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Study: Small School Draft Selections

This is a study I’ve been really anxious to do. I’ve said it a million times. The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be one of the most infrequent teams in drafting small school, FCS and below, players. But I’ve never compared it league wide to see if that hypothesis really holds up.

So today, we will. Similar to our combine/draft pick study we did weeks ago, we’ll look at the number of small school kids each team has drafted since 2007, the start of the Mike Tomlin era. We’re going to break this down into several categories.

Small School Selections: Pretty obvious here. The number of small school players, again, FCS and below, when they were drafted.

Total Selections: The total number of draft picks since 2007.

Small School %: A key stat. This makes the numbers relative and shows who, based on number of total picks, takes the most small school players.

Highest Round: The highest round spent on a small school player. Are some teams only willing to draft them in the late rounds? Which ones have shown the ability to draft one early?

Small School 1-4: The number of small schoolers within the first four rounds.

Small School 5-7: The number of small schoolers within rounds five through seven.

Classes W/ Small School: There have been nine draft classes since 2007. This one shows how many draft classes included a small school player, to help identify trends, instead of perhaps just one or two years where a team gobbled up those types of players.

The table, which you can sort, is below.

Team Small School Selections Total Selections Small School % Highest Round Small School 1-4 Small School 5-7 Classes W/ Small School
BAL 14 74 18.9 1st 9 5 7
JAX 14 67 20.9 2nd 3 11 8
MIA 13 75 17.3 3rd (x2) 4 9 5
ARI 13 65 20 1st 7 6 8
LA 11 79 13.9 2nd (x2) 3 8 6
KC 10 74 13.5 4th 1 9 6
DAL 10 71 14.1 3rd (x2) 6 4 7
DET 10 70 14.3 4th (x2) 2 8 8
ATL 10 73 13.7 2nd 3 7 7
MIN 9 75 12 3rd 1 8 5
GB 9 81 11.1 4th (x3) 3 6 5
BUF 8 73 11 6th (x4) 0 8 5
TEN 8 76 10.5 4th 1 7 5
SEA 7 78 9.0 5th (x3) 0 7 5
OAK 7 74 9.5 3rd 4 3 6
CIN 7 82 8.5 2nd 1 6 5
CLE 7 70 10.0 3rd 3 4 5
NYJ 6 56 10.7 2nd 3 3 5
IND 6 69 8.7 2nd 1 5 6
NYG 6 65 9.2 3rd 2 4 4
CAR 6 65 9.2 2nd 3 3 5
NO 6 54 11.1 3rd (x2) 3 3 4
SF 6 80 7.5 2nd 1 6 4
PHI 5 80 6.3 3rd 2 3 3
NE 4 83 4.8 2nd 1 3 3
TB 4 66 6.1 2nd 2 2 3
SD 3 57 5.3 4th 1 2 3
HOU 3 74 4.1 3rd (x2) 2 1 3
WSH 3 73 4.1 3rd 1 2 2
CHI 3 66 4.5 5th (x2) 0 3 3
PIT 2 76 2.6 4th 1 1 2
DEN 1 69 1.4 4th 1 0 1

Some fun facts that might get lost in the data.

– From 2003 to 2009, the Seattle Seahawks did not draft a single small school player. Since Pete Carroll’s arrival in 2010, they have drafted seven, and in each of the last five drafts.

– The Oakland Raiders have the longest active “streak,” taking at least one FCS player in each of the last six draft classes.

– The Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears have the biggest droughts. Neither has taken one since 2010.

– The Arizona Cardinals could be argued as the most aggressive players in small school kids. Their selection percentage is 2nd overall, they’ve had one in eight of nine classes, and they have drafted 7 in the top four rounds, the second most in the league. That’s what separates them from say, a Jacksonville, who has only taken three.

– The Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens are the only two teams to spend a first rounder on one. The Cardinals took Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the Ravens grabbed Joe Flacco.

– The Buffalo Bills haven’t used anything higher than a 6th round pick on one. And that was last done in 2010.

– I didn’t keep a super close eye on it but you can tell some teams target specific schools. The Ravens have drafted three players from Delaware. The Miami Dolphins have selected three from Montana.

– Back to Ozzie Newsome. The Ravens have gone against the grain, and drafted nine small schoolers in the first four rounds. Just five after that. Most teams, obviously, draft more in the later rounds.

– And of course, to finish things up, Pittsburgh. Yes, I can now say with complete confidence that Kevin Colbert and Tomlin are one of the most conservative drafters and stay away from FCS players. Only the Denver Broncos, who took only one player (Julius Thomas) have drafted fewer.

The Steelers selections are Nick Williams and Cortez Allen.

So when you create a mock, stick with the big name schools. Odds are, that’s the pool they’ll be drafting from.

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