Big 12: Cliff Branch

The best Big 12 players in NFL history

May, 29, 2009
5/29/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

As anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis understands by now, I see numbers and statistics as a way of explaining a lot of things about sports.

A whole generation of analysts has constructed brand new ideas in baseball because of the work of sabermetricians like former Kansas student Bill James.

Football doesn't quiet have that wealth of study, mainly because there aren't as many numbers available.

But there are a growing segment of analysts out there doing more and more work on football analysis.

My wife got me a book over the weekend which I read while I was down at the beach over Memorial Day. Sean Lahman's "The Pro Football Historical Abstract" used some Jamesian methodology to rank the top pro players in history at their positions, among other things.

And bringing some of Lahman's study into closer focus, I was particularly interested in how players from Big 12 schools ranked among his career lists at various positions.

Here's a position-by-position glance at the top Big 12 players in NFL history, according to Lahman's rankings.

Quarterbacks

12. Bobby Layne (Texas)
27. Troy Aikman (started at Oklahoma, UCLA)
28. John Hadl (Kansas)
62. Steve Grogan (Kansas State)
63. Kordell Stewart (Colorado)
100. Bernie Masterson (Nebraska)

Running backs

2. Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
5. Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State)
21. Earl Campbell (Texas)
30. Roger Craig (Nebraska)
32. John Riggins (Kansas)
38. Priest Holmes (Texas)
45. Ahman Green (Nebraska)
54. Larry Brown (Kansas State)
98. Gale Sayers (Kansas)
99. James Wilder (Missouri)

Wide receivers

17. Cliff Branch (Colorado)
27. Del Shofner (Baylor)
47. Irving Fryar (Nebraska)
48. Mel Gray (Missouri)
49. Dave Parks (Texas Tech)

Tight Ends

6. Kellen Winslow (Missouri)
14. Keith Jackson (Oklahoma)
34. Henry Childs (Kansas State)
49. Paul Coffman (Kansas State)

Offensive linemen

7. Will Shields (Nebraska)
32. Richmond Webb (Texas A&M)
34. Bob Brown (Nebraska)
39. Bob Young (Started at Howard Payne, Texas, Texas State)
46. John Wooten (Colorado)

Defensive linemen

18. Ron McDole (Nebraska)
19. Steve McMichael (Texas)
43. Ray Childress (Texas A&M)

Linebackers

2. Mike Singletary (Baylor)
26. Andy Russell (Missouri)
28. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
29. Zach Thomas (Texas Tech)
30. Leslie O'Neal (Oklahoma State)

Defensive backs

16. Yale Lary (Texas A&M)
21. Pat Fischer (Nebraska)
36. Roger Wehrli (Missouri)

Kickers

20. Bobby Layne (Texas)

Kickoff returners

2. Glyn Milburn (Started at Oklahoma, Stanford)
4. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
7. Tyrone Hughes (Nebraska)
10. Gale Sayers (Kansas)

Punt returners

5. Eric Metcalf (Texas)
12. Glyn Milburn (Oklahoma, Stanford)

Combined kick returners

11. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
14. Mike Nelms (Started at Baylor, Sam Houston State)
24. Dick Todd (Texas A&M)

TWO-WAY ERA PLAYERS

Backs

5. Verne Lewellen (Nebraska)
7. Glenn Presnell (Nebraska)

Ends

10. Guy Chamberlin (Started at Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)

Tackles

1. Link Lyman (Nebraska)

Guards

3. Ox Emerson (Texas)

Centers

5. Charley Brock (Nebraska)
6. Frank Bausch (Kansas)

Coaches

4. Tom Landry (Texas)
53. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
72. Guy Chamberlin (Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)

I had a chance to see many of these players as my frame of reference for the NFL goes back to about 1964, when I was 5 years old. The only one that really shocked me was how low Gale Sayers was ranked among running backs. I grew up watching the Chicago Bears and saw almost every one of Sayers' pro games. I find it hard to believe there were 97 better running backs in NFL history than him.

