Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Do You Need To Be Successful

Commenter Jimherehi had a good observation yesterday in the comment to the post on what the NFL Draft means to LSU. He observes:
I find it strange that LSU is the National Champion and had only 1 player drafted in the first two rounds. Not that I think the ones drafted should have been drafted higher, just that it is strange that only one was drafted in the first two rounds. I guess it means that our winning the championship was a total team effort.
I think this deserves some discussion. What does it mean to have 3rd, 4th, and 7th rounders on your team, as opposed to 1st and 2nd rounders? In the 2007 draft, we had four 1st round draft picks selected off of LSU, and one selected in the 7th round. I had acquaintances who criticized LSU for having "so much talent" and not winning the conference or the national championship., suggesting that if we couldn't win it with that load of talent, we wouldn't have another shot at it.

We turned around and had just as good of a season the next year if not better, and got a little bit of luck on our side to give us a chance to win the national championship. Then, when the draft rolled around, only one of our players got anywhere near 1st round treatment.

My explanation for this is that, to my observation, as far as its impact on the college football field goes, there isn't a whole lot of difference between having a future mid-first-round selection on your team and having a future 4th round selection on your team. And further, there isn't a whole lot of difference between having a 5th round selection on your team and having one of the better undrafted free agents.

While I think there is a correlation between "first rounders" and past college success, I would bet that the stronger correlation is between "total draftees" and past college success. Take as an example the last two national champions. In the 2007 draft, after winning the national championship Florida had 9 players selected, and one of the guys passed over was their 4-year-starter at quarterback who could very easily have been drafted. In the 2008 draft, after willing the national championship LSU had 7 players selected, and another who very well could have been.

That's talent and skill spread around the field. Plus, it's senior talent and skill. Those two things are, I think, the keys to having success. Having a veteran team that is also talented at most positions is a very reliable indication of success, much moreso than having a few very good players.

As another example, take a look at that 2006 Arkansas team that almost won the conference. Following that season, they had 4 players drafted, including 3 in the first 2 rounds. Following their next season, they had 6 players drafted, including one of the top 5 and another late 1st rounder. Many people considered that to be a gimmicky team, led by a couple of great players, but the NFL draft shows they had talent all over the field that year, and hence, they had success.

I am sure someone will point out that USC had 10 players drafted, and did not win the national championship. True, but I think some people define success too narrowly. USC has won its conference for something like 5 or 6 consecutive years. That's a string of consistent success that marks a very talented team, and they were surely one play away from going to the national championship game over LSU. One wonders if, having lost that much talent, maybe they finally will start showing a little more vulnerability, but I digress.

My conclusion in looking at it is that having high end talent is great, but having good talent spread around is even better. Of course, having high end talent and good talent spread around is the best of all, but let's not be greedy. The good news is, I think we still have good talent spread around, and we will have it for the foreseeable future.

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