At the end of April, the professional football world stops and sets its collective eyes on the NFL Draft. One of the best moments is seeing a player’s lifelong dream of making it to the NFL come true. Teams wheel and deal to try to improve their franchises and the season officially begins anew. This year, the NFL moved to Philadelphia, full of passionate fans and an undying hatred of all things Dallas.
In the days of yesteryear, only players for the top schools were drafted in the early rounds. Players from smaller schools would often fall into later rounds or even go undrafted, despite having talent worthy of selection.
The early rounds of the draft usually heavily represent the power conference schools. On occasion, players from a group of five conference schools break through and find themselves selected. As the years wore on, the improvement of media exposure for non-power conference schools has helped level the playing field a bit in terms of recruiting and creating the film for scouts. This, in addition to the bowl games, senior exhibition games, NFL and regional combines, and local pro days has allowed non-power conference players to receive notice and move up the draft boards based on their individual merit.
This year, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis had an amazing season. In fact, it consisted of a MAC championship, conference offensive player of the year, and first-team All-American. In addition, the Broncos were the Group of Five representatives in the New Year’s Six bowls.
Davis, the fifth overall selection in the draft, solidified his legacy. He joins a small, but growing club of non-power five conference players. Particularly, those selected in the top five picks in the draft. He joins North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz in 2016, UCF’s Blake Bortles and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack in 2014. In addition to Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah in 2013.
In four of the past five drafts, teams selected at least one non-power five conference player in the top five of the draft. As this trend continues, it gives a growing confirmation that at the NFL Draft, the schools need not apply.