An article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Giants Looked for Leaders in This Year's NFL Draft" noted that five of the seven players the Giants drafted in 2014 were captains on their college teams.
Prior to the 2013 draft, the Atlanta Falcons pointed out that 17 players drafted by GM Thomas Dimitroff were team captains in college.
We know that Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have a fondness for college team captains, and we pointed out that five of last year's nine draft picks were team captains in college (Martin, Hitchens, Street, Gardner, Dixon)
As I set out to write this post, I wondered what being a team captain means. Does it mean you were a regular attendant at Sunday School, put in tons of charity work, and never got into trouble off the field? That probably wouldn't hurt, but I don't think that's a prerequisite either.
What I saw as I did the research for this post is that more often than not, a team captain is one heck of a football player, a guy who plays and practices hard. That's what team captains do. They are the guys who set the pace on the team. They are often among the best players on their team. They are the ones who lead the way in practice. In Garrett-speak, they are the Right Kind of Guys.
That's why every time the Cowboys draft a college team captain, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. And it's also why articles like the two quoted above frequently pop up extolling the virtue of drafting team captains.
Yesterday, in our BTB Mock Draft Tracker, we reviewed ten different players who had been assigned to the Cowboys in ten different mock drafts. In the ensuing discussion, BTB member Old Frog wondered, "Which of these are team captains? We know that's important to Jason and it seems to be working."
An underlying assumption of that question is that college team captains are somehow hard to come by, and drafting them is worthy of special recognition, an assessment I have shared for all but the last 18 hours of my life - that's when I started writing this post.
At the college level, there is no uniform approach to designating team captains.
- Some coaches name their captains; others let their players determine them by a vote
- Some teams name their captains at the start of the season; others name them after the season
- Some organizations select game captains for each game; others have permanent captains
- Some teams have as little as two captains; others have as many as eight captains
With all of that in mind, I set out to answer Old Frog's question, and reviewed all 350 draft prospects with a draftable grade on the CBSSports Big Board to find out how many team captains will be in this year's draft class. The stunning result:
Almost half of the top 350 highest-rated draft prospects were team captains (in some shape or form) during their final college season.
Specifically, 149 players (126 regular captains, 23 game captains) out of 327 prospects were team captains in 2014 (The difference between the 327 and the 350 total prospects is due to programs that only use game captains and for which I couldn't find any information).
That warm and fuzzy feeling about the Cowboys drafting five college captains with their nine picks last year? Gone. 5 of 9 is about par for the course in the NFL draft. In fact, you've got to be a special kind of doofus GM to end up with a draft class completely devoid of any college captains. That's like walking across your lawn and stepping into dog poop not once, not twice, but three times.
Here's an overview of all the 149 prospects that were team captains in college. Keep in mind that there may be more than that number in this draft class, as these were the players I was able to identify, which doesn't mean I got them all. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).
|2014 College Team Captains in 2015 NFL Draft
|Rank||Player||School||POS||Proj. Round||2014 Status|
|1||Leonard Williams||Southern Cal||DT||1||Captain|
|20||Eddie Goldman||Florida State||DT||1||5 x Game captain|
|26||Cameron Erving||Florida State||OT||1-2||1 x Game Captain|
|38||Ty Sambrailo||Colorado State||OT||1-2||Captain|
|43||Michael Bennett||Ohio State||DT||2||Captain|
|47||A.J. Cann||South Carolina||OG||2||Captain|
|50||Josh Harper||Fresno State||WR||2||Captain|
|54||Mario Edwards||Florida State||DE||2||5 x Game captain|
|60||Xavier Cooper||Washington State||DT||2||Game Captain|
