PSU's Rank in producing NFL Players

When the BigTen re-initiated conference expansion a couple of years ago, there was a lot of discussion over which team would fit in both academically, and athletically. Of course, the most important sport was football, as that is the driving money sport. When fans and media were evaluating various programs one of the many topics that came up in regards to the football programs was the frequency of NFL players produced.

At the time I decided to look at every BigTen team along with about half a dozen potential conference candidates but never did anything with the numbers.

A few weeks ago a recent Clemson commit started a debate over who produces more defense talent to the NFL and it renewed my interest in the topic. What is the purpose of all this backstory? Basically, I was curious as to the amount of players from Penn State that reach the NFL and an objective analysis of their value.

The best way to start off this topic is to focus on some simpler counting metrics and then compare Penn State’s rank to other schools both nationally and in the BigTen.

Category Number University Rank BigTen Rank Leader#

Total Pros 325 5 3 513

Active* 28 15 4 45

HoF 5 t9 t3 11

Total Drafted 329 8 4 466

*NFL rosters are currently in flux due to offseason.

Based on our University Rank in each category it is an easy conclusion to say we are an elite university in producing NFL talent. The only category we do not rank in the Top 10 is Active Roster Players, but that is heavily influenced due to the off-season and should be better judged after Week 1 in the season. Even so, we are in the 1.9 percentile in every category, easily a part of the elite.

Looking at our BigTen rank, we appear in the top third in each category, a much lower percentile then nationally. This can be explained by the BigTen’s tradition and history as an athletic conference. Not surprisingly, OSU and Michigan are typically the 1-2 punch in each category, with Iowa leading the conference in Active players.

Now let’s look at some production numbers:

Category Number University Rank BigTen Rank Leader#

Total Games 19169 4 2 25613

Indv. Games 235 52 8 382

TDs 1162 8 3 1659

Indv. TDs 113 12 2 208

As written above, we produced the 5th most number of pro players, and when all of their games played are added up, we rank 4th nationally moving up a spot, and 2nd in the BigTen jumping over Michigan. Our top ranked player for games played is K Matt Bahr putting PSU 52nd overall. Surprisingly, we rank 8th nationally in total TDs scored, even though we have a reputation as a defensive school. Our top individual player is Lenny Moore with 113 TDs, ranking the school 12th nationally in this category.

Rate Stats:

Taking the Top 20 teams for total number of players in the pros, I determined the rate stats for the various categories. (There are 8 BigTen teams). This can help us understand are the counting stats above high just because we have a large number of overall players to reach the pros.

Category # University Rank BigTen Rank Leader#

Players/Drafted 0.988 6 3 1.23

Games/Player 59 3 1 60.3

TDs/Player 3.58 9 4 5.3

Players/Drafted is the total number of players in the pros divided by the number of players drafted. The greater this number is above 1, the more likely it means that players drafted actually make into a regular season game and that there were a fair number of undrafted free agents to play in a game.

For Games Played/Player in the pros, we rank very high both nationally and in the NFL. Generally speaking, what the 59 means is a player to reach the NFL from Penn State lasts 4 seasons worth in the NFL. Very impressive indeed Lord Vader.

With a program as rich in history and tradition as Penn State, is not surprising we rank so high nationally in every category. So what’s the point of this? 1. It’s useful as a primer to understand where we are overall which then makes it easier to compare us to individual universities. 2. It leads to the obvious question of what is the overall quality of players that come from the university.

Question 1 can be answered on a weekly opponent/rivalry basis while question 2 rquires it's own analysis and will lead to some interesting discussions.

The past week has been quite tiresome with all the speculation and sensationalism which has made it hard to enjoy this type of research and analysis. Hopefully things will quite down and we can get back to the original purpose of this blog. In the meantime, soldier on and remember the purpose of the 4th: to celebrate the founding principles of this country, enabling the voice of many who where voiceless throughout previous history. Though a war was fought for independence, it allowed the radical belief that a non-violent process can be put in place by a government to allow commoners to argue and prove their life is as meaningful and valuable as the aristocracy.

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