Where do draft picks come from? A look at FSU's recruiting classes of 2004, '05, and '06

I recently happened upon this Matt Hinton article.  I enjoy Hinton's work, though I enjoyed it more when he was as SBNation's SundayMorningQuarterback.com  (He used to do far more in-depth pieces and now does several shorter shots per day). 

I understand Hinton's points in the piece, but more in-depth article could explain what happened to so many of these kids during the worst years of the nepotism era.

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via a323.yahoofs.com

Altogether, that's 90 guys (53 for Florida State, 37 for Miami) from five top-10-ranked classes who once projected in the vicinity of "likely draft pick." Twenty-three still have eligibility. Of the remaining 67, six have gone on to the next level....

 

These numbers are somewhat misleading.  The idea of lumping Miami and FSU is understandable, but I wondered where Hinton got his numbers.  They came from rivals.com (partner of Yahoo!, host of Hinton's blog). 

In arriving at the "53" number it appears that Hinton made an error:  he counted several players twice.  In particular, OL Matt Hardrick and DL Justin Mincey (players who failed to qualify one year and then qualified in a later year).  My count shows that there are only 51 unique players rated 4 or more stars from the 2004-2006 recruiting classes.  I can't comment on the Miami numbers because I don't know enough about their program to compile a list of this sort for the Hurricanes.  

I will credit Hinton with some excellent work over the years, particularly in the area of myth vanquishing.  He's already pointed out that Recruiting Rankings do correlate with wins and that recruiting rankings are an excellent predictor of future draft picks, and he's done it using numbers.  I like that.

Today' I'll take a look at what happened to those 51 (not 53) players rated 4*'s or higher from the 2004-2006 classes.

Of those 51, 11 are still at FSU:  Kendrick Stewart and DB Jamie Robinson from 2005.    And from 2006:  DL Justin Mincey, LB Recardo Wright, DB Patrick Robinson, DE Kevin McNiel, DL Doug "Bud" Thacker, RB Marcus Sims, QB D'Vontrey Richardson, TE Caz Piurowski, and DB Ochuko Jenijie.

Let's look at the three classes.  In 2003, FSU went 10-3, winning the ACC.  Their losses?  To Miami (the rain game), @ Clemson, and again against Miami in the Orange Bowl.  FSU was 3 years removed from the stabilizing force that was Mark Richt, and firmly under the crippling grip of the offensive staff comprised of Jeff Bowden, Jimmy Heggins, Darryl Dickey, and Sexton.  Let's have a look:  

 

Class of 2004 Pos  Stars  Hometown NOTE
Xavier Lee QB 5 Daytona Beach, FL Lack of effort, sense of entitlement, and untimely injuries.  Flashes of brilliance interspersed with a frustrating lack of playbook knowledge.  Left team.
J.R. Bryant DB 4 Miami, FL Bust
Tony Carter DB 4 Jacksonville, FL 3 year starter at corner.  5'9" tall.  NFL (undrafted free agent, so doesn't count)
Jamaal Edwards RB 4 Greensboro, NC Transferred after not cracking the starting lineup behind Lorzneo Booker and Leon Washington (both in NFL) 
Lawrence Timmons LB 4 Florence, SC NFL
Trevor Ford DB 4 Miami, FL Transferred to Troy, now with Green Bay Packers (undrafted free agent)
Aaron Jones DT 4 Orlando, FL Transferred to Eastern Kentucky (now in NFL, undrafted free agent)
Jae Thaxton LB 4 Hartwell, GA Chronic Concussions, medically redshirted.  
Drew Weatherford QB 4 Land O'Lakes, FL Started 26 games over 3 years; never in top half of ACC passer rating.
Dumaka Atkins OL 4 Sarasota, FL Left team (philosophical differences)
Greg Carr WR 4 Citra, FL 4 year contributor.  Height only appreciable skill.  (NFL as undrafted free agent)
Jacky Claude OL 4 Miami, FL started as a Senior, had 3 different line coaches in 4 years,
Emmanuel Dunbar DE 4 Deerfield Beach, FL Multiple Back Surgeries-- medical exemption
Rodney Gallon LB 4 Tallahassee, FL Couldn't crack starting lineup (behind 5 linebackers currently in NFL), solid backup.
Kenny O'Neal WR 4 Oakland, CA Transferred to Tennessee (grades), pursuing career in track.
Barry Wright LB 4 Coffeyville, KS Junior College kid, never qualified.  
Jonathan Warren DB 4 Madison, FL FSU withdrew scholarship offer

In summary, of the 17: 

  • One kid should not count, as FSU withdrew the scholarship offer.  Rivals still counted him in error. 
  • 2 received medical exemptions (finished their education despite football related disability)
  • 1 Never qualified
  • 4 transferred because they couldn't crack the starting lineup
  • 7 completed their eligibility (1 drafted in the 1st round-- Lawrence Timmons).
  • 2 left the team due to philosophical differences (not meshing with new coaching staff)

To say that FSU was not a smart choice in 2004 is an understatement.  The program was crumbling from the inside.  That only 7 of the 17 4* or better players completed their eligibility speaks volumes.  

 

In 2004, FSU went 10-3, losing to Miami, @ Maryland, and Florida.  The coaches needed to pull in a big class and they landed one for the ages.  Rivals ranked the class #2 Nationally, and by pure talent it probably was.  People would speak of this class for years to come. 

