Monday, April 30, 2012
Iowa, UW must leverage NFL draft success
By Adam Rittenberg
One of the most common questions I get from both Iowa fans and Wisconsin fans -- usually around national signing day or whenever we post recruiting rankings -- is why their teams can't land more nationally elite prospects.
Then, they point to the recent NFL draft numbers.
As Brian Bennett detailed last week before the most recent NFL draft, Ohio State had the most selections (66) of any Big Ten squad in the previous 10 drafts (2002-2011). The Buckeyes' success surprises no one.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema used Twitter to tout his program's success in producing NFL players.
But which team came in second? Iowa. The Hawkeyes had 42 players drafted between 2002-2011. Wisconsin came in fifth, with 39 players drafted.
When I updated the numbers after this weekend's draft, they look like this.
Iowa and Wisconsin have become two of the Big Ten's top four producers of NFL draft picks. The Hawkeyes and Badgers tied with Michigan State for the most players drafted (6) this year. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that neither Iowa nor Wisconsin regularly brings in nationally ranked recruiting classes.
But that could change eventually, and Iowa and Wisconsin must do everything they can to trumpet their recent NFL draft success. The draft numbers should be the focal point for recruiting efforts going forward.
Every program has a shiny display at its football complex listing its current alumni in the NFL. Wisconsin and Iowa are no exception. But these two programs need to do everything possible to tell highly touted recruits that they can reach the next level if they play in Madison or Iowa City. Sure, it's great that Iowa and Wisconsin have turned former walk-ons or lightly recruited players into NFL prospects. But they also can develop elite recruits into next-level players.
One way to trumpet the success is through Twitter, a medium representatives of both programs maximized last weekend.
Saturday, 7:38 a.m.: Day 3 of the #NFL Draft. Only #Iowa and Alabama have produced a 1st Rd Draft Pick in each of the last 3 years #GoHawks
Saturday, 7:41 a.m: Who does everyone think the first #Hawkeye drafted today will be? Remember, I have inside sources... #NFLDraft
Brian Ferentz surely will bring up Iowa's draft success on the recruiting trail in the coming weeks.
Both Iowa and Wisconsin face some inherent disadvantages in recruiting elite prospects, chiefly geography, as their states aren't bursting with high school talent. Neither program is a "traditional" Big Ten power, and while Wisconsin has won back-to-back league titles and Iowa has reached 10 bowl games (2 BCS) under Ferentz, the names "Wisconsin" and "Iowa" don't resonate with the top recruits as much as "Ohio State" and "Michigan" do.
But three letters resonate with everyone: NFL.
The numbers don't lie, and Iowa's and Wisconsin's recent draft output should be at the forefront of their recruiting efforts.