Homegrown talent: NFL teams rarely draft local Big Ten products

Homegrown talent: NFL teams rarely draft local Big Ten products
May 14, 2014, 3:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

"Local kid does good."

If you're following NFL teams in the Midwest, that's not a headline you're too likely to see.

This past weekend, when the Green Bay Packers selected Wisconsin wideout Jared Abbrederis in the NFL Draft, it seemed like a natural fit. A product of the strong Badger football program landing with the Packers. A no-brainer. It seemed like the kind of thing that happens every day.

But it's not. In fact, Abbrederis became the first Badger since 2001 to be picked by the Packers. The fact struck as strange, given how good Wisconsin has been and how apt they've been at churning out NFL talent over the past decade (there are 26 former Badgers active in the NFL, 20th in the NFLers-by-school rankings).

And the Packers aren't alone. The Lions have picked just one Michigan Wolverine since 1987. The Bears haven't drafted a former Fighting Illini since 1986. Only one Hoosier by the Colts since 1976.

Look over the data, and it turns out that pro teams in Big Ten Country prefer imports.

[MORE: Ex-Northwestern QB Kain Colter signs with Vikings]

We'll start with the Bears, who as mentioned above have drafted no player from George Halas' alma mater since 1986. The last one was wide receiver David Williams, a third-round choice almost 30 years ago. Despite notably drafting Illini legend Dick Butkus, who became a Bears legend and one of the greatest linebackers of all-time, the Bears might be giving credence to Northwestern's claim of being "Chicago's Big Ten Team." The Bears have picked more Wildcats than Illini all-time, most recently Corey Wootton in the fourth round in 2010. But still, they've only gone up the lakefront for four players since 1967.

But, to be fair, the programs at Illinois and Northwestern have historically not measured up to the success of some of their conferencemates. But that doesn't seem to matter, as Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have all been sparsely mined by their local pro teams, as well.

The Packers have selected just four Badgers since 1988. Abbrederis became the most recent Saturday. The most notable is Mark Tauscher, the O-lineman picked in the seventh round in 2000.

The Vikings drafted two Gophers who wound up in the Hall of Fame — linebacker Bobby Bell and defensive end Carl Ellis — but that was back in the mid-1960s. Four Minnesota products have been picked by the Vikes since 1988, most recently linebacker Nate Triplett in 2010.

The Lions have two Big Ten schools in their state, but that doesn't change this trend. A first-round pick in 2001, tackle Jeff Backus, is the lone Wolverine picked by the Lions since 1987. This millennium, the Lions have chosen just two Michigan State Spartans. Wideout Charles Rogers was one of Matt Millen's infamous first-round receivers, the No. 2 overall pick in 2003. And ex-Sparty QB Drew Stanton was a second-round pick in 2007.

Outside of the NFC North, there's the Colts, who like the Lions have two Big Ten schools in their state. But since moving to Indy in 1983, the Colts have picked just one Hoosier — defensive back Ray Fisher in 2010 — and two Boilermakers — linebacker Gilbert Gardner in 2004 and quarterback Curtis Painter in 2009.

[RELATED: Big Ten again shut out of NFL Draft top 10]

Perhaps the most surprising of them all, however, are the connections between Ohio State and Penn State and their respective local NFL teams. Both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions share their states with a pair of pro teams, making the chances of one of their players drafted locally double any of the other schools we've talked about thus far.

For the Buckeyes, the role of collegiate powerhouse has served them a little better in this odd statistical realm. The Browns have drafted three Ohio State alums since 1985, the Bengals have picked five since 1987. Cincinnati's selections include a No. 1 overall pick in defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson back in 1994.

The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, have seen the Steelers pick six of their products since 1987 and the Eagles take two in this millennium (tight end Tony Stewart and running back Tony Hunt).

So for the statistics majors out there, no there does not seem to be a correlation between where a player goes to college and which NFL team drafts him, at least not in Big Ten Country. It might not be the most football-related football stats analysis out there, but it sure is interesting.

A big thanks to Pro-Football-Reference.com's Play Index Draft Finder for making this info so easily accessible.