis we reported used the number of draft picks divided by the number of elite (4 and 5 star) recruits who signed with the school.**  This ratio was then used in a linear regression that included data on each school’s investment in the football program, information of the schools recruiting success, winning rates, major bowl participation, conference memberships and other factors.

We do note that one issue in this model was in defining “recruiting success.”  Because there was no clear measure of “recruiting success” we tried multiple specifications.  These included the “recruiting points” as defined by rivals.com, recruiting class rank (averaged across multiple ratings groups) and the number of athletes at each star level.  Similarly, there may also be some debate as to what constitutes draft success.  While our reported analyses use number of picks as the key measure, one could also argue that first round picks or players selected in rounds one through three would also be appropriate.  Given the lack of obvious specification for the dependent measure of draft success and the independent variable of recruiting success, our approach was to estimate a wide variety of specifications and see what results are robust to the design of the specification.

In the case of the NFL draft analysis the finding that recruiting success tends to reduce the rate (NFL output / recruiting input) was amazingly robust.  Whether we predicted the number of day one picks or used recruiting rank the finding that top programs on average don’t produce as many NFL players as we might expect given their recruiting success was consistent.  We should, of course, emphasize that elite programs do produce more picks in absolute terms.  The key is that other programs also produce significant numbers of draft picks.

Following the 2013 NFL Draft, we have produced a series of studies that examine the “success” of colleges in converting recruiting talent into NFL draft picks.  As with any analysis based on essentially a single data point, it’s important to remember that these results are more anecdotal than conclusive.  For these studies, we produce a weighted-average of  “recruiting points” as defined by rivals.com for each school.  The weights are determined by the distribution of entering college class years for the players drafted in 2013.  The classes used are largely 2008, 2009, and 2010.  We divide the number of picks in the 2013 NFL draft by the weighted-average “recruiting points” measure for each school to determine its “success” score in the draft.  “Winners” are essentially the top quartile of scores in the conference, and “Losers” are the bottom quartile.

*Since both members of the team are business school professors we should probably make a distinction between academic publications and our blog posts.  In academic publications, methods tend to be fairly complex and are reported in great (painful?) detail.  In our blog posts we tend to use relatively simple methods such as linear and logistic regression.  In the blog posts we focus on robustness and consistency across multiple model specifications rather than on technical adjustments to the models.

** For example, the reason we used the sum of 4 and 5 star recruits was not because we were looking for a model that gave us the “right” answer but because the number of 4 and 5 star recruits tends to be in the range of about 250 per year.  This 250 number is relatively close to the approximately 220 players taken in the draft.  As such, we viewed these 250 recruits as approximating the set of projected NFL players in a given year.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 6: ISU, K-State, & TCU on Top of Big 12!

The 2013 NFL Draft has concluded, and we would like to offer our thoughts on the ability of conferences and schools to turn high school talent into NFL Draft Picks.  We continue our team-level discussion with an analysis of the Big 12.

To reiterate from our previous post, this is only an analysis of the 2013 NFL Draft.  We are examining how many picks were produced by each school, relative to their recruiting classes over the relevant corresponding period for the 2013 Draft.  As with any analysis based on essentially a single data point it’s important to remember that these results are more anecdotal than conclusive.  That said, the 2013 draft does produce results that are largely consistent with our multiyear statistical study of recruit conversion.

(Please note that “Winners” are determined by the top quartile of scores, and “Losers” are the bottom quartile)

Winners: Iowa State had the worst average recruited talent during the relevant time period, but still managed to produce more picks in this draft than Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.   In Manhattan, they managed to produce three draft picks in this draft despite having an average class ranking just outside of the top 60 during the relevant recruiting period.

Middle of the Pack: While Oklahoma and Texas are both in the “Middle of the Pack,” it should be noted that they represent the two extremes of this segment.  Both schools averaged top 10 recruiting classes, but Oklahoma produced six draft picks, while Texas only produced three.

Losers: Texas Tech had no draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft, however Oklahoma State’s performance seems to be most alarming.  Despite having averaged a recruiting class just outside the top 30, they managed to produce only one draft pick.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 1: The Big East’s Last Hurrah?

The 2013 NFL Draft has concluded, and we would like to offer our thoughts on the ability of conferences and schools to turn high school talent into NFL Draft Picks.  We will provide team-by-team conference level analyses later in the week (follow us @sportsmktprof for updates).  Today, we start with a conference ranking:

Our methodology for this ranking is quite straightforward.  We examine the average rating points (typically a function of the number of rated high school recruits in a class) by conference over the relevant recruiting periods for the 2013 NFL Draft.  It should be noted that our analysis is only for the 2013 Draft, and that there can be large fluctuations over time, especially on a team-by-team level.  Our previous study was for the six year period before this draft, and it only considered conversion rates for four-star and five star recruits.

