The 2017 NFL Draft was one of the most exciting and unpredictable in recent memory. And with all 253 picks in the books, we can start to analyze what it all means. But while most everyone is focused on the professional impact that each draft class will have in the NFL, we want to go in the opposite direction.
One of the major things programs can sell recruits on is making it to the next level. And there are definite bragging rights to go around for which team and conference has the biggest draft class. But in the 2017 NFL Draft, there are many facts about which players were selected from which schools that would amaze you. Here are just seven of them…
1) West Georgia (2) had more players selected than Georgia (1)
OK, I’ll be honest… before the NFL Draft came around I had no idea there was even a West Georgia. West Virginia, sure. But West… Georgia? Yes, West Georgia is a real school and apparently they have quite the impressive football factory coming out of the Gulf South Conference in Division II. The Wolves had two players selected: Dylan Donohue went #181 overall to the New York Jets while Alexander Armah went #192 overall to the Carolina Panthers.
Amazingly, West Georgia had more players selected than their more fancied in-state neighbors, the Georgia Bulldogs. They only had one player selected: Isaiah McKenzie, #172 overall to the Denver Broncos. And they also outdid other D-I schools in the state like Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern who also had one player selected.
In case you were wondering, West Georgia made the D-II playoffs in 2014 and 2015, but went just 7-4 last year in missing out on the postseason. Still though, it was good enough to get more players to the NFL than the SEC powerhouse program did. No wonder Kirby Smart is so paranoid about the media these days.
2) The American Athletic Conference (15) had more players selected than the Big 12 (14)
The term “Power Five” conference is supposed to mean you’re a cut above the rest when it comes to the hierarchy of college football. Unfortunately, nobody has told that to the Big 12. The conference always seems to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the rest of their Power Five brethren. That could apply to the College Football Playoff, revenue, and the existence of a conference network (or the lack thereof). It now also applies to the NFL Draft this year.
The Big 12 had their worst draft turnout since coming into existence with just 14 players selected and only Patrick Mahomes went in the first round. They were outdone by one “Group of Five” conference, the AAC. The American had 15 players selected including Temple’s Haason Reddick in Round 1. They also had four players go in Round 2 compared to just one for the Big 12. Too bad we can’t try out a promotion/relegation system for the Power Five.
3) Utah almost had their entire offensive line drafted
With eight picks, Utah surprisingly had the most selections in the Pac-12 and one of the fun statistical anomalies in this year’s draft is that the Utes had almost their entire offensive line selected. Utah had four out of their five linemen drafted: Garrett Bolles in Round 1 to the Broncos, Isaac Asiata in Round 5 to the Dolphins, J.J. Dielman in Round 5 to the Bengals, and Sam Tevi in Round 6 to the Chargers. That’s a hugely impressive haul and head coach Kyle Whittingham can definitely market the fact that he’s building a beast up front out west.
4) Oregon had no players drafted for the first time since 1985
At the other end of the spectrum in the Pac-12 is Oregon, who went without a draftee for the first time in 32 years. Just two years ago, they had five players drafted, including QB Marcus Mariota who went #2 overall to the Tennessee Titans. Oregon was in the national championship game that season when they lost to Ohio State and it was a precipitous fall this season as they only went 4-8 in 2016 and Mark Helfrich lost his job.
Unfortunately for Oregon football and head coach Willie Taggart, the offseason has been extremely tumultuous and suddenly one of the newest glamour programs in college football is staring at a pretty significant rebuilding project.
5) Over 20 percent of the Big Ten’s draft class came from Michigan’s defense
The Big Ten was led by the Michigan Wolverines with a school record 11 draft picks, not a bad conversation starter for the next time Jim Harbaugh sees the Pope. The centerpiece of the Wolverines’ squad was their defense, which was among the best in the nation and ranked second behind Alabama in total defense and points allowed per game.
That played out over the last weekend as a whopping eight defenders from Michigan were selected. Only two other teams had more total draft picks: Alabama with 10 and Miami (FL) with nine picks.
Even more impressively, the Michigan defense was one-fifth of the Big Ten’s entire draft class with eight of the 35 selections overall.
6) Lamar, Kutztown, and Ashland had as many draftees as Texas, Penn State, and Nebraska
When you think of classic programs that should stand the test of time as pillars of college football you think of the Texas Longhorns, Nebraska Cornhuskers, and Penn State Nittany Lions. You don’t often think of the Lamar Cardinals, Kutztown Golden Bears, and Ashland Eagles.
And yet, for the 2017 NFL Draft weekend, these six programs were equals.
All six programs had one player selected. For the latter group of three schools, that’s something that will be forever remembered. And amazingly, the highest selection out of the schools was from Ashland with the Bears shocking everyone (and not for the first or the last time during the draft it needs to be said) by selecting TE Adam Shaheen at #45 overall.
For the former group, it’s a sign that the programs aren’t producing enough NFL caliber talent. However, at least Penn State can look forward to 2018 when Saquon Barkley will be a surefire Top 10 pick. They also have a Big Ten title to hang their hat on. Nebraska and Texas fans haven’t quite had so much to cheer about recently, either during the regular season or on draft night.
7) Chad Kelly faces a steeeeeeeeep uphill battle as Mr. Irrelevant
The polarizing Ole Miss quarterback with lots of talent and lots of baggage finally heard his name called in the 2017 NFL Draft as Mr. Irrelevant, being picked by the Denver Broncos. Kelly certainly has the talent to make an NFL roster and some, like former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, even think he could eventually gain significant playing time in Denver.
2 years "Tops" Chad Kelly is quarterbacking the Denver Broncos in the playoffs
— Tajh Boyd (@TajhB10) April 30, 2017
However, if history is any judge, Kelly faces a nearly impossible task.
Since the Mr. Irrelevant tradition began in 1976, Kelly is the fifth quarterback selected with the final pick in the draft. The previous four QBs before Kelly, Chandler Harnish (2012), Ronnie McAda (1997), Larry Wanke (1991), and Randy Essington (1984) have the following as their combined NFL passing totals.
0/0, 0 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 0 EVERYTHING
That’s right, none of the QBs taken with the last pick ever threw a pass in the NFL. Given that history, if Kelly can indeed lead the Broncos to the playoffs it should be viewed as a Brady-like feat. At the very least, it would put him on the same level as Tim Tebow.