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NFL draft data shows Georgia has joined Texas, California and Florida among 'Big 4' recruiting states

Shifting demographics and investment in high school football has made the Peach State a recruiting superpower.

For years, the "Big Three" in recruiting were Texas, Florida and California, in whatever order you wanted to arrange them. If you were to spend a week recruiting, your time was best spent flying to one of the population centers in those states and fanning out from the airport.

It's time to add Atlanta to the list. Long past, actually.

The NFL has released its data from last week's draft that shows Georgia has joined the three aforementioned states to form a "Big Four." In fact, the Peach State outpaced California and Florida (22 apiece) with 29 draft picks, trailing only Texas's 32. 

Georgia its (former peers) on the second-tier of talent producers -- states like Ohio, Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina -- in the dust. Ohio's 13 picks placed fifth, and amounted to less than half of Georgia's total. Alabama produced 12, while Louisiana and North Carolina tied Maryland for seventh with 10. 

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Most encouraging for Georgia players, coaches and recruiters, the state won the per-capita metric. The average state produced 2022 draft pick per 1.265 million residents. Alabama placed second with one per 418,690 people. Georgia produced one per 369,376.

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While 13 high schools provided two 2022 draft picks, Georgia's Cedar Grove was the only one with three. (Georgia also had three of the 13 with two picks.)

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Georgia's rise is a confluence of factors. The state population has boomed for years now, growing by 34.7 percent since the turn of the century to an estimated 10.7 million today. The state itself expects to cross the 11 million threshold by next year and hit 12 million by 2033. Atlanta was the fourth fastest-growing metro area in the 2010s, adding nearly three quarters of a million people in the decade. 

As the state has grown, so, too, has its investment in high school football. In 2019, 44 Georgia high school football coaches earned at least $100,000 per year, up from 17 as recently as four years prior. 

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International is already the busiest airport in the world. It should also be the busiest for college recruiters.