Take a moment to appreciate just how absurd the SEC's 12-year NFL Draft streak is
I know. You’re draft fatigued.
You’ve had enough of draft talk to last a lifetime (that didn’t stop you from checking out that 2019 mock, though). You’re sick of hearing Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay talk about twitchiness and 40-yard dash times.
You’re also probably sick of hearing about how the SEC has dominated drafts for the last 12 years. It’s a stat that gets thrown out at the end of every draft with some sort of tweet like this:
Most picks by conference in the 2018 NFL Draft:
Big Ten: 33
Big 12: 20
— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) April 29, 2018
It’s the expectation. Yes, the SEC, ACC and Big Ten all have 14 schools. Even if you go by average draft picks per school each conference, here’s how those numbers would look:
- SEC — 3.8
- ACC — 3.2
- Pac-12 — 2.5
- Big Ten — 2.4
- Big 12 — 2
What do those numbers look like over the course of the 12-year streak, you ask?
I did a lot of math and found that the years in which the SEC didn’t have the most draft picks per team was 2012 (the Big Ten had 3.42 compared to 3.0 for the SEC), 2009 (the Pac-10 had 3.2 compared to 3.08 for the SEC) and 2008 (the Pac-10 had 3.4 and the SEC had 2.92).
Still, though. Contrary to what Danny Kanell and others might argue, that’s 9 of the 12 years in that streak in which the SEC had more draft picks per team than any conference. The SEC cranks out more NFL talent than any other conference, and it’s been doing so since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa (though technically the streak began months before he coached his first game at Alabama).
So with Saban as the longest-tenured SEC coach, that means literally every program in the conference has gone through at least one coaching change since that streak began. Still, the streak lives on.
I mean, do we realize that the last time that the SEC didn’t have the most NFL Draft picks (2006), Tim Tebow had yet to play a college game? Urban Meyer and Saban had 1 combined ring. Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” was No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100. Facebook still hadn’t been released to the public.
Tua Tagovailoa was in second grade.
That’s how long it’s been since someone dethroned the SEC. And if you prefer to declare the draft winner the conference with the most draft picks per team, fine. Tagovailoa was in seventh grade when that streak began in 2012. That’s still pretty incredible.
This isn’t just an Alabama thing, either. LSU averaged 6.4 draft picks during that stretch. Florida was at 5.75. Georgia averaged 5. Do you realize that only 13 programs in college football had at least 5 players drafted in 2018? LSU just had 7 players drafted, yet in what would be considered a very average year by LSU standards, only Alabama had more players selected.
Shoot. Even Arkansas, which went through four coaches and was 32-48 in conference play from 2007-17, averaged 3.7 draft picks per season the past 12 drafts. Only 24 of the 129 FBS programs had 4 players or more get drafted in 2018. That’s insane.
But maybe that’s part of it. As much as the SEC has recruited and pumped out NFL talent, the lack of results for teams with plenty of NFL talent like Arkansas is why the coaching turnover has been so frequent. Really that’s true for the way the SEC is viewed as a whole. The thinking of “well, you’ve got all this NFL talent and you still can’t win” is probably the reason a few SEC coaches couldn’t stick around.
And for those who still aren’t sold on the SEC being more than Alabama and a couple others doing the heavy lifting in the draft, perhaps you didn’t tune in over the weekend. If you did, you would’ve seen that the entire SEC except for Kentucky had a player selected in the first 4 rounds.
Need more proof? Since the last time the SEC didn’t win the draft title, the conference won 9 of 12 national titles. If you want to break it down by conference, here’s what that would look like:
- SEC: 8
- ACC: 2
- Big Ten: 1
- Pac-12: 0
- Big 12: 0
Oh, you want me to take out Saban’s titles just for fun? Sure:
- SEC: 3
- ACC: 2
- Big Ten: 1
- Pac-12: 0
- Big 12: 0
So that begs an obvious question. Do SEC teams have more NFL players because they win national titles? Or do they win national titles because they have NFL players? I tend to think that it’s the latter. Either way, it doesn’t change an obvious takeaway from this 12-year run.
I can try to break down Top-25 teams, strength of schedule and nonconference wins to try and figure out the “power conference” within a year. I can do that until I’m blue in the face. But reality is, as long as the SEC is consistently winning national titles and producing the most NFL talent, that bigger picture question isn’t changing anytime soon.
This streak doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon, either. Georgia’s rise could actually distance the SEC from the pack. Certainly that wouldn’t surprise anyone.
The only thing that will come as a surprise is one day, when we finally see that “draft picks by conference” tweet on that Saturday night and the SEC is no longer on top. You’ll know exactly where to find it, too.
Pinned to the top of Kanell’s Twitter profile.