2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 5: Vanderbilt & South Carolina Are Best in SEC!

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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 SEC.

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.   For example, our previous result of Kentucky having a very high conversion rate only considered elite recruits, and was for a six year period of drafts before the 2013 NFL Draft.  This study is for all rated recruit conversion, and is just for this one draft.

Winners: While Georgia and LSU had 8 and 9 draft picks respectively, they also averaged top 10 recruiting classes over the relevant time period.  South Carolina had 7 picks with talent that on average was just inside the top 20!  Vanderbilt by FAR had the worst rated incoming talent during this period, but they still doubled up Auburn in terms of their number of draft picks!

Middle of the Pack: It may surprise many to see Alabama and Florida listed in the “Middle of the Pack”.  After all, these schools produced 17 picks between the two of them.  Remember, we are measuring the ability of schools to convert their incoming talent into draft picks.  These schools had amazing recruiting classes every year.  Given such a high level of talent, we would have expected at least one or two more picks per school to put them in the “Winners” category.

Losers: Auburn and Ole Miss are the two biggest SEC losers this year in the draft.  Auburn averaged a top 15 recruiting class, but only produced one pick.  Ole Miss averaged a top 25 class, and had no picks at all.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 4: Tar Heels & Seminoles On Top of ACC!

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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 ACC.

To reiterate from our previous posts, 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.

Winners: With 11 picks in the draft, the Seminoles did a good job of converting top talent (they averaged a top ten ranked recruiting class over the relevant period for the 2013 draft).  The Tar Heels were the surprising winners of this draft.  North Carolina had 5 picks in the draft, and did not average a top 20 recruiting class over the corresponding time period!  Thus Carolina was very successful at converting high school talent into picks.

Middle of the Pack: Clemson could almost be placed in the “winner” column.  However, they had fewer draft picks than North Carolina, but on average better rated recruiting classes.  Duke, Wake Forest, and Virginia only had one pick each, but they also had the lowest rated incoming talent in the ACC.

Losers: Miami attracted a lot of talent, but only produced 2 draft picks.  The Terrapins had far superior talent recruited to College Park than Duke, Wake Forest, or Virginia, but they produced the same number of draft picks, one.  Boston College and Georgia Tech both had no picks despite averaging top 50 classes over the relevant time period.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

Numbers Suggest Cubs Management Bluffing or Foolish about Move

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The Chicago Cubs are simultaneously a source of great joy and great pain to Chicago baseball fans.  Almost universally, fans love the Wrigley field area and the traditions of the Cubbies.  And given the Cubs’ history of (a lack of) success, the degree of loyalty exhibited by Cubs fans is amazing.  I should note that I grew up in the Chicago area, and watched many afternoon games on WGN during the summers.

The preceding comments about the loyalty of Cubs fans are on my mind due to the recent news that the Cubs are considering a move out of historical Wrigley Field.  For those who are unaware, the current Cubs ownership groups is attempting to grow its advertising revenues by installing a large video screen on which advertising and highlights can be shown.  The Cubs claim that this addition can generate $20M in incremental revenue.

However, the Cubs currently have contractual agreements in place with neighboring building owners and these owners are concerned that the screen will harm their rooftop viewing businesses.  Tom Ricketts threatened on Wednesday that if the Cubs are not allowed to execute their planned renovations to Wrigley, that they will consider moving the team.  According to ESPN, the city of Rosemont has even offered a free land deal on which the Cubs could build a new facility.

The close connection between the Cubs and the Wrigleyville neighborhood makes this an interesting marketing story.  My conjecture is that it is the Wrigleyville area (and a history of broadcast on WGN) that separates the Cubs from the White Sox.  I tend to think that the Cubs are a unique team that is largely insulated from the pressures faced by most MLB teams.

To investigate this conjecture, we performed a couple of statistical analyses this morning.  For the techies out there we used linear regression and Tobit models to examine the relationship between attendance in MLB and pricing, team winning percentage, team payroll and a large variety of other factors that are likely to affect consumer demand.  When this analysis is conducted across ALL MLB teams using the last 20 years of data, we find a significant positive effect between team winning percentage and attendance.  In contrast, when we limit the analysis to only the Cubs we do not find a significant relationship between winning rate and attendance.

This is an illuminating result as it suggests that consumer demand for the Cubs is largely independent of the Cubs on-field success.  Furthermore, we do find a strong positive coefficient for the Cubs payroll.  Collectively, these results suggest that the Cubs are more about entertainment and environment than the actual baseball product.

What does this mean?  Frankly it suggests that the Cubs are either bluffing about leaving the area or that the Cubs don’t understand their brand or their customer base. Finally, as a Chicagoan I would be very nervous about a move to Rosemont.  The Cubs should ask DePaul how a move to the suburbs worked out.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 3: ILL-INI and Badgers in the Big 10

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 Ten.  (Our next conference will be the ACC, follow us @sportsmktprof for updates)

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.

Winners: The winners of the 2013 draft include Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State.  This is an interesting mix of schools in that it includes two teams that tend to struggle on the field (but dammit Zook could identify talent!) and two teams that are often near the top of the Big Ten standings.  Wisconsin in particular seems to excel at turning out pros.

Middle of the Pack: The next group includes several historical powers.  Ohio State is an interesting case.  While the Buckeyes went undefeated, they actually had one less draft pick than Illinois (did we mention that Zook could identify talent)..

Losers: The “losers” category also included an interesting mix of schools.  Perennial power Michigan is in this category, but we also see schools that tend to recruit at a lower level such as Indiana.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.

