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Southern states dominate in producing most NFL draft picks per capita

Jeremy Crabtree03/16/22
aouthern states AFI

For years the Big Three of California, Florida and Texas have dominated the college football recruiting world with the sheer volume of players they send to the next level. Yet, savvy football fans know Southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are havens for top-level talent.

That’s especially true when looking at On3’s Draft by Stars collected from the past five years of the NFL draft. During that time, seven of the top eight states with the most players drafted per capita come from the South.

That southern charm was clearly seen in the 2021 NFL draft when 65 players — an all-time record — were selected from SEC schools. Not all of the players picked were from southern states, but a good majority were.

On3 looks at the top 10 NFL draft talent producing states per capita over the past five years:

No. 1 Louisiana

5-stars: 6
4-stars: 23
3-stars: 26
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 5%
Population: 1%
Talent Ratio: 350%
The Skinny: There’s a reason some of the best recruiting battles in the country come from the Bayou State every year. Even though the state has only 1% of the country’s population, Louisiana is a big reason why Alabama and LSU have been so successful on the field for years. Heck, just the 2021 draft alone featured 13 Louisiana natives, including former blue-chip recruits like Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Travis Etienne.

No. 2 Mississippi

5-stars: 4
4-stars: 14
3-stars: 13
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 3.1%
Population: <1%
Talent Ratio: 340%
The Skinny: While Mississippi has less than 1% of the nation’s population, it continues to produce NFL players unlike any state in the country other than Louisiana. For example, there were 38 Mississippi players in the 2022 NFL playoffs, headlined by former five-stars like Chris Jones and Cam Akers.

No. 3 Alabama

5-stars: 8
4-stars: 17
3-stars: 15
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 4.3%
Population: 2%
Talent Ratio: 284%
The Skinny: Alabama is another state that’s smaller in population but big-time in talent. The state fuels Alabama and Auburn’s programs and produces top-draft picks like former four-star DL Quinnen Williams, who went No. 3 overall to the New York Jets in 2021.

No. 4 Georgia

5-stars: 16
4-stars: 32
3-stars: 36
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 8.2%
Population: 3%
Talent Ratio: 254%
The Skinny: Georgia has replaced California as the third-most talent-producing state over the past few years. So, it’s no surprise to see the Peach State high on this list, too. In fact, Georgia had the most school football players picked in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, headlined by No. 1 overall and former five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and former four-star cornerback Jaycee Horn.

No. 5 District of Columbia

5-stars: 2
4-stars: 1
3-stars: 2
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 0.5%
Population: <1%
Talent Ratio: 243%
The Skinny: Washington D.C. is another area with a small population but a big-time impact on the NFL draft. Yes, most of the D.C. area talent can be found in surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. But there’s still some good talent to be found every year.

No. 6 Florida

5-stars: 15
4-stars: 61
3-stars: 65
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 13%
Population: 7%
Talent Ratio: 199%
The Skinny: The Sunshine State has the highest population in the top-10 and has the largest blue-chip share in the top 10. In the 2021 NFL draft alone, Florida had the top two high schools (IMG Academy and American Heritage) that produced multiple players drafted. IMG Academy has the most players selected for the second-consecutive year after leading all high schools with four players selected in the 2020 NFL draft last year. They also had four of the top 16 high schools that produced multiple players in the 2021 NFL draft.

No. 7 Tennessee

5-stars: 4
4-stars: 14
3-stars: 7
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 3.1%
Population: 2%
Talent Ratio: 148%
The Skinny: With Memphis and Nashville, there’s a good population base to recruit within Tennessee. Yet, it still makes up only 2% of the country’s population. That’s why it was impressive to see five Tennessee natives — like former five-star and Kansas City Chiefs starting OG Trey Smith — drafted in the 2021 NFL draft.

No. 8 North Carolina

5-stars: 2
4-stars: 25
3-stars: 13
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 4.6%
Population: 3%
Talent Ratio: 145%
The Skinny: North Carolina, like Georgia, has 3% of the country’s population but has the eighth-most draft picks over the past five years per capita. The 2021 NFL draft featured 10 North Carolina natives in the top 200 picks, including former four-star Caleb Farley in the first round.

No. 9 Utah

5-stars: 0
4-stars: 8
3-stars: 6
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 1.4%
Population: <1%
Talent Ratio: 140%
The Skinny: Utah is home to some of the most under-rated high school football in the country. And after seeing the state land on the list for the most draft picks per capita, maybe it’s time to give Utah more credit. For having less than 1% of the population, the state has consistently sent players to the next level, including guys like 2021 No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. In the 2021 draft, Utah (7) ranked second per capita behind only Louisiana (13) for the most amount of draft picks.

No. 10 Ohio

5-stars: 2
4-stars: 27
3-stars: 18
Drafted Blue Chip Share: 5%
Population: 4%
Talent Ratio: 139%
The Skinny: Ohio pairs with Florida for the largest from a population standpoint on this list. For decades, Ohio has produced quality high school football that has turned into stars in college. Overall, Ohio had nine players selected in the 2021 draft alone.