A five-year deep dive into which programs best develop elite, blue-chip talent

A five-year deep dive into which programs best develop elite, blue-chip talent

There is no better predictor of future college football success than recruiting rankings. Every national title game participant since 2002 had at least one five-star on its roster. Every champion since 2013 had a blue-chip ratio of at least 50%.

But recruiting isn’t a singular path to winning national titles. USC and Texas would never finish with a losing record if that were the case. Development, the process of turning talent into production, is what can close and extend the gap between those with and without recruiting riches.

To help provide a concrete measure of development, 247Sports dove into Top247 data. This examination covered a five-year window between the 2013 and 2017 signing classes, the scope of a player’s usual five-year eligibility window. Why not include the 2018 class? There are still 54 players from the 2017 Top247 (21.8%) who remain in college football, many who won’t be drafted. Those players factor just as much into a holistic view of development as three-and-out first-round picks. There’s a longer tail with these ratings to provide a full snapshot of how a team developed its formerly elite recruits.

We call this study our “Development Rating,” and it’s an exercise we do yearly.

It’s a measure that considers the total number of Top247 prospects a program signed along with where/if those players were drafted. The formula has changed slightly over the years, but currently players are placed in five buckets (Top 50, 51-100, 101-150, 151-200, 201-247) with a sliding scale of points to both reward schools that turn elite , five-star-level recruits into high-round draft picks and those schools that develop slightly less-heralded prospects near the bottom of the Top247.

To more accurately represent how a program develops players, 247Sports removed four categories of prospects from the data:

  • Players who were dismissed.
  • Players who didn’t qualify.
  • Players who medically retired.
  • Players who transferred after two or fewer seasons on campus. If a player stayed three years and transferred, they counted against a team’s ‘not drafted’ tab. If a player transferred and was drafted elsewhere, they count for the team to which they transferred. Obviously, the transfer portal era will make this category more difficult to define in future years given fewer and fewer players stay three-plus years before a transfer; 13% of the 2021 Top247 transferred before their second season on campus. But for now this is a fair way to measure the impact of transfers (both incoming and outgoing) on ​​a team’s developmental abilities.

Clearly, Top247 data doesn’t fully speak to a program’s ability to develop. The most impressive examples are found at places that identify undervalued recruits and shape them into NFL prospects. Yet as fans annually salivate over four- and five-star prospects, this study is meant to spotlight the programs that do the most with those blue-chip players.

Only schools with 10-plus qualifying players were included in the study as anything less would be too small a sample size across a five-year period. Let’s get going.

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