|61||Nelson Agholor||Southern Cal||WR||2||Captain|
|62||D'Joun Smith||Florida Atlantic||CB||2||Captain|
|63||Tre Jackson||Florida State||OG||2||6 x Game Captain|
|71||Derron Smith||Fresno State||FS||2-3||Captain|
|74||Tyler Lockett||Kansas State||WR||2-3||Captain|
|80||Rashad Greene||Florida State||WR||2-3||5 x Game captain|
|86||Josue Matias||Florida State||OG||3||2 x Game Captain|
|87||Kurtis Drummond||Michigan State||FS||3||Captain|
|91||Bryce Petty||Baylor||QB||3||2 x Game Captain|
|94||Doran Grant||Ohio State||CB||3||Captain|
|95||Andy Gallik||Boston College||C||3||Captain|
|99||Josh Shaw||Southern Cal||CB||3||Captain|
|105||Lynden Trail||Norfolk State||DE||3-4||Captain|
|111||Justin Hardy||East Carolina||WR||3-4||5 x Game captain|
|117||Garrett Grayson||Colorado State||QB||3-4||Captain|
|120||Jamil Douglas||Arizona State||OG||3-4||Captain|
|126||Cedric Reed||Texas||DE||4||Game Captain|
|129||Jeff Heuerman||Ohio State||TE||4||Captain|
|134||Vince Mayle||Washington State||WR||4||Game Captain|
|139||Mike Hull||Penn State||ILB||4||Captain|
|144||B.J. Finney||Kansas State||C||4-5||Captain|
|154||Shane Carden||East Carolina||QB||4-5||Captain|
|155||Jordan Hicks||Texas||OLB||4-5||Game Captain|
|157||Stefon Diggs||Maryland||WR||4-5||2 x Game Captain|
|158||Clayton Geathers||Central Florida||SS||4-5||Captain|
|171||Sean Mannion||Oregon State||QB||5||Captain|
|172||E.J. Bibbs||Iowa State||TE||5||Captain|
|173||Shaquille Mason||Georgia Tech||C||5||Captain|
|176||Quandre Diggs||Texas||CB||5||Game Captain|
|177||Miles Dieffenbach||Penn State||OG||5||Captain|
|182||Deshazor Everett||Texas A&M||CB||5-6||Captain|
|183||Damarious Randall||Arizona State||FS||5-6||Captain|
|186||Justin Manton||Louisiana-Monroe||K||5-6||ST Captain|
|188||Antwan Goodley||Baylor||WR||5-6||1 x Game Captain|
|197||Hayes Pullard||Southern Cal||ILB||5-6||Captain|
|213||Titus Davis||Central Michigan||WR||6||Captain|
|214||Imoan Claiborne||Northwestern State (LA)||CB||6||Captain|
|215||Bryce Hager||Baylor||ILB||6||2 x Game Captain|
|219||Malcolm Brown||Texas||RB||6-7||Game Captain|
|228||Cam Thomas||Western Kentucky||CB||6-7||Captain|
|233||Tevin McDonald||Eastern Washington||FS||6-7||Captain|
|236||Levi Norwood||Baylor||WR||6-7||2 x Game Captain|
|237||Taylor Heinicke||Old Dominion||QB||7||Captain|
|245||Connor Halliday||Washington State||QB||7||Game Captain|
|246||Leterrius Walton||Central Michigan||DT||7||Captain|
|247||Zach Zenner||South Dakota State||FB||7||Captain|
|250||Casey Pierce||Kent State||TE||7||Captain|
|254||Travis Raciti||San Jose State||DT||7||Captain|
|256||Aaron Davis||Colorado State||OLB||7||Captain|
|268||Houston Bates||Louisiana Tech||OLB||7-FA||Captain|
|275||Spencer Roth||Baylor||P||7-FA||3 x Game Captain|
|281||Jaxon Shipley||Texas||WR||7-FA||Game Captain|
|285||Terry Poole||San Diego State||OT||7-FA||Captain|
|290||Jake Waters||Kansas State||QB||7-FA||Captain|
|291||C.J. Olaniyan||Penn State||OLB||7-FA||Captain|
|307||Jahwan Edwards||Ball State||RB||7-FA||Captain|
|315||Andrew East||Vanderbilt||LS||7-FA||ST Captain|
|320||Dean Marlowe||James Madison||FS||7-FA||Captain|
|325||Zach Vigil||Utah State||ILB||7-FA||Captain|
|328||Cory Morrissey||Iowa State||DE||7-FA||Captain|
|334||Michael Orakpo||Texas State||OLB||7-FA||Captain|
|339||DeMarieya Nelson||Arizona State||FB||7-FA||Captain|
|342||Sam Ficken||Penn State||K||7-FA||ST Captain|
|347||Wil Baumann||North Carolina State||P||7-FA||Captain|
Because the data here was compiled manually, it is bound to contain some errors. Also, I have no data for the players from Cincinnati, Florida, Minnesota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, so more players may need to be added to this list.
In any case, I'd say that there are more than enough team captains scattered across every round for a team to build a captain-only draft board, if they so wish. However, drafting former college captains is not a cure-all for bad drafting. In 2009, the Cowboys drafted 12 players. Four of them (QB Stephen McGee, OLB Victor Butler, DB Michael Hamlin, TE John Phillips) were team captains in college, but that didn't help that draft class.
Wide receivers lead all positions with 19 team captains, but they are followed by defensive ends and cornerbacks with 13 captains each. That should bode well for the Cowboys, as DE and CB are positions they are likely to upgrade in the draft. And if they want a former team captain to be that upgrade, they have a lot of options.