Given the tremendous number of picks from the SEC, it is no surprise that the SEC dominated the NFL Draft in terms of converting its high school talent into NFL Draft picks.  What is surprising, however, is the performance of the Big East.  Even though the Big East had fewer picks than the ACC or Pac-12, it ranked higher because of its “input quality”.  Teams in the Big East managed to produce 2013 NFL draft picks with weaker high school talent on average.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

Best & Worst Colleges for Converting Elite Recruits into NFL Draft Picks

 

As a follow-up to our previous post, we would like to provide a more complete view of the best and worst colleges based on converting elite recruits into NFL Draft picks (number of draft picks divided by the number of four and five star recruits).  This study considers the last six NFL drafts, and examines the top sixty schools in terms of relevant recruiting cycles over the past twelve years.  We exclude schools that have not produced a single draft pick in the 2007-2012 period or that have less than four elite recruits over the relevant recruiting cycles.

Since there have been a considerable number of inquiries, it should be noted that the University of Alabama finished in the middle of the pack.  While the table above is produced from a rather straight-forward statistical analysis (descriptive statistics for each school), we would like to stress that our main results are derived from multiple linear regression models.  The key result is the significant negative relationship between the number of four-star prospects and the draft conversion rate of high ranked prospect. It is also worth noting that while we focused on the ratio of draft picks to elite recruits we also conducted a number of other analyses that focused on alternative measures of draft success such as the number of Day 1 or First round picks per elite recruit.  Our key finding was replicated across the various models.

By  Dr. Mike Lewis & Dr. Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

Want to Get Drafted in the NFL? Go to Kentucky, Not Alabama!

For our latest posts and updates, follow @sportsmktprof

In the 2012 NFL draft, the first round selections included multiple players from Alabama, USC, LSU and Notre Dame.  The Crimson Tide had 4 of the first 25 picks!  To hardcore college football fans, these first round draft results are expected since colleges like Alabama and USC are perennial members of the lists of top recruiting classes.

A statistical analysis of draft picks versus college recruiting rankings confirms this simple story.  A regression analysis of the number of picks selected from a given school versus the number of five-star, four-star, and three-star players in the school’s recruiting class reveals a significant positive relationship between the number of players drafted and the number of four and five-star recruits.  The relationship between three-star recruits and draft picks is insignificant.  Specifically, we found that every five-star player signed by a school translates to 0.33 draft picks, and every four-star player translates to approximately 0.09 draft picks.  If we examine only players selected in the first three rounds of the draft, then each five-star recruit produces 0.23 picks and each four-star recruit results in 0.05 picks.

While the preceding results provide evidence that fans should be happy about recruiting victories, the story from the high school recruit’s perspective is far more complex.  That each five-star player only results in 0.33 picks obviously suggests that there is a great deal of error in the rankings.  However, an additional explanation is that a player’s draft outcome may be adversely impacted by joining programs with many other highly rated recruits.

To explain the situation, we performed several additional analyses that examined the conversion rate of college recruits to drafted players.  For these analyses, the measure of interest was the number of NFL draft picks from a school divided by the total number of four and five-star recruits signed by the school.  We then modeled this conversion rate by the number of five, four and three-star players signed by the school.  In this analysis, we found a significant negative relationship between the number of four-star prospects and the draft conversion rate of high ranked prospects.  When we limited the draft picks to only round one or only day one (rounds 1-3), this negative relationship persisted.

To further illustrate this point, let’s examine two schools.  Over the last six NFL drafts, the University of Florida has brought in one hundred four and five-star recruits, and had “only” twenty-nine players drafted.  The average recruiting class rank for the Gators over this period was 6.1.  In contrast, the University of Pittsburgh brought in twenty-five four and five-star prospects but had seventeen draft picks.  Pitt’s average recruiting rank was 32.

The following chart shows the draft pick conversion rate for a variety of schools.  Interestingly, over the last six drafts, the most effective school at converting prospects to picks is the University of Kentucky.  Kentucky actually produced more draft picks than the number of four and five star prospects they recruited.  At the other extreme, Florida State only produced about 0.2 draft picks per elite recruit.

(*Elite = Five and Four Star Recruits)

We also extended the analysis to include other factors that could impact a school’s ability to produce draft worthy players.  Specifically, we examined the influence of the school’s investment in its football program, the team’s winning percentage, whether or not the school played in a major bowl, and each school’s conference affiliation.  Investment may matter because greater resources could translate to improved coaching or strength training programs.  While the latter three factors relate to the publicity players receive at various schools.  The only significant factor from these additional variables was school’s investment in the football program.

The bottom line seems to be that for players with a goal of playing in the NFL, program selection should not be based on the glamour provided by the big time programs such as Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, and USC.  Rather players should seek out opportunities at schools with substantial budgets but lower ranked recruiting classes.  In other words, it’s probably more important to increase your probability of getting on to the field early, rather than maximizing the number of times you play on a big national stage.

To further illustrate the preceding point, in 2009, Alabama had the top rated recruiting class with several four-star high school recruits.  A current examination of these recruits shows that several have left the team, others have red-shirted, and a few are projected as free agents or late-round picks.  One recruit is projected as an early-round pick.  These outcomes could be the result of over-recruiting and the lack of resources for top recruits.

Finally, using first round mock draft data for this year’s draft, we can determine the number of projected first round draft picks per five and four star recruits at a given school.  The chart below highlights some of the schools with projected first round picks this year.  It is interesting to note that schools such as Syracuse and Missouri do a better job with conversion of elite recruits than the football powerhouses of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

(*Elite = Five and Four Star Recruits)

By  Dr. Mike Lewis & Dr. Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.