The Southeastern Conference had a record 63 players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Do those gaudy numbers influence where high school prospects want to play college football?
AL.com's Mike Herndon seems to think so:
Even offensive players recognize the benefit of playing alongside so many future NFL defensive stars. "It's the closest thing you get to playing in the NFL without being in the NFL," four-star quarterback prospect David Cornwell of Norman (Okla.) North told Rivals.com after a recent visit to Alabama. "As a quarterback watching that defense, you realize it prepares you for anything."
That logic makes sense. But does the success of a team or conference in getting a large number of players drafted mean it is superior to other teams in getting more players drafted? Can't early defections or a senior-laden class inflate the draft numbers as well?
Maybe it's both.
Ten Louisiana State University players declared early for this year's draft, 11 if you count Tyrann Mathieu. Obviously that meant a bigger number of draftees than originally projected by the team's coaching staff, which means next year's draftee numbers may be lower than this year's.
LSU's 2013 post-spring depth chart indicates seven seniors as projected starters. If all seven seniors were selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, that would be a decrease from this year's record-setting nine drafted players. The decrease doesn't mean the talent isn't as high as the previous year's—it simply reflects the lower number of available potential draftees. That's important to note as we fawn over the numbers.
Last year, the SEC had 42 players drafted, just one ahead of the Big Ten's 41. But in the following year, only two Big Ten schools hauled in a Top 20 recruiting class of 2013. The SEC had eight. Where's the Big Ten's recruiting spike? Is this an SEC thing?
Better yet, do the high number of SEC players selected in NFL drafts create a distinct recruiting advantage for the league?
For student-athletes wanting to play at the next level, the answer is obviously yes. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is the reason why so many Crimson Tide players are getting drafted. Saban is a former NFL coach and has the ear of NFL scouts—he's the most powerful coach in sports, according to Forbes.
More powerful than Bill Belichick? Phil Jackson? Mike Krzyzewski? Check, check...and check.
So if Saban is hauling in highly-coveted recruits every year—and make no mistake, he is—that means he is getting what the so-called experts perceive as the best high school prospects at every position. And sometimes that can backfire.
Last year, quarterback Phillip Sims transferred out of Alabama, which moved Phillip Ely up to the second spot on the depth chart. This year, Ely was rumored to be considering a transfer from Alabama, according to a 247 Sports report.
Granted, this happens at a lot of schools, but teams with a preponderance of elite talent can take a bigger hit in a shorter amount of time. Alabama is now very thin at quarterback. It may not matter.
Saban has every player prepared to pick up the slack if an injury occurs. He also demands perfection and discipline, doesn't put up with diva-like egos and runs an NFL-like offense. Many conclude that is why he sends so players to the NFL draft and why he is a recruiting genius.
I agree on all points but there's something else.
Three BCS Championships in the last four years.
Players want to play for a school with a rich football history. Players want to play for a team that competes for a BCS Championship. Players want to wear that BCS Championship ring. Players want to win.
And players want national attention. Want proof?
Check out college football's dog-and-pony show trotted out every February, otherwise known as the National Signing Day. Teenagers hold court with their families, fans and the media while they play the shell game with schools' hats. Most of them love the spotlight.
It can be difficult to recruit a kid from out of state unless his family knows it can watch his games on CBS Sports or ESPN every Saturday. SEC teams have lucrative contracts with both networks. That kind of press and publicity also helps a player's visibility to NFL scouts—it's probably $1 million worth of publicity.
That's a handy recruiting tool.
Like USC, Miami, Ohio State and Notre Dame, Alabama is a football factory. These schools will always send players to the NFL, but the numbers will vary year-to-year depending on how many draft-eligible players they have.
I believe in the notion of the rich getting richer.
Until the cyclical nature of college football kicks in.
The Crimson Tide are on a roll and who knows how long that will last. Alabama is the team of the decade, and the decade is only three years old.
But the school's recruiting will continue to be successful whether or not a high number of players are drafted in any given year.
Saban's proclivity of sending his players to the draft certainly helps his recruiting. But playing for Saban in a BCS Championship game while millions of television viewers are glued to their television sets is a pretty neat recruiting tool as well.