Reader Email: Is There an OSU Bias in the NFL Draft?

Following the NFL Draft, I got this interesting email from a person who will remain anonymous. I thought it was good enough that you’d like to read it (and have totally rational thoughts and comments on it) as well. Here we go.

I have a theory there might an OSU/Gundy player bias in the NFL based on previous players that have come out of the program. That might not be the fault of Gundy or the program necessarily, but let’s dive in and see.

We’re only looking at drafted players because a draft pick actually costs the team something versus an UDFA.

We’ll have a few labels …

  • Pro-bowler
  • Solid player
  • Average
  • Bust

Where they were drafted affects this: If a player plays as a 7th rounder or 6th rounder, it’s pretty much an automatic “average” — multiple years is solid. The inverse is true for higher picks.

2005 — Billy Bajema (7th) — Solid
2006 — Charlie Johnson (6th) — Solid
2007 — Corey Hilliard (6th) — Average
2008 — None
2009 — Brandon Pettigrew (1st) — Average
2010 — Russell Okung (1st) — Pro-Bowler
2010 — Dez Bryant (1st) — Pro-Bowler
2010 — Perrish Cox (5th) — Average
2010 — Zac Robinson (7th) — Average
2011 — Kendall Hunter (4th) — Average
2012 — Justin Blackmon (1st) — Bust
2012 — Brandon Weeden (1st) — Bust
2012 — Markelle Martin (6th) — Average
2013 — Joe Randle (5th) — Bust
2014 — Justin Gilbert (1st) — Bust
2015 — Josh Furman (7th) — Bust
2016 — Emmanuel Ogbah (2nd) — Average
2017 — Vincent Taylor (6th) — Solid
2017 — Chris Carson (7th) — Solid

Too early to tell for 2018, but 2012 and beyond? Yikes. Not one Pro Bowler, five busts, two solids, two average.

I can see a few scouts around the NFL who got burned starting to think, “You know I just don’t like the OSU system/coach/etc.” There’s even some anecdotal evidence of this. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t gone back to the OSU well after Joe Randle. The Browns did grab Ogbah in ‘16 after the Gilbert disaster but traded him this offseason. The Seahawks grabbed Chris Carson, and in 2018 grabbed Tre Flowers in the 5th.

It’s not a strong argument, but maybe OSU and Gundy have good relationships with some teams (Seahawks), bad with some (Cowboys, Browns) and unknown on others (Steelers).

For example, the Dallas Cowboys currently have six (!!) Boise State players on the roster. So to sum up in a TL:DR version, first and second round talent — it doesn’t matter what college you went to, they’ll go early. But a 3rd round guy might not go till the 5th without the right relationship. And an UDFA talent might get drafted with the right relationship (i.e. OSU and the Seahawks).

First of all, I have some issues with the labels, specifically with Randle and Cox. Averaging 4.5 yards a carry like Randle did for three years isn’t really bust material. Maybe the off-the-field stuff, sure, but that doesn’t line up with the broader “it’s just the system” theory. Also, Cox played 81 (!) games in the NFL. I don’t know what the league average is for a fifth rounder, but that ain’t it. He was a solid pro.

Also I don’t know how Furman is a bust but Zac isn’t? I don’t think you should be a bust if you’re a seventh rounder and don’t play in the NFL. The odds are kind of against you at that point.

I would also bump Pettigrew and Hunter and wait to see how the Ogbah thing plays out. What you hit on at the end though is pretty interesting though. I can’t imagine it’s that different from the relationships a college coach has with a high school and its coaches. It’s impossible to watch every high schooler in Oklahoma, much less the rest of the country so Gundy and Co. have to rely on already-established relationships to sift the wheat from the chaff.

Similarly in the NFL, beyond the first (and maybe second) round talent, everything (and everybody) starts to look the same. You have to turn to need, fit and probably relationships with college coaches. I have no idea if Pete Carroll and Mike Gundy have a relationship (although I’d like to see Gundy with a monocle — see below), but I would imagine that with the success Carson and Flowers have had in Seattle, he will in fact jump back into Stillwater without hesitation. That was outlined well in your Boise State-Dallas point.

Ultimately I don’t know that Oklahoma State is that much different from other schools. To me it’s a quantity problem — and maybe this is what you’re getting at. When you churn out so few pros, it’s easy to think the miss rate (or hit rate) is more extreme than it will be in the long run. Sure, maybe OSU elevates some three-star guys to look a little better than they were before, but that’s not difficult to sift through. If you’re a pro scout and you can’t do that, that’s on you.

It’s true that the first round bust rate isn’t great, but timing maters. What if Okung and Dez had come after Blackmon and Gilbert? Then we’d be talking about how much better OSU is getting at producing NFL talent.

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