The Big East
The conference had just 19 players selected in the draft, compared with:
That's nearly 10 fewer picks than the next lowest Bowl Championship Series conference. The Western Athletic Conference had 10 players drafted, Conference USA had 9 and the Mountain West had 7.
If you pro-rate that, the numbers start to look a little more palatable.
The NFL doesn't respect the talent level in the Big East enough to make its players top picks, and it doesn't think the conference is deep enough. The only way to change that perception is for the league to continue winning BCS games.
How could a school that used to regularly send impact players to the NFL get wiped out in the draft? By posting a 7-28 record in head coach Greg Robinson's tenure.
Syracuse has sent more players to the NFL through the draft than any other Big East school since the founding of the conference. SU was the only Big East program to get blanked in the NFL Draft. Things are tough in western New York these days.
Whereas USF garnered some respect in the NFL Draft, Cincinnati went largely unnoticed despite turning in a similarly successful campaign in 2007. The Bearcats saw two players drafted late.
Haruki Nakamura, a safety who helped spoil Rutgers' early 2007 run, was drafted in Round 6 by the Baltimore Ravens. He doesn't have much size or speed, but he has a keen football sense that could help him make a name for himself on the pro level. Defensive lineman Angelo Craig, drafted 244th overall in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals, joins Nakamura as UC's only picks.
The Huskies haven't had much success traditionally in the draft, and 2008 was no exception. Cornerback Tyvon Branch was the 100th overall pick in the draft when he went to the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round. He has good size for a cornerback, and his numbers at the combine impressed scouts. He also is alleged to have called an illegal fair catch that turned the tide in the UConn-Louisville game in 2007.
Offensive lineman Donald Thomas, a walk-on at UConn, was picked in the sixth round (195th overall) by the Miami Dolphins. He has decent height and athleticism and will be tried at guard in the NFL.
The Scarlet Knights qualified for bowls in three straight years and had one of the best offensive lines in school history. But one thing remains true: what works in college doesn't necessarily translate to the NFL. RU had two players selected in the NFL Draft.
Running back Ray Rice, RU's All-American, was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the 55th overall pick in Round 2. Offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah, a fixture at RU for four years, went in the third round to the Green Bay Packers with the 83rd selection. Both players went higher than many predicted.
However, after those two very nice picks for RU, the rest of the draft was silent. Defensive lineman Eric Foster and offensive lineman Pedro Sosa were both expected to go in the late rounds but were overlooked by the pros. Rutgers still has some work to do to gain recognition.
You would think dominating the Big East the last few years would get you noticed more in the NFL Draft, but not so for the Mountaineers, who had three players drafted to the NFL.
Running back Steve Slaton, a terror on Big East ball fields but a small pro prospect, was the highest drafted former West Virginia player when the Houston Texans selected him 89th overall in the third round. Slaton was a key component to WVU's spread attack the last three years and he helped the Mountaineers win two BCS bowl games in that time. However, he dropped because teams fear he can't run between the tackles.
Owen Schmitt's specialty, on the other hand, is punishing defenders between the tackles. The 250-pound All-American fullback went in Round 5 (163 overall) to the Seattle Seahawks. Expect him to make his mark as a blocking back.
Slaton and Schmitt were joined on the draft board by Ryan Mundy, a safety who could have just as easily been credited to Michigan as a draft pick. Mundy came to West Virginia under a now-defunct rule that allowed players who graduated to play for a second school if they still had eligibility. He has decent speed but may be a project in the NFL, so the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him 194th overall in the sixth round.
So, what does this all mean? Nothing, really, especially when you consider how many players have made an impact on the pro level after being overlooked on draft day. Tom Brady, Antonio Gates and Rod Smith immediately come to mind as NFL stars who were drafted late or not at all. Don't forget Shaun O'Hara and Gary Brackett, two undrafted Rutgers players who have won the Super Bowl in the last two seasons.