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April 29, 2013

Tarp's Monday Thoughts

-Texas A&M had five players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft this weekend: offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, running back Christine Michael, defensive end Damontre Moore, linebacker Sean Porter, and receiver Ryan Swope. From a historical standpoint, that's the most Aggies that have gone in the draft since 2008 when A&M also had five players selected but it's actually just one more than in 2012 when four players were selected from A&M.

Even so, the 2013 draftees went 11-2 in their final campaign; the 2012 draftees went 7-6. If some of the players in that 2012 draft had been better developed, that team would have won more games and couple of other guys would have gotten drafted, most notably Jeff Fuller and Tony Jerod-Eddie.

Development matters but that staff had multiple coaches who are coaching in or have coached in the NFL or are even college head coaches. In contrast, Kevin Sumlin's current staff has multiple coaches who were recruiting coordinators at their former schools.

-Joeckel going second to Central Michigan's Eric Fisher still blows my mind. Forget forty times, combines, etc. Here's a couple of things to think about with him.

First off, as I get older, I've begun to understand balance more as an attribute in scouting, especially at running back, but Joeckel probably has the best balance of any offensive lineman I've seen even come through A&M. He's just really hard to get off balance which means that you are not going to be able to be a first step guy, use a move, and beat him inside or outside. His balance and reaction times when he sets up are something you can't measure but they are what make him the great football player that he is.

Second, here's who Joeckel has faced since midway through his freshman year: Frank Alexander, Alex Okafor, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Aldon Smith, Quintin Dial. That's a ridiculous list and it doesn't even include some guys who were really good and didn't even get drafted.

-Some of Texas A&M's best recruiting classes out of the last 15 years…really, since I started actively covering this stuff instead of just following it….have been the 2008, 2003, and 1999 classes. Those classes produced 13 players in three drafts which is basically equivalent to the number of players out of all other classes that went through the draft out of A&M during the past decade.

Recruiting matters more. If you not bringing in the players in the first place, then they are not going to get drafted and they are not going to be very good.

-Further evidence that recruiting matters: people have forgotten what's like for A&M to bring in multiple top ten recruiting classes and how that talent translates to the NFL draft. The 1965 class formed the basis of the 1968 Cotton Bowl champion and had nine players drafted; the 1975 and 1976 Aggies were part of two of the greatest recruiting classes in A&M history and in the 1976 and 1977 drafts A&M had 15 players drafted.

From the 1985 to the 1994 draft…the peaks of both the R.C. Slocum and Jackie Sherrill eras in terms of recruiting when A&M annually brought in top five and top ten classes nationally….the Aggies had 61 players drafted over 10 years, an average of six players a year. Of course, there were more rounds back then but the vast majority of those players were picked in the first seven rounds anyway. That's an average of six players a year during that decade and serves as something of a historical benchmark as to what type of talent you have to have on A&M's campus in order to compete at a high level in college football.

-However, if you think that's good enough in the current SEC landscape…think again. The 14 SEC programs had 63 players drafted which doubled the total from any other league. Alabama, LSU, and Florida had nine players drafted each while Georgia had eight players drafted (those four schools produced more draftees than any other LEAGUE). In fact, each DIVISION of the SEC had as many or more players drafted than any other CONFERENCE in college football. There's a reason that the SEC had six of the top ten teams in the country in the final BCS rankings.

A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin had some top end guys like Luke Joeckel, Johnny Manziel, and Damontre Moore, didn't have to dig deep into his bench because of a lack of injuries and being able to play his starters on special teams, and parlayed that into A&M's best finish in 50 years. However, he is still stockpiling blue chippers as fast as he can and still playing catch up to an extent in that department in comparison to the rest of the league.

-Here's a glimpse into the future: SEC states Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama produced 103 draftees. You've seven programs drawing directly off of that talent pool. The Pac 12 has California which produced 28 draftees; the Big 12 has Texas which produced 25 draftees, the Big Ten has Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey which produced 27 draftees, and the ACC has Florida, New Jersey, and North Carolina which produced 41 draftees.

Even allowing for states with schools from two different conferences, the SEC is extremely well positioned going forward to have multiple teams in the new playoff format every year. That's more exposure and more money for the best conference in college football which will not only keep prospects within its footprint at home but enable it to raid other states within the footprint of other conferences that aren't as fortunate.

In contrast, it's going to be tough for any other conference to have more than two teams that are playoff worthy. In fact, one problem that the Pac 12 and Big 12 are going to have is how good is their level of competition going to be with all of their schools basically having one state to draw their talent from? In particular, the SEC's move into Texas could really start to diminish the talent levels of Big 12 programs if those prospects start going to SEC West programs. LSU and Alabama are already making life difficult for Texas at the top end and if programs like Ole Miss and Arkansas can take people from the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Baylor, it really will be like the Southwest Conference in the 1990's all over again.

Also, is there a more underachieving conference than the ACC in terms of its talent pool versus its production? With its new TV situation and alignment, there's a real opportunity for this basketball conference to start making a name for itself in football as well. Florida State was a BCS team but they had no worthy challenger within the conference last season and there's no excuse for that. Throw Notre Dame into the mix and you've got a program that recruits nationally, a couple of Florida schools in one of the big three states for talent, and other programs in moderately talent laden states like North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina.

The ACC should be the second best football conference in the country. That doesn't sound right, but the numbers back that assertion up and if you are not good in football you are leaving money on the table in college athletics.

-As far as recruiting rankings versus draft production, let me say this: every year there are not quite 300 high school athletes that come out rated as a four and five star prospects by Rivals.com. These prospects make up about…I don't know, roughly 10% to 15% of all FBS signees. This year, 103 four and five stars…roughly 40% of all 254 NFL draftees…were drafted.

Basically if you are ranked as a four or five star, your chances of being drafted are double those of a prospect ranked three stars or lower. In fact, Rivals threw out some numbers this weekend which indicated that a five star's chances of being drafted were double those of a four star, a four star's were double those of a three star, and so on. Four of A&M's five draftees this past weekend were rated at 5.7 or higher by Rivals.com out of high school (a high three star or better).

-I did enough damage on twitter about the Dallas Cowboys' draft this weekend with items like that you draft a center in the first of the NBA draft, not the NFL draft and that they turned a first round pick into two third round picks.

Here's something else…from a recruiting standpoint, I rant about stocking your front seven and offensive line with talent because people that do that win big at the college level and especially in the SEC. The Cowboys drafted two players out of those 12 positions this weekend and then signed 15 free agents, three of whom were linebackers.

Focusing specifically on both lines…both of which were areas of need…the Cowboys drafted or signed exactly ONE lineman out of 22 people that they brought in.

Excuse me while I light myself on fire.

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