Top 50 College Football Recruits From California, Florida, and Texas Don't Fare as Well Getting Draf

By Jason Lisk
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Texas, California, and Florida lead the way in number of top Division I football prospects, by a large margin—roughly 40% of all top prospects come from one of those three states. Most national programs will have major inroads into at least one of those states. NFL rosters are full of players who played high school football in one of those “hotbeds.” The difference between Texas (66 Top 50 players from 2000-2009) and Georgia (34) is greater than the difference between Georgia and Utah.

Where those three “hotbed” states don’t lead, though, is in the percentage of hits among those top prospects. At least if we measure the outcomes by those that will eventually be drafted and play for NFL teams, Texas, California, and Florida lag behind states that more infrequently produce top prospects. It speaks to a potential bias in recruiting rankings, where some prospects get improved by association, because the state where they play has produced more top players.

Yes, those three states have the most prospects, but they also seem to have more that just don’t work out.

Using the composite recruiting rankings from 247 Sports from 2000-2009, I examined the top 50 prospects each year, by home state (and not the state of the University with which they necessarily signed). Those prospects were then compared to see how many were both a) drafted in the NFL, and b) appeared on a roster at some point. Why both criteria? Mainly, ease of comparison. Not all drafted players have a player page that shows up on a search at Pro-Football-Reference.com, if they never made a roster. This allowed player name searches (and confirmation by other details like hometown/high school).

So these hit rates represent Top 50 prospects who eventually were drafted and played in the NFL. The overall hit rate for this period of time was 43.5%, so less than half of all top prospects.

Here’s what happens, though, when we sort them by the number of Top 50 recruits that came from each state during that decade period.

While the rates within individual states bounce up and down, there is a clear relationship between number of Top 50 prospects from a state, and the likelihood that the prospect will get drafted and play in the NFL.

The states that were outside the Top 10 had the exact same number of “hits” as California, Florida, and Texas—on 49 fewer players ranked in the Top 50.

Granted that it’s an extremely small sample size, but the states that rarely produced a Top 50 player had a hit rate almost double the hotbed states. So if you are wondering whether that top prospect from a non-traditional location is going to be good, once he starts playing with all those players from Texas, California, or Florida, the answer is more often than not, “yes.”

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