 

Class of 2005 Pos Stars Hometown NOTE
Callahan Bright DT 5 Bryn Mawr, PA Did not qualify, posted pictures of himself smoking weed on his myspace. 
Fred Rouse WR 5 Tallahassee, FL Played one season.  Diva, booted for questionable attitude and possible criminal conduct.
Antone Smith RB 5 Pahokee, FL Often injured, 8th all time rusher, did not fit new offensive system.
Matt Hardrick OL 4 Orlando, FL Never qualified.
Eugene  Hayes LB 4 Greenville, FL NFL
Derek Nicholson LB 4 Winston Salem, NC 2 year starter.  Lack of size and footspeed.
Russell Ball RB 4 La Marque, TX Transferred after not cracking the starting lineup behind Lorzneo Booker, Leon Washington (both in NFL) , and 5* RB Antone Smith
Everette Brown DE 4 Wilson, NC NFL
Clarence Ward DB 4 Pensacola, FL Transferred after 2 years (grades, I believe)
Matt Dunham ATH 4 Columbus, GA Failed out.
Dan Foster LB 4 Blakely, GA Never qualified.
Michael Ray Garvin DB 4 Ramsey, NJ Led nation in kick return average as senior.  (now in NFL on undrafted free agent contract)
Neefy Moffett LB 4 Palm Bay, FL Productive starter as senior (Undrafted Free Agent now in NFL)

Unfortunately, they would talk about this class for all the wrong reasons.  Of the 13 rated 4* or better:

  • 6 Finished their eligibility or were drafted into the NFL
  • 3 Never qualified
  • 1 Transferred after getting stuck behind 2 NFL runningbacks and a 5* back
  • 2 Failed out
  • 1 Transferred

Finally, the 2006 class.  In 2005, FSU went 8-5, and the damage Bobby Bowden was doing to the program we beginning to show on the field. 

 

Class of 2006 Pos Stars Hometown NOTE
Myron Rolle ATH 5 Princeton, NJ Rhodes Scholar studying biophysics at Oxford, 3 year starter, considered a top safety prospect, definitely not a bust.
Brandon Warren TE 5 Alcoa, TN Mother had cancer, transferred home to be closer to her
Marcus Ball LB 4 Stone Mountain, GA Excellent player, ACL surgery, transferred.
Damon McDaniel WR 4 Virginia Beach, VA Transferred home to be closer to newborn (Son?  Might have been a daughter)
Daron Rose OL 4 Tampa, FL Started as a Sophomore, flunked out, transferred to USF, where he flunked out again.
Preston Parker WR 4 Delray Beach, FL 2 year starter, all conference, dismissed for behavioral issues.  
Anthony Leon DB 4 Miami, FL Played one year, flunked out
Shannon Boatman OL 4 Tyler, TX Junior College, 2 year starter, 2 offensive line coaches in 2 years.
Paul Griffin DT 4 El Dorado, KS Junior College, 2 year starter, ACL surgery.
Toddrick Verdell DB 4 El Dorado, KS Junior College guy, moved to linebacker out of need, started as Senior.

This is one of the most disappointing classes that I can remember (late 90's on).  Only 10 players rated 4* or better.

  • 4 completes their eligibility.  3 of the 10 were junior college players.  They were actually pretty good considering their JUCO status (all three contributed).  And one Rhodes Scholar who seemed more concerned with his studies than football (not that there's anything wrong with that). 
  • 2 players moved back home due to family issues.
  • 2 dismissed for behavioral issues
  • 2 flunked out of school

From these results, and talking with people inside the program, I can make a few observations.  First, FSU got away from the state of Florida.  Overdependent on national recruiting rankings, they neglected their roots.  As I've blogged about previously, it's tougher to get information on a kid who lives 2,000 miles away.  Sure, you can evaluate his highlight tape, but you can't watch him play live.  You can't get the insider information on a kid's attitude, background, etc.  

Not only did the offensive staff neglect their local base, but they did a really poor job evaluating offensive talent.  Hinton points that out in his article and he is 100% right.  Of those 40 players above, only 17 were on the offensive side, and of those, only 10 of them were from Florida.

I'm not saying the defensive side was without blame, but I do think a lot of that had to do with the cluster that was the offense.

Want a really telling picture of just how bad the offensive staff was

  • Of those 17 offensive players who are no longer on the team, only 6 completed their eligibility (35%).
  • Of those 23 defensive players, 12 completed their eligibility (52%)

Certainly, there was an element of bad luck in the kids transferring home for family issues, but coaches have to know that players are more likely to get homesick when they are 500+ miles away from everything they have ever known.

I'll do a later article on player development, and there were certainly some issues there, but it seems to me that there are several steps to producing NFL players that were not being met:  qualifying the player, and keeping the player in school.  That's to say nothing of improved scouting.  I have reason to believe we are headed in the right direction with respect to these issues.

The real key here, as Hinton alludes to, is that FSU made a change.  It ousted Jeff Bowden and installed Jimbo Fisher, but not before dragging in a horrible 2007 class (which is not Jimbo's, but rather, the product of recruits not knowing who FSU's coach would be in February of 2007). 

There is some hope for the future, however.  Jimbo's first class was 2008.  It had 15 4* or better players.  One didn't qualify, but as a sign and place he was not expected to-- Travis Arnold.  Two were JUCO's, one of which only had a single year of eligibility (Surrency).  We saw over a 3rd of those 40 players not reach their 3rd year of eligibility.  It would take a collapse of epic proportions for Jimbo's first class (2008) to fall anywhere close to those depths. 

FSU's paltry showing in the 2008 draft is really a reflection on the final classes of Jeff Bowden.  Don't expect it to improve next year (as it will be comprised of the 2005, '06, and 'the horrible '07 class).  We won't see Jimbo's first class (2008) be drafted until the 2011 draft, when the freshmen of last year will be draft eligible juniors.

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