Alabama had 12 players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. How does that compare historically, and what was the greatest four year run of draft talent?
The Greatest Four Year NFL Draft Runs: How Historic Is Alabama’s 2018 Class?
With the 2018 NFL Draft finally over, where does what just happened fit into a historical context?
For example, just how amazing was the 2016 Alabama Crimson Tide team that lost the national championship to Clemson?
22 players were selected over the two NFL drafts following that classic in Tampa – and the starting quarterback (Jalen Hurts) and running back (Damien Harris) weren’t even a part of it.
So where does this run of Alabama draftees stack up? Over a four year span, which program has had the most players selected by the big league, and was this latest Bama draft part of something truly special?
In terms of NFL talent and production, that remains to be seen. But forget about whether or not the players actually do or did anything at the next level – that’s not always the point. All the coaching staffs want to sell is the dream to recruits.
“Come to (insert mega-powerhouse football program here) and you’ll have a great shot at going to the NFL.”
So, again, who had the all-time greatest four year run of NFL draft classes?
To even the playing field, only players selected in the top seven rounds count in this top five list of four year runs. The NFL Draft cut it down from eight rounds to seven after 1993, and 12 to eight after 1992. It was 17 rounds until 1976.
What does this show? It takes something amazing to come up with four straight years of big-time drafts, since most great programs build things up, reload for a season, and ebb and flow.
Here’s one other rule here – no overlapping years. So, for example, a school that sent a slew of players to the NFL from, say, 2011-2014, doesn’t also get credit for an era from 2013-2016. Each four year period is distinct and defined.
This isn’t all that obvious. Check out the amazing football factories and eras that you’d think would have made this top five all-time four year run list, but didn’t. The notable runs that just missed …
Ohio State. The Buckeyes sent 31 players to the NFL from 2003 to 2006, and 31 more on this current run from 2015 to 2018. More on them in a moment, along with …
USC. 25 players were selected in the first seven rounds from 1980 to 1983 – but 41 total were taken in the expanded drafts from 1974 to 1977 – and 26 players were selected from 2003 to 2006.
Miami. Those Jimmy Johnson-Dennis Erickson teams from the late 1980s to early 1990s were special. Throwing in supplemental pick Steve Walsh, the Canes loaded up the NFL with 27 players from 1988 to 1991.
Oklahoma. Not quite the pro farm you might think, the four year, seven round high was just 24 players from 2003 to 2006.
Alabama … 2011 to 2014. Expand this list to a ten-year run, and the Crimson Tide blow everyone away by a mile. They sent off 30 players to the next level with a ridiculous 16 players going in the first two rounds from ’11-’14.
Florida. Ready to be stunned? The greatest Gator draft run was over the last four years with 28 players being taken from 2015 to 2018. Remember, there were major ebbs and flows in draft talent in the Urban Meyer era – just five players were drafted in 2008 & 2009, but nine were selected in both 2007 and 2009. The best run under Steve Spurrier? 25 players from 1999 to 2002 – or 2000 to 2003.
Florida State. There was a constant stream of talent sent to the next level under Bobby Bowden, with the biggest from 1998 to 2001 – the Peter Warrick, Andre Wadsworth, Jamal Reynolds years – with 29 players selected.
Penn State. Joe Paterno was infamous for not being all that friendly to the NFL types, but that didn’t matter from 1993 to 1996 when 26 Nittany Lions were drafted.
Michigan. Stunningly, the Leaders and Best aren’t anywhere near the NFL program you’d think it is. Even with the 11 players taken in 2017, that closed out a run of 20 draft picks from 2014 to 2017.
LSU. The program is always terrific at cranking out pro players, but it misses out on the top five with a high of 29 players selected from 2011 to 2014.
Nebraska. For a long, long time, this wasn’t the biggest of pro talent producers. That changed in the early to mid-1990s, with 27 players selected from those epic teams from 1995 to 1998.
Georgia. Ohhhhhhh, just you wait. Kirby Smart is doing his part to change this fast. Under Mark Richt, the run from 20101 to 2013 sent 26 players to the next level, highlighted by A.J. Green and Geno Atkins.
Clemson. Ohhhhhhh, just you wait, part two. The Tigers will make a run at the top five list after the 2019 draft. For now, the best stretch was from 2014 to 2017, sending 26 players under Dabo Swinney.
Texas. Shockingly disappointing, there’s been a steady stream of Longhorns into the NFL over the long haul, but the best run was just 22 players from 2007 to 2010 or from 2006 to 2009. There were a whole lot big-time talents, but not in bulk.
Auburn. It’s not nearly as impressive as you’d think. The Tigers pushed 21 players from the first seven rounds into the NFL from 1986 to 1989. Expand it to the full 12 rounds at the time, and those loaded teams had 30 players selected.
Colorado. There was a time when Boulder was the place to be to get to the next level. From 1995 to 1998, the Buffs have 27 players drafted – that beats the best four year stretch from both Oklahoma and Texas.
And now, the greatest four year run of draft classes ever … starting with two more who just barely missed the cut.
Notre Dame, 32 players from 1991 to 1994
This was right after the program hit its recruiting stride under Lou Holtz, capitalizing on the 1998 national championship to bring in the speed, flash, and talent that older Irish fans still yearn for.
How good was this run? Nine first rounders – and that doesn’t include Rocket Ismail, who would’ve been one, but went to the CFL – including Jerome Bettis, Bryant Young, Todd Lyght, and, uhhhhhh, Rick Mirer, Derek Brown and Irv Smith, too.
How good where these teams? Ricky Watters and Chris Zorich were second rounders in 1991, and in the expanded-round drafts, 37 Domers were taken in all.
This all came at the end of another great run, with seven players taken in the first seven rounds of the 1990 draft, and 18 total going in the first seven rounds from 1987 to 1990.
Tennessee, 32 players from 2000 to 2003
Even with all of the recent problems at Tennessee, it’s still considered a top-level job mainly because for a very, very, very long time, it was able to get the elite of the elite talents on a consistent basis – and it should be able to again.
The 1998 class was special, starting with Peyton Manning as one of three first round selections, and then came the national title later that year that ended up getting six players drafted. From 1995 to 1998, 25 Tennessee players were selected.
And then the draft classes really started to blow up.
Nine players – led by Jamal Lewis – were taken in the 2000 draft, including seven in the first 57 picks. After a slight dip in 2001 – with five players drafted – the talent level rebounded fast, giving away ten in the 2002 draft. Three Vols – John Henderson, Donte Stallworth ad Albert Haynesworth – went in the top 15.
But the shelves were still stocked, with Jason Witten and eight more Tennessee players selected in 2003.