The 2017 NFL Draft showed, once again, that the gap in college football continues to widen.
It’s not the gap you’re thinking about: The difference between the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences, when it comes to producing NFL talent, doesn’t need to be rehashed. Now, there are gaps growing within the Power 5. The rich indeed are getting richer, and that was reflected at the NFL Draft. In some ways, the powerhouses are looking more and more like NFL franchises.
MORE: 2017 NFL Draft grades
Consider that Michigan and Alabama — which had 11 and 10 players picked, respectively — had more players selected than the entire Big 12 conference. That’s on the Big 12 to close that gap, however, because neither Jim Harbaugh nor Nick Saban — both former NFL coaches — are slowing down. Here’s the gap in draft picks among the Power 5 conferences:
Final #NFLDraft picks by conference:
Big Ten: 35
Big 12: 14
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) April 29, 2017
More evidence exists within the conferences. Five schools have produced 14 or more NFL Draft picks over the last two drafts, and that list includes the last three national champions.
Ohio State, which led the 2016 NFL Draft with 12 picks, has the most in that two-year stretch, with 19. The Buckeyes are followed by Alabama (17), Clemson (15), Florida (15) and Michigan (14). That’s 80 players among five schools in two years.
Some of that can be attributed to the cyclical nature of the sport. Powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA and Penn State can work into that discussion in any given year.
Yet it’s also a reflection of the rapid organizational growth among those powerhouses. Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni spoke about that topic on National Signing Day.
“I think the next wave is you’re going to see it become more — have more personnel specific departments like the NFL,” Pantoni said on Feb. 1. “I think you’re going to start seeing — there’s already two or three schools that have titles of general manager, and then you’re going to see just 20 people in the personnel office just cutting up film and doing film evals. I think that’s going to be the next step and it’s just going to keep growing from there.”
The teams producing the most NFL players also are heavily influenced by NFL teams.
Alabama continues to be the lead superstore, with 61 draft picks and 21 first-round picks since 2010. The Crimson Tide brought in Brian Daboll from the NFL’s Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Florida won the last two SEC Eastern division championships, and sits in a forever-rich high school recruiting area. That three-way door will continue to revolve with Florida State and Miami (Fla.). The three schools combined for 21 draft picks in…