As if recruiting against football factories like Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn wasn’t difficult enough, the challenge for the Georgia Bulldogs was made all the more stringent by last week’s NFL draft.
As the SEC once again led all conferences with 49 players selected, former Dawgs did a lot of listening without hearing their names called.
By the time the Miami Dolphins made tight end Arthur Lynch the first Bulldog to be drafted with the 155th overall pick, a player from every other team in the conference had already been selected.
When Aaron Murray was drafted by the Chiefs eight picks later, he was the 32nd player from the conference—and the last Bulldog—to be snagged.
Georgia’s lack of representation in the draft could really put a damper on recruiting efforts. After all, only three schools in the conference—Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Kentucky—had fewer players chosen than Mark Richt’s Bulldogs.
|SEC Draft Picks|
|School||Players Selected||First Player Selected|
|Texas A&M||3||6th Pick|
|South Carolina||2||1st Pick|
|Mississippi State||1||81st Pick|
|Ole Miss||1||90th Pick|
Last year, Alabama famously employed what could be called the "$51.8 million strategy." The campaign, gaudy as it may have been, was actually quite simple in drawing attention to the then-recent draft-day success of nine former Crimson Tide football players.
“All nine member of the University of Alabama’s 2013 NFL Draft Class signed a 4-Year contract to play in the NFL,” wide receiver coach Billy Napier tweeted. “The combined worth of those contracts was in excess of fifty-one million dollars.”
Fake checks made out to former Alabama players made the backdrop for the image, and in the center of the page was an inescapable number: $51,810,000.
To be fair: one can debate the legitimacy of that number all day long. Some of that money is not guaranteed, some is derived from performance-based bonuses. Debate all you want, but good luck finding a high school athlete who’s ready to listen to your argument.
Ultimately, the message this pitch sent was loud and clear: At Alabama, recruits have a tremendous opportunity to earn a spot in the NFL and cash in on the wealth that accompanies such a distinction.
Georgia can’t send that message—at least not after this year's draft.
Head coach Mark Richt can’t compare his program’s ability to produce NFL talent to any of the aforementioned football powerhouses, because Georgia had fewer players drafted this year than Vanderbilt.
Tennessee, a program wrought with turmoil for much of the past few seasons, had more players drafted last week than Georgia.
Negative Recruiting Not Necessary
According to Will Brinson of CBSSports.com, this year's event was the most viewed draft (on television) in NFL history. As he pointed out, “It didn’t hurt, of course, that we had an exciting first round. Or that Johnny Manziel fell far in the first round, causing people to tune in.”
People did tune in.
And as John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal observed on Twitter, more people watched the NFL draft’s first round than any other sports event that evening. Competition wasn’t even close.
While the NFL hijacked television sets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, professional teams weren’t the only organizations getting good press in front of large viewers.
Major college football programs also enjoyed the publicity.
Three Texas A&M Aggies were selected in the first round. Though Manziel may have slipped further than some would have anticipated, highlights of him playing for A&M were shown countless times for recruits to see.
Opposing coaches won’t have to point to Georgia’s lack of presence in the 2014 draft. The Dawgs’ absence was noticeable to the millions of people—including potential recruits—who watched last weekend.
Fortunately for Richt, this year’s draft futility is an anomaly within the context of recent history. Over the past five years, only two teams in the conference (Alabama and LSU) have had more players drafted than Georgia.
In fact, prior to this year’s draft, the Dawgs had seen draft numbers increase incrementally from five in 2010 to six in 2011, seven in 2012 and eight in 2013.
And with a host of stars eligible to go pro after next season, Georgia should once again be one of the leaders in the conference—both on the field and in the draft.
For Richt and his staff, two points of emphasis can be gleaned from the poor showing in this year’s draft.
First and foremost, current and future Bulldogs alike need to recognize the importance of handling business on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom and in the community.
Several former Bulldogs, including running back Isaiah Crowell and cornerback Jordan Love, hurt their NFL chances by failing to maintain good standing within the Georgia program.
This year's draft should serve as a point of accountability for Richt’s players moving forward. Actions have consequences—both in the short and long term.
Secondly, Richt needs to stress the oddity of this draft to recruits. Over the past five seasons, the average SEC team has had 3.64 players drafted per year. Georgia only failed to surpass that total once (this year) over that time period.
Furthermore, over the course of those five years—including this year’s poor showing—the Dawgs have had an average of 5.6 players selected annually.
That's the number to sell to recruits.