Evaluating recent NFL pipelines
Which programs producing NFL talent do so with elite recruits, and which ones don't?
As part of ESPN The Magazine and RecruitingNation's joint project looking at ESPNU 150 recruiting data from 2007 to 2011, we ranked college football's 10 best recruiting programs following signing day. One thing readers pointed out in the comments section was that we didn't give credit to schools that do more in the long run with lower-rated high school prospects. Admittedly, our project focused solely on elite ESPNU 150 talent and failed to take into account how those preps panned out or whether they even made it onto the field in college.
So in advance of the NFL scouting combine, we looked at the combine invite lists for 2011 and 2012 to determine (1) programs that have produced the most invitees in the last two years, and (2) programs that are molding recruits off the ESPNU 150 radar into NFL-caliber prospects.
After narrowing down the field to the 13 schools that were responsible for at least 12 total invitees, we ranked them by the percentage of those players that were non-ESPNU 150 prospects. Now, there's one thing we need to reiterate before diving into the rankings: being lower on this list is not an indictment of your team. This is simply a list of the 13 programs (out of 120 in the FBS) that had at least 12 players invited to the 2011 and 2012 combines. In other words, these teams can find elite-level talent and prepare players for the next level. Some schools just capitalize on potential more often than talent.
T-1. Nebraska Cornhuskers2011-12 combine invitees: 13
Former ESPNU 150 recruits: 0
Yes, the Cornhuskers are known for their "feed-'em-and-lift-'em" recruits who remain in Lincoln for four, if not five, years. But players like CB Prince Amukamara and RB Roy Helu are testaments to Nebraska's recruiting acumen. Amukamara transitioned from a 6-foot, 185-pound, three-star running back into the No. 19 overall pick in 2011, and he just won a Super Bowl as a member of the New York Giants' secondary. Helu was a fourth-round pick after coming out of high school as a 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back. This year, Nebraska's pipeline has produced two-star DT Jared Crick and three-star CB Alfonzo Dennard, who each put on 20 pounds as Huskers.