One fact that was interesting from this list was the number of running backs and linemen that were Big 12 products, in comparison with quarterbacks and receivers. In the old days, the Big Eight and Southwest conferences always had reputations based on stout running games. I think that will change in the future because of the conference's growing aerial status.

Obviously, there will be other Big 12 players who will be able to make the list in the future. It would be a shock if we don't see Adrian Peterson charging into the best backs in NFL history. It wouldn't surprise me if Michael Crabtree was able to be that kind of player. Maybe Jason Smith, too.

But it's always interesting to me to see the kind of work that Lahman has developed on a grand scale for the NFL and compare it to the Big 12 schools.  

I just wish some other researchers would feel as passionate about college football history, too.

The best NFL players for each Big 12 team

April, 22, 2009
4/22/09
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I got a lot of good feedback last week after I detailed a post that listed the top NFL player from each Big 12 school in the modern era.

ESPN Stats & Information went back through every draft of the modern era -- since the NFL-AFL merger -- to determine the players who accomplished the most during their NFL careers.

The rankings were based on the following criteria: Hall of Fame induction, MVP awards, All-Pro first-team selections, All-Pro second-team selections, Pro Bowls, offensive and defensive player of the year and rookie of the year awards and membership on a Super Bowl-winning or -losing team. A player scores on the ranking system when he earns at least one of those honors.

Specifically, this was the criteria that was used:

THE POINTS SYSTEM

Players received points based on the following criteria, coming up with rankings for the 13,808 NFL players who have played since 1967:

Super Bowl loss (1 point)
Offensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Defensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Pro Bowl (2 points)
Super Bowl win (3 points)
AP All-Pro second team (3 points)
AP All-Pro first team (4 points)
AP Defensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Offensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Most Valuable Player (8 points)
Hall of Famer (15 points)

After popular demand, here's how the formula calculated the five most valuable NFL players produced from each Big 12 school. I'm curious what some of your thoughts about these players and others might be.

Remember, this includes only players who were drafted. So free agents like Wes Welker were not included.

BAYLOR

Mike Singletary 81
Mike Nelms 22
Vann McElroy 10
Gary Green 8
Thomas Everett 8

COLORADO

Dick Anderson 30
Cliff Branch 29
Mark Haynes 23
Chad Brown 15
Charles Johnson 14
Alfred Williams 12

IOWA STATE

Matt Blair 18
Keith Sims 9
Marcus Robertson 5
Otto Stowe 4
Karl Nelson 3

KANSAS 

John Riggins 25
Dana Stubblefield 24
Nolan Cromwell 21
Leroy Irvin 15
Larry Brown 14

KANSAS STATE

Larry Brown 34
Martin Gramatica 8
Barrett Brooks 3
Clarence Scott 2
Henry Childs 2
Terence Newman 2

MISSOURI

Roger Wehrli 44
Kellen Winslow 40
Eric Wright 23
Russ Washington 16
Mel Gray 12

NEBRASKA

Will Shields 44
Roger Craig 30
Neil Smith 28
Irving Fryar 17
John Dutton 13

OKLAHOMA

Lee Roy Selmon 46
Keith Jackson 28
Billy Sims 14
Roy Williams 14
Adrian Peterson 13
Greg Pruitt 13

OKLAHOMA STATE

Barry Sanders 93
Thurman Thomas 60
Kevin Williams 24
Leslie O'Neal 16
Dexter Manley 13

TEXAS 

Earl Campbell 65
Doug English 21
Steve McMichael 21
Bill Bradley 17
John Elliott 16

TEXAS A&M

Shane Lechler 31
Lester Hayes 29
Richmond Webb 28
Ray Childress 26
Sam Adams 13

TEXAS TECH

Zach Thomas 40
Curtis Jordan 4
Dylan Gandy 3
Maury Buford 3
Ted Watts 3
Timmy Smith 3

Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis Team

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