2012 NFL Draft: Ranking Conferences by How Many Players They'll Send to NFL
These ranking of the conferences is based off of 2010 players selected, 2010 film evaluation, and our database that grades every senior and junior at all levels of college football.
While it's still a bit of a stretch to say that these might be overly accurate, I think you'll see that talent-wise and history-wise, these predictions could mimic what could become in the 2012 NFL Draft.
1. Atlantic Coast Conference: 42 (35 in 2010)
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Last year, the North Carolina Tar Heels carried the weight of the conference on draft day with seven players, one-fifth of the conferences whole output.
This year, they should be able to replicate that, if not raise that seven players drafted.
Also, Florida State and Miami (FL) seem to be back on the map talent-wise, and Virginia Tech and Clemson have done a consistently good job in sending players, especially defenders, to the NFL.
The top senior prospects are: Qunton Coples, DE, North Carolina; Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina; Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina; Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson; Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State.
The top junior prospects are: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State; Marcus Forston, DT, Miami (FL); Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College; Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech; Ray Ray Armstrong, S, Miami (FL).
2. Southeastern Conference: 34 (38 in 2010)
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Long been viewed as the best conference talent-wise every year, the SEC is almost a feeder system directly for the NFL, based on the number and quality of the prospects they send every year.
Ten picks in the first round of the 2011 Draft were from the SEC, with five of the first six selections from four different teams in the conference.
Another big year talent-wise for Alabama, along with Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida.
The top senior prospects are: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia; Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama; Mark Barron, S, Alabama; Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt; Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas.
The top junior prospects are: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina; Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina; Dre' Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama; Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU.
3. Pac-12 Conference: 30 (31 in 2010)
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The addition of Colorado and Utah should mean at least a two-to-three prospect per year increase that's drafted.
The lack of depth in talent across the conference outside of USC and Oregon makes this number still drop from 2010, but with potentially three of the top 10 picks in the draft just to start and with the depth that USC has across the board, it could be another 30 draft season for the Pac-12.
The top senior prospects are: Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado; Juron Criner, WR, Arizona; Armond Armstead, DT, USC; David Paulsen, TE, Oregon, Nick Foles, QB, Arizona.
The top junior prospects are: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford; Matt Barkley, QB, USC; Vontaze Burfict, OLB, Arizona; Nick Perry, DE, USC; David DeCastro, OG, Stanford.
4. Big Ten Conference: 30 (30 in 2010)
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Adding Nebraska adds around five-to-six drafted prospects a year (had seven last year) to go along with the talent at Ohio State already.
But the blackeye on that program and Michigan still being a bit down talent-wise, the Big Ten is going to take a hit if their two best teams are not set to produce lots of NFL talent.
Nebraska should hold the fort down and Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin should be able to produce enough talent to keep the Big Ten at 30 and with the best conferences talent-wise.
The top senior prospects are: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska; Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State; Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State; Mike Brewster, OC, Ohio State; Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska.
The top junior prospects are: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State; Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa; Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin; Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State; Peter Konz, OC, Wisconsin.
5. Big 12 Conference: 22 (29 in 2010)
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Losing Nebraska automatically knocks off seven players from last year's draft, along with Colorado having a handful as well.
Oklahoma is loaded this year and Texas A&M has more talent than usual.
But outside of those two, Texas and Missouri aren't as dominant as they have been in years past, and Kansas State and Baylor can't be asked to pick up the slack.
They should be able to stay ahead of the Big East, but it will be a lot closer than it has been in years.
The top senior prospects are: Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma; Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M; Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma; Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M; Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M.
The top junior prospects are: TJ Moe, WR, Missouri; Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma; Alex Okafor, DE, Texas; Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor; Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State.
6. Big East Conference: 18 (22 in 2010)
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Viewed as the worst of the BCS Automatic Qualifying conferences, they have statiscally not produced as much NFL talent.
This year, however, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh have some legitimate first round potential prospects, and some depth to go with it.
While teams like Syracuse, South Florida, or Louisiville can't be counted on for a lot of NFL talent this year, the first three teams all have the potential to produce four-to-five prospects each this year.
The top senior prospects are: Lucas Nix, OT, Pittsburgh; Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia; Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut; Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh; Matt Ryan, OT, Connecticut.
The top junior prospects are: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers; Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh; Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers.
