There are somewhere around 7.3 million kids who play high school sports in a given year. Just over one million of those seven million play high school football. Of those one million, 73,700 will go on to play the sport of football in college at the NCAA level. That means just 6.8 of all high school football players will even make it to the NCAA level, and less than two percent of all NCAA football players then make it to the NFL.
Safe to say that if playing football as a career is your dream growing up, you better be special.
Making it to the top of your field in sports is the same as any other major industry. Becoming a one percent in anything in life requires you standing out in many ways. Not only do you have to be talented or smart or skilled enough to handle it when you make it to that stage and even prove yourself as you climb the ladder, you have to put yourself in advantageous positions to get noticed or to take that next step.
In realm of college football, your best chance of becoming that less than two percent is by playing in the SEC.
According to an article by Forbes, via the NCAA, of the 1,696 NFL players on active rosters at the beginning of the 2018 season, nearly 20 percent came from the SEC. There were 96 more rostered players that came from an SEC school than the the second-most of any conference, which was the Big Ten, and the top three schools in terms of alumni in the NFL all came from the SEC.
Even beyond Alabama, which is by far the standard for recruiting high school talent in the country, and has been for the better part of a decade it seems, schools like Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Auburn all currently have Top 15 recruiting classes, and all four have at least 28 former players in the NFL.
Does playing in the SEC automatically make you a better potential pro than playing in other conferences? No, of course it doesn’t. At the end of the day it’s about you working hard, getting better and putting some great tape out there over three or four years at your university. But going back to the point of players doing every little thing they can to help themselves be in a position to get noticed and for NFL teams to take a chance on them, the SEC, statistically speaking, does have its advantages over other conferences when it comes to the NFL draft.
For 12 straight years now, the SEC has led all conferences in players drafted to the NFL. Last year, in the 2018 NFL Draft, 53 players were drafted from the SEC. The only conference that came within 20 picks of that was the ACC with 46 — which is quite close, and does speak to the strength of the ACC as a whole. And it’s not just fudging the depth numbers to get the stats to say what you want, either. Last season, 10 SEC players were taken in the first round, more than any other conference.
Top-to-bottom it seems as though the SEC has dominated the NFL Draft, and this year might be no different. Players like Quinnen Williams, Devin White, Jonah Williams, Jeffery Simmons, Josh Allen, Jachai Polite, D.K. Metcalf and Greedy Williams can all not only boast their talent overall, but have somewhat of a claim as one of if not the best player at their position this draft has to offer.
I think coaching ties to the NFL also matters when it comes to some of these SEC players. Established, successful coaches have a tendency to help players make their jump to the next level, and since the SEC has five of the Top 10 highest paid head coaches in college football, it makes sense that that is where the connections to the next level are — always follow the money.
So, is the headline of this article a tad misleading? Sure. (Sorry, sometimes I like to poke at you guys.) If you are a talented player, you can certainly make your way to the NFL outside of the SEC — many do. But if you want that little extra to be put on a national stage, to have eyes always on you, to be able to say you “played against the best” (which might not even be true but some believe it), playing in the SEC is statistically and historically your path of least resistance from a high school dream to the pros when it comes to the NFL Draft.