I am under no such constraints when writing about Jeff Schultz's predictable blathering about Georgia Tech's haul on Signing Day. Schultz has filled Terence Moore's shoes as the AJC columnist whose arguments I read mainly because I want to mock them. With arguments like this, you can see why:
The NFL, generally recognized as the most successful sports league in the world, employs hundreds of scouts, spends millions of dollars, crosses the country several times over, breaks down every conceivable potential pro player from Big Campus U to Couldn’t Find Us Without GPS A&M and feeds it all into computers that spit out professional looking, color-coded spreadsheets, suitable for framing.
Know what? They still get it wrong more than half the time.
So what are we to think about national letter of intent day? College scouting is even less sophisticated than pro scouting. They’re dealing with athletes four years younger. Teenagers. More variables means more guessing, which means more darts are likely to hit the wall, three feet from the target.
NFL teams are almost uniform in the high value that they place on Draft picks. The major exception are the Washington Redskins, who regularly trade picks for established players. Ask a Redskins fan how that's working out for them. The Falcons acquired a Hall of Fame tight end last spring for a second round Draft pick and no one batted an eye. Bill Belichick, who has a reasonably solid reputation, traded Richard Seymour, his best defensive lineman and one of the pillars of the Patriots dynasty, for a first round pick and most people assumed that Al Davis was getting fleeced again.
So here's the question Jeff: are NFL teams misguided when they place such high value on the lottery tickets that they get to play each April? Have you intrepidly identified a market inefficiency? Or is it possible that you just don't understand the concept of probability at all? Assuming that you are right that NFL teams miss on over half of their picks, draft picks are still valuable because the more picks a team has and the higher those picks are in the draft order, the greater the likelihood that the team will find a good player.
And that brings us to recruiting. Schultz acts in a dismissive manner towards recruiting gurus, putting up sarcastic quotation marks around rankings, stars, and experts. Here is the meat of his argument:
Let me take this opportunity to give a value to these rankings on my own personal scale: one raspberry.
“The No. 64 guard in the country, you can’t tell me who that is,” Johnson cracked Wednesday. “I don’t even know who the No. 2 guard in the state is.”
The old expression of a team “looking good getting off the bus” applies here. They are recruits, nothing more, nothing less. Georgia Tech will be fine because the success of a football program is defined by coaching and direction, not by which recruits emerged from those inane hat-switching acts at press conferences.
The recruiting rankings tend to track the offers that a player receives. If Texas, Florida, and USC are all after the same player, then that player will get four or five stars. If the schools of the MAC are fighting for a player's signature, then he won't. If Schultz is right that the stars and rankings are meaningless, then he is adopting the position that the staffs at the elite programs do not know how to evaluate players. Care to defend the position that Urban Meyer doesn't know the difference between a player and a poseur, Jeff?
And then Schultz's crowing insult comes at the end, where he lists four players that Paul Johnson will have to replace this year: Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer and Morgan Burnett. Guess how many stars went next to Morgan's, Dwyer's, and Burnett's names when they were recruits? Cue Moses Malone: fo, fo, fo. Guess how many stars went next to Josh Nesbitt's name? The 2009 Georgia Tech team succeeded for a number of reasons. Good offensive coaching and good fortune come to mind immediately, as does Chan Gailey's recruiting. The assumption that Paul Johnson can continue to win at the same level without recruiting at the same level is just dumb.
The funny thing is that Tech's class is quite good if Schultz were able to understand how numbers actually work. He cites Tech's middling overall rankings, but doesn't account for the fact that the Jackets signed a small class of 18 players. By average star ranking, they do quite well: #26 by Rivals and #34 by Scout. Johnson brought in five four-star players, which is not far off the eight four-star players that Gailey signed in the 2007 class that formed the backbone of the 2009 ACC Champions. The class is defense-heavy, which is good for Johnson because he can cobble together an offense out of spare parts, but defense requires athletes and it isn't his field of expertise.
Yes, Jeff, there is no guarantee that these players will become stars on the field. The debris field of wasted talent at Florida State that paved the way for the Jackets to win the conference is a testament to the fact that talent alone does not win games. However, rather than reveling in the anti-expert, "no one knows anything about anything!" mindset that you encourage, Tech fans should be either reasonably happy because Johnson brought in a collection of good lottery tickets yesterday or mildly concerned because he didn't bring in more on the heels of two successful seasons.