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Do stars matter in recruiting? The data says they do

Put any coach in front of a microphone and ask him if stars matter and he'll probably say one or all of the following:

"We don't look at that stuff."
"We trust our own evaluations."
"Give me a 5-star heart any day."

College football coaches are a pathologically competitive lot and recruiting is the lifeblood of the sport, but they don't care about recruiting rankings?

Look at it this way: You could build a pretty solid roster of NFL players taken in the fifth round or beyond, but you'd be nuts to take that roster over a roster of first-round picks.

Being a 5-star recruit in and of itself guarantees you nothing, but in the aggregate, a 5-star is much more likely to succeed at the college level than a 2-star.

Don't ask me, ask the data.

CFB Data Lab, the same folks who brought us the exhaustive study identifying the most talent-rich high schools in America, analyzed a decade's worth of recruiting classes to find that, yes, 5-star recruits make NFL rosters far more often than 2-stars.

(Note: The 100-to-95 grouping translates to a 5-star rating, 94-to-90 to a 4-star, and so on.)

recruiting classes

A total of 41 percent of 5-stars who sign with Power 5 schools don an NFL helmet at least once in their life, compared with 10 percent of 2-stars.

If we're willing to look beyond the simple percentages: holy cow is the SEC lapping the field on signing day. The ACC boasts the best percentage of rostered 5-star recruits at a whopping 50 percent, but the SEC blows everyone else out of the water in gross tonnage. The SEC put 130 5-stars on NFL rosters over the past decade, compared to 68 from the ACC and just 32 from the Big 12.

Yes, there will always be 5-star busts and 2-star All-Americans in college football. But no matter what your favorite coach tells the cameras next time he's asked, don't kid yourself: he'd rather have the 5-star.