7. Mountain West Conference: 10 (10 in 2010)
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With the addition of Boise State this season, that should be able to counter the loss of Utah and BYU leaving for the Pac-12 and Independents respectively.
Last year, Boise State had just three players drafted, but they have at least four who are very draftable this year, and with a team that can potentially reach the BCS title game, they have a real shot at producing some major NFL talent to go along with TCU in this conference.
8. Conference USA: 10 (7 in 2010)
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Lots of outstanding offenses in the C-USA this year, such as Houston, Tulsa, SMU, and East Carolina.
All four should have a quarterback and at least one receiver who is in the mix to get drafted, with probably seven-to-eight drafted from those four teams alone.
Add that to some of Marshall's and Southern Miss's defensive talent and some scattered draftable guys on the other six teams, and C-USA could have a banner year for NFL talent.
9. Mid-Atlantic Conference: 8 (3 in 2010)
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Surprising that the MAC had as many coaches leave for bigger jobs as they did college players leaving for bigger, NFL roster jobs.
This year, however, the conference has offensive line depth to go with their usual receiver talent.
Temple has two-to-three guys at least this year from the Al Golden age, and Kent State, Ohio, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, and Buffalo all have two-to-three guys as well that could be drafted.
10. Colonial Athletic Association: 8 (2 in 2010)
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Maybe a bit of a surprise to some, but the CAA should be ranked with the rest of the FBS conferences based on the talent they have.
While they only had two draft picks last year, surprisingly, Delaware, William & Mary, and Richmond could each have two this year.
Along with Villanova having Norman White at WR, Richmond having Aaron Corp at QB, and this conference could be battling with the big boys come April.
11. FBS Independents: 6 (1 in 2010)
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This is basically a mixture of BYU and Notre Dame, with the latter having the majority of the talent.
I'm not sold on either team this year, and I'd say that the Fighting Irish only get three-to-four drafted to go along with two-to-three more from BYU.
Only Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame), Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame), Manti Te'o (JR ILB, Notre Dame), and Matt Reynolds (OT, BYU) are surefire draft picks.
12. Sun Belt Conference: 6 (5 in 2010)
I really like some of the Sun Belt talent this year, and TY Hilton, WR from Florida International and Ladarius Green, TE from Louisiana Lafayette both could be Top 60-70 picks in the draft.
After them, Lance Dunbar, RB of North Texas, Bobby Rainey, RB of Western Kentucky, Xavier Lamb, OLB of Troy, and Demorio Davis, OLB of Arkansas State are all next in line as far as draft talent is concerned.
13. Western Athletic Conference: 4 (16 in 2010)
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The loss of Boise State will really hurt this conference's chances of not only producing NFL talent, but staying alive as a conference.
The best talent producer left is probably Hawaii, who has maybe one-to-two guys that could be selected.
Fresno State, Nevada and San Jose State also have a handful of guys, but it'll be a struggle to give the NFL some talent this year for the WAC.
Other Levels of College Football
FCS (minus CAA) - 20 (19 in 2010)
Outside of the CAA, there are still some great talents at the FCS level.
Brian Quick, WR from Appalachian State and BJ Coleman, QB from UT-Chattanooga both have a chance to be Top 100 picks, with the latter potentially having a Joe Flacco type rise.
Also, Chris Summers, WR from Liberty, Asa Jackson, CB from Cal Poly, and Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota are all sure bets to be Top 150-175 picks come draft day.
That leaves just 15 more from 13 conferences, including some very talented ones like the Southern, SWAC, MEAC, and Big Sky.
Division II Conferences - 5 (3 in 2010)
Generally, programs lower than FCS never have NFL talent with any consistency, but Division II could be carried by two programs this year: North Alabama and California PA.
Both have gotten some great FBS transfers, with North Alabama getting the grand prize of Janoris Jenkins from Florida.
I'd guess he, Marcus Dowtin (OLB from North Alabama), Thomas Mayo (WR from California PA), Brett Diamond (ILB from California PA), and Rishaw Johnson (OG from California PA) are the five players drafted from the D2 level.
Division III Conferences - 2 (1 in 2010)
At Optimum Scoting, we only have eight players from the D3 level who have a fringe draftable grade or higher, and two with draftable grades.
One is Alex Tanney, trick shot quarterback from Monmouth. The other is Kyle Fiedorowicz, tight end from North Central College. Both should be late round prospects.