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You Are Not A Savvy College Football Fan Until You Know This

Quick Note: After posting we found a data set that included the 2012-13 season and draft stats. When we updated with these numbers, FSU made a leap to a .55 Pearson’s r. Essentially, FSU was an outlier until last season. 

During the initial round of college football games last weekend, all three of Florida’s major programs won their season openers. As I was in the midst of devouring a salsa-covered chip, a friend announced, in sage-like fashion, that the Gators will “clean up” when the next NFL draft comes around.

Around here we question assumptions with data, and that got me to thinking… I began to wonder…

1) Does a team’s success have an effect on the draft prospects of its players?

2) Are some teams better at converting talented players (draft picks) into wins?

So, I brewed some coffee and dove into the data. I entered the number of draft picks for the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes each year in the last ten years and the number of wins in the previous season. I then calculated the Pearson’s r over those years for each team. The Pearson’s r is a convenient little statistical tool that tells us the strength of a relationship between two variables (in this case the number of players drafted and the number of wins). The Pearson’s r may be either positive or negative but will always fall between 0 and 1. In short, the smaller the number, the weaker relationship and the larger the number, the stronger the relationship.

What I found was nothing short of bizarre.

Over the last ten years, the Gators had a moderately strong relationship between wins and draft recruits. The Florida Pearson’s r is .52. The Miami Hurricanes aren’t much different, with a Pearson’s r of .57. This means that when these two teams perform better on the field, their players benefit by having better luck in the NFL draft. But the shocker is Florida State. Their Pearson’s r is .06. This is extremely weak and more or less non-existent. You can see the Pearson’s r comparisons in the graph below.

This lack of a relationship is baffling and means that if the Seminoles perform well, their seniors and juniors are no more likely to be drafted than if the team collapses into a pile of sweat and loses.

For a moment, I suspected this could be explained by the Seminoles’ reputation, so I decided to perform the same calculation on two other historically well performing football teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This didn’t clear up anything. The Tide had a very strong relationship, with a Pearson’s r of .63. The Fighting Irish had a Pearson’s r of .41. So, the players benefit more from better seasons.

You can check all the data in the interactive table below. If you learned something interesting here today, please share it with your friends.

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