The ultimate judge of football talent rendered its verdict on the Pac-12 and deemed it … substandard.
The conference produced just 25 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft — the lowest total since it expanded to 12 schools a decade ago.
The previous expansion-era low was 28 selections, a mark hit three different times, including last spring.
The SEC led all conferences with 65 selections, followed by the Big Ten with 48.
Among the Power Five leagues, only the ACC performed worse than the Pac-12 on a picks-per-team basis. (Data below.)
UCLA led the conference with six selections while the 2021 division champions, Utah and Oregon, produced one pick each.
A variety of factors account for the Pac-12’s tepid output, including a loss of talent to the transfer portal and the disruption from COVID, which impacted many programs for two offseasons.
The conference has struggled for years to retain elite West Coast prospects who are often lured to the SEC and Big Ten by the promise of packed stadiums, College Football Playoff bids and future NFL riches.
But the Pac-12 is missing on more than the five-star recruits, according to Randy Mueller, a former NFL general manager (Saints and Dolphins) who is based in Seattle and closely monitors the Pac-12.
“The identification of talent is more of a missing link than recruiting itself,” Mueller said. “You have to recruit the right guys for your system. And out here, it seems like there is a disconnect.”
Prospects ill-suited for the system and the culture are less likely to reach the potential needed for the NFL Draft.
“The thinking needs to be, ‘Am I recruiting the right guys for us?’” Mueller said.
Here’s a look at the 2022 NFL Draft winners and losers, in the Pac-12 and across the country …
Winner: Utah. The Utes won the Pac-12 championship and nearly beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl with a roster that produced one draft pick (linebacker Devin Lloyd). Nowhere does the sum exceed the parts more frequently than in Salt Lake City. In that regard, rather than actual draft production, the Utes stand as a victor.
Losers: UCLA and ASU. Between them, the Bruins and Sun Devils had 10 draft picks — or nine more than the South division rival that pummeled them both. Oh, and they combined for one victory over a team with a winning record: ASU’s win over the Bruins.
Winner: Washington. With the selections of Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon, 10 cornerbacks and safeties have been drafted from DBU in the past six years. But without Jimmy Lake, will the pipeline continue to flow?
Losers: Washington. Only four victories for a team that generated four draft picks? It’s almost as if something went awry in Seattle last season.
Winner: Oregon. With the selection of Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5 to the Giants), the Ducks have produced a top-10 selection in six of the past 10 years. (The others: Dion Jordan, Marcus Mariota, DeForest Buckner, Justin Herbert and Penei Sewell.)
Losers: Oregon. Sure seems like all those highly-ranked recruiting classes should have resulted in more than one draft pick.
Winner: California (the state). It led all states in first-round production, with five natives selected on Day One: Thibodeaux, McDuffie, Lloyd, USC’s Drake London and Ohio State receiver Chris Olave, who grew up in San Marcos.
Losers: Arizona and Colorado. Two of a handful of Power Five programs (including Texas) that didn’t produce a draft pick. The Wildcats were shut out for the fifth time in the last decade. “Never again,” coach Jedd Fisch tweeted.
Winner: Cincinnati. Fresh off their playoff appearance, the Bearcats produced nine draft picks — more than any team in the Pac-12 — and powered a stellar weekend for the American Athletic Conference (19 total picks).
Loser: Current Big 12. Lacking star power from Texas and Oklahoma, the conference failed to generate a first-round pick for the second-consecutive season. The American sends its regards.
Winner: New Big 12. The four teams set to join the conference next year (Cincinnati, BYU, Houston and UCF) combined to generate 14 total draft selections.
Losers: ACC. The 14-team conference generated just 21 selections, or 1.5 per school. But goodness, Carolina played well in the NCAAs.
Winner: Five-star recruits. Of the 32 players selected in the first round, eight were assigned five-star ratings in high school, while 12 were four-star prospects. And two (Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning and Boston College’s Zion Johnson) were unrated.
Losers: Quarterbacks. This was just the third draft in the past 30 years in which only one quarterback was picked in the first-two rounds, according to ESPN.
Winner: Receivers and cornerbacks. Meanwhile, 21 wideouts and corners were selected in the top-two rounds. More than anytime in history, the NFL game is won and lost on the perimeter.
*** 2022 Pac-12 draft picks by school
Oregon State: 1
*** Pac-12 draft picks by year in expansion era:
*** 2022 draft picks by conference (total):
Big Ten: 48
Big 12: 25
*** 2022 draft picks by conference (per school):
Big Ten: 3.4
Big 12: 2.5
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