Conference USA

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  A detail from the red carpet prior to the start of the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)
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Nearly 30 percent of early entrants went undrafted

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North of 100 college football players decided earlier this year, in some form or fashion, to forego their remaining collegiate eligibility for an early shot at the NFL.  In the end, roughly seven out of every 10 of those players felt a draft.

In mid-January, the NFL announced that 96 players “have been granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft.”  Another 11 players with eligibility remaining “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements” and were eligible for the draft as well.

Add it up, there were 107 players who left collegiate eligibility on the table.  And, in the end, exactly 30 of those players were left without a seat once the draft music had stopped.

Below is the list of players who will hope to gain a foothold on an NFL club as an undrafted free agent:

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Travis Blanks, LB, Clemson
Peyton Barber, RB, Auburn
Dariusz Bladek, OG, Bethune-Cookman
Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi State
Trenton Coles, DB, Duquesne
Elijah Daniel, DT, Murray State
Terrell Davis, LB, British Columbia
Eric Enderson, P, Delaware
David Grinnage, TE, North Carolina State
Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona
Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas
Darius Latham, DL, Indiana
Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Brett McMakin, LB, Northern Iowa
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Joe Powell, DB, Globe
Tyvis Powell, S, Ohio State
Alex Redmond, OL, UCLA
Aldrick Rosas, K, Southern Oregon
Tyrell Smith, OT, Massachusetts
Ron Thompson, DE, Syracuse
Corey Tindal, DB, Marshall
Quinn van Gylswyk, K, British Columbia
Cleveland Wallace III, CB, San Jose State
De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
Avery Young, OL, Auburn

B1G gained ground, but SEC still reigned in NFL draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces Leonard Floyd of the Georgia Bulldogs as the #9 overall pick by the Chicago Bears during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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In each of the last two years, the Big Ten was barely within 20 of the SEC in total draft selections.  In the 2016 version of the annual selection meeting, the former conference gained significant ground on the latter — but couldn’t quite get over that Southern hump.

With three days and seven rounds officially in the books, the SEC led all conferences with 51 players selected in the 2016 NFL draft.  That total is down from the 54 a year ago, but up from 49 in the 2014 draft.

The past two drafts, the Big Ten had gone from 30 picks in 2014 to 34 in 2015; thanks in large part to 12 from Ohio State, that conference made a B1G leap to 47, second-most of any other conference in college football this cycle and the closest any league has come to unseating the SEC in a handful of years.  The last two years, the ACC, No. 2 in 2014 and 2015, got to within seven of the SEC — 47 picks in 2015 for that conference, 42 the year before.

This year, the ACC’s 26 selections were tied with the Big 12 for No. 4 among conferences.  No. 3?  The Pac-12, with a whopping nine picks in the seventh and final round, with 32.

No Group of Five conference could come close to the Power Five leagues, with the AAC and Conference USA pacing those “mid-majors” with 10 draft picks each.  The Mountain West was next with nine, followed by the MAC with six and the Sun Belt with three.

Independents saw eight players drafted, with Notre Dame accounting for all but one of those (more on the Irish later).

From the lower divisions of college football, 21 FCSers were drafted while two from Div. II were scooped up.  And, internationally, there was one player each from Canada and Germany who heard their name called.

Four-star recruits reign in first round of NFL draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Joey Bosa of Ohio State holds up a jersey after being picked #3 overall by the San Diego Chargers during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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A wild and controversy-laden first night of the 2016 NFL draft has long since been put to bed — one college football program may have ongoing and lingering night terrors, though — with the second round set to kick off in less than an hour. Before that, though, it’s time to take a quick recruiting look back at that first round.

There were a total of 31 players selected in that first round, with just four coming from non-Power Five programs — quarterback Carson Wentz (North Dakota State, FCS) to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2, cornerback William Jackson III (Houston, AAC) to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 24, quarterback Paxton Lynch (Memphis, AAC) to the Denver Broncos at No. 26, defensive tackle Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech, Conference USA) to the Carolina Panthers at No. 30.  Wentz, as you may have learned during the run-up to the draft, wasn’t ranked in 247Sports.com‘s 2011 composite rankings and received zero scholarship offers from FBS programs, with Central Michigan the only school from that level showing more than mild interest.  The other three?  They were two-star prospects according to that recruiting service.

