Playing time and potential helped Florida State reach new NFL Draft heights

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

A perfect storm saw 'Noles getting paid.

Florida State set a school record with 11 NFL draft picks. Never, even during the dynasty years, had the 'Noles had that many selected. That surprised a lot of people, including my dad, when I told him Sunday evening.

So I thought about the reasons behind it. There are a few, and they all came together to create this perfect storm.

Timing

This is one of the most important elements. When the majority of the players drafted came to Florida State, the talent level was very, very down. The existing coaching staff was one of the worst in college football, wasn't maximizing in recruiting, and wasn't really developing players. Between 2009 and 2012, Florida State had just 11 players drafted. It had 11 players drafted this weekend.

How is that relevant? Playing time. Recruits brought in under Jimbo Fisher in 2009, and especially 2010 were able to play right away. And indeed, that was a big recruiting pitch for a few years. Florida State was a very veteran team last year. Of the 11 draftees, there was a four-year starter, five three-year starters and three two-year starters. JUCOs Cornellius "Tank" Carradine and Menelik Watson had each started for just a single year. And that's to say nothing of Rodney Smith, Amp McCloud and Lonnie Pryor -- a trio of three-year starters who went undrafted, but who were quickly snatched up in free agency.

And all of those snaps mean that NFL teams have tape on Florida State kids. Lots and lots of tape. So instead of guessing at the answer to a question, like "can he do ___?," the NFL scouting departments were able to look at the tape. That is a big advantage. I have no doubt that some Florida State players were drafted higher than more talented and better players because those players did not have as much tape.

This isn't something that happens every year. But it did for Florida State.

Take EJ Manuel, for instance. The Buffalo Bills drafted him at No. 16 overall, when it appears he would have been around a full round later. Manuel has a ton of tape. He was Florida State's QB in 33 games. And in those 33 games, there is a lot to like, and a lot not to like. What did the Buffalo Bills see? Three years of highlight plays, not just one or two. And they saw Manuel improve some in each season. And since NFL coaches think very little of college coaching, just like college coaches think very little of high school coaching, they think they can make the excellent the norm, while removing much of the bad.

If Buffalo hadn't seen three seasons of highlights, and seen him improve some in each season, do they take Manuel at 16? Probably not.

Similarly, there have been Seminoles in the past who went undrafted because they had only a single year of tape, despite being very talented. And some of those guys have gone on to be excellent players.

See one, see all

There's also the snowball of exposure. Florida State had seven players who were pretty much locks to be picked in the first three rounds (the five who did, plus the injured duo of Thompson and Jenkins). That's a lot, and it meant scouts from all NFL teams were constantly in town checking out the Seminoles.

And while those scouts were in town, other players also caught their eye. And when they went back and watched tape, even more players were seen.

Potential

Some of Florida State's players were drafted highly because NFL teams believe they have a lot of untapped potential.

Menelik Watson, the JUCO offensive tackle who left after one season, is the best example of this. Oakland took him at No. 42 overall, despite his play being decent to good. Watson made the right call, given his age and family situation, but it's hard to argue that FSU could have coaxed more out of him during his single year, as FSU's coaches basically had to teach him everything in his sole year on campus, including how to get in a proper stance.

Watson's on-field play was no better than a fourth-round pick, but he was close to being drafted as a first rounder because of his ability to play like a fourth-rounder in his first year of major college football, and just his second ever in the sport.

A similar argument can be made for Carradine, who is quite raw and has not played end for all that long, as he was a 205-pound safety out of high school.

2014 & beyond

FSU probably won't see 11 players drafted in a single year any time soon. And that's a good thing, as it means the Seminoles won't be going through runs in which the team is very young and lacking in physical maturity. The 2013 team, for instance, which has to replace 5 of the first 42 picks, and more than half of its starters, will do so mostly with upperclassmen. Inexperienced, but not young.

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