2013 NFL Draft Recap Pt 2: The Pacific Northwest Dominates the PAC-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 begin our team-level discussion with an analysis of the PAC-12.  (Our next conference will be the Big Ten, follow us @sportsmktprof for updates)

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.

Winners: While Oregon State (2 Picks) and Washington State (1 Pick) produced fewer picks than UCLA (4 Picks) or USC (4 Picks), they also had far lower ranked recruiting classes during the relevant period.  Thus, teams like Oregon State were better at converting what they started with into NFL draft material.  Oregon produced 5 draft picks, even though their recruiting classes on average were ranked lower than UCLA and USC.

Middle of the Pack: Stanford had 3 picks in the draft, but also had good recruiting classes from the Harbaugh years on the Farm.  Similarly, UCLA had 4 picks, but all of its recruiting classes were in the top 15.

Losers: Arizona State and Arizona State both averaged top 50 recruiting classes, but neither school had a draft pick in the 2013 draft.  Washington also averaged a top 50 recruiting class, but only had one 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!

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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.

2013 MLB Competitive Balance Forecast

Since the advent of free agency in the 1970s, baseball fans have feared that competitive balance will decrease, and small market teams will become less competitive.  The logic is that large market teams like the Yankees will be able to acquire the best talent and small market clubs like the Pirates or Royals will be noncompetitive.

We have developed a competitive balance forecast for the 2013 MLB season.  This forecast is based on a statistical model of the relationship between the distribution of payrolls across teams and the amount of competitive balance observed in past seasons.  For the analysis, we defined competitive balance in a variety of ways.  A standard measure for competitive balance in the academic literature is the standard deviation of winning percentages in a given year.  This measure would be minimized if each team achieved a 50% winning rate, and become larger when teams show greater variation in winning rates.

The chart below shows the evolution of the standard deviation of normalized payrolls and the standard deviation of winning percentages.   The correlation between these two measures is .25 and a linear regression model suggests that the relationship between payroll dispersion and winning rate dispersion is non-significant.  However, when the dispersion in winning rates is examined at the division; level we do observe a significant relationship.

 

For our analysis, we focus on the range of winning rates.  For example, if a division winner wins 60% of their games, while the last place team wins 40% of their games, then the range would be 20%.   The reason we like this method is because it is easily translated into the common baseball measure of “games back”.  To predict the levels of competitive balance we use multiple measures of the dispersion or variation in payrolls across clubs.  Based on opening day payrolls, we predict that the AL East will be the least competitive division while the AL West will be the most competitive.

Of course, competitive balance or lack of balance is a mixed bag for fans.  If a fan roots for a high payroll, large market franchise, a lack of competitive balance may generally be a positive as the fan’s preferred franchise (sorry Cubs fans) will tend to win on average.  But for the small market teams, a lack of competitive balance can be a dangerous situation.  For further background on competitive balance and its impact on fan loyalty, the following research paper and NY Times OpEd may be useful.

Customer Equity and Player Diversity in MLB

Yesterday, Major League Baseball’s annual report on the diversity of players was released to the media.  The headline finding was that the percentage of African-American players is just 8.5%.  This percentage is much smaller than the NFL or NBA, and is down from 19% in 1995 and 27% in 1975.*

I found the report to be interesting in several respects.  When we started this blog, we began with a focus on brand equity.  Brand equity is the value of a brand like Coke or Apple.  Brand equity is useful because it is linked to customer loyalty, consumer awareness, and it may decrease consumer price sensitivity.  The issue of the diversity of MLB players brings to mind another class of marketing asset: customer equity.  In brief, customer equity is the value of a firm’s customer relationships.  It makes sense to think of customer relationships as economically valuable assets because customers tend to buy repeatedly, and their behavior is often a function of a firm’s marketing decisions.

I mention the topic of customer equity, because customer acquisition, and therefore customer equity can often be impacted by a brand’s current customers.  For example, Cadillac long suffered from being associated with an older demographic.  I even did some research that looked at how MBA program student demographics affected future student enrollment.

While the MBA student research was executed using sophisticated econometric techniques, at the heart of the research is a concept from sociology called homophily.  This is a simple concept that suggests that people often prefer to be parts of groups that consist of demographically similar members.  Player demographics therefore is a marketing issue, since a lack of African-American players could result in fewer African-American fans.  While the issue of lower percentages of African American players adversely affecting fan interest is a negative example of the aforementioned principle more positive examples also exist.  For example, Ichiro increased interest in the Mariners in Japan, and the Chinese-American community quickly embraced Jeremy Lin.  MLB fears that a lack of African-American players will reduce African-American fans, and consequently the future supply of African-American players.  This type of negative feedback effect could greatly reduce MLB’s customer equity in the African-American segment.

However, if I had to hazard a guess as to why MLB is suffering declining interest in the African-American community, I would identify a different culprit.  My conjecture is that MLB’s reliance on a farm system approach rather than a system where major universities develop talent, is the true  problem.  High school athletes are well aware of the lucrative nature of participating in professional sports, and how players like Lebron, Michael, Cam Newton and RG3 transcend being just athletes, and become brands.  These future professionals also know that stardom can be acquired in college or even high school through AAU basketball, or high profile college football recruiting.  Simply put, major college football and basketball offer opportunities for athletes to become stars at an earlier age!

*Note that there has been some criticism of the report’s methodology.  The major concern seems to be that the percentage provided in years like 1975 included all players of African heritage, while the current number only includes US born African Americans.