Those stars, or lack thereof, though, were the exception rather than the rule.

Of the remaining 27 first-round picks in the 2016 draft, more than half (17) were four-star prospects coming out of high school, again according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings.  Of the players selected in the Top 10, seven of them were four-star recruits, with the lone exceptions being Wentz, Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey (2013 five-star) and Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin (not rated, zero FBS scholarship offers, began career as walk-on).

Aside from Wentz, Conklin, Jackson III, Lynch and Butler, every other draft pick was at least a three-star recruit coming out of high school.  Interestingly, there were nearly as many three-star recruits picked (four) as there were five-stars (five).

Including the No. 1 overall pick from Cal, quarterback Jared Goff, four of the first five selections were four-star prospects.  The first five-star selected was Ramsey; the first three-star was Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins at No. 12 to the New Orleans Saints.

Below is the entire first round of the 2016 NFL draft, with the draftees corresponding recruiting ranking in parentheses.

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, Cal (4*)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State (NR)
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State (4*)
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (4*)
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (5*)
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (4*)
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon (4*)
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State (NR)
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia (4*)
  10. New York Giants — Eli Apple, Ohio State (4*)
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida (5*)
  12. New Orleans Saints — Sheldon Rankins, Louisville (3*)
  13. Miami Dolphins — Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss (5*)
  14. Oakland Raiders — Karl Joseph, West Virginia (3*)
  15. Cleveland Browns — Corey Coleman, Baylor (4*)
  16. Detroit Lions — Taylor Decker, Ohio State (4*)
  17. Atlanta Falcons — Keanu Neal, Florida (4*)
  18. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly, Alabama (4*)
  19. Buffalo Bills — Shaq Lawson, Clemson (4*)
  20. New York Jets — Darron Lee, Ohio State (3*)
  21. Houston Texans — Will Fuller, Notre Dame (4*)
  22. Washington Redskins — Josh Doctson, TCU (3*)
  23. Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (5*)
  24. Cincinnati Bengals — William Jackson III, Houston (2*)
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers — Artie Burns, Miami (4*)
  26. Denver Broncos — Paxton Lynch, Memphis (2*)
  27. Green Bay Packers — Kenny Clark, UCLA (4*)
  28. San Francisco 49ers — Joshua Garnett, Stanford (4*)
  29. Arizona Cardinals — Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (5*)
  30. Carolina Panthers — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (2*)
  31. Seattle Seahawks — Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (4*)

Ohio State won the NFL Draft’s first round, and Ole Miss lost it

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Ezekiel Elliott #15 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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After a win in the Great Satellite War of 2016 earlier Thursday, the Big Ten continued its winning streak into the night as Jim Delany‘s conference claimed the most selections in the NFL Draft’s first round.

Ohio State led the way with five selections, one short of 2004 Miami’s all-time record. Joey Bosa was first off the board to the Chargers at No.3, followed immediately by Ezekiel Elliott to the Cowboys at No. 4. The pair became the first teammates selected in the top five since Sam BradfordGerald McCoy and Trent Williams were selected in the top four in 2010. Cornerback Eli Apple joined Elliott in the NFC East in going to the Giants at No. 10, and Taylor Decker trailed six picks later to the Lions. Linebacker Darron Lee rounded out the night for the Buckeyes when he went to the Jets at No. 20.

Ole Miss trailed Ohio State with three first-round selections, but the night was anything but a win for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels, not after Laremy Tunsil was shown on Twitter smoking from a bong, then admitting in a press conference to taking money from coaches. Tunsil, once projected as the No. 1 overall pick, fell to the Dolphins at No. 13. Laquon Treadwell was chosen by the Vikings at No. 23, and Robert Nkemdiche headed west to the Cardinals at No. 29.

Most selections by team
5 – Ohio State
3 – Ole Miss
2 – Florida, Notre Dame

Other storylines of note:

– SEC shut out at the top: Thanks in large part to Tunsil’s slide, the SEC did not dent the big board until Georgia’s Leonard Floyd went to the host Bears at No. 9. It was the conference’s longest wait to join the Draft since 2006, when Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler was the SEC’s ice breaker at No. 11 overall. Still, the SEC was the most frequent player on Thursday night.

Most selections by conference
1. SEC – 8
2. Big Ten – 6
3. ACC – 4
3. Pac-12 – 4
5. Big 12 – 3
6. American – 2
7. Conference USA – 1

– Chip Kelly‘s Pac-12 love affair continues: After loading up on Pac-12 players in Philadelphia, the new 49ers head coach double-dipped into his old stomping grounds by nabbing former Duck DeForest Buckner at No. 7, then trading back into the first round to nab Stanford guard Joshua Garnett in the Chiefs’ spot at No. 28.

– Quarterbacks at the top, again: Jared Goff became California’s first No. 1 selection since 1975, but the Big Game rivalry’s second in four years. Overall, quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall 14 times since Peyton Manning entered the league in 1998.

The full list:

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia
  10. New York Giants — Eli Apple, Ohio State
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  12. New Orleans Saints — Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
  13. Miami Dolphins — Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
  14. Oakland Raiders — Karl Joseph, West Virginia
  15. Cleveland Browns — Corey Coleman, Baylor
  16. Detriot Lions — Taylor Decker, Ohio State
  17. Atlanta Falcons — Keanu Neal, Florida
  18. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly, Alabama
  19. Buffalo Bills — Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  20. New York Jets — Darron Lee, Ohio State
  21. Houston Texans — Will Fuller, Notre Dame
  22. Washington Redskins — Josh Doctson, TCU
  23. Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
  24. Cincinnati Bengals — William Jackson III, Houston
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers — Artie Burns, Miami
  26. Denver Broncos — Paxton Lynch, Memphis
  27. Green Bay Packers — Kenny Clark, UCLA
  28. San Francisco 49ers — Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  29. Arizona Cardinals — Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
  30. Carolina Panthers — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
  31. Seattle Seahawks — Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

Report: Conference USA football could return to ESPN this fall

HUNTINGTON, WV - DECEMBER 06: Remi Watson #8, Kevin Rodriguez #35, and Stefan Houston #3 of the Marshall Thundering Herd take the field before their game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Joan C. Edwards Stadium during the Conference USA championship game on December 6, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia. The Thundering Herd defeated the Bulldogs 26-23. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s no secret that ESPN is the front door to the college sports world, and any league that doesn’t have a foothold on the Worldwide Leader faces a serious uphill climb for coverage. See: Conference USA.

C-USA currently splits its rights between Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network and the American Sports Network and, unless you happen to be a fan of one of the league’s 14 teams, you probably didn’t see a game before bowl season. But that could change soon.

The conference’s television deals expire at the end of June, and Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot reported ESPN has become a “late but serious bidder” for a portion of the C-USA package.

A change in partners would be well received by C-USA on two fronts. First, it’s ESPN. Second, the conference isn’t raking it in as is. Minium reported Old Dominion has planned for a drop in television revenue of $600,000 to $700,000 this fall — up from the originally anticipated fall of $500,000. And ODU only received $1 million last year to begin with. The drop can be attributed to the exodus of high-wattage programs — Houston, Memphis, East Carolina — to the AAC, allowing Fox and CBS to pay below the agreed amount. Exit fees had subsidized the loss in revenue, but those funds are running dry.

Conference USA declined to comment on the state of the negotiations, but five games have already been moved to weeknights — indicated back-channel negotiations are well under way.

That Old Dominion (and, presumably, other C-USA schools) could make only $300,000 on TV rights from an entire year is, in a word, shocking. In a world where the Big Ten could secure half a billion dollars over six years for half its package, this is a nice reminder that that world isn’